Canucks 1 Panthers 3: Canucks Fall Apart on Luongo’s Return

Kevin Bieksa gets toppled by first overall draft pick Aaron Ekblad

Kevin Bieksa gets toppled by first overall draft pick Aaron Ekblad

AUTHOR’S NOTE: It has been over a month since I have published my last article “The Goaltending Controversy Del Två”. Due to personal obligations, I have not been able to pen my “After Ten” or other analysis articles where I discuss the current state of the Vancouver Canucks.

 

 

Last night Roberto Luongo returned to the city of Vancouver, the place he called home for eight years. The fans cheered him on throughout the game and it brought what looked like tears to his eyes. His old pals from the Canucks gave him one of the greatest presents of all, a victory in Vancouver allowing him to officially claim he has truly defeated every team in the NHL.

Five minutes into the game the Canucks looked like they had this game marked to be locked up with a win. Fans would have to guess again after the emotion took over the home bench but not the returning goalie.

Jonathan Huberdeau scored three points (2G, 1A) and rattled the Canucks to their core. The home team looked out of place and spent the majority of the time in their own defensive zone. The Canucks attempted to look like the almighty ones by sending out Dorsett to scrap almost every player on the Panthers line-up but he was eventually taken out by Luongo’s blocker.

The only players to show any consistency were Alex Burrows and Bo Horvat. Burrows lit up the highlight reel with his countless opportunities to score and Bo Horvat was, as usual, a face-off god.

It appeared the home team was dull in the second period when two goals were scored. The Panthers went in charging and did not let up on the ailing Canucks.

“When we came out our energy level wasn’t great,” Desjardins said in a post-game interview, “it seemed like we weren’t working hard enough.”

Bo Horvat looked to be in complete agreement with the words his coach spoke.

“We have to start capitalizing on our opportunities,” Horvat said, “We’ve got to play more aggressive and play with more energy.”

The Canucks are aware of their actions on the ice and how it is unacceptable, but will they be able to correct their mistakes as of late?

Ryan Miller made key saves to keep the team within reachable distance in the third period but was let down by his teammates who gave Luongo easy shots to block.

The power play was an utter nightmare, when a two-man advantage that should have allowed the boys to gain some traction did not produce a single shot on net. This is partly due to the fact they were out defended and could not match up to the Panthers strength. Luca Sbisa and Kevin Bieksa were two of the players who were erratic on their play.

The Vancouver Canucks showed a few glimmers of hope in last night’s game but it was not enough to give them the win they needed.

 

Caleb Harder

@cjaharder

2015

Three Up, Three Down: January 5th

After the Christmas break, the Vancouver Canucks are 2-1-1 in their four games played. Nothing spectacular, but five out of a possible eight points isn’t so bad considering their opponents: Ducks, Sharks, Kings and Redwings. A much different cry than the October schedule that consisted of a good chunk of playing teams from Alberta. Based on last season, they would have been lucky to get two points from these four games, maybe three. However, there is no longer a John Tortorella or a Mike Gillis at the helm and just from being an observant fan, there is a different feeling from the guys we see on the ice. Despite recent struggles, they are fighting through it, instead of just succumbing to what befalls them.

Over the last four games, here are three of the guys that have been solid for the Canucks and here three of the guys who have been struggling.

THREE UP

1. Ryan Miller- Despite having some rough games in the month of December, Ryan Miller has found his form since the holiday break. He has been tracking the puck well and despite the late in the game loss to LA, he stopped 37 of 40 shots the Kings threw his way. In the OT loss to the Anaheim Ducks, Miller posted 28 saves of 30 shots while being absolutely stellar in the game versus the Detroit Redwings, last Saturday. In the four games Miller has stopped 126 of 133 SOG. His save % is at an incredible .947. If not for the play of Ryan Miller, this could be a different four games for the Canucks.

Edler2. Alex Edler- He could possibly be nicknamed “Steady Eddie” for his play the over this four game stretch. He recorded three points including a PPG versus Detroit. His +/- rating is at a +1 for these four games and the ability for him to just calmly and confidently move the puck out of this zone, gaining centre before shooting it into the other end has been a night and day difference from last season’s version of Alex Edler. Edler is looking a lot more comfortable this year on the blue line than last. He and Tanev have been a solid pairing and a bright spot for the Canucks D.

3. Alex Burrows- Say what you want about Alex Burrows and his often agitating demeanor on the ice, he is probably the most coach-able person on the team. He is  versatile. Ask him to play on the penalty kill, he is money. Ask him to play down with Horvat and Dorsett, he gives that line some good chances at the net. Ask him to play on the PP as the man in front and suddenly the very quiet power play is making a little more noise. After such a terrible and injury ridden season under John Tortorella, it’s great to see Burrows back to being Burrows under Willie Desjardins. Hard to fault him for what he does on the ice. He doesn’t seem to do much wrong. Sure we could have Burrows potting a few more to the back of the net, but I’m just glad to see Burrows feeling confident in two-way play once more and on special teams, I can’t name one person that plays them as well as Burr.

As some guys are finding their grooves, and finding their games, there are other guys on the team that have been invisible, struggling that it costs the team on the scoreboard or just plays you see and all you can do is shake your head.

THREE DOWN

Kevin-Bieksa-and-tiny-Hamhuis-600x3001. Kevin Bieksa- It’s no secret I am not the biggest fan of Bieksa’s play on the ice, and although I have thought him to be serviceable, he’s not by any means a ‘franchise blue-liner’ that some fans make him out as, but everyone knows I love the way he stands up for his teammates. I admire the way he conducts himself with the media and the fans, and his work and contributions outside the world of hockey. Kevin Bieksa is a damn good teammate, but his play since the injury to Dan Hamhuis has been far from stellar. The casual clearings of the pucks and the untimely penalties have really been glaring. They are even worse to see when he was paired up with Luca Sbisa. Things have somewhat steadied with Stanton on the other side and Juice has fought his way back to a -2 after being -7 in his +/- rating. One thing I will say, Bieksa looked pretty good versus Detroit. He made some really timely plays and maybe, just maybe, Hamhuis will be back to get Juice back on track soon.

2. Chris Higgins- Like Mikael Samuelsson before him, Higgins is a streaky player. However this long streak of being goal-less and invisible is really adding up to about a calendar month, maybe more. During this four game span, Higgins has recorded only six shots on goal. Yes, the rest of the team hasn’t really been shooting much either, but Higgins has enough speed to get himself open and take more shots. I was expecting a better year from Higgins but as of now, he’s been more often quiet than not.

3. Nick Bonino: According to Raffi (yes, that Raffi, Baby Beluga, Raffi) on twitter, the “Bonino Phone” has stopped ringing. In fact, it has rang since Dec. 13th versus the New York Rangers in a loss. Bonino is stagnant in terms of point production. He has recorded one assist in last four games. He centres the 2nd unit powerplay and some of it can be attributed to the Sedin PP unit taking up 1:30 of the 2min PP time, Bonino’s unit hasn’t produced and has looked lack lustre. Bonino needs to find a way to start contributing to the score-sheet and fast, because the Canucks aren’t looking like they won that Anaheim trade at the moment or remotely feel they ‘broke even’ on the deal. One positive about Nick Bonino in the last little while is that his faceoff % has gone up to the 50% range from the 30% range he was recording earlier in the season.

Hopefully we can get the whole ship working on all cylinders as they were in late October, early November, once again,  but each line, each player needs to be picking up the slack more when they see teammates struggle, but with the Canucks having been out-shot 133-75 in these last four games doesn’t build a lot of hope in some of the fan base. These were top quality opponents. The Sharks, Ducks, Kings and Wings are no joke. Sure you can get away with it on the Oilers, Sabres, Flames even to an extent and the Coyotes, but if the Canucks wish to have any success in the Western Conference and specifically the Pacific Division, they need to start getting more pucks to the net, causing rebounds and making opportunities.

@Aviewfromabroad

Top 10: The State of Florida

Back to back games starting on Sunday for the Vancouver Canucks in Florida and then to Tampa Bay on Monday. Sunday afternoon was a hard game for many of the Canucks fans to watch. It was the first time in eight years the Canucks had to face Roberto Luongo as an opponent. Strange times  in Canuckland indeed. Vancouver won the game in a shootout with a goal from Nik Jensen 4-3 . The next night the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Canucks by the identical score.  Some of the happenings were definitely memorable and a few moments would have been left better off forgotten. So from the “Sunshine State”, here is CanucksCorner’s

Top 10.

1. Luongo may not be a Canuck anymore, but it would be hard to tell he wasn’t, if not for that Panthers t-shirt.

Luongo in his Panthers gear chilling with old Canucks teammates.

2. Alex Burrows scored three goals and had three assists in the two games in Sunrise and Tampa. The winger became the ringer we have come to know and love over the years. After playing 30+ games without a goal, he is scoring in bunches. Now tied with David Booth with five goal on the season in about half the games. Here’s one on the power play:

3. Nik Jensen has brought some youth and enthusiasm to the Canucks line-up. Scoring the shootout winner against Roberto Luongo and reviving his line mates, Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows. The line looked good in both games. Jensen has good hockey sense and seems to just want to nothing more than score. Good. This team could use a little more scoring these days. Here’s his goal on Luongo and the Haida hat winner video:

4. Love him or hate him, John Tortorella was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning Stanley Cup wining team in 2004. He and a few other members of that team were honoured in Tampa Bay last night, and the usually aloof Torts, was gracious and embraced the moment at the Tampa Bay Times Forum  from an appreciative crowd. The first 30 seconds of this reel sees Torts smiling and waving to the crowd.

5. Goat of the Tampa Bay game: Ryan Stanton doing his best Dan Hamhuis impersonation and scoring on his own goalie twice. Lack had no chance on those ricochets off Stanton’s body and the Lightning were up 3-0. Burrows scores two to battle the Canucks back and Hansen brings it within one with a shorthanded goal but still fell short 4-3.

6. Great Save!:Kevin Bieksa makes the best save of the night against the Panthers on Sunday afternoon. Really? Bieksa?

7. Tweet of the Night:I think Jason Botchford said it best:

This says it all down in Sunrise, FLA versus the Panthers, and all the goalie hoopla that went on over the last year and this past weekend.

8. .500 Hockey: It’s just not going to cut it with the Canucks playoff hopes dwindling. There are only 11 games left in the regular season. It would take a fall from the Dallas Stars, and an incredible and consistent resurgence from the Canucks to make the playoffs now. I don’t see it happening but with the way the team has spiralled since January, many of the bandwagon has now found  a new place to plant their behinds. Image courtesy of @CrownRoyal22
Look who's driving!

9. MIA: Ryan Kesler is rumoured to be missing action for about two weeks. This is not a good sign for the Canucks who are completely depleted down the middle. From the looks of it, Kesler won’t be back until the last week of the regular season.  The injury happened in Winnipeg and Kesler didn’t complete the rest of the trip. He went back to Vancouver to have the extent of his injury assessed. The infirmary is still full. Kesler joins, Richardson, Daniel and Andrew Alberts.

10.Good-bye Sweet Bromance: Probably the saddest thing about this whole weekend is not  realizing that Canucks aren’t probably going to make the playoffs, but the Bromance between Roberto Luongo and Eddie Lack  (at least as teammates) got some closure in that 4-3 shootout win over the Panthers. Thing 3 beats Thing 1 in a skills competition.

The road trip brought out some pretty good things and still glaringly bad things about the Canucks’ play. The good is, they are scoring more than just one goal again. The bad is, they are playing .500 hockey. This team should be winning but their defensive lapses keep coming back to haunt them. Three goals for, usually means a victory, but the Canucks just can’t seem to have a winning streak beyond one game. Let’s hope the last 11 games turn up some better fortune for Vancouver.

Justine Galo

@Aviewfromabroad 

PS: Since the luck of the Canucks haven’t been of the norm these days, I am going to do something out of the norm and attend the Canucks versus Predators game. For those curious as to why I don’t attend such games, here’s a little reminder to that very subject. [ The Curse of the Predators ]

Contest: Game 4 on the Jumbotron anyone?

Stanley Cup banner hangs from the rafters in Rogers Arena: Photo: Justine Galo

Since the contest for Game 3 garnered  good attention. Congratulations to Armit Gill of Coquitlam in winning to viewing party seats to Game 3. I’d like extend it for Game 4.  There are a few Canucks that could be possible candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy.  My choice right now? It would probably Alex Burrows. He’s tied with Daniel Sedin for goals in the playoffs, for the Canucks with nine.  He’s scored timely OT goals to win a series and to put the Canucks up two games to none in the Stanley Cup Final.

1.Post a comment on here as to who your candidate would be, and why?

AND

2. Cut/Paste or Retweet

I want to go to the Rogers Arena Game 4 Viewing Party courtesy of @CanucksCorner and  @Aviewfromabroad http://canuckscorner.com/?p=2065

As I did for Game 3, I will deliver your tickets right in your hand. I’ll announce the winner tomorrow afternoon on Twitter and on this page.

Good Luck and Go Canucks Go!

Justine Galo

Twitter: @Aviewfromabroad

Game One Brought…

The Stanley Cup Finals have finally started with the Canucks winning in the dying seconds of the third period on a Raffi Torres goal from Jannik Hansen and the heads-up play of Ryan Kesler.  When I was at Rogers Arena last night, I felt an energy in the building that hasn’t been felt in a long, long time. Game one showed me a few things to indicate where this series could go.

Last night, I saw some good things, ,some bad things and certainly some odd things.  Regardless of the strange happenings throughout the arena last night, the hometown team gave their crowds something to cheer about.

Oh, Bite me!

Bergeron and Burrows showing what a French Kiss is all about in hockey- Photo Credit: Globe and Mail


Alex Burrows got into a little scuffle with Patrice Bergeron last night which led into an alleged biting of Bergeron’s finger. Bergeron and Julien complained to the refs, who didn’t see the incident, about Burrows and wanted him tossed out of the series for a game or two. Who knows, perhaps Burrows was in the middle of a sentence in their chirping when Bergeron shoved his finger in Burrows’ mouth? Maybe that’s a way French-Canadians chirp at each other. Who knows, all I know is the NHL didn’t seem to think it was suspension worthy, despite what some members of the media think. Ask yourself Pierre Maguire, if Gord Miller shoved his finger in your mouth during an argument, what would you do?

Confetti

After Game 5 of the Western Conference Final, the braintrust at Rogers Arena thought it would be a good idea to have confetti fall all over the ice surface after the game winning goal.  I wonder if the brainiac who decided it would be an awesome idea ever put on a pair of skates? I don’t think so. It was nearly impossible for the players to skate around to celebrate the victory and it could have resulted in a potential injury to one of the players.  It was a poor choice of celebration fodder.  How poor? So poor that last night, I managed to take a picture of a pile of confetti atop of the cover of the walk-way of the visitors bench. Not only that, an official on the ice had to pick up a stray piece of confetti as it floated down to the surface. I am guessing the brain trust at Rogers Arena and the Canucks front office might want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Well, at least I hope.

Confetti atop the visitors bench entry way cover. - Photo Credit: Justine Galo


Officiating, yet again

So 12 penalties were called in the first  and second periods, but none in the third. I would say about 1/3 of those penalties called were pretty weak ( going both ways) and they should have just the teams play a little more. It would have made for a bit more of an exciting game and given it a much better flow.  The NHL officials are yet again, consistently inconsistent.

Great Goaltending

Both Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo have shown why they are both up for the Vezina trophy last night. Although I am sure, both would gladly concede the regular season honour to one another to win the Stanley Cup.  Thomas dazzled the crowd with his acrobatic saves and his aggressive style.  For a small man, he certainly covers the net very well, and for some of the Canucks in the early goings of the first period, too well. He set an NHL record for best save percentage in the regular season of .938. He broke a record held for 11 years by Dominik Hasek (Buffalo Sabres) at .936. He also can thank a post and crossbar aiding him and his team last night. Despite the late heroic goal by Raffi Torres he stopped 33 of 34 shots by the Canucks. He also faced better scoring chances than his counter-part, Roberto Luongo.

Even though Luongo didn’t have to be as acrobatic as Thomas, he was perfect and acquiring his third shutout of the post-season, posting a 36 save effort for the night. His rebound control, and his efficient movements had Luongo help his team to this win. For those doubting Luongo in the earlier part of this post season, since Nashville, he has been stellar. Maybe just maybe, his critics might start showing him the respect, that I believe he deserves. Mr. Dangerfield, he is not.

Signage

Saw some really cool signs last night, some good, some dirty and but most creative.  There was a couple of long banners passed around Rogers Arena last night that had “Go Canucks Go”

A banner is being used like "The Wave" passed around Rogers Arena- Photo Credit: Justine Galo


And of course, the Cup Final banner was hung from the rafters at Rogers Arena. I managed to get an excellent picture of it from my seat.

Stanley Cup banner hangs from the rafters in Rogers Arena: Photo: Justine Galo


It was a great way to start the series, and I look forward to the upcoming games. I anticipate  the drama that builds, the signs that come in, and the play between two very good hockey teams.

Justine Galo

Twitter: @Aviewfromabroad