It’s a beautiful Remembrance Day

Alex Burrows trades karma for first of the year.by Jason Kurylo

The Vancouver Canucks cancelled their morning skate this Remembrance Day, instead hitting the National War Memorial in Ottawa to honour war veterans. It was a classy move by the organization, one that generated positive press across Canada and positive karma inside Scotiabank Place. The Canucks bounced back from their lacklustre effort in Montreal with a convincing 6-2 win over the Senators. It was the Canucks’ seventh win in eight games, and coach Alain Vigneault’s 300th career W.

Alex Burrows scored his first of the year much as you would have expected – Henrik fires a no-look pass to Daniel behind the net, and Burrows spins off his check into the slot. Dank threads a perfect pass to number 14, who buries a one-timer from three feet out. It was an important goal, one that gave the Canucks a two-goal lead early in the third period, allowing Vancouver to win going away instead of letting the Sens creep their way back into the game. The Sedins each had two points, and factored in on goals that came 22 seconds into the first period and 33 seconds into the third.

Ryan Kesler took advantage of linemate Mikael Samuelsson’s return to form – the Swede looked dangerous for the first time in a few weeks. Kesler scored from the lip of the crease twice, once on a nice pass from Jannik Hansen, the other on a rebound of Samuelsson’s fifth shot.

The fourth line looked more effective than at any other time this season, most likely a result of having a natural centre skating up the middle. Vancouver Giants alumnus Mario Bliznak was called up from the Manitoba Moose to spark the checking line – Tanner Glass moved to the right side, bumping Peter Schaefer, and scored his first of the year. Bliznak then swatted a puck out of mid-air to net his first career goal late in the game. Rick Rypien spent more time in the penalty box than on the ice – he had just under seven minutes of playing time, but 12 minutes in the box.

In their own end, the Canucks were sloppy in the first but got bailed out more often than not by Roberto Luongo. He made several point blank stops, including a one-timer from Jason Spezza and the rebound from Alex Kovalev. The only goal to get by him in the first 56 minutes came when he was unable to smother a puck that dropped to the ice in front of him. Peter Regin drove the crease & poked the rebound home through Bobby Lou’s legs. This has to be on goaltending coach Rollie Melanson’s to-do list: Luongo has given up several goals of this nature in the past few games. The Sens scored a meaningless goal late in the game to make the score 6-2, again off a Canucks miscue. Dan Hamhuis bobbled the puck behind the net, and the opportunistic Regin flipped it out front to Sergei Gonchar. The veteran rearguard slammed it home easily; you can’t blame Luongo for that one.

With the win, the Canucks sit atop the Northwest Division, four points up on the Minnesota Wild. But wait, the Canucks are just one point up on… ANAHEIM??!!?!? The surprising Ducks have played two more games than Vancouver, but holy quack, there might be some mighty left in SoCal after all. Vancouver sits in third place in the Western Conference, and tied for sixth in league standings. Their next game comes on Saturday night, a spotlight game against the snakebitten Toronto Maple Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada.

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There’s good news, and there’s bad news…

The good news – it was a night of firsts

The Vancouver Canucks won their fourth consecutive game in Edmonton on Tuesday night, beating the young Oilers 4-3. With the win – the team’s first on the road so far this season – the Canucks have risen to the top of the Northwest Division with 14 points in 11 games.

Alex Burrows made his return to the lineup last night, and looked good early in the game. He went to the right places, and nearly potted his first goal of the season on a cheeky centering pass from Daniel Sedin. He was visibly tired in the second half of the game, understandable seeing as he hasn’t seen game action since the spring.

Raffi Torres - Photo Credit: Canucks.comRaffi Torres scored his first career hat trick, and interestingly became the first ex-Oiler to net three goals in one game against Edmonton. (That’s right, Wayne Gretzky couldn’t do it. Mark Messier didn’t manage it. Before Torres, no one had been able to score thrice in one game against the Oil after leaving the Edmonton organization. That’s right – not even Jimmy Carson.) Torres, one of the few NHLers of Latin American descent, now has six goals in 11 games – he scored 19 times in 74 games last season, and has a career high of 27 goals back in 2005-06 while skating for those same Oilers.

Daniel Sedin scored his team-leading 8th goal. Brother Henrik is first in the league with 12 assists. Before Dustin Penner’s wraparound goal – see the bad news below – Roberto Luongo threatened to go on his first shutout streak of the season. He looked solid, even intimidating, playing the day after beating Martin Brodeur’s New Jersey Devils 3-0.

The bad news – an old pattern resurfaces

Last year’s Canucks juggernaut was exceptionally proficient at putting the puck in the net. Unfortunately, whenever they went up early in a game, the team would collapse into a defensive shell and let the other guys come at them, wave after scary wave. No lead – whether one, two, three, even four goals! – no lead was safe as long as the forwards stopped pressing the hapless opposition.

Unlike Alain Vigneault and his coaching staff, the Oilers apparently watched those tapes. When the Canucks went up 3-0 on Tuesday night, they looked like an infinitely more experienced, composed squad and threatened to put the boots to these youngsters. Even when Andrew Cogliano surprised Andrew Alberts behind the Vancouver net, and Dustin Penner swept in a wraparound to make it 3-1, the Canucks should have taken it in stride. They should have pushed to answer. They should have done anything necessary to regain their three-goal advantage. Mikael Samuelsson, to name one, should have, I dunno, tried.

Instead, they treated Taylor Hall and Co with that respect usually reserved for untouchables like Sid the Kid, or elder statesmen like Nik Lidstrom and the Detroit Red Wings. They let these embryonic superstars skate unchallenged at poor Roberto Luongo. They dropped checks: Mason Raymond was actually the goat on that first Edmonton goal – he let Cogliano go unimpeded into the big Canucks D-man to jar the puck loose.

The Canucks panicked. When Gilbert Brule blew a laserbeam top shelf to tie the game at three, Vancouver fans had to be running endless mental film from last season’s blown leads against a truckload of teams. Hell, of last playoff’s blown leads against Chicago in particular.

Raffi Torres scored the winning goal on a lucky dribbler from just inside the blueline. Don’t get me wrong – a good team needs to win on a lucky goal once in a while, too. But great teams don’t need a horseshoe where the sun don’t shine – not when they’ve taken a 3-0 lead by halfway through the first period.


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Gotta love them Canes!

by Jason Kurylo

Canucks celebrate a goal versus Carolina. Photo credit: canucks.nhl.com
Photo credit: canucks.nhl.com

By now, the Vancouver Canucks are probably circling home games against the Carolina Hurricanes as soon as the NHL publishes the season schedule. For the second time in as many visits, the Hurricanes provided just what the Canuck doctors ordered to get off the schneid.

On February 3, 2009, Vancouver had lost eight straight games, and some guy named Mats Sundin was being blamed for pretty much every sorry period of the skid. The Canes had lost three straight games in Vancouver, but given the Canucks’ recent penchant for dropping games they should win, pundits were not confident going in.

Well, the top points-getter in Maple Leafs history responded with a goal and an assist, and Alexandre Burrows scored a short-handed goal with 82 seconds left on the clock to give the Canucks a 4-3 victory. Roberto Luongo recorded his first win in six games after returning from a groin injury.  Ryan Kesler scored his third goal in two games after suffering an embarrassing 11-game slump. The Canucks would subsequently go on a wicked tear, and enter the playoffs as one of the league’s hottest teams.

So fans of this year’s Cup favourites shouldn’t be surprised by this snake bitten Canucks team beating the tar out of the Southeast Division cellar dwellers, 5-1.

Cory Schneider got his first start of the season tonight, which came as a surprise, as Luongo almost never sits on the bench for a home game when he’s not injured. It turned out not to matter – Schneider was never truly pressured by the woeful “offense” of Carolina. Sure, he stopped 32 of 33 shots – the only one to get by him came as Patrick O’Sullivan slapped one home on a two-on-one break. Schneider was solid, however, keeping rebounds to a minimum and letting his D-men do the heavy lifting most of the night.

Mason Raymond scored his first two goals of the year, one skating on the top line when Daniel Sedin found him streaking through the slot in typical Sedinian fashion. The other came on the man advantage: Mikael Samuelsson’s shot was bobbled by Cam Ward, and Jeff Tambellini put a no-look pass through a series of skates to give Raymond a wrister for his first of the year.

That same Samuelsson also scored his first goal of the year after Kevin Bieksa made a great read to keep the puck alive in the offensive zone. Sammy added two assists for good measure. Perhaps the Swedish Olympic team sent him another Dear Johan letter after the California road trip? Whatever, the man came through tonight with a solid effort despite being demoted to the third line.

Ryan Kesler again had several great chances early, and again he booted the puck. With an open net in the first period, he rang the puck squarely off the post. On a two-on-one in the second, he failed to even get a shot. Late in the third, however, Kesler took a soft power play pass from Christian Ehrhoff about fifteen metres out and rifled a one-timer into the top corner past Cam Ward.

Henrik Sedin had two assists tonight, tying him with Brad Richards and John-Michael Liles for the league lead with seven.

As mentioned, none of this comes as a shock against the AHL-quality roster of the Carolina Hurricanes. What was a surprise? How about the guy who opened the scoring. Andrew Alberts put home his own rebound from three metres out, finishing after some hard work by Manny Malhotra. Yes, true believers, Andrew freakin’ Alberts, for a few minutes in game five, had more goals on the season than Mason Raymond, Mikael Samuelsson and Ryan Kelser combined.

A truer test of this Canucks team comes soon – they play three games in four nights, including one against the dirty rotten stinkin’ Chicago Blackhawks, starting Tuesday. Look for Schneider to get at least one of those starts. And remember to break out the Sharpie when next year’s schedule comes out. You know, to circle the home date against the Canes.

Follow Jason Kurylo on Twitter. :: Subscribe to his hockey podcast, Pucked in the Head, on iTunes. :: Find out why the Carolina Hurricanes are just so awful.

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Calm, Cool & Collected – Gillis leads by example

As training camp gets set to open officially tomorrow morning at UBC when players report for their physicals, we’re starting another year of Canucks hockey here at Canucks Corner. 13 years have gone by and we’re still kicking, entering our14th year of Canucks hockey on the internet. I’m pretty excited about the coming year not only for the site, but the team on the ice. There is a real buzz in Vancouver, and it’s a little different than it has been in the past.

Fans are starting to buy into the Canucks regime that is lead by the calm cool and patient Mike Gillis. With a summer full of big hurdles to overcome, Gillis handled them all with the quiet confidence that has become his trademark as the leader of the organization. Signing the Sedin’s and getting Roberto Luongo signed long term were no easy tasks for any GM to face going into the off-season. Then he goes out and dips into the thre free agent market adding Andrew Raycroft for depth in goal, Mikael Samuelsson up front and adding Mathieu Schneider, Christian Erhoff and Brad Lukowich to an already deep blue line corp.

He has youngsters Sergei Shirokov, Michael Grabner and of course Cody Hodgson among others vying to crack the roster, and a young blue chip goaltender in Cory Schneider to use anyway he sees fit and then there is the continued maturation of players like Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows.

And if that weren’t enough Gillis is about to extend the contract of coach Alain Vigneault to add even more stability to the club.Vigneault has his fans and his detractors but he and Gillis seem to be on the same page when it comes to building this hockey club, and that’s half the battle.

Yes, heading into camp the Canucks and their fans have a lot of reasons to be excited about. But that’s not to say there still isn’t work to be done. The Canucks will need to whittle their salary structure down by October 1st to get under the salar cap, something Gillis says will be done through competition at camp. Gillis feels this camp is different than the last due to the fact he was new last year and no one knew what to expect from him. Now with his retooling and stabilizing project nearing completion, all players should be entering camp ready to be at the top of their game, or they may not make the team.

With the Northwest division taking a drop off in quality according to many, the Canucks should be in a position to contend for the division and perhaps even the conference. So sit back and get ready for another wild ride. Just try and take it day by day…like our calm cool and collected GM.

Quick Hits:

  • This from Hosea Cheung on Twitter: (@hosea24hours) The Canucks have cut Matthew Ford, Mitch McColm, Bobby Nadeau, and Joe Plekaitis, James Reid, Justin Taylor, and Michael Ward following prospects camp. prior to the start of the main camp.
  • TSN says no Sundin is not negotiating, Sportsnet claims he’ and the Canucks are talking. Here we go again? God I hope not. Either Mats shows up for his physical tomorrow or move on.
  • As I said in the intro I am really excited about the direction this site could be heading this year and the things we have in store working with the Canucks on the Fan Zone at Canucks.com. We have a great group of creative people who are really going to try and do some cool things this season. You’ll have to stay tuned for more, but safe to say if you follow these folks on Twitter you’ll never be out of the loop: @CanucksHockey @mozy19, @Hgiraffe, @vancanucks, @miss604
    @canucksoutsider
    , @johnbollwitt, @crazycanucks and of course follow us at @CanucksCorner.

A Mid-Summer Musing

Well, it’s been while my fellow hockey fans since I have hit the keyboard to stroke out a few words about our Vancouver Canucks and other hockey related issues. It’s mid-July and as I taken time off of writing due to this four letter word called work, I have to admit, my mind has shut off hockey the last few weeks since the Stanley Cup Finals as I watched Sidney Crosby captain his Pittsburgh Penguins to a Game 7 victory. Congratulations and well done.

During this off-season, I have heard and read a good amount of ridiculous rumours of which free agents were going where and what trades were going to be put in place. As usual, only about quarter of those actually came true,and even then, the deal that went down wasn’t always the one that was predicted in the weeks prior to July 1st. 

Double Our Pleasure

There were many rumours circulating that the services of Daniel and Henrik Sedin were no longer going to belong to the Vancouver Canucks. In fact, there were rumours of the Wonder Twins heading to my current home of Toronto and were contemplating offers from the man who drafted them, Brian Burke, GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Hearing and reading people publicly saying, ” The Sedins are Leafs, book it.”  and “Vancouver is going to have to do a rebuild without their first line.”  “No one wants to play in Vancouver, Canucks on the rebuild.” It sounded like Dan and Hank were already waving the blue maple leaf and were starting to plan out their float for the parade route down Yonge Street in Toronto.  I guess all the ‘expert’  rumour aficionados were on the mark there.

So, after some good deliberation with agent, JP Barry, the Sedin brothers decided that Vancouver was the best option for their interests.  I for one am glad to see the Sedins back in Canuck uniforms and will be on the first line with workhorse, Alex Burrows. Regardless of what some so-called ‘experts’ say about the Sedin twins, they are very good players who have now shown they can shoulder the responsibility of carrying their good play into the post season.  Mike Gillis did well in ensuring their future with the franchise.

Parting is Bittersweet

The departure of long time serving Canuck defenceman, Mattias Ohlund, was bittersweet for this long time fan. Mattias Ohlund lived up to his billing of his draft year. A steady, smooth-skating defenceman who hit hard and positioned himself well to counter an offensive attack. Ohlund was nominated for the Calder Trophy in 1998, on March 15th of this past season, Ohlund also became the franchise leading scoring defenceman. His 12 year tenure with the Canucks has placed Mattias Ohlund not only as a leader in the record books but a fan favourite and will be missed.

Thank you Mattias and good luck in Tampa Bay.

Extended Invitation

Roberto Luongo’s anticipated contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks is a hot topic not only amongst Canucks fans but the hockey world in general.  I will not even sugar coat this, the Vancouver Canucks are a much better team with Roberto Luongo between the pipes than without. Anyone who says the Canucks are fine without the services of Captain Canuck are sadly mistaken.Remember the 20 some odd games without Luongo? Remember what happened when he came back? Yeah, enough said.  I’m not saying the Canucks aren’t a competative team and don’t have some of the puzzles pieces in place, it’s just that, well, Roberto is the center piece.   He is the man, in my opinion, that keeps the team wanting to strive for more and brings that spirit into the dressing room. 

Luongo is a workhorse and shows that he will do what it takes to find success not just personally, but also for his team. I am sure many fans would agree the Vancouver  Canucks need Roberto Luongo.  So in the famous words of Larry the Cable Guy, “Mike Gillis…GET’ER DONE!”

So, as we are now at the half way mark into my other favourite sport, baseball, I also mark it as a signal that hockey season is not that far away. I’m starting to get back in gear with all the hockey rumours, talks, and write ups. I look forward to a new season and of course the upcoming Olympics in my hometown of Vancouver, BC. So until next time…

This has been some Musings from the Mud

Justine Galo: Toronto,ON