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

Post-It: A Breakdown of Breakdowns in San Jose

Ok, nevermind the Sharks are red-hot and Patrick Marleau thinks he’s Wayne Gretzky this season, so far. What happened in San Jose was just plain U-G-L-Y! Where the heck did my Vancouver Canucks go and how are they so sickly different from the crew that shutout Anaheim just a couple of nights ago? Obviously, they didn’t board the plane to San Jose after the Ducks game. In fact, I think they are all still in Disneyland lining up for Space Mountain.

Although I am not a Corey Schneider apologist, Ginger Bricks, did all he could tonight. Good considering his team left him out to dry. Welcome to the starting job, Corey. Ask Roberto about all those nights he’s been lit up all because the guys in front of him couldn’t clear a puck to save their lives. Again, it’s not Corey’s fault. They could have any HOF goalie in net tonight, and the red light would have been shining brightly. The second to line of defense are usually the defensemen, but when Keith “Perpetually in the Doghouse” Ballard and Chris “What’s a goal?” Tanev are your best pairing for the night, you know you’re in trouble.

Where did Alex Edler go? Did he suddenly have a Freaky Friday moment and changed bodies with Adrian Plavsic? The only man on the blue line that has been consistently good so far in this young season decided to join his compatriots in what one might call, “a bad game”. Jason Garrison is making the non-signing of Sami Salo look like a really big mistake. Hammer has been in some weird funk in and out of games, while partner Kevin Bieksa is starting to have what we like to call in Canuck twitterverse as those, “God Dammit Bieksa” moments.  Three  or four of those guys are earning over $4+ million a year, and they can’t clear a puck? Really? Big Mikey should have given Salo the damn two years and dealt with Salo injuries, come what may. It got to the point of frustration for yours truly that I was wishing #41 was dressed. That’s right, Alberts probably wouldn’t have hurt them anymore than they hurt themselves tonight.

The Sedins who looked great against the Ducks took a night off for what? Why? Kassian needed to keep his goal for goal contest with Hodgson, but the Sedins seemed disinterested in playing against the Sharks. I don’t know, maybe they were miffed that Zack got ice cream from AV on the plane ride from Orange County to Northern California. Whatever it is, when your best players aren’t you best players, it tends to send the whole team into a funk.  They were punished tonight, a lengthy benching in the third period and then shifts with Dale Weise, enough said.

Mason Raymond forgot to ask the aliens in Anaheim to take over his body again and make him a scoring machine, but he’s always been streaky, I can’t ask for anymore.

The biggest problem is the absence of Kesler and Booth. It has sent the team to make lines drawn from a slot machine pull that could drive any coach mad. Someone give Alain Vigneault some vodka infused gum! He needed it after this Sharks game! Without a real second line, it’s been hard to find secondary scoring when you don’t know what is in store for the line ups from the 2nd line and down. Those two guys are dearly missed and the ‘second line’ are getting mangled like rag dolls. Kesler’s physical and tenacious play is missed and much needed.

Hey Max Lapierre, you’re pretty and everything but that penalty you took in the second period? Well it’s so stupid, you could model with Derek Zoolander!

Lapierre had the bus take off on him tonight, he was so damn awful!

Lapierre had the bus take off on him tonight, he was so damn awful!

Face-offs: Can we win one? Just got out drawn by the Sharks tonight, and it killed the Canucks. Plain and simple.

Power Plays and Penalty Kills: Special teams looked like they took a special ed course. Horrible defending and 0 for 7 on the PP says it all.

Oh yeah, I hope Niemi buys the post dinner and drinks before he takes it home tonight. What team hits 5 posts in one game and none of them go in? Oh yea, the Canucks **FACEPALM**

I usually don’t write a game analysis but tonight was just terrible worse than opening night at Rogers Arena. I can only be hopeful and say they will bounce back in Los Angeles against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Kings. Here’s to hoping! Until tomorrow!

Justine Galo.

Twitter: @Aviewfromabroad

PS

If you want to see how I deal with a game as it’s being played, give me a follow on twitter and see for yourself!

 

Edler injury a pain in the back for Canucks.

Alex Edler: Photo Credit: Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty ImagesThe Canucks were hoping the all-star break would be all that was needed to resolve the back “spasms” defenseman Alex Edler was suffering from. But the news today was not good for the Canucks most effective weapon on the blueline, as he will undergo micro discectomy surgery to repair his ailing back. How much time Edler will be out of the lineup is not known, but it won’t be anytime soon.

“After consultation with our physicians it was decided that surgery was the best course of action,” said Canucks GM Mike Gillis.  “The best long term decision for Alex and our hockey club was to have the surgery immediately.”

The best case scenario seems to be a anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months for a return to the lineup.

The injury will no doubt cast all eyes on Sami Salo once again, who is attempting to return from a torn Achilles tendon injury and has been practicing with the team for some time. Salary cap issues were also  clouding his return to the lineup, with salary having to be cleared to make room for the offensive defenseman’s return.

But with the recent rash of injuries on the blueline and what is looking to be a long term injury to Edler, that hurdle may be cleared, and all that is needed for Salo to return could be a clean bill of health.

Here’s hoping for a quick recovery and return for Edler.