Bruce Ng: Canucks “Wagon Watch” after a 4-3 loss in Anaheim.

Luongo's wagon isn't this lonely. Yet.

Throughout the season, the Canucks Wagonwatch series will track how much room is on the team’s bandwagon. In addition, it will also track the completely separate Luongo wagon.

Tonight the Canucks lost a tough one 4-3 against the Ducks in Anaheim. Down 4-0 to start the 3rd period, the boys staged a nice comeback effort that ultimately fell short by a goal.

Canucks Bandwagon: 70% Full

The Canucks played the night before in Los Angeles, and picked up a 3-2 win. Last night they built a 3-0 lead after one period, and coasted to the 3-2 final. Tonight, they slow-played the first period, and melted down in the 2nd, allowing 4 goals. To their credit (and my surprise!), the Canucks came roaring back in the 3rd, scoring 3 goals of their own, earning a power play chance late in the game, but still lost by a goal. It was an entertaining finish and gave the fans something to cheer for – at least for the fans that hadn’t shut off their TV by then.

Luongo Bandwagon: 30% Full

Luongo didn’t necessarily play a horrible game, but allowed 4 goals on 19 shots. All 4 goals came in the 2nd period, and Luongo did not return for the 3rd. There is an old hockey adage that says the goaltender needs to be your best penalty killer; unfortunately that wasn’t the case tonight. Luongo’s wagon might have even less people, but Schneider only had to make 2 saves in the entire 3rd period as the Canucks spent the entire period pouring on the offensive pressure. The Luongo Bandwagon exodus was also tempered by the fact that he picked up a pretty good win the night before.

#Rome4Norris Campaign Suffers Setback

Aaron Rome had made some mistakes earlier in the game, but the team was able to get out of the 1st period still in a scoreless tie. Rome took a 5-minute major for elbowing, which came with a game misconduct in the 2nd period. The Ducks scored twice on the ensuing power play, and the Canucks were forced to play the rest of the game with 5 defencemen. If Rome isn’t Shanabanned by the league for that elbow, he’ll have to score at least 2 more goals to make up for tonight’s game.

Bruce Ng: Canucks Wagon Watch after a 6-2 win over Chicago.

The bandwagon is at mid capacity after Sunday's win in Chitown.

Throughout the season, the Canucks Wagonwatch series will track how much room is on the team’s bandwagon. In addition, it will also track the completely separate Luongo wagon.

Canucks Bandwagon: 70% Full

Special teams were surgical tonight. The power play converted 5 out of 6 chances, and the penalty kill was a perfect 5 for 5. The second period has been a big let-down for the Canucks this season, but they outscored the Hawks tonight 4-1 in the middle frame, and sustained a decent pace throughout the game. It was a big win in tough enemy territory, so the wagon has a few more folks on it.

Luongo Bandwagon: 50% Full

The Blackhawks first goal tied the game at 1. It really was a bad goal – Frolik beat him with a long wrist shot from 55 feet out along the boards. Deflected or not, Luongo should have had that one. After the Blackhawks first goal, I’m pretty sure the Luongo haters were calling for Schneider, and the Hawks fans were salivating hoping that Luongo would cave, however, to his credit, he settled down really nicely after that. Luongo made some solid saves when the score was 4-2, and again at the end of the 2nd period to hold a 3-goal lead heading into the intermission. Despite making 38 saves, the first goal prevented fans from climbing back onto the wagon tonight. Solid performance though.

“Familiarity Breeds Comtempt”

The Canucks posted a 6-2 win over their Western Conference rivals in Chicago. The Canucks might say that they have more contempt for Calgary, and the Hawks number one rival will likely always be the Red Wings, but it’s not hard for either team to get up for this game – they’ve met in the playoffs for the last 3 years running. Each time, the winner has gone to the Stanley Cup Final.

Sunday, the Canucks looked like they finally played a game where they had more answers than questions.

Bruce Ng: Canucks Advent Calendar: It all starts tomorrow!

This is it fans! The Vancouver Canucks begin their 41st season tomorrow October 6 when the Pittsburgh Penguins come to Rogers Arena.

Over the last month this series of posts has looked at a handful of the moments that made last season so awesome, and some of the players that made it happen.

Today’s blog post focuses on #1 in your program, Roberto Luongo – the best goaltender the Canucks have ever had.

You may have some doubts about this statement, people either love Luongo or want to trade him. There really isn’t much grey area on the topic. Every goal scored against him, you can guarantee that someone on Twitter will tell you he should have had that one.

Don’t think he has been the Canucks best goaltender in history? Here’s a chart of some of the most relevant Canucks starting goaltenders and their statistics in their best seasons:

Goaltender Season GP W L T OTL     GAA     SV%
Roberto Luongo     2010-11     60     38     15     -      7 2.11 .928
Kirk McLean 1991-92 65 38 17 9 - 2.74 .901
Richard Brodeur 1981-82 52 20 18 12 - 3.35 .891
Dan Cloutier 2003-04 60 33 21 6 - 2.27 .914
Arturs Irbe 1997-98 41 14 11 6 - 2.73 .907
Corey Hirsch 1995-96 41 17 14 6 - 2.93 .903
Cesare Maniago 1976-77 47 17 21 9 - 3.36 -
Félix Potvin 1999-00 34 12 13 7 - 2.59 .906

You can argue that the Canucks have had the best defence they’ve ever had, which explains the wins that Luongo has been able to post, and maybe the Goals Against Average (GAA). But Luongo has posted numbers like these in every single season he has played in Vancouver. The goaltenders listed above had far worse averages over the course of their Canucks tenure.

Luongo started off last season slowly, but by late-November he was back to sparkling form. Around the All-Star break, Hockey Night in Canada, CBCSports.ca and the NHLPA ran a poll among players. Luongo was voted by NHL players as the Goalie Most Difficult to Score On.

The Luongo-Haters out there will say he’s not a big game stopper. He chokes. He cries. Then he chokes on his tears. I am going to present you with some evidence to the contrary.

Remember when Team Canada won the Gold Medal in the 2010 Olympics? Canada would not have been in the Gold Medal final without Luongo shutting the door on his old Canucks teammate Pavol Demitra (R.I.P. Pavol).

Then there was the stop against Patrick Sharp in overtime, in Round 1 Game 7, prior to Alexandre Burrows scoring the game winner.

Still don’t believe Luongo can make a big save? Here are some more that you have to see to believe.

I will admit Luongo showed a touch of inconsistency in last year’s Stanley Cup Final (just a touch) – but I would also say to you that the Canucks would not have made it to Game 7 without Luongo. For those with a short memory, he shut out the Bruins twice in that series. As if you’ve never had a bad day at work. Show him some love, people!

Thanks for following this series of posts – I hope that all the Canucks fans are excited for this season. Here’s to looking back on the best Canucks season ever, and even better times this year!

Bruce Ng: Advent Calendar: 3 days to get back to playing Canucks hockey.

This series of blog posts will look back on the highest highs of last season, and looks to get the Canucks faithful amped for the season to come!

Just a few short days to the season opener, and excitement is building in Vancouver. A lot of Canucks fans are still upset about the Stanley Cup Final loss; I hope that this series of posts has helped to rekindle some positive feeling – there is a lot to look forward to as Canucks fans this season.

Today’s focus is on Kevin Bieksa’s crazy season. Bieksa started the season most definitely in the doghouse, but finished as a huge fan favourite.

Early in the 2010-2011 season, many Canucks fans were on the Bieksa hater-wagon. The idea was that the Canucks were “too deep” on defence (is that an oxymoron?), needed cap room, and that one of the defencemen had to go. Bieksa hadn’t had a good season in awhile as he had been hampered by a bizarre Achilles’ tendon injuries. However, with Salo on the shelf, and Ballard falling out of favour with head coach Alain Vigneault, Bieksa stayed.

Throughout the course of the season, Bieksa played his way back into the hearts of Canucks fans. He was a natural partner for Dan Hamhuis, whose stay-at-home style allowed Bieksa to roam more freely through the neutral zone.

Then there was this interview with Scott Oake in the playoffs. Bieksa is explaining the Canucks simple plan for the 3rd period against the Nashville Predators.

Soon after that, the tribute videos poured in.

The last great Bieksa moment of the Canucks 2010-2011 moment was probably the series winning goal against the San Jose Sharks, to send the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final.

It’s these moments that get me excited for this season. Crazy moments when no one sees the puck, and all of a sudden it’s in the back of the net. When the Canucks swarm the opposition zone for 2 or 3 minutes at a time applying pressure so intense that the puck has no choice but to get in the goal.

I can’t wait to see what new memories this season will bring!

Bruce Ng: Advent Calendar: 5 days to get back to playing Canucks hockey.

This series of blog posts will look back on the highest highs of last season, and looks to get the Canucks faithful amped for the season to come!

Many Canucks fans are still stinging from the Game 7 loss in the Stanley Cup Final, but along the way to the final, there were a number of memorable moments and games. Ask fans what their favourite moment was, and chances are they will tell you about Alexandre Burrows OT winner in Game 7 against the Blackhawks, or maybe Ryan Kesler splitting the Nashville defence to score.

Today’s memory isn’t a series winner, or a first ever goal, and it didn’t happen in OT – but it was still very important. On May 22, 2011, Sami Salo had a clutch game to give his team a 3-1 series lead.

Sami Salo’s 2010-2011 season didn’t start off very well. As usual, Salo’s latest injury was bizarre, and kept him from joining the Canucks at the start of the season. He suffered an Achilles’ injury playing floorball in Finland and would be out indefinitely.

Here’s an image to indicate exactly how crazy Salo’s time on the injured reserve has been. Click on the image for the full size version. (image courtesy of @NucksMisconduct):

Sami Salo's injury list; Image by Nucksmisconduct

 

Salo did not start playing until half-way through February, and he had a slow start. The playoffs came, and he played 6 games against the Blackhawks, and only 3 against the Predators.

Then came Game 4 against the Sharks. The Canucks had a 2-1 series lead heading into the game. Lose and they would be tied heading back to Vancouver. Win and they would hold a 3-1 stranglehold on the series.

Salo can play in any situation. He’s a dependable defender that can kill penalties, but he also has a heavy slapshot that can blow by goaltenders on the power play.

In a 2-minute span in the middle of the 2nd period, the Sharks ran into penalty trouble. The Canucks opened the scoring when Salo passes quickly around to the left boards for Ryan Kesler, who beat Antti Niemi with a hard slapshot.