Call it Canucks in 6.

It doesn’t get much better than this. The league-leading Vancouver Canucks, with their franchise record 117 regular season points, won their first-ever Presidents’ Trophy – in doing so, they became the first team since the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens to lead the league in points, goals for and goals against. They boast the Art Ross trophy winner for the second straight year in Daniel Sedin, and the first pair of brothers to ever accomplish back-to-back scoring championships in him and his brother Henrik. Despite a raft of injuries on the blueline – the Canucks were forced to employ 13 different defensemen through the course of the season – Corey Schneider and Roberto Luongo finished third and fourth in the league in save percentage. Did I mention the team had the best power play in the league, and just missed out on having the best penalty kill to boot?

Yes, it was a hell of a season for the Vancouver Canucks. And what did this earn them? A first round match up against the defending Stanley Cup champions in the dirty, rotten, stinkin’ Chicago Blackhawks.

Okay, maybe not stinkin’. After all, Dustin Byfuglien is golfing in Georgia right about now.

Wait. Patrick Kane is still on the team, and sporting a wicked bad striped mullet. Yeah, stinkin’.

The top two lines promise a classic playoff battle. D Sedin – H Sedin – Burrows & Kesler – Samuelsson – Higgins vs Toews – Kane – Sharp & Hossa – Frolik – Stalberg. Sound like an easy win for the Canucks on this point? Don’t bet on it. Jonathan Toews wasn’t the Conn Smythe winner last year for letting Dustin Byfuglien do all the hard work. Toews scored two points a game against the Canucks. That said, it wasn’t the top line that made the biggest difference last year. It’s the bottom six and back end where the Canucks have suffered the past two post-seasons. This year, the Canucks have Mason Raymond flying down the wing and Cody Hodgson playing at third line centre where he would have been all year had it not been for the acquisition of Manny Malhotra. Hello eye injury, goodbye Manny; Cody’s in and has his shot to prove his worth in the bigs. Maxim Lapierre, Tanner Glass, Jannik Hansen and Victor Oreskovich will be forechecking like mad. But where are those big pieces of the Hawks’ Cup run now?

Dave Bolland (C), 16 points in 22 games: Injured (concussion)

Adam Burish (RW), agitator played 15 games & got under Daniel Sedin’s skin: Dallas Stars

Dustin Byfuglien (LW), 11 goals in 22 games, and crawled into Roberto Luongo’s skull: Atlanta Thrashers

Ben Eager (LW), clutch goal vs the Canucks in Game Two: San Jose Sharks

Andrew Ladd (LW),  6 points in 22 games: Atlanta Thrashers

John Madden (C), veteran presence in the locker room: Minnesota Wild

Antti Niemi (G), 2 shutouts, .920 save percentage: San Jose Sharks

Brent Sopel (D), 6 points and a +7 rating in 22 games: Montreal Canadiens

Kris Versteeg (RW), 14 points in 22 games: Philadelphia Flyers

With an injury ravaged defense in front of him, a crushing letter C on the front of his mask and defensive-minded forwards like Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows playing hurt, last year’s Roberto Luongo unraveled at home. The Canucks were outscored 17-7 in three losses in Vancouver. (To be fair, the Canucks were the only playoff team to take two games at United Center in Chicago, and outscored the Hawks 11-6 there in three games.) He had been pulled in several games down the stretch, and never looked comfortable with the expectations placed upon his shoulders.

This year’s Luongo put up his best numbers ever, led the league in wins, and looks as controlled as he’s ever been in the crease. With his calmer demeanour between the pipes, the Canucks have only lost back-to-back games in regulation time once since early November. And that was during mean-nothing contests against the Edmonton Oilers after the Presidents’ Trophy had already been locked up – hell, peewee teams would have a hard time getting themselves up for those games.

Going into the playoffs, Vancouver has the healthiest defense corps they’ve seen all year. Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, Christian Ehrhoff, Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa and Sami Salo all dress for game one. There’s no one standout Norris Trophy candidate in

The Lighter Side of Luongo

Determined and competitive; Work-horse and driven; Aloof and intense. All adjectives to describe one Roberto Luongo. More often than not, his tenure here in Vancouver has the majority of the public and media alike thinking that Roberto takes life way too seriously and often his game to the point that his intensity and desire to win tend to harm his play rather than help it. Maybe they’re right, perhaps his very competitive nature and focus is a little too much for us average fans and media geeks can fathom.  After all, what the heck do we know about being professional athletes? In theory we know everything, in reality, not so much.

Over the last couple of months, many of us around the nation got to see a ‘lighter side’ of Roberto Luongo.  On TSN, he shared his poetic skills and some humour.  He even wrote for foreword in James Duthie’s new book.  This was something none of us knew about Roberto, and most likely something we never expected. Why would we? He took his job and criticism too seriously, or so we thought.

When Luongo didn’t show up for winning first star in a game the Canucks won not too long ago and not grant Murph a post game interview, some of us made a big deal about it, he was way too intense.  Some out there even decided it was rather ‘diva’-like of him to stand up the crowd the way he did. Was it? Yeah maybe a little, but wouldn’t you be pissed off that you were just a few seconds away from perfection and someone else botched it up for you? I’m not sure about everyone else, but I’d be livid. But then again, like Roberto, I am a bit of a perfectionist.

The one thing that has gotten my attention and the attention of the wise, is the humour and wit Roberto Luongo has inserted in his pre/post game interviews about his play. He’s been brilliantly funny by poking fun of himself and enjoying his time as just one of the guys and not being Captain Canuck. He has kept his critics laughing instead of pointing fingers at his mistakes and his ‘aloofness’. He has even joined in publicly with some remarks about his teammate in the ribbing sense. When he referred to Lee Sweatt as “built like a fire hydrant”, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. He has been not only entertaining, but you can see a more relaxed Roberto Luongo who is far more comfortable to have people see him as human.

So he has been able to open up a bit more and show us a more humanistic side of himself and be more open and take more responsibility for his play. So why do so many out there still bash him? I’m not sure to be honest, but I for one have been very happy with his play so far this year, and his demeanor. On top of all the fun stuff, Roberto Luongo has played very well and stolen a few games for the boys as of late. What more could you ask in your number one goalie?  So what I ask is, if Roberto Luongo has lightened up, why can’t his critics?


Justine Galo

Twas a Nuck Before Christmas: 2010 Edition


In and around this time of the year, I like to give some Christmas cheer to our beloved team.  I’ve been writing a rendition of this poem on and off for the last 10 years on the Canucks Corner boards.  I thought I would share with those of you that haven’t read any of these yet a little of what I like to do to get “Canucks Festive”.  I hope you all enjoy it.

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the Rog
Not a feature was playing, no video montage.
The stands were all empty and the ice rink was bare,
In hopes that Lord Stanley soon would be there.

The players were nestled, all snug in their beds
While visions of playoff runs danced in their heads.
AV is all happy, slow start seems way back
For his crew is front-running, they are on track

No team out there winning; convincing in manner,
No Bolduc out there checking, no Glass man named, Tanner
No Tambellini skating by d-men in a quick flash,
No goal song is playing, no tickets for cash!

Production crew off-set, no one manning the show
No fans up high in the stands, no fans down below.
No Swedish Twins around, for us fans to cheer
No Kevin Bieksa with his mean glare and sneer.

No sight of Alex Burrows, so agile and quick,
No Sami Salo, no shots thunder from his stick.
More rapid than eagles his Bauers they came,
He shucked and he jived, Mason Raymond by name!

“Now Daniel! Now Henrik and a Dane named Jannik!
Go Mikael! Go Manny! Opposition in panic!
To the top of the crease, all balls to the wall!
Now hit away! Shoot away! Score away all!”

There’s DJ Dave, and FIN and the bands
Hot dogs consumed, the fans cheering in stands.
In Jim Robson’s gondola, the broadcasters did stew,
Kristen, Shorty and Murph. Oh yes, and Cheech too!

Now 12, and 16,and 19  raised to the roof
‘Oh Captain, my captain’, your greatness with proof
Staving off critics and all media hounds
We honour Markus Naslund, his number safe and sound

Torres was dressed all in gear, from his head to his foot,
Fighting in the corners, his jersey all dirty with soot.
Alberts hitting hard, Ballard blocking the shots,
Hammer owns the zone like it was Fort Knox.

Henrik to Daniel, their passes so merry!
Lighting up the goal light, bright red as a cherry!
Malholtra wins the face-offs, one after another
Steve  Nash is proud of him, his in-law of a brother

When the Canucks score, the fans cheer the “Woo!!”
Pucks stop dead of at the net, the chant is just “Lu!!”
Solid is Schneider when he takes between the pipes.
Alex Edler is playing like he’s earning stripes.

Ehrhoff  at the blue-line and shooting top shelf,
I’m not hooting and hollering, in spite of myself!
In a wink of an eye and a strange twist of fate
I was at the Garage, entering Linden’s numbered gate.

The stands were all full, many months passed us by,
And all of a sudden it appeared it was hockey in July!
Visions of battered faces and a bloody red nose,
Luongo our tender, to the occasion he rose!

With the sound of the horn and the blow of the whistle,
Bone crunching sounds along with the stretch of the gristle.
I’ll see you on Robson with foamy-head pucks!
“Maybe Lord Stanley will be there with the Vancouver Canucks!”

Merry Christmas everyone.

Justine Galo

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What’s the deal, AV?

They haven't looked good on the ice, so here's a shot of Kevin Bieksa off of it.One day after losing 7-2 to the sadsack Calgary Flames, the Chicago Blackhawks did the long walk of shame into Vancouver, shook themselves out of whatever funk had let them poop out that stinker at the Saddledome, and thoroughly trounced the Vancouver Canucks 7-1.

The Canucks, one day after that embarrassing loss, got right back at it by hosting the Phoenix Coyotes. They had a chance to do just what the dirty rotten stinkin’ Blackhawks had done to them the night before. Let loose. Fire all cannons. Rip off the Chinos and go commando on someone’s ass. But no, the Canucks instead sleepwalked through most of the night and let Taylor Pyatt – YES, TAYLOR PYATT – score two goals including the game winner as the Yotes left the Canucks winless in four.

Pyatt of the light brown eyelashes singlehandedly spent more time in the opposition crease area than the entire Canucks roster (something he could have done a little more often when he still played here, by the way.) It doesn’t take hours of video analysis to see the problems. Defensively, the Canucks are guilty of stick checking – when they check at all, that is. Luongo has been left high and dry on countless occasions in the past two weeks. Hamhuis has made a few decent plays, but only a few. Alberts was all hit for the first ten games of the season, and mostly miss ever since. The wicked D on paper has translated into a paper D on ice.

Offensively, Vancouver has stopped skating at the net. They’ve become utterly predictable. Hell, the most dangerous offensive play by a Canuck this weekend was a rush by Kevin Bieksa in the second period against the Yotes. For some reason, other than that solo Bieksa effort, the Canucks offense has reduced itself to pretty much one play: 1) Carry the puck over the opposing blueline. 2) Hold up on the right halfboards. 3) Look for a trailer.

A junior team could defend against this kind of bland attack.

Perhaps Alain Vigneault’s complaints that Chicago ran up the score on Saturday night were meant to give the media fodder so they wouldn’t look any closer. Keith Ballard is out with the flu – maybe there are others in the dressing room who are sluggish because of a bug, as well. At least it would be an excuse for such lacklustre performances. According to Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun, however, when asked on Twitter if the flu was rampant in the Nucks dressing room: “On any team, any time, there’s always a couple of guys fighting illness but flu “rampant?” I haven’t seen that.” Scratch that excuse, then.

So what is it? The Sedins have been all but invisible; with the exception of his penalty shot goal earlier this year, Henrik hasn’t taken a legitimate shot on net all season. Alex Burrows has been largely ineffective since returning from shoulder surgery. Mason Raymond hasn’t skated around anyone in weeks, and Ryan Kesler’s hotter in underwear ads than on the second line. As for Mikael Samuelsson – how do you say “You’re fired” in Swedish? Maybe it’s time some of these top six underachievers sat in the press box for a few games. Even better, make them pay $150 to sit in the nosebleeds and watch this team’s lack of effort.

Follow Jason Kurylo on Twitter.

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Good to be lucky, lucky to be good

MayRay Smallby Jason Kurylo

When the Vancouver Canucks walk out of Air Canada Centre with two points, they are just doing what they should do: kicking a bad team when it’s down. The Toronto Maple Leafs started the year 4-0, but have foundered since. With the Canucks taking tonight’s game 5-3, the Leafs have now lost eight straight games, and have scored just six goals in their last four losses. Vancouver should win this game going away, and have now done so in five straight visits to the ACC.

A problem for Vancouver seems to be letting poor teams stick around in games long enough to make it close. The Canucks outshot the Leafs 26-16 through two periods, but took a tied game into both intermissions. The Leafs are 28th in the league in goals for, but managed three goals in the first two periods alone against Vancouver’s vaunted team defense/Roberto Luongo combination. Hell, the Leafs went up 2-0 in this game, and looked poised to rack up the score if not for the mighty Bobby Lou. Sure, Luongo looked soft on the first and third goals, but he was called upon to make several wonderful saves in close to keep the game close while the offense warmed up.

If it weren’t for a cheeky 80-foot slap shot from Mason Raymond that snuck through Jean-Sebastien Giguere’s pads, the Canucks might not have earned two points this night. Look at the photo for this blog post – the ad behind Mason Raymond says “CHEESE SNACKS”, which pretty much perfectly describes his winning goal. Watching Raymond wind up at the blue line, one thought, “Oh MayRay, you’ll never score from — oh, I guess you will.” This is the Leafs, after all. Giguere would have been ribbed by teammates for letting this unobstructed, undeflected waffler get by him in practice. Letting it in for a game winning goal, for the team’s eighth straight loss? He’ll be lucky if his mates talk to him at all.

If this sounds familiar, it’s with good reason. The Canucks let the Oilers climb back from a 3-0 deficit before Raffi Torres scored a lucky backhand GWG from the circles a few games ago. Just before Hallowe’en, Vancouver let Colorado outshoot them 31-13 over the final two periods, and squeaked out an overtime win they probably didn’t deserve. You may ask, “What’s the big deal?” You may say, “Good teams find ways to win.” And you’d be right – it’s a concern, however, when your Stanley Cup-contending team needs to grind out lucky wins over opponents who sit in 19th, 27th and 29th place in a 30-team league.

It’s hard to complain when your team is leading the Northwest, but the Canucks are in serious danger of thinking too much of themselves. The fact is, leading the Northwest is no mean feat. Colorado, Minnesota, Calgary and Edmonton all sit out of playoff contention at the moment, and probably still will come season’s end. Just as the Washington Capitals have blown away the Southeast Division for two years running only to be ousted in the playoffs by stiffer competition, the Canucks have played too many games against soft opponents, and more often than not have won those games in sloppy, skin-of-their-teeth fashion. No wonder the Blackhawks have won second round matchups against Vancouver – they have learned to play tough hockey with divisional games against Detroit, Phoenix and St Louis.

Ryan Kesler is the first to admit it. “We played sloppy hockey,” he told the Vancouver Sun, “but we got the two points and that’s all that matters.” Sadly, this team can’t afford to think that way any more. Not if they want to win a Cup. This team needs to harden themselves into a group of killers that won’t take barely beat the Leafs for an answer.


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