Hockey With Harder: Canucks Have Best Season Start Since 1999

457408456_slide

For the first time since 1999, the Vancouver Canucks have had their best start to the season. In a 2-0 shutout victory against the Edmonton Oilers, they hold a 3-0-0 record in the standings and are now one win away from tying for their all-time franchise best start set in 1992. The Vancouver club remains alongside the New York Islanders as the only undefeated teams in the league.

It was lights out tonight for Ryan Miller as he finally gained some traction in the Vancouver crease. Miller continued his unbeaten streak against the Oilers which has now climbed to an outstanding 9 game run. In tonight’s game he received his 30th career shutout.

Though the Canucks had players appearing in and out through the game, they still held their ground against the struggling young Oilers who desperately needed to win in order to avoid their worst start in franchise history. Towards the end of the first period, Ryan Stanton left the game with a suspected lower body injury. Dan Hamhuis briefly left the game in the second period after getting a nasty stick to the face from Mark Arcobello who should have received a major penalty but got off scot-free.

Tonight’s game was loaded up with penalties for the Canucks but it did not seem to imprint a dark mark on the play as the team locked the gates on the penalty kill.

The first line once again separated the boys from the men as they provided two goals in Rexall Place. Both Sedin twins and Radim Vrbata picked up two points each on the evening and now carry a combined 17 points to kick off the 2014-15 hockey season. The top line for the Canucks has been one of their best strengths in the first three games as they have successfully kept the puck in the offensive zone and provided many of the shots on the opposing team.

The Canucks played hard from start to finish coming out with the win they needed to continue on the high road. Tomorrow night they take on Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning at home in Rogers Arena. This is where the real challenge will begin. Time will tell if Willie Desjardins and his Vancouver Canucks can become a force to be reckoned with in the Pacific Division.

Follow me on Twitter @cjaharder

Comparing the 17’s: The Ryan Kesler / Radim Vrbata Story

By Caleb Harder – CanucksCorner.com

kesler_vrbata_700x400
On Wednesday, July 2th, the Vancouver Canucks inked a 2-year $10 million deal with former Arizona Coyotes right-shot winger, Radim Vrbata. The 33 year old veteran will provide substantial support for the roster and is expected to be playing on the first line alongside Henrik and Daniel Sedin. This would be bumping Alexandre Burrows (33) to the second line to assist recently acquired centre, Nick Bonino (26) who came in a package deal with Luca Sbisa in exchange for former Canucks star, Ryan Kesler. In memory of Kesler, one thing that he and Vrbata have in common is the jersey number 17. With that in mind, let us take some time to compare the two great hockey players.

Kicking it off, let’s go back to the grassroots of how their NHL journey began in the prospect entry draft. Vrbata and Kesler were eligible for being drafted in separate years, Vrbata being the 1999 draft and Kesler the 2003 draft. Ryan Kesler was selected 23rd overall by the Vancouver Canucks and it was one of the best picks that they have made in franchise history as further down the road he became the face of the team and carried them to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011.

Radim Vrbata, on the other hand, was not a first round draft pick. The Czech Republic native was selected in the seventh round at 212th overall by the Colorado Avalanche and had not spent two seasons with the team when he was traded in March of 2003 to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for left wing forward, Bates Battaglia. Vrbata was then eventually traded to Chicago and then went to Phoenix where he spent six seasons between 2007 and 2014. Overall, Vrbata did not live up to expectations in the place he was drafted, but ended up playing remarkably higher than he was ever projected to.

So what makes Radim Vrbata better than he was projected to be? The veteran forward is a fantastic play making winger who knows where to put the puck and how to utilize his teammates when it is needed. Vrbata, through this favoured style of play, was able to post up a 20-31-51 point total in 80 games for the 2013-14 season. Ryan Kesler, on the other hand, is a great hard-hitting, two-way forward who can be physical and still provide the points that his team needs. Although Kesler is able to crash about on the ice and snipe pucks into the net, he does not use his wingers in this process. He prefers to keep the puck to himself and play his way or it’s the highway. This style of play has not always been effective for the centre because it increased his chance of injuries. Kesler has had more than his fair share and it has, at times, cut down his productivity on the ice when he was needed by the team to save the day.

In games where the Canucks are attempting to roll four effective lines, it would not be possible with Ryan Kesler in the ranks.  He put up a 25-18-43 scoring tally in 77 games this season. Though it looks like a reasonable record for the once struggling Canucks, he was not playing at the full potential to which he could perform. In career totals Vrbata has a playing record of 464 points in a 792 game span with a point average of 0.59 points per game and Kesler with a 392 point total in 654 career games with the Vancouver Canucks and having a 0.60 points per game average. Overall, their point averages are the same but Kesler’s wear and tear game will eventually bite him back whereas Vrbata’s game is safer and guarantees he’ll be dependable for years to come.

The shootout has always been something the Canucks have dreaded with their streaky statistics in the game deciding skills competition. Fans may have more faith in the team during shootouts with Radim Vrbata who is ranked fifth all-time scorer in the shootout throughout the NHL with 35 goals in 82 attempts with a 42.7 shootout percentage. Ryan Kesler is currently ranked third within the Anaheim Ducks team roster with 11 goals in 45 shootout attempts with an overall of 24.4 percent in his career. With Vrbata now in the Vancouver ranks, the team will have more skill under their belt than previously under the lead of Ryan Kesler.

In comparing the number 17’s, even though Ryan Kesler has been impressive, Radim Vrbata is a great team player and possesses a skill set the Vancouver Canucks desperately need. He has the potential to be a fresh change that the team has been searching for.

Change is good.

Twitter @cjaharder

https://twitter.com/cjaharder

 

No success without a dependable fourth line

van-kesler-sedin

In my first article back in October I talked about the Canucks bottom 6 not being good enough. A month and a half into the season, I can say I am content with the part of the bottom 6. The third line has been dependable. The fourth line hasn’t.

John Tortorella doesn’t have faith in his fourth line and is reluctant to put them on the ice. I can’t blame him for that. For the better part of the season, it seems like whenever the fourth line is out on the ice they are getting scored on or can’t get out of their own zone. The Canucks best fourth liner is Dale Weise. He’s hurt. Darren Archibald showed more in his 8 games up with the big club than Tom Sestito, Zac Dalpe and Jeremy Welsh have shown in their games, but the Canucks sent the big forward back down to Utica to room for David Booth.

Injuries have forced the Canucks hand all year. They had not, until Sunday, been able ice the line-up they had envisioned during training camp and arguably still haven’t considering Jordan Schroeder is out for the second time this season. Jannik Hansen’s return and Richardson’s move to the fourth line didn’t make a difference in how much the fourth liners played. Richardson has averaged 13 minutes throughout the season; he played under 8 Sunday night against Dallas. Tom Sestito has played an average of five and a half minutes so far this season, he played 30 seconds Sunday. Jeremy Welsh played just 2 shifts in the game, totalling 18 seconds. It’s not a recipe for success.

Like I mentioned in my previous article, teams that win the cup have dependable fourth lines that can at least go out there to give the top guys a little bit of a break. This year’s Canucks team doesn’t have the luxury. Last year’s team didn’t have that. Amongst forwards, the Sedins and Kesler are in the top 4 for average minutes played a game. It’s not sustainable. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but until the team upgrades the fourth line, it will be tough to make a deep run come April, May and June.

Introducing: Twitter Me This- #Hashtagging Weekly Canucks Topics From the twitterverse

As a social media junkie that has been addicted to twitter since 2008, I have been trying to figure out a way to implement twitter into some blog writing over the last little while. Marry the two loves of my social media life: Explaining thoughts in 140 characters or less and writing opinions on stupid NHL rule changes, Gary Bettman, the NHL lockout and of course, the reason I started blogging in the first place, the Vancouver Canucks.

So this is how it works. Every Monday before 7PM, Pacific standard time, I will put up a topic on twitter hash-tagged #TMT and the topic of choice, and in 140 characters or less, you tweet me a response. On Thursday before 7PM, Pacific standard time, I will put up an article containing and tying in some of the answers followers and readers have sent my way via twitter. It’s pretty simple and doesn’t cost you a thing.

New Feature wants your feedback with the hashtag #TMT

With this introduction of what we are trying to accomplish here on CC, why don’t we get it kicked off with something fun.

With the lockout happening, I was thinking about how we can all keep talking hockey and mainly the Vancouver Canucks without having to bitch and moan about the billionaires shutting out the millionaires and their PR campaigns to the fans. It a topic that has been hashed out and re-hashed from all angles.

As I was driving into my parking garage the other night, U2’s “Where the Streets Have no Name” starting blasting in my car. As I felt the steady ‘thud’ of Larry Mullin’s bass drum pelt against my back from the sub-woofer, I started to really miss my team. I started to think of the awesome “WWE-esque” entrance the Canucks had going on. Lots of blue and green lights, smoke machines, added sirens to the song and the cheering of us fans. It will be another while until we hear and see that again.

Hit the music! “Where the Streets Have No Name” intro.

For quite some time now, U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” has been the Canucks entrance theme but it’s been up for debate over the last few years if the team needs a new entrance song. Some say that ‘Streets’ isn’t “in your face” enough and it’s too subdued. Others love it, and link the song to their beloved team and especially at the start of every season, they can’t wait to hear it belt through the speakers at Rogers Arena.  So I am asking you, to give us here at CC some thoughts to what you think of the Canucks introduction song of “Where the Streets Have no Name” . Do you like it? Do you hate it? Do you simply don’t care and just want NHL hockey back?

How do I feel about it? Well, what can say in 140 characters or less?

@Aviewfromabroad: One might want to rethink a team entrance song when the 1st lyrics sing “I want to run, I want to hide…” #TMT #CanucksThemeSong

Now “Twitter Me This” and let’s see how the rest of Canuckland feels about “Where the Streets Have no Name” as the Vancouver Canucks theme song.

Column hashtag: #TMT
Topic hashtag: #CanucksThemeSong

We’ll revisit this topic again on Thursday with your input and hopefully I can tie it all in neatly and timely. I’ve also noticed, this is the first time I have ever given myself a deadline to write a Canucks blog, or any blog for that matter. Another reason I am welcoming this new addition to the CC columns. So is it time to change the theme song? A little old for your liking or does it stay? Heck, even the name of the building has changed, is “Streets” next?
Justine Galo

@Aviewfromabroad

Through the Plexi-Glass: Shoot the Puck, Hank

Shoot the puck, Hank!

Dear Henrik:

It’s Art, remember me? You and I first hooked up a couple of years ago. I just wanted to write and tell you I’ve missed you. I miss your 29 goal season and your 112 point year.  I missed your tenacity to shoot the puck.  You shot the puck a lot when your brother, Daniel, went out with an injury. You shouldered the burden of the lack of scoring goals and took it upon yourself to get some of those for your team. You were on a tear!

Last season, you scored 10 less goals and didn’t shoot as much as you had to when Daniel was injured. I understand you’re the set-up man and he’s the finisher. At least, that’s what you guys were billed when you were drafted back in 1999. Thing is, I’ve seen, and the rest of the NHL has seen differently. You can score when you want but instead you choose to pass it to Daniel. Don’t get me wrong, I love the way you and Daniel work on the ice. You two have that twin thing and that in itself is something special and great to watch. However,  at times, there were open nets that you could have potted the goal, Henrik.  They were pretty much guaranteed goals, but you decided to pass the puck to Danny. Some of them could have made the difference in the game, Hank.

You’re the Captain, you’re an amazing team player and on top of that, you’re one of the classiest people in the NHL. It’s true. I don’t see too many others giving up three quarters of a million dollars of their salary to the BC Children’s Hospital Fund. That amplifies how much of a class act you really are. You’re also a fierce competitor on the ice, but sometimes I think you’re not selfish enough. I know you like to spread the points to your teammates but Hank, I gotta tell ya, you must shoot the puck more.  I think if you just potted those gimme’s that were presented to you, the team would probably have a better record and you’d being in the running to get your name on that trophy with my name on it again.

I hooked up with your brother last season, and I am hoping to have the name Sedin etched on my body yet again, but that will only happen if you start being a little more selfish, take it upon yourself to score more instead of always passing the puck. It’s okay to shoot, Hank, no one will think that you’re  selfish. In fact, I think it will just show that the captain is doing his part to help his team win.  Most of all, I miss you Hank. I missed our time together. We can have that again. Shoot the puck, see what happens.
Your pal,

Art Ross.
PS, There’s never been a Toronto Maple Leaf to win me and take me home for the year. Let’s not start this year, so please, and for the love of the Hockey Gods, shoot the puck, Hank.

 

(written by Justine Galo ) twitter: @Aviewfromabroad