Game One Brought…

The Stanley Cup Finals have finally started with the Canucks winning in the dying seconds of the third period on a Raffi Torres goal from Jannik Hansen and the heads-up play of Ryan Kesler.  When I was at Rogers Arena last night, I felt an energy in the building that hasn’t been felt in a long, long time. Game one showed me a few things to indicate where this series could go.

Last night, I saw some good things, ,some bad things and certainly some odd things.  Regardless of the strange happenings throughout the arena last night, the hometown team gave their crowds something to cheer about.

Oh, Bite me!

Bergeron and Burrows showing what a French Kiss is all about in hockey- Photo Credit: Globe and Mail


Alex Burrows got into a little scuffle with Patrice Bergeron last night which led into an alleged biting of Bergeron’s finger. Bergeron and Julien complained to the refs, who didn’t see the incident, about Burrows and wanted him tossed out of the series for a game or two. Who knows, perhaps Burrows was in the middle of a sentence in their chirping when Bergeron shoved his finger in Burrows’ mouth? Maybe that’s a way French-Canadians chirp at each other. Who knows, all I know is the NHL didn’t seem to think it was suspension worthy, despite what some members of the media think. Ask yourself Pierre Maguire, if Gord Miller shoved his finger in your mouth during an argument, what would you do?

Confetti

After Game 5 of the Western Conference Final, the braintrust at Rogers Arena thought it would be a good idea to have confetti fall all over the ice surface after the game winning goal.  I wonder if the brainiac who decided it would be an awesome idea ever put on a pair of skates? I don’t think so. It was nearly impossible for the players to skate around to celebrate the victory and it could have resulted in a potential injury to one of the players.  It was a poor choice of celebration fodder.  How poor? So poor that last night, I managed to take a picture of a pile of confetti atop of the cover of the walk-way of the visitors bench. Not only that, an official on the ice had to pick up a stray piece of confetti as it floated down to the surface. I am guessing the brain trust at Rogers Arena and the Canucks front office might want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Well, at least I hope.

Confetti atop the visitors bench entry way cover. - Photo Credit: Justine Galo


Officiating, yet again

So 12 penalties were called in the first  and second periods, but none in the third. I would say about 1/3 of those penalties called were pretty weak ( going both ways) and they should have just the teams play a little more. It would have made for a bit more of an exciting game and given it a much better flow.  The NHL officials are yet again, consistently inconsistent.

Great Goaltending

Both Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo have shown why they are both up for the Vezina trophy last night. Although I am sure, both would gladly concede the regular season honour to one another to win the Stanley Cup.  Thomas dazzled the crowd with his acrobatic saves and his aggressive style.  For a small man, he certainly covers the net very well, and for some of the Canucks in the early goings of the first period, too well. He set an NHL record for best save percentage in the regular season of .938. He broke a record held for 11 years by Dominik Hasek (Buffalo Sabres) at .936. He also can thank a post and crossbar aiding him and his team last night. Despite the late heroic goal by Raffi Torres he stopped 33 of 34 shots by the Canucks. He also faced better scoring chances than his counter-part, Roberto Luongo.

Even though Luongo didn’t have to be as acrobatic as Thomas, he was perfect and acquiring his third shutout of the post-season, posting a 36 save effort for the night. His rebound control, and his efficient movements had Luongo help his team to this win. For those doubting Luongo in the earlier part of this post season, since Nashville, he has been stellar. Maybe just maybe, his critics might start showing him the respect, that I believe he deserves. Mr. Dangerfield, he is not.

Signage

Saw some really cool signs last night, some good, some dirty and but most creative.  There was a couple of long banners passed around Rogers Arena last night that had “Go Canucks Go”

A banner is being used like "The Wave" passed around Rogers Arena- Photo Credit: Justine Galo


And of course, the Cup Final banner was hung from the rafters at Rogers Arena. I managed to get an excellent picture of it from my seat.

Stanley Cup banner hangs from the rafters in Rogers Arena: Photo: Justine Galo


It was a great way to start the series, and I look forward to the upcoming games. I anticipate  the drama that builds, the signs that come in, and the play between two very good hockey teams.

Justine Galo

Twitter: @Aviewfromabroad

Dear Vancouver: We’re Cup Bound, Can You Believe It?

Dear Vancouver:

Are you all still in disbelief? Are you all still partying from last night? Do most of you still think it’s just a dream? It isn’t a dream. Our Vancouver Canucks are heading to the Stanley Cup Finals. It has been 17 years since our last finals appearance and only a third time in our 40 year history to get to here.  It hasn’t been an ‘easy’ run, but nothing worth winning is ever easy. I for one, am happy it happened this way.

Round One: The Monkey Off The Back

After going up 3-0 against the Chicago Blackhawks, and seeing that lead slip away, it hurt. And by the time Game 6 came around, I am sure some of us out there lost faith in our boys. In fact, there were even a few out there ( in Twitterverse and the Facebook world) who were going to denounce the Canucks as their team. Sure the Canucks played terribly in games four and five, but there is a reason why they play the games. It had to be done. It was won and was it ever a thriller. There were talks of trading Luongo and running him out of town.  After last night, and 54 saves later, is he still you goat?

Roberto Luongo celebrates a 54 save effort and win with the Green Men: Photo credit David Carigg

Round Two: Grits and Fits

This series was one that many of the Canucks fans, myself included, just wanted toget through’.  It was hard hockey to watch. Not just because the Predators brought a bland brand of hockey to the table, but more because it was frustrating to see many of the Canucks get contained by it. The Sedins were deemed ‘invisible’ by fans and media alike. It also showed what Ryan Kesler was made of.  After an unbelievable year, he tops it off with factoring in the majority of the scoring in this series.  Captain America is definitely a Canuck.

Round Three: No Way Jose

This was a closer series than the 4-1 in games indicated, but the better team won, no question.  The San Jose Sharks were valiant and worthy opponents. Although I don’t agree with Dan Boyle thinking the Sharks deserved to win this series and Vancouver didn’t, it could have gone either way at any point. Vancouver’s goal tending from Roberto Luongo was excellent. The Sedins, especially Henrik showed why they are Art Ross trophy winners. Henrik tied Pavel Bure for most points by a Canuck in a single series with 12, 11 of those were, or course, assists.

Personal Highlights

I have been privileged to watch live games in every round of these playoffs, so far. I even made my way to San Jose for Game 4, but I wasn’t alone. I shared that experience with about 6000 other Canucks fans who made the journey. Although the palm trees were abundant, the weather was warm and it felt like I walked into a western movie in certain parts of town, it felt like a home game with all the Canucks fans there.  Prior to the game, many of us met on San Pedro Street, also named “Sharks Avenue”, to congregate and march to the HP Pavilion together.  At the arena, we took over the lower bowl for the warm-up and were chanting “Go Canucks go!”. We sang “O Canada” like we were north of the 49th and we chanted and sang throughout the game when our boys make it a final of 4-2. I felt like I was in Vancouver…south.

Canucks Nation

Canucks Nation invades San Jose - Photo Credit: Justine Galo

Although I didn’t attend Game 5 in person last night, my daughter took my place. When I met up with her and my significant other, I could tell with the look in her eyes that she believed.  It was much to being the same look I had during the 1994 Western Conference Final. She understood what it was that had me love this team above all others.  She was now ‘in love’ with our Canucks more than ever before.

In conclusion, we all are probably still waking up today with a little bit in a dream-like state.  Did that really happen? Are the Canucks for real? Well, yes. It all happened and the Canucks are very much the real deal but as my twitter friend @PabloPenguin74 said to me @Aviewfromabroad it is the first thing I thought as my eyes opened from slumber. For some, it won’t be real until game 1.” He’s right. It won’t feel real until then. So we have a few days to soak it all in, but Game 1 will come and we, Vancouver, as a city and a Canuck Nation, will be heading to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Get ready and buckle up, stay on the wagon, it’s time for the real work to begin.
GO CANUCKS GO!

Our 40th Anniversary puck iced at Rogers Arena's Best Buy Club- Photo Credit: Justine Galo

 

Justine Galo

Contest: This is what we live for! Win a signed Canucks hockey stick!

If you’ve visited Canucks.com lately, you may have seen this really cool feature called, “This is What We Live For”.  This feature allows fans to submit photos of themselves to be part of a very cool Canucks mosaic.

The Vancouver Canucks have offered CanucksCorner.com readers a very cool chance to participate in this mosaic for chance to win a hockey stick signed by the team. Considering the Canucks are making a strong run for Lord Stanley the potential value of this prize is priceless! So what do you have to do to win it?

1. Locate the photo of myself (shown below)  in the www.thisiswhatwelivefor.com photo mosaic. This could take awhile so you may need some patience if you want this cool stick but what fun is winning something without working for it? Once you locate the photo, you will see a pop-up congratulating you for finding the photo. Then click ‘submit’ and follow instructions you’re entered into the contest. (1 entry)

2. Submit your own photo to the mosaic and leave a comment here with the link to your photo. (1 entry)

3. For a bonus entry, tweet the following:

Win a @VanCanucks team signed stick! Find @CanucksCorner in the “This is What We Live For” photo mosaic! http://bit.ly/kk8Db2 #Canucks

The Canucks will send me all the names of the people that found my photo and I’ll combine them with the those that leave comments and links to their photos as well as those that tweet the above message to draw a random winner.

Here is the photo of my ugly mug that you’re trying to locate:

Such a friendly guy!

Thanks to all who entered and congratulations to Tammy McEvoy from New Westminster who was the lucky winner of the signed stick!

A Salute to Captain Kirk


Tonight at Rogers Arena, the Ring of Honour will pay tribute to Kirk McLean. McLean came to the Vancouver Canucks via trade with the New Jersey Devils in 1987 with Greg Adams and 2nd round pick for Patrick Sundstrom, 3rd round pick, and 4th round pick. He ended up being the Canucks starting goaltender from 1987 to 1998 before being traded away to the Carolina Hurricanes by then Vancouver Canucks GM, Mike Keenan.

In 1991 he set an NHL record for most wins in the month of October with nine (later tied by Felix Potvin in 1993 and Manny Legace in 2005). He was also nominated for the Vezina trophy in the 1991-1992 season coming in second in voting losing out to Patrick Roy. He was a stand-up goaltender, whose technique as many would say was ‘textbook’. McLean was a solid tender backstopping the Vancouver Canucks for 11 years.

As for many who remember Kirk McLean, his shining moments happened in the 1994 Stanley Cup Playoff run. He and the rest of the Canucks took the New York Rangers to the seventh game and were a goal away from winning the Stanley Cup.

I will never forget Kirk McLean’s toe-save on the Calgary Flames’ Robert Reichel in the first round of the playoffs.

\”The Save\”

How can we forget Western Conference final where he out-duelled Felix Potvin of the Toronto Maple Leafs.


He also became the first goaltender to record back-to-back shutouts in the semi-finals since the Red Wings’ Terry Sawchuk did so against the Maple Leafs in 1952. McLean’s shutout streak lasted a total of 143 minutes and 17 seconds. Kirk McLean opened the series with a 52-save performance, including 17 in overtime, to win the first game 3–2.

I don’t think there was a goaltender in the 1994 playoffs that saw the puck better than Kirk McLean, including Mike Richter. In fact, I don’t think anybody played any better than Kirk McLean in the 1994 playoffs, but they just ran out of gas in Game Seven against the Rangers. He is still to this date, my favourite Canuck goalie and it was mostly because of his 1994 playoff performance.

Kirk and Trev

For those that didn’t get to experience, I hate to tell you but you had to be there to get the full understanding, but watch some old highlights and you’ll get the gist of why us ‘old-timers’ are so high on him. Kirk McLean had the hopes and dreams of Canucks fans all around and it all had to do with the timing of his saves and how he reacted to the shots. It was almost…no correction, it was magical.

When they put him up on that ring of honour tonight, the memories will flood back and a smile will form on my face because I’ll remember, I’ll be nostalgic and I will never forget what Kirk McLean has done for the Vancouver Canucks.

Thanks Captain Kirk, tonight we beam up you in the Ring of Honour. Congratulations.


Justine Galo [tweetmeme]

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.


Follow Jason Kurylo on Twitter.

Subscribe to Pucked in the Head on iTunes.

[tweetmeme]