Through the Plexi-Glass: Tough Enough?

It only took two games into the 2011-2012 NHL regular season for the Canucks twitterverse to go ape-sh*t over what seemed to be a controversial hit from Marc Methot on Canucks captain, Henrik Sedin. There was a two minute penalty for boarding for Methot, but some out there believed it was a hit that garnered more than a short visit to the penalty box. Suspension worthy? I’m not quite sure if I’d go that far, but in my mind it was certainly worthy of a bit payback from Henrik’s Canuck teammates.

After the hit, the Canucks didn’t retaliate. Instead they took the two minutes on the power-play and went about their business. The proverbial turning the other cheek and taking the high road has been what we have seen from the Vancouver Canucks over last season and going on to this season.  “Get the win, not the revenge” seems to be what got the Canucks to the President’s Trophy.

However, some out there feel that someone on the team should have stepped up when Hank was hit from behind. The word out on the Canucks are, they won’t retaliate. Remember the SCF when Marchand repeated kept punching Daniel in the head prior to a face-off? Although, I felt it should have been an unsportsmanlike or roughing penalty on that incident, there wasn’t one. What was worse was that no one from the Canucks made too much out of it. Many felt the Canucks lost what little of the psychological edge they had, right then and there. Seeing Methot hit Henrik brought back the ‘reputation’ when no one really ‘took issue’ immediately and again the Canucks play the “good guys finish last” role.

I want the Canucks to win, and I believe with their current roster, their ‘business as usual’ attitude is enough to have another stellar regular season. However, like most of you I don’t want to see our Captain who happens to be one of the best players in the league get pushed around and hit from behind without any sort of retribution. I don’t want to see his brother Daniel get punched in the head (no matter how lightly) as he lines up for a face-off.   I want to see the Canucks stand up for each other and to make sure that everyone out there knows that they are a team that won’t stand for dirty plays on their star players.   The thing I want most is for them to continue winning but letting the rest of the league know they aren’t to be messed with because there will be payback.

So will the Canucks be sacrificing two points from time to time to have a reputation of not being wussies? Or will they continue to turn the other cheek and take the high road to obtain those two points?  They could always do a little bit of Column A and a little bit of Column B. Finding the balance of keeping your cool and standing up for your teammates needs to be found.  I feel it could make the difference for this very talented team to get them closer to the Promised Land.  Some stay stick to what has been working, and other say that they shouldn’t take any crap from other teams. That’s a tough one, but is it enough to make a difference for the Canucks in the long run? Time will tell.

That’s how I see things…through the plexi-glass.

For all the marbles: Canucks and Bruins Stanley Cup Final Preview/Prediction

I’ve been running this site since 1996 so I have yet to have the privilege of covering a Stanley Cup Final. Years of hoping and waiting have finally ended, and here we are with the Canucks in the finals for the 3rd time in their 40 year history. It’s been an exhausting playoffs and it seems like forever since they started. The NHL’s brilliant plan to wait so long to start the final haven’t helped but here we sit on the verge of the biggest playoff series in Canucks history.

So here we have it, our last preview of the playoffs, as we take a look at the Canucks and Bruins, for all the marbles.

Canucks and Boston - Photo Credit: Richard Lam/Getty Images

Canucks and Boston - Photo Credit: Richard Lam/Getty Images



If the NHL wanted two of the best teams in the NHL, they certainly got it. That said the two teams are built very differently. Vancouver built on depth and speed and the flexibility to play multiple styles. The Bruins are built on toughness, hard work and solid defense. The Canucks have proven over the course of the regular season and in the playoffs that they can play any style you want to, and they attempt to dictate what style their opponents play as well. Can the Bruins play multiple styles and adapt to a faster Western Conference? They did in the only meeting between the two clubs this year, leaving Rogers Arena with a 3-1 win.

The keys to the series:

The Canucks are the favourites in the series and with good reason. We all know they ran away with the President’s Trophy and have been picked by many to win it all. To beat Boston, the Canucks are going to have to use their speed to make Boston’s defenders chase them. Puck movement, getting to open spaces quickly and efficiently will be crucial to Vancouver’s success.

The defensive pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg will be assigned to contain the Sedin twins who returned to form against the Sharks. The Bruins have strong penalty killing led by Chara and goaltender Tim Thomas and if the Canucks are to be successful their five on five play has to be better than it was against San Jose where they did most of their damage on the power play. They have to generate more shots at even strength, more quality chances, and get Tim Thomas moving in the net.

If the series becomes a parade to the penalty box the Canucks chances are likely increased, as long as that parade includes both teams. The Bruins power play has been brutal in the playoffs and that’s being kind. The Canucks however have been very effective.

For Boston to win they need to control the Sedin line. The twins struggled to find space against Chicago’s Seabrook and Keith and Nashville’s Weber and Suter. They thrived against the Sharks who don’t have a defensive pairing of the ilk of Chara and Seidenberg. But the Bruins will also need to pay attention to Ryan Kesler, who will have used the lengthy break to get as close to 100% as possible and who almost single handedly led the Canucks against Nashville. Kesler may revert to a defensive role again, concentrating on shutting down the Bruins big line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton. But the Bruins roll four lines consistently, and the Canucks may be forced to do the same if they want to keep fresh legs out there. With Vancouver’s fourth line a revolving door, Alain Vigneault may have to find a trio he can stick with and give them more minutes. That will require relying on some youth, particularly if Manny Malhotra can’t get the green light to play.

Both teams sport pests that will attempt to get under the oppositions skin. The Canucks Torres and Lappiere will counter Boston’s Brad Marchand.

The biggest battle however will be between two Vezina finalists in Roberto Luongo and Tim Thomas. In three career starts against Vancouver, Thomas has allowed just one goal. Not a large body of work, but it does indicate what impact Thomas can have in a seven game series. Luongo has been solid after a speed bump against the Hawks and despite some untimely goals at times has played a huge role in the success of his team. His performance in game 5 against San Jose was one of his best ever.

Both teams will attempt to get traffic in front of the net and the Bruins have the bigger bodies to do just that. The Canucks defense will have to be at their best to allow Luongo to see the puck as much as possible. The Bruins will have to contend mostly with Kesler and Burrows who will see a lot of Mr. Chara and will have to pay the price. The Canucks have generated fourteen goals from their defence to Boston’s eight and whatever team can get their back end involved will have a great advantage.

If you’re into stats, here is a nice little package compiled by James Mirtle at the Globe & Mail. By the numbers this could be an incredible final and a very competitive one. It could go down the wire but for some reason I just have a gut feeling the Canucks are a team of destiny. They have been the best team in the league almost from start to finish. They have demonstrated they can play any style they need to and in my opinion they are deeper than the Bruins.

The Bruins will put up a tough fight and the games will be close. But I think the Canucks find a way to win this series in six games and win the first Stanley Cup in franchise history and what an incredible end to an amazing 40th anniversary season that would be.

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

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

[tweetmeme]

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.

Follow Iain MacIntyre on Twitter.

Subscribe to the Pucked in the Head podcast on iTunes.


[tweetmeme]