Canucks 1 Panthers 3: Canucks Fall Apart on Luongo’s Return

Kevin Bieksa gets toppled by first overall draft pick Aaron Ekblad

Kevin Bieksa gets toppled by first overall draft pick Aaron Ekblad

AUTHOR’S NOTE: It has been over a month since I have published my last article “The Goaltending Controversy Del Två”. Due to personal obligations, I have not been able to pen my “After Ten” or other analysis articles where I discuss the current state of the Vancouver Canucks.

 

 

Last night Roberto Luongo returned to the city of Vancouver, the place he called home for eight years. The fans cheered him on throughout the game and it brought what looked like tears to his eyes. His old pals from the Canucks gave him one of the greatest presents of all, a victory in Vancouver allowing him to officially claim he has truly defeated every team in the NHL.

Five minutes into the game the Canucks looked like they had this game marked to be locked up with a win. Fans would have to guess again after the emotion took over the home bench but not the returning goalie.

Jonathan Huberdeau scored three points (2G, 1A) and rattled the Canucks to their core. The home team looked out of place and spent the majority of the time in their own defensive zone. The Canucks attempted to look like the almighty ones by sending out Dorsett to scrap almost every player on the Panthers line-up but he was eventually taken out by Luongo’s blocker.

The only players to show any consistency were Alex Burrows and Bo Horvat. Burrows lit up the highlight reel with his countless opportunities to score and Bo Horvat was, as usual, a face-off god.

It appeared the home team was dull in the second period when two goals were scored. The Panthers went in charging and did not let up on the ailing Canucks.

“When we came out our energy level wasn’t great,” Desjardins said in a post-game interview, “it seemed like we weren’t working hard enough.”

Bo Horvat looked to be in complete agreement with the words his coach spoke.

“We have to start capitalizing on our opportunities,” Horvat said, “We’ve got to play more aggressive and play with more energy.”

The Canucks are aware of their actions on the ice and how it is unacceptable, but will they be able to correct their mistakes as of late?

Ryan Miller made key saves to keep the team within reachable distance in the third period but was let down by his teammates who gave Luongo easy shots to block.

The power play was an utter nightmare, when a two-man advantage that should have allowed the boys to gain some traction did not produce a single shot on net. This is partly due to the fact they were out defended and could not match up to the Panthers strength. Luca Sbisa and Kevin Bieksa were two of the players who were erratic on their play.

The Vancouver Canucks showed a few glimmers of hope in last night’s game but it was not enough to give them the win they needed.

 

Caleb Harder

@cjaharder

2015

Three Up, Three Down: January 5th

After the Christmas break, the Vancouver Canucks are 2-1-1 in their four games played. Nothing spectacular, but five out of a possible eight points isn’t so bad considering their opponents: Ducks, Sharks, Kings and Redwings. A much different cry than the October schedule that consisted of a good chunk of playing teams from Alberta. Based on last season, they would have been lucky to get two points from these four games, maybe three. However, there is no longer a John Tortorella or a Mike Gillis at the helm and just from being an observant fan, there is a different feeling from the guys we see on the ice. Despite recent struggles, they are fighting through it, instead of just succumbing to what befalls them.

Over the last four games, here are three of the guys that have been solid for the Canucks and here three of the guys who have been struggling.

THREE UP

1. Ryan Miller- Despite having some rough games in the month of December, Ryan Miller has found his form since the holiday break. He has been tracking the puck well and despite the late in the game loss to LA, he stopped 37 of 40 shots the Kings threw his way. In the OT loss to the Anaheim Ducks, Miller posted 28 saves of 30 shots while being absolutely stellar in the game versus the Detroit Redwings, last Saturday. In the four games Miller has stopped 126 of 133 SOG. His save % is at an incredible .947. If not for the play of Ryan Miller, this could be a different four games for the Canucks.

Edler2. Alex Edler- He could possibly be nicknamed “Steady Eddie” for his play the over this four game stretch. He recorded three points including a PPG versus Detroit. His +/- rating is at a +1 for these four games and the ability for him to just calmly and confidently move the puck out of this zone, gaining centre before shooting it into the other end has been a night and day difference from last season’s version of Alex Edler. Edler is looking a lot more comfortable this year on the blue line than last. He and Tanev have been a solid pairing and a bright spot for the Canucks D.

3. Alex Burrows- Say what you want about Alex Burrows and his often agitating demeanor on the ice, he is probably the most coach-able person on the team. He is  versatile. Ask him to play on the penalty kill, he is money. Ask him to play down with Horvat and Dorsett, he gives that line some good chances at the net. Ask him to play on the PP as the man in front and suddenly the very quiet power play is making a little more noise. After such a terrible and injury ridden season under John Tortorella, it’s great to see Burrows back to being Burrows under Willie Desjardins. Hard to fault him for what he does on the ice. He doesn’t seem to do much wrong. Sure we could have Burrows potting a few more to the back of the net, but I’m just glad to see Burrows feeling confident in two-way play once more and on special teams, I can’t name one person that plays them as well as Burr.

As some guys are finding their grooves, and finding their games, there are other guys on the team that have been invisible, struggling that it costs the team on the scoreboard or just plays you see and all you can do is shake your head.

THREE DOWN

Kevin-Bieksa-and-tiny-Hamhuis-600x3001. Kevin Bieksa- It’s no secret I am not the biggest fan of Bieksa’s play on the ice, and although I have thought him to be serviceable, he’s not by any means a ‘franchise blue-liner’ that some fans make him out as, but everyone knows I love the way he stands up for his teammates. I admire the way he conducts himself with the media and the fans, and his work and contributions outside the world of hockey. Kevin Bieksa is a damn good teammate, but his play since the injury to Dan Hamhuis has been far from stellar. The casual clearings of the pucks and the untimely penalties have really been glaring. They are even worse to see when he was paired up with Luca Sbisa. Things have somewhat steadied with Stanton on the other side and Juice has fought his way back to a -2 after being -7 in his +/- rating. One thing I will say, Bieksa looked pretty good versus Detroit. He made some really timely plays and maybe, just maybe, Hamhuis will be back to get Juice back on track soon.

2. Chris Higgins- Like Mikael Samuelsson before him, Higgins is a streaky player. However this long streak of being goal-less and invisible is really adding up to about a calendar month, maybe more. During this four game span, Higgins has recorded only six shots on goal. Yes, the rest of the team hasn’t really been shooting much either, but Higgins has enough speed to get himself open and take more shots. I was expecting a better year from Higgins but as of now, he’s been more often quiet than not.

3. Nick Bonino: According to Raffi (yes, that Raffi, Baby Beluga, Raffi) on twitter, the “Bonino Phone” has stopped ringing. In fact, it has rang since Dec. 13th versus the New York Rangers in a loss. Bonino is stagnant in terms of point production. He has recorded one assist in last four games. He centres the 2nd unit powerplay and some of it can be attributed to the Sedin PP unit taking up 1:30 of the 2min PP time, Bonino’s unit hasn’t produced and has looked lack lustre. Bonino needs to find a way to start contributing to the score-sheet and fast, because the Canucks aren’t looking like they won that Anaheim trade at the moment or remotely feel they ‘broke even’ on the deal. One positive about Nick Bonino in the last little while is that his faceoff % has gone up to the 50% range from the 30% range he was recording earlier in the season.

Hopefully we can get the whole ship working on all cylinders as they were in late October, early November, once again,  but each line, each player needs to be picking up the slack more when they see teammates struggle, but with the Canucks having been out-shot 133-75 in these last four games doesn’t build a lot of hope in some of the fan base. These were top quality opponents. The Sharks, Ducks, Kings and Wings are no joke. Sure you can get away with it on the Oilers, Sabres, Flames even to an extent and the Coyotes, but if the Canucks wish to have any success in the Western Conference and specifically the Pacific Division, they need to start getting more pucks to the net, causing rebounds and making opportunities.

@Aviewfromabroad

Ryan Kesler Returns To Unwelcoming Fans

image

On a night Ryan Kesler thought he would be embraced by the Canucks fans in Rogers Arena, he was greeted with jeers.

The Canucks organization decided to show a brief highlight reel of Kesler’s eleven years as a Vancouver Canuck. This was only the beginning of a terrible night for the former player. Every time Kesler would touch the puck, fans in the crowd would begin to boo him.

In an earlier interview on his return, Kesler stated that the jeering would fire him up. The boo’s however, did not. Ryan Kesler looked like a whining toddler on the ice as he dived, slid around, and threw fits on the ice when he did not have his way.

It appeared to be that Kevin Bieksa was no fan of Kesler’s play, as the new rivalry became quite heated. Bieksa was the heart and soul for the Canucks defensive play as he stood up for his teammates when they were down 2-0 after the first.

Before the intermission, Kesler and Derek Dorsett were ready to square off in a match that was immediately cut-off by the refs. Bieksa however was able to grab Ducks star forward Corry Perry by the jersey and swing a solid punch. Though it looked like multiple players on both teams would be thrown out for fighting after the period concluded, Kesler was the player who got slapped with a two minute minor for cross checking.

In the second, the Canucks got to a speedy start when Bo Horvat scored his first career goal in NHL. Horvat was the first teenager to score a goal for the Vancouver Canucks since Ryan Kesler scored his first on November 29th, 2003. The opening goal fired up the fans that did not stop cheering for a few minutes.

Kesler later on congratulated Horvat on his milestone during a face-off saying, “good job.” The goal led to the opening of floodgates as Jannik Hansen and Radim Vrbata scored back-to-back goals to give the lead in the second.

The Anaheim Ducks however answered back to tie up the game. In overtime, the Canucks defense collapsed as Chris Tanev had two opportunities to score, but decided to hold onto the puck. This lead to almost three minutes of the Ducks striking hard as the Canucks slowly moved around. Fortunately, Eddie Lack had a solid game against the Ducks and held his ground firmly though he allowed three goals against.

In the end the Vancouver Canucks surrendered in the shootout. Ryan Kesler in the end left unsatisfied from the city he once called home.

 Caleb Harder

@cjaharder

 

 

Top 10: The State of Florida

Back to back games starting on Sunday for the Vancouver Canucks in Florida and then to Tampa Bay on Monday. Sunday afternoon was a hard game for many of the Canucks fans to watch. It was the first time in eight years the Canucks had to face Roberto Luongo as an opponent. Strange times  in Canuckland indeed. Vancouver won the game in a shootout with a goal from Nik Jensen 4-3 . The next night the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Canucks by the identical score.  Some of the happenings were definitely memorable and a few moments would have been left better off forgotten. So from the “Sunshine State”, here is CanucksCorner’s

Top 10.

1. Luongo may not be a Canuck anymore, but it would be hard to tell he wasn’t, if not for that Panthers t-shirt.

Luongo in his Panthers gear chilling with old Canucks teammates.

2. Alex Burrows scored three goals and had three assists in the two games in Sunrise and Tampa. The winger became the ringer we have come to know and love over the years. After playing 30+ games without a goal, he is scoring in bunches. Now tied with David Booth with five goal on the season in about half the games. Here’s one on the power play:

3. Nik Jensen has brought some youth and enthusiasm to the Canucks line-up. Scoring the shootout winner against Roberto Luongo and reviving his line mates, Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows. The line looked good in both games. Jensen has good hockey sense and seems to just want to nothing more than score. Good. This team could use a little more scoring these days. Here’s his goal on Luongo and the Haida hat winner video:

4. Love him or hate him, John Tortorella was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning Stanley Cup wining team in 2004. He and a few other members of that team were honoured in Tampa Bay last night, and the usually aloof Torts, was gracious and embraced the moment at the Tampa Bay Times Forum  from an appreciative crowd. The first 30 seconds of this reel sees Torts smiling and waving to the crowd.

5. Goat of the Tampa Bay game: Ryan Stanton doing his best Dan Hamhuis impersonation and scoring on his own goalie twice. Lack had no chance on those ricochets off Stanton’s body and the Lightning were up 3-0. Burrows scores two to battle the Canucks back and Hansen brings it within one with a shorthanded goal but still fell short 4-3.

6. Great Save!:Kevin Bieksa makes the best save of the night against the Panthers on Sunday afternoon. Really? Bieksa?

7. Tweet of the Night:I think Jason Botchford said it best:

This says it all down in Sunrise, FLA versus the Panthers, and all the goalie hoopla that went on over the last year and this past weekend.

8. .500 Hockey: It’s just not going to cut it with the Canucks playoff hopes dwindling. There are only 11 games left in the regular season. It would take a fall from the Dallas Stars, and an incredible and consistent resurgence from the Canucks to make the playoffs now. I don’t see it happening but with the way the team has spiralled since January, many of the bandwagon has now found  a new place to plant their behinds. Image courtesy of @CrownRoyal22
Look who's driving!

9. MIA: Ryan Kesler is rumoured to be missing action for about two weeks. This is not a good sign for the Canucks who are completely depleted down the middle. From the looks of it, Kesler won’t be back until the last week of the regular season.  The injury happened in Winnipeg and Kesler didn’t complete the rest of the trip. He went back to Vancouver to have the extent of his injury assessed. The infirmary is still full. Kesler joins, Richardson, Daniel and Andrew Alberts.

10.Good-bye Sweet Bromance: Probably the saddest thing about this whole weekend is not  realizing that Canucks aren’t probably going to make the playoffs, but the Bromance between Roberto Luongo and Eddie Lack  (at least as teammates) got some closure in that 4-3 shootout win over the Panthers. Thing 3 beats Thing 1 in a skills competition.

The road trip brought out some pretty good things and still glaringly bad things about the Canucks’ play. The good is, they are scoring more than just one goal again. The bad is, they are playing .500 hockey. This team should be winning but their defensive lapses keep coming back to haunt them. Three goals for, usually means a victory, but the Canucks just can’t seem to have a winning streak beyond one game. Let’s hope the last 11 games turn up some better fortune for Vancouver.

Justine Galo

@Aviewfromabroad 

PS: Since the luck of the Canucks haven’t been of the norm these days, I am going to do something out of the norm and attend the Canucks versus Predators game. For those curious as to why I don’t attend such games, here’s a little reminder to that very subject. [ The Curse of the Predators ]

Top 10: Torts-less In Oiler Country

In a night where the Vancouver Canucks won’t have head coach, John Tortorella, behind the bench until the end of the Olympic break for game situations, they take on the Edmonton Oilers with their new netminder, Ben Scrivens, between the pipes.  Mike Sullivan makes his Canucks debut as head coach during Torts’ 15 day, 6 game suspension.
Tonight is a night the Vancouver Canucks need to play catch up and make some ground on the teams that are leading the Pacific Division and the Oilers, more often than not, are a sure two points. Here are 10 things I picked up during the game, via twitter, television and whatever other media you can throw my way.
  1. Hashtag of the night #FreeTorts: Many of Canucks Nation not happy with the suspension for head coach, John Tortorella, and have started a hashtag about it. I’m sure it will be kept on until the return of the charged-up leader.

    John Tortorella's suspension has Canuck Nation united in #FreeTorts

    John Tortorella’s suspension has Canuck Nation united in #FreeTorts

  2. Ironman Streak Dies: Henrik Sedin did not start a game for the first time in about 10 years and 679 games. Have a seat Hank, you deserve the rest. The boys got this.
  3. Kellen Lain: If you play him more than two seconds, he shows he can score a goal with some ice time. Lain gets his first NHL goal in the first period.

    Lain scored his 1st NHL and logged a career high in TOI. (photo credit : Vancouver Sun)

    Lain scored his 1st NHL and logged a career high in TOI. (photo credit : Vancouver Sun)

  4. Boom Boom is Back:  Kevin Bieksa continues to show he can still go toe to toe dropping the gloves with Jones. Juice has been fiesty lately and fighting in almost every single game since LA.
  5. Tweet of the Night :  @kb34myhart The last time Burrows scored was before Hank’s ironman streak started– Poor Burr, just can’t buy a goal.

  6. Kassquatch is Beast: Zack Kassian scored a goal, made a few Henrik-like passes and shows just how fast he can skate. At 23, he is still inconsistent, but we can see the flashes of power forward brilliance the kid has. Cody, whaaaa??? Oh yeah, Zack scored the game winner as well.
  7. Shutout Mucked Up: Luongo was brilliant in this game, but Sam Gagner pushed Luongo out of his crease. Lu had to dive back in, over Gagner, had the puck in his net. Now, if there was ever a goal to overturn, that would have been it. Seriously NHL officials, how is that not goalie interference? Despite that, Luongo stopped 28 of 29 shots and looks ready for Sochi.
  8. Scoring Woes Continue: The Canucks as a collective still have only scored 7 goals in their last six games with a 3-3-0 record. Their goalies have been spectacular without much goal support.
  9. Bottom Half Pickings: The Canucks aren’t winning against the top teams in their division yet, but they are collecting the ‘gimme’ points as they should to keep in the hunt. Sometimes, you need to work your way from the bottom up, and with the depleted line-up, as a fan, I will take the two points where I can get them. However, when facing team like Edmonton, more than two goals would be nice to see on the score sheet.
  10. MIA: Torts (suspension) Henrik- (Rib/Finger, DTD) Santorelli (Shoulder, IR) Stanton (Left Ankle, IR) Alberts (Head, IR) Schroeder (Foot/Ankle, IR)
 The Canucks won 2-1, but not without giving the fans a bit of a heartattack in the last few minutes of the third period. It set the twitterverse on edge and the cynicism came out in droves, it felt like a meeting of disgruntled divorcees bitching about how good they used to have it before the struggles came into their lives. However, the two points were the Canucks’ and all was well (sort of) in Canuck Nation once again.
Kevin Bieksa hits Ryan Jones before scrapping with him.  (photo credit: Edmonton Journal)

Kevin Bieksa hits Ryan Jones before scrapping with him. (photo credit: Edmonton Journal)

Up next is home versus Nashville. I will not be attending that game in person. In fact, I am even thinking of cross the Fraser River to the suburbs to keep away. I like this short two game winning streak the Canucks are on right now, so I will stay away. Those nasty Predators always seem to win when I am present in the building they are playing and it doesn’t have to be the Canucks, but I will tell you that story another time.  Tonight, I’m content. The Oilers still suck and the Canucks sucked less for a 2-1 win.
Justine Galo
@Aviewfromabroad