Post-It: A Breakdown of Breakdowns in San Jose

Ok, nevermind the Sharks are red-hot and Patrick Marleau thinks he’s Wayne Gretzky this season, so far. What happened in San Jose was just plain U-G-L-Y! Where the heck did my Vancouver Canucks go and how are they so sickly different from the crew that shutout Anaheim just a couple of nights ago? Obviously, they didn’t board the plane to San Jose after the Ducks game. In fact, I think they are all still in Disneyland lining up for Space Mountain.

Although I am not a Corey Schneider apologist, Ginger Bricks, did all he could tonight. Good considering his team left him out to dry. Welcome to the starting job, Corey. Ask Roberto about all those nights he’s been lit up all because the guys in front of him couldn’t clear a puck to save their lives. Again, it’s not Corey’s fault. They could have any HOF goalie in net tonight, and the red light would have been shining brightly. The second to line of defense are usually the defensemen, but when Keith “Perpetually in the Doghouse” Ballard and Chris “What’s a goal?” Tanev are your best pairing for the night, you know you’re in trouble.

Where did Alex Edler go? Did he suddenly have a Freaky Friday moment and changed bodies with Adrian Plavsic? The only man on the blue line that has been consistently good so far in this young season decided to join his compatriots in what one might call, “a bad game”. Jason Garrison is making the non-signing of Sami Salo look like a really big mistake. Hammer has been in some weird funk in and out of games, while partner Kevin Bieksa is starting to have what we like to call in Canuck twitterverse as those, “God Dammit Bieksa” moments.  Three  or four of those guys are earning over $4+ million a year, and they can’t clear a puck? Really? Big Mikey should have given Salo the damn two years and dealt with Salo injuries, come what may. It got to the point of frustration for yours truly that I was wishing #41 was dressed. That’s right, Alberts probably wouldn’t have hurt them anymore than they hurt themselves tonight.

The Sedins who looked great against the Ducks took a night off for what? Why? Kassian needed to keep his goal for goal contest with Hodgson, but the Sedins seemed disinterested in playing against the Sharks. I don’t know, maybe they were miffed that Zack got ice cream from AV on the plane ride from Orange County to Northern California. Whatever it is, when your best players aren’t you best players, it tends to send the whole team into a funk.  They were punished tonight, a lengthy benching in the third period and then shifts with Dale Weise, enough said.

Mason Raymond forgot to ask the aliens in Anaheim to take over his body again and make him a scoring machine, but he’s always been streaky, I can’t ask for anymore.

The biggest problem is the absence of Kesler and Booth. It has sent the team to make lines drawn from a slot machine pull that could drive any coach mad. Someone give Alain Vigneault some vodka infused gum! He needed it after this Sharks game! Without a real second line, it’s been hard to find secondary scoring when you don’t know what is in store for the line ups from the 2nd line and down. Those two guys are dearly missed and the ‘second line’ are getting mangled like rag dolls. Kesler’s physical and tenacious play is missed and much needed.

Hey Max Lapierre, you’re pretty and everything but that penalty you took in the second period? Well it’s so stupid, you could model with Derek Zoolander!

Lapierre had the bus take off on him tonight, he was so damn awful!

Lapierre had the bus take off on him tonight, he was so damn awful!

Face-offs: Can we win one? Just got out drawn by the Sharks tonight, and it killed the Canucks. Plain and simple.

Power Plays and Penalty Kills: Special teams looked like they took a special ed course. Horrible defending and 0 for 7 on the PP says it all.

Oh yeah, I hope Niemi buys the post dinner and drinks before he takes it home tonight. What team hits 5 posts in one game and none of them go in? Oh yea, the Canucks **FACEPALM**

I usually don’t write a game analysis but tonight was just terrible worse than opening night at Rogers Arena. I can only be hopeful and say they will bounce back in Los Angeles against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Kings. Here’s to hoping! Until tomorrow!

Justine Galo.

Twitter: @Aviewfromabroad

PS

If you want to see how I deal with a game as it’s being played, give me a follow on twitter and see for yourself!

 

Bruce Ng: Advent Calendar: 3 days to get back to playing Canucks hockey.

This series of blog posts will look back on the highest highs of last season, and looks to get the Canucks faithful amped for the season to come!

Just a few short days to the season opener, and excitement is building in Vancouver. A lot of Canucks fans are still upset about the Stanley Cup Final loss; I hope that this series of posts has helped to rekindle some positive feeling – there is a lot to look forward to as Canucks fans this season.

Today’s focus is on Kevin Bieksa’s crazy season. Bieksa started the season most definitely in the doghouse, but finished as a huge fan favourite.

Early in the 2010-2011 season, many Canucks fans were on the Bieksa hater-wagon. The idea was that the Canucks were “too deep” on defence (is that an oxymoron?), needed cap room, and that one of the defencemen had to go. Bieksa hadn’t had a good season in awhile as he had been hampered by a bizarre Achilles’ tendon injuries. However, with Salo on the shelf, and Ballard falling out of favour with head coach Alain Vigneault, Bieksa stayed.

Throughout the course of the season, Bieksa played his way back into the hearts of Canucks fans. He was a natural partner for Dan Hamhuis, whose stay-at-home style allowed Bieksa to roam more freely through the neutral zone.

Then there was this interview with Scott Oake in the playoffs. Bieksa is explaining the Canucks simple plan for the 3rd period against the Nashville Predators.

Soon after that, the tribute videos poured in.

The last great Bieksa moment of the Canucks 2010-2011 moment was probably the series winning goal against the San Jose Sharks, to send the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final.

It’s these moments that get me excited for this season. Crazy moments when no one sees the puck, and all of a sudden it’s in the back of the net. When the Canucks swarm the opposition zone for 2 or 3 minutes at a time applying pressure so intense that the puck has no choice but to get in the goal.

I can’t wait to see what new memories this season will bring!

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]

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.


Follow Jason Kurylo on Twitter.

Subscribe to the Pucked in the Head podcast on iTunes.

[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]