One win. Two games. Three points.

by Jason Kurylo

Daniel Sedin’s two goals in the second game of the 2010-11 season are probably a blueprint for how the Vancouver Canucks want the season to go. Last year’s vaunted offence outscored everyone in the Western Conference, and our boys finished second only to the Washington Capitals in league scoring. This year’s squad, built around a sleeker, more reliable Roberto Luongo and an impressive array of blueline talent, will probably have a few more games like this one: a two-to-one squeaker where the Swedes manufacture a timely game winner.

Daniel Sedin celebrates with brother Henrik. Photo: Canucks.com

Daniel Sedin celebrates one of his two goals against Florida on Thanksgiving. Photo: Canucks.com

Luongo faced a lot of rubber tonight. Most of it came from the outside, but when the Florida Panthers did get the puck into the slot, he made the saves – even rebounds – look easy. Mostly, however, the Canucks looked collected in allowing the opposition take a few shots, and in clearing the puck in much calmer fashion than they did last year. In all, Luongo made 41 saves, several of the outstanding variety with Cats standing right on top of him. Luongo looks more solid in these past two games than he’s looked in the past two seasons. The only puck to get by him was a harmless looking point shot that caromed off two skates before crossing the line.

It’s at the other end that the Canucks seem a little rattled, for some reason. Ryan Kesler plum missed the net on a glorious two-on-one pass from Mason Raymond. Keith Ballard stood in the Florida crease and watched a beautiful Henrik Sedin pass scoot under his stick. (Blade on the ice, my good man, blade on the blasted ice.) With the Panther net empty in the dying seconds of the game, Mikael Samuelsson backhanded the puck off the bleedin’ crossbar, for goodness’ sake. As commentators John Shorthouse and John Garrett joked afterward, the players will probably spend some time after practice tomorrow trying to replicate that, and probably won’t be able to do it.

Don’t get me wrong – this was not a pretty game. Raffi Torres and Dan Hamhuis both had a couple of big hits early, but it wasn’t a particularly dirty game, either. The Panthers were not penalized once, despite having Darcy Hordichuk on the roster (a man Canucks fans will recognize from his myriad trips to the box for poor on-ice decisions). The home team only had to kill three penalties themselves, suggesting perhaps one of the zebras forgot to bring a whistle to the arena.

Neither of Daniel’s goals were a thing of beauty. Halfway through the first period, Hank won a draw to the side boards, where Samuelsson whipped a backhand at Tomas Vokoun. When a wee rebound sat to the side of the net, Daniel chipped it over the Czech netminder’s shoulder into the top corner. It was a quality play, for sure, but not one for the Sedin highlight reel. At that point, the crowd thought the Canucks would break out for one of the five- or six-goal outbursts that punctuated last season. But hand it to the Panthers: they play a numbing style of game that kept the snipers off the scoresheet for another two periods.

When Rostislav Olesz’s weak shot pinballed in to tie the game with under a minute to play in the second period, those same fans probably thought the Canucks were in for the same spoiler treatment they got from the LA Kings on opening night. Two games in a row, the home team went up 1-0 early. Two games in a row, they could not find an insurance marker. Two games in a row, they let a lesser team tie things up in rather unimpressive fashion.

Dank’s second goal of the night, which turned out to be the 45th game-winning goal of his career, came on a broken play that turned into a goalmouth scramble. With the puck lying to Vokoun’s left, Daniel leapt across the crease to steer it home with just under five minutes to play.

And so, the Vancouver Canucks sit at 1-0-1 after their first two games. Both nights featured some promising team play and impressive work by Roberto Luongo. The Sedins each have three points (Daniel with 2G, 1A; Henrik with 3A), and look to be just warming up at this point. Raffi Torres, Peter Schaefer and Manny Malhotra are providing the grit in the bottom six that was promised umpteen times over the off-season. Mason Raymond is blazing around out there, and has been shooting five times a game. Goals will come.

With the steadying influence of Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard back there, the Canuck defense has yet to get running around like they have been prone to do over the past two seasons. Andrew Alberts is playing a successful game as a depth defenseman, and Kevin Bieksa has made fewer dumb mistakes with that assistant captain’s A on his left breast.

There hasn’t been any exciting Canucks hockey yet this year, but there’s been plenty to like. Next up: the woeful Anaheim Ducks, whose Swiss cheese defense just might be what these forwards need to wake up a little bit.

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Philip Yo: Kesler Solidifies The Core, The Time Is Now To Win

Philip Yo, CanucksCorner.com

There were some anxious fans worrying about what would happen with Ryan Kesler this summer. The gritty centre has been a huge part of the Canucks team over the last two seasons and was approaching restricted free agency this summer. There is no doubt that Kesler would be the recipient of numerous offer sheets. But worry not, Friday morning Mike Gillis made the surprise announcement that Ryan Kesler was re-signed for a 6 year term worth $30 million. The deal would give Kesler a $5 million cap hit over the duration of the contract.

Ryan KeslerRyan Kesler: Photo by csztova, on Flickr

The announcement was all the more surprising given the news reports that had surfaced throughout the season regarding the negotiations. However, it took just 24 hours for Kesler’s agent and the Vancouver Canucks to finally come to terms on the new deal. This contract means that Kesler will have the second longest active contract on the Canucks after Roberto Luongo’s 12 years. The Sedin’s will still have 5 years remaining on their contracts after this season.

The core players for the Vancouver Canucks over the foreseeable future will consist of the following:

Roberto Luongo, 12 years @ 5.33 million
Daniel Sedin, 5 years @ 6.1 million per
Henrik Sedin, 5 years @ 6.1 million per
Ryan Kesler, 6 years @ $5 million per
Alex Edler, 3 years @ $3.25 million per
Alex Burrows, 3 years @ 2 million per
Mikael Samuelsson, 2 years @ $2.5 million per

*2010-2011 Total Cap Hit:* $30.28 million

If the Canucks plan on winning a Stanley Cup soon, these will be the players who will make it happen. With a little over half of the expected salary cap locked up in these players, a lot of attention will turn to the upcoming prospects to help fill the holes and save cap space. Unfortunately, it looks like Mason Raymond could be a casualty of the cap after his breakout year. However, because this is just his first year of success, he may be willing to settle for a slightly lower cap hit.

Michael Grabner has been a name that has been bounced about in the Vancouver media for several years now. He showed early this season that he may have what it takes to survive in the NHL, but he’ll need to show that he can consistently deliver. With Samuelsson out, these next few weeks could be very telling for what lies in store for the Canucks next season. If Grabner continues his strong play from before his injury, the Canucks may go with Grabner next season. If he doesn’t, then they will most likely do their best to re-sign Raymond.

And then there is Cody Hodgson and Jordan Schroeder. Hodgson is coming off a serious back injury and has missed most of this season due to that. With a loss of almost an entire year of development it may be wise to have Cody spend a year in Manitoba. The same will likely happen with Schroeder who recently decided to go pro and end his NCAA career.

Whatever the case may be, the Canucks arguably have their strongest top six forward core in history. They also have their best goaltender in history holding down the fort in net. If the Canucks are to finally win a cup, these players are as good as any to make that happen.

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Sports & Stuff: Mason Raymond Appearance: March 12th

Our valued site sponsor, Sports & Stuff, who provide us with a customized hockey jersey for our hockey pool each year, will be having Mason Raymond visit on Friday, March 12th between 4 and 6pm. The store will be giving away VIP passes that will guarantee you one autograph.

If Canucks Corner members would like to meet Mason, call the store during the day early in the week, give them your name and that you saw this ad on Canucks Corner and they will save you a VIP pass.

Signed 8 x 10 photographs will also be available for $10.00 and a purchase of one enters you to win an autographed Mason Raymond stick.

Located in Chilliwack, Rick and Wendy have one of the best sports stores around. Stop in and see their vast collection of Vancouver Canucks and BC Lions merchandise. Tell them CanucksCorner.com sent you!

Sports & Stuff
Chilliwack Mall
45610 Luckakuck Way
Chilliwack BC V2R 1A2
Phone: (604) 858-2614

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Team meeting and tempers flare at practice

When a team is in a funk like the Canucks are it’s only natural for tempers to flare, and they did today at practice as Jonathan McDonald of the Vancouver Province reported.

The Canucks practised today at UBC Thunderbird Arena, and the highlight came 25 minutes in during a full-ice drill. During a breakout, struggling defenceman Willie Mitchell pasted struggling winger Mason Raymond against the side boards. Raymond didn’t like it; heavy physical contact is unusual during an NHL team practice.

Mitchell turned and skated back into his zone to retrieve the puck, at which time Raymond ran him. Two hits, both clean, both unlikely.

Raymond went to the net. Mitchell followed him, and delivered a cross-check followed by a high-stick.

This is either a good thing or a bad thing. It’s good if in fact it signals these guys care and are getting pissed off enough that something like this comes to a head. it’s bad if it’s done out of pure frustration.

It was also reported the team held a meeting this morning at GM Place to air things out…Doesn’t sound like it worked.

Luongo Out! The Season is a wash! (Humour me)

Oh my God! What are we Canucks fans to do? We went from contending for the Northwest division to contesting for the rights in the lottery for Jonathan Tavares with a tweak of Roberto Luongo’s groin! Panic button I say! Panic button! The Vancouver Canucks should forfeit their season and get those extra lottery draws! There is nothing the Canucks can do to turn their season around!

…Ok, so I am playing around, but that’s what I am reading on fan forum boards all over the Northwest Division, particularly those fan forums of the Calgary Flames. I guess the Vancouver Canucks start and end with Bingo Bango Bongo, Captain Roberto Luongo. As a team they don’t have much to offer or do we? What do we do fans?

Well…

We wait till our Captain comes back and hope that our team of mediocrity can pick up a win here and there without him. That’s what we do.

Yes, it’s true, the Canucks are a better with Roberto Luongo between the pipes. There is absolutely no questioning that. I believe the word I am looking for is FACT! So why the panic? Are the Canucks that empty without Roberto? Let’s look at what the Canucks have with Roberto Luongo in the press box.

Replacing the irreplaceable, Curtis Sanford has the undaunted task of filling some pretty big blockers and goalie pads.  Sanford, is one of he better back-up goalies out there, he just had to sit on the bench a lot more because of the workhorse the Canucks have in Luongo.  He’s (Sanford) very steady, and should be alright to call upon as Bobby Lu rests his groin. Sanford is ready and will probably see more action in these next two weeks than he has seen all of last season.  Cory Schneider, Canucks #1 draft pick and goalie prospect will play back up to Sanford during the injury time. I believe we will see Schneider play at least once during this time due to a back to back in the early part of December.  This is Schneider’s time to shine and possibly steal the show. That alone is pretty exciting stuff.

Regardless of whether Sanford or Schneider being between the pipes, this is the time for the Canucks to test their character and mettle as a unit.  Can the defensive core pick up the slack and be more mindful to clear the puck and keep the puck out of the goaltenders’ way? Or will the buckle under the pressure. With their play as of late, I’d say the Canucks will answer the call. Added pressure is put on Salo, Ohlund and Mitchell to lead the way with Bieksa still out with a foot injury.  Can these three elevate their games and make sure the rest of their colleagues on the blue line follow suit? Recent play says yes, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Will the forwards on the Canucks take the pressure off Sanford and Schneider and put in some goals to help the team cause?  Sure why not?  Will Pavol Demitra continue to shine accumulating points from every game? Will Daniel continue to contribute to the score sheet now that he has that monkey off his back? Will Raymond find his swift feet leading him to a few goals here and there? Again with the recent indicating, yes, this is all possible.

The ONE question that dwells in my mind is…will AV go back to a more defensive minded strategy until the return of Lu? I believe he will tighten up the openness of the team’s game just to make sure they keep shots on goal to more of a minimum.  So yes, be prepared to watch a little more of what we saw last year from the Canucks, defensive styled hockey. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but at the moment, a necessity.

So will the Canucks falter and throw away their lead in the Northwest division, their team chemistry will be thrown out of whack while they lose their captain to a groin injury for two weeks? No, I don’t they will just completely stink up the joint so much they will be challenging the Islanders and company for the services of Jonathan Tavares, but it won’t be as ‘easy’ without the #1 guy backstopping them.

Only time will tell, but it’s not time to hit panic button yet? Is it?

Musings from the mud…

LotusBlossom