Canucks Resurrect Successful Power Play Against Flames

By Caleb Harder – CanucksCorner.com

lindenvey_700x400

On Friday night, the Vancouver Canucks won their third straight game in the preseason. In the back-to-back finale against the Calgary Flames, newly acquired goaltender Ryan Miller debuted in the blue and green followed up by Joacim Errikson for the second half as Eddie Lack got the night off. The game played was a complete flip from Thursday’s outing as the Canucks turned it around showing they were clearly the dominant team in the building.

The game in itself was refreshing because it was the first game, in what has seemed like a millennium that the Canucks were a force to be reckoned with on the power play. Out of seven opportunities, the boys were able to net three goals provided by Linden Vey, Jannik Hansen, and Radim Vrbata.

The Sedins were back to their old glory days alongside Vrbata who was a seamless fit with the two stars on the first line. Everything fell right into place as the team successfully cycled the puck, knocking the Flames out of place and winding Douglas Carr into a blubbering mess on the ice. Linden Vey successfully screened Carr in the second period and scored on a rebound off the goaltender’s pads. The goal by Vey and the lead up to it made a large impression on what fans are hoping to see this year. Henrik Sedin was a key contributor to the power play on Friday setting up for the assist on all three goals scored. Radim Vrbata scored one goal and took a total of 12 shots when including attempts. As can be seen by his play, Vrbata likes to shoot and was 11th in the NHL last year with 263 shots on net.

Even though the boys played against a team of Flames that will be starring on their farm team this season, fans were still pleased to see the veteran players tie the knot. There was not a single line that looked lost in the game and it gave us a promising preview of Willie Desjardins’ four line system.

Fellow Canucks fans, the boys are back.

Follow me on Twitter @cjaharder

Sloppy First Line Play Overshadowed by Shinkaruk

Caleb Harder – CanucksCorner.com

sbisa_700x400The Vancouver Canucks arrived in the Saddledome last night to begin a back-to-back preseason series against the Calgary Flames. Throughout the first thirty minutes of the game the Flames dominated the Canucks outshooting the team 20-5. A penalty shot attempt from Lance Bouma was caused by a zero effort chop from Ryan Stanton. If it were not for the smooth saves by Eddie Lack, the game would have been over by the first period. The first line consisting of Alex Burrows, Nick Bonino, and Zack Kassian looked like they forgot how to play the game and could not pass or shoot the puck at all. The defense was not much better as Stanton and Huskins were occupied playing “Dodge the Puck” and “Never Let Go, Jack” (if you do not understand this you obviously have not watched Titanic. It’s a great movie.)

Fortunately, in the second half of the game, the rookies were around once again to save the day. Hunter Shinkaruk set his name in stone with another outstanding game. The boy who appeared in a world famous hockey photo seventeen years ago scored his first goal in the Saddledome as a Vancouver Canuck.

Shinkaruk has been the most impressive prospect on the roster racking up four points in two games this year. The 19-year-old prospect is coming in a few months fresh off a hip surgery and is already performing at a professional level.  He has been nothing but impressive in his second preseason stint and is an enthusiastic playmaker that fans will never get tired of. Hunter has been full of flashy moves, excellent hockey sense and knows how to carry a team on his back.

In current analysis, Hunter Shinkaruk is projected to one day be a top six forward and is exactly the right replacement for the hole left behind by Ryan Kesler. If the second line on the regular season is confirmed to be Burrows-Bonino-Kassian, the trio is going to have a very difficult time in keeping their placement on the team.

“They push guys and guys have to get better or else we’ll go with them,” said Willie Desjardins. “We have to go with the guys who are playing.”

The young stars of the Canucks are hungry for a spot with the team and it looks like it will not be a cake walk for the veterans much longer.

HARDER’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME

#3 Nicklas Jensen

G: 1 A: 0 PTS: 1 +/- 1

#2 Hunter Shinkaruk

G: 1 A: 1 PTS: 2 +/- 2

#1 Eddie Lack

SA: 20 GA: 0.00 SV% 1.000

Follow me on Twitter @cjaharder

Part Two: Expanding The NHL: How An Expansion Draft Could Impact The Canucks

expansion_part2_700x400

In a three part series Caleb Harder looks how a potential expansion draft could have an impact on the Vancouver Canucks. In part two, he looks at the defence.

As we mentioned in Part One, rumours made their way through newspaper and the internet that the National Hockey League would be granting four new franchises to Seattle, Quebec City, Toronto, and Las Vegas. If the rumours turn out to be true, the NHL will hold an expansion draft for the awarded franchises.

In the expansion draft, each existing team has the choice of protecting one goaltender, nine forwards, and five defensemen, or the option of protecting two goaltenders, three defensemen, and seven forwards. For teams that protect two goaltenders, all remaining goaltenders are required to have played a minimum of 10 NHL games in the previous season or 25 total games in the previous two seasons. Each team must also have one defenseman and two forwards left unprotected who have played in 40 NHL games in the previous season or 70 games combined in the previous two. Players exempted from the draft are first and second year pro’s and presumably other prospects.

In the Canucks current position, the team has the ability to choose whatever option they please in protecting players, but I will be using the “two goaltenders, seven forwards, three defensemen” format for this series. With all those rules in mind, if the expansion draft were to take place tomorrow, which defensemen would the Canucks protect on their roster and why?

To give an overview of the players eligible in the draft here is a quick overview chart of the defensemen on the roster.

THE DEFENSEMEN

defencemen

(3) Kevin Bieksa

Kevin “Juice” Bieksa is the true definition of leadership. Bieksa always provides 110% in the game whether it’s standing up for his teammates, delivering a solid hit on the opposing team when they get in the zone, or setting up his line mates for the winning goal. He is one of the most physical and aggressive defenders in the game and is not afraid to provide some gritty play. The Juice is a player with a true passion for the game and the kind of defenseman a team should never think twice about protecting for their roster.

(2)  Dan Hamhuis

Last year, Dan Hamhuis had the best plus minus rating among his fellow team mates. It seemed to be in the previous season that he was always on the ice when the Canucks scored and when they were scored on. Hamhuis has proven throughout his ten year career to have a decent point shot, however he is a fantastic defenseman when it comes to setting himself up an assist with a career high of 33 assists in the 2011-12 season with the Vancouver Canucks. Hamhuis also proved under the John Tortorella regime last season that he can definitely put the puck into the net and who knows, maybe this year it will be on the opposing team.

(8) Chris Tanev

Chris Tanev is the image of the Vancouver Canucks defensive future. The 24-year-old blue liner has strong hockey knowledge and can swiftly move the puck like no one else. His playing style is most comparable to former Canuck, Christian Ehrhoff, whom he played alongside in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final season. The undrafted defenseman has been one of the few successful prospects of the Mike Gillis era and it looks like it’s nothing but up for the rest of Tanev’s career.

If these three were to be protected by Jim Benning and the Vancouver Canucks, it would create the trifecta of the modern defensemen as it fills in the requirements of being tough on the ice, large on offensive strength, and honing the basics of what a strong defenseman is overall.

Part Three: Goaltenders

Follow me on Twitter @cjaharder

Part One: Expanding The NHL: How An Expansion Draft Could Impact The Canucks

 expansion_part1_700x400

In a three part series Caleb Harder looks how a potential expansion draft could have an impact on the Vancouver Canucks. In part one, he looks at the forwards.

It was recently rumoured by Tony Gallagher of The Province Sports Editorial that Las Vegas has been granted an NHL expansion team. Howard Bloom of Sports Business News then went on to add more wood to the fire by reporting that the NHL has also granted new teams to Seattle, Toronto, and Quebec City. Overall, this ended up causing a flurry of speculation among hockey fans on social media. If these rumours turn out to be true, then the National Hockey League would hold an Expansion Draft for the newly awarded teams.

For those who are unfamiliar with the draft, here is a quick guide to how it takes place. In the draft, each existing team has the choice of protecting one goaltender, nine forwards, and five defensemen, or the option of protecting two goaltenders, three defensemen, and seven forwards. For teams that protect two goaltenders, all remaining goaltenders are required to have played a minimum of 10 NHL games in the previous season or 25 total games in the previous two seasons. Each team must also have one defenseman and two forwards left unprotected who have played in 40 NHL games in the previous season or 70 games combined in the previous two. Players exempted from the draft are first and second year pro’s and presumably other prospects.

With all those rules in mind, if the expansion draft were to take place tomorrow, who would the Canucks protect on their roster and why?

In the team’s current position, the Vancouver Canucks have the ability to choose whatever option they please in protecting players, but I will be using the “two goaltenders, seven forwards, three defensemen” format for this series. In this article, the spotlight will be on the forwards of the franchise and who would the management possibly select for protection?

To give an overview of the vast number of eligible forwards in the Canucks ranks, here is a depth chart for each forward position.

THE FORWARDS

Forwards

(33) Henrik Sedin and (22) Daniel Sedin

The Swedish twins have been a key part of the franchise since they were drafted in 1999. Since then, both Henrik and Daniel have picked up the Hart Memorial Trophy, two Art Ross Trophies, the Ted Lindsay Award, an Olympic Gold and Silver medal, and two Presidents Trophies. The twins also hold the record for most career points with the Vancouver Canucks franchise at first and second place respectively. Though some may believe the two star-studded players are far past their glory years, with the proper support in the line, they still stand as a major part of the Canucks leadership.

(17) Radim Vrbata

Vrbata was picked up from free agency last summer to infuse some scoring power to the aging core of the Vancouver Canucks. He holds one of the best records in the shootout, which is an area the team has always struggled with in past seasons. Radim Vrbata is also a first line forward and will tie in seamlessly with the Sedins giving them the shot in the arm they need to return them to their former glory.

(13) Nick Bonino

Nick Bonino has been determined to act as the new second line centre for the Canucks since he was acquired in a trade alongside teammate Luca Sbisa for former centre Ryan Kesler. Though some argue that Bonino will not be able to fill the void left behind by Kesler, the young gun had a remarkable breakout season. He picked up 49 points while playing on the third line scoring 20 of them on the power play. The new Canuck is a fantastic playmaker and is a no-brainer to protect in an expansion draft.

(14) Alex Burrows

Alex Burrows is a grinder but given his performance last season, some would question why even bother protecting him on the roster. This veteran player has time and time again proven himself as a true warrior on the ice and as a force to be reckoned with. Burrows is also a very versatile player that you can place on any line and he will flourish with his teammates. Although he had a disappointing season scoring only a mere handful of points, expect him to not go down without a fight this season. He has bounced back from three injuries during the season and one in the offseason publicly stating he is fully recovered, training hard, and is dying to hit the ice with a fresh slate. This is what makes him a true hockey player with heart.

(57) Linden Vey

In his last two seasons in the AHL, Linden Vey has been a point a game player for the Manchester Monarchs, a minor league affiliate with the Los Angeles Kings. In a system that was jam packed with forwards, Vey never got the chance his deserved with the Kings and was traded at the draft to the Vancouver Canucks for their third round pick. Now with his new team, it is up to him to decide whether he thinks he is ready or not to make the big leagues because the opportunities in Vancouver are plentiful. If Linden Vey is able to play in the NHL the way he has in the minors, he will turn out to be one of the major driving forces for the team.

(9) Zack Kassian

This wild card has left us wondering if he will turn out to be the all-star he was projected to become or the worst trade that former GM Mike Gillis made in his darkest time. In his few years with the team, Zack has had a streaky run of success and drought wearing the blue and green. All was forgiven though when the management recently inked a two-year deal with Kassian, giving him another shot at proving himself. Protecting a player like Kassian can either be the best idea ever or one that fans will regret for many years to come.

If the Vancouver Canucks were to protect these players in an expansion draft, I believe it would reflect kindly on their roster with an even mix of veteran leaders and solid promising players that are bound for success in the seasons to come.

Part Two: Defensemen

Follow me on Twitter @cjaharder

It’s Miller Time Canucks Fans

By Caleb Harder – CanucksCorner.com

millerjersey_700x400
It’s the moment that all Canucks fans in Vancouver knew was bound to happen, the signing of all-star goaltender, Ryan Miller. The former Buffalo Sabres and brief St. Louis Blues netminder signed a 3-year $18 million deal with the Vancouver Canucks to solve the question of the unproven tandem of Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom. With Miller in place to run the crease, Lack (26) will be backing up for the veteran goalie.

People have been pondering what Eddie Lack is thinking since fans and analysts assumed he could be carrying out the starting role by the 2015-16 season. One could view the new goaltending line-up to be as if it were like a mentorship. Miller will be turning 34 on the 17th of July, and as he is still in his prime, he could show Lack a few tricks on how he became a successful goaltender. Miller was drafted late in the 1999 entry draft, usually indicating a limit on his future prospects. Through careful development under the mentorship of Martin Biron, that did not affect the career that he would have.

Lack will then eventually take up the slack for Miller after his contract expires, and take on what Miller did for him and in turn, mentor prospect Thatcher Demko, who is expected later on to become the next star goaltender of the Canucks. All of this of course, will not have the names of Markstrom and Joacim Eriksson in the future of the franchise and Joe Cannata, unfortunately, not going any further than the Utica Comets.

The next question is what is the relationship going to be like between Rollie Melanson, the Canucks goaltending coach, and Ryan Miller? Melanson likes his goaltenders to play a collapsing Butterfly style game, but it will be difficult in the fact that Miller plays a Hybrid style, a blend of Butterfly and Stand-up goaltending. At this point in Miller’s career it is highly unlikely that Melanson will convince the veteran to play a different game, but the two will have to come out to a respectable compromise. The recently signed goaltender was asked whether he would be willing to change his style under a new coach but responded reluctantly to the question.

Ryan Miller has been said to not be the greatest when it comes to dealing with the spotlight of the media, which some have considered an issue because that spotlight will be shining on him a lot in Vancouver. Though individuals would dismiss him as a bad person for attaining only a passable social relationship with media, it’s perfectly normal. Roberto Luongo was not the best with the media either until everything he crammed inside was passively brushed out on Twitter under the “Strombone1” handle. Miller appeared to be fine when answering media questions yesterday, and coming right off the ice, players are usually in a different head space when they are immediately bombarded with questions on their play. This could lead to why Miller could come off as trite in post-game interviews. Ryan Miller is not a bad person for not always being up for an interview, and in the end, he is still the Canucks new goalie even though the news might not get the same breaking headline stories that were provided through his predecessors.

This then leads us to addressing the inevitable “goalie controversy” chatter that is as old as remixing viral videos. Since Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo have been traded, the controversy is long gone and should not be expected to be carried on as a Vancouver tradition.  The signing of Ryan Miller should not be viewed as another problem for the Vancouver Canucks, but the beginning of a new chapter for the franchise.

It’s Miller time, Canucks fans.

 

Twitter @cjaharder