Sukh Purewal: Fixing the Power Play

It used to be the strength of this team: the powerplay. Gone are the days of the number 1 ranked unit in the league. It’s hard to fathom how far they have actually dropped. Heading into the Coyotes game, the Canucks were ranked 23rd in the league clicking at a success rate of 15.4%. That number is going to drop after an 0 for 7 effort against the Coyotes. Gone are Ehrhoff and Salo who helped make the powerplay what it was. But it is hard to believe that even with Henrik, Daniel, Kesler and Edler still around, and with the addition of Jason Garrison, how bad it looks. The team is struggling to get into the zone. If you can’t get into the zone, you’re not going to score. It’s simple.

What Glen Gulutzan is doing just isn’t working, and it seems like he isn’t really willing to change anything. Game after game we saw Dan Hamhuis on the ice as part of the first powerplay unit. No disrespect to Dan, but he is not exactly the type of guy who strikes fear into an opponent on the man advantage. We’ve seen Tom Sestito get powerplay action, Dale Weise has been out there.

The personnel and the way they set up doesn’t make sense a lot of the time. It’s frustrating when you see Henrik setting up on the left wall. Setting up on that side completely eliminates Kesler from the man advantage, and allows teams to zone in on Garrison’s shot from the right point and like I mentioned before it doesn’t help having Hamhuis as the defenceman on the left side.

With the first unit, the Canucks should set up on the right hash with Kesler and Garrison on the point. Let Daniel and Henrik do their thing down low and along the wall. Kassian, Burrows, or Higgins are all players who can make an impact standing in front of the net. With this set-up, not only is Garrison’s shot a threat, Kesler and Garrison can play catch at the point and considering they are both playing on their off sides, they are in prime position to one-time the puck at any moment.

I get that it’s hard to overcome some of the injuries the team has had. They haven’t had the personnel they’ve wanted. Missing Burrows has caused the team a lot of problems. He has missed most of the season thanks to a broken foot and then a broken jaw. The Sedin’s have struggled mightily at 5 on 5 without him, and that’s likely led to their powerplay struggles. Burrows will likely be back Saturday, and I believe he will be put right back on the top line and he will hopefully be able get the Twins going, both at 5 on 5 and with a man advantage.

Edler being injured for the last month or so has also caused the Canucks to experiment a little bit. We have seen Chris Tanev get a chance to play the point. Tanev’s shot has gotten better since he first came into the league, but let’s be real, it’s still not great. The team has missed Edler’s shot. He is a guy who can make the first or second unit better, depending on where he is used. He and Bieksa would do a great job quarterbacking the second unit. Edler and Garrison on the top unit would terrify all of the penalty killers and whichever Canuck has the unfortunate pleasure of standing in front of the net with those two unleashing bombs.

I understand that it is a tough fix but it is something the team should be practicing more. The Canucks struggle to score at the best of time. They’ve scored one goal in the last 200 minutes of game action. They have to take advantage when they go up a man. They Canucks are going to make the playoffs. Their goaltending, especially when Luongo is back, is too good for them to not. But unless they start scoring more goals they won’t make any noise. They need the powerplay to start clicking. That might mean pulling the trigger on a trade for a sniper. Their penalty killing is remarkable. If they could get the other part of their special teams going, who knows what this team would be capable of.


 

Top 10: Big Bad Bruins Bruising

Not since Game 7 in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals have the Boston Bruins come back to Vancouver. It was a much anticipated game and was the biggest topic when the Canucks schedule was released in the off-season. Anyone who lives in the 604 who say they didn’t think it was that big a deal, book an appointment with a cosmetic surgeon and get your nose sawed down, liars.  There was a lot of material to pick through about Saturday night, so where do we start?

Bruins come to visit Rain City. Iginla and Kesler have at it early in the first period.

Bruins come to visit Rain City. Iginla and Kesler have at it early in the first period.

  1. Dan Cloutier’s Ghost: Jannik Hansen scores on Tuukka Rask from just past centre ice.It took a strange deflection off Chara’s stick and into the back of the Boston net. Rogers Arena erupted and soon “TUUUUUUKKKAAAA” was being chanted.  
  2. Mount St. Tortorella Erupts: In the second period, after the tying goal, Canucks coach decides to give a “pep talk” to his team and get them going. It worked.
  3. Workhorse: 39 saves out of 41 shots on goal effort from Roberto Luongo. This was after shutting out the Oilers the night before.
  4. “Barbwire” Taunt Moment: Brad “Barbwire” Marchand had the taunt of the night. Kissing your ring finger and a “Raising the Cup” blurb would have made Vincent K. McMahon happy. There is life after hockey for the Stanley Cup “Champian”
    "Barbwire" Brad Marchand kissing his ring finger as a poke to the Canucks and their fans at Rogers Arena.

    “Barbwire” Brad Marchand kissing his ring finger as a poke to the Canucks and their fans at Rogers Arena.

     

    Looks like he could make a great 'heel' in the WWE. How about that spinner belt, Brad?

    Looks like he could make a great ‘heel’ in the WWE. How about that spinner belt, Brad?

  5. Tonka Tough: Jerome Iginla dislocates his ring finger in a first period fight with Ryan Kesler and came back in the second period to play the game. He also got in a short altercation with Canucks Dman, Dan Hamhuis, later on in the game. I have always liked Iggy and Saturday showed why he is my all-time favourite Kamloops Blazer.

    Iginla's ring fingers appears to be dislocated. Tough as nails, he came back and played the rest of the game.

    Iginla’s ring fingers appears to be dislocated. Tough as nails, he came back and played the rest of the game.

  6. St.Michael: Mike Santorelli keeps adding more depth to his game. He is proving to be a gem of a pickup in the off-season with the way he has played here in Vancouver. He was a huge part of the Canucks win on Saturday night.
  7. Bear Hunter: He does it in the off-season and he did it here on Saturday with a beauty of a tally. David Booth responded with a “this is why we signed you” type of goal after Torts’ blowup at the bench. We need to see this more consistently. He’s too talented of a player to not play like this. This goal was the catalyst for the 6-2 on slaughter of the evening.  
  8. Old School Mentality: This is in a good way. Bruins Coach, Claude Julien, came out and publicly chastised Brad Marchand in saying those antics will not be tolerated. He also said of Marchand to be too good of a player to act the way he did.
  9. Library is Closed: On Saturday night, the vibe was electric! THAT is how Rogers Arena should sound like each and every night. Well, as close to it as possible. It’s too bad, and often times too hard, when you play teams like the Oilers and Flames.
  10. We’re Going Streaking: The Canucks have now won 7 in a row. They have caught up 9 points on the San Jose Sharks and have moved into 6th place in the Western Conference. If they can sustain the level of play and keeping finding ways to win games, expect to see them in the post season.
Even with being the hottest team in the NHL at the moment, the Canucks are still looking up from 6th place in the Western Conference. However, the team is getting contributions from the most unlikely of sources (or so what thought at the beginning of the season) like Mike Santorelli and Brad Richardson. There were many positives to take away from the Bruins game, but as Kevin Bieksa has pointed it, it was two points, not a Stanley Cup. So it is time to move on and focus on 2013/2014 and not 2011.
In conclusion, the Canucks are undefeated in December and aren’t looking to slow down any time soon. I am hoping it continues, because their play of late has been, “beyond good” (Thanks, Milan).
Justine Galo

 

Top 10: Canucks-Friday Night Oil Spill

 

rsz_game02hallIt is pretty evident, the Canucks and the Oilers don’t like each other. In fact, it got so ugly between the teams this year, the two franchise official twitter accounts went at each other publicly during a night the two teams weren’t even playing one another.
Perhaps, most of the hate this season started on September 21. A pre-season game, when Canucks forward, Zack Kassian, broke Sam Gagner’s jaw with a reckless hit and was subsequently suspended five games. Last night was the first time Sam Gagner faced off against the Canucks since that injury. Here’s a look at that play.

No, it wasn’t pretty. Yes, Kassian got a just suspension for it. Meanwhile, the Oilers, their fans and Sam Gagner haven’t forgotten or forgiven. So what does Zack Kassian do? He mocks Sam Gagner during a skirmish on the ice about the addition to the bottom of his head gear. The enforced chin strap that dangled to protect his jaw.

This became such a huge topic. It even took a life of its own on twitter, on blogs and both teams respected Facebook pages. Even members of the Oilers media started getting really sensitive about the chin-strap incident.

@TSNRyanRishaug: Can confirm that at no point did Kassian reach out to Gagner after he shattered his jaw, No apology at all. Then that tonite, pretty bad.

Absolutely, not cool nor ‘classy’. However, people forget, even hand gestures on the ice are part of the ‘trash talk’ package. I’m pretty sure even Gagner wasn’t exactly “Silent Sam” throughout the night on the ice. Words get thrown around and a hand gesture or two might be exchanged, but that’s always been a part of the game. Maybe if Sammy kept his mouth shut, Kassian might not have ‘gone there’, but he did.

There are enough blogs to systematically break down the art of hockey trash talk regarding last night’s incident between Kassian and Gagner. I want to share 10 things that stuck in my head about other happenings around the game last night.

  1. Shutout #65: Roberto Luongo gets his 65th shutout of his career with a 19 save effort against the Edmonton Oilers. First of two games back to back this weekend the Canucks net -minder not only seems to be focusing on the task at hand, but working to solidify his spot on the Canadian Olympic roster.
  2. Foot in Mouth Tweet winner:

    Dan Tencer So, Vancouver is still trying to pretend that Zack Kassian might be a player? Ok, then.

  3. Best Reply to Foot in Mouth Tweet winner:

    @taj1944 EDM is still trying to pretend that Oilers are a NHL team? RT @dantencer: So,Van is still trying to pretend that Kassian might be a player?

  4. Tortorella-ism of the Night: “Who cares what Mike Milbury says. No disrespect to Mike, but we can’t worry about what commentators, and all these guys outside the game, say about our players.” I love Torts. So much more enjoyable to listen to over AV’s constant cliches.
  5. Swedish Thuggery: You know you’re bad when your fan base (and much of the league) are calling the Sedin twins “sisters” and your team gets pushed around by them. –Torts: “See Danny run a guy over tonight.” Indeed he did, Johnny, indeed he did.
  6. Beastmode: Not really a big fan of the nickname for Kes, for me, it belongs to Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks, but the Oilers felt Kesler’s presence all over the ice, the boards and on the scoresheet. 3 shots, 4 hits and 2 assists at a +2 rating for the night. He has been the hottest Canuck in the last 10 games for sure, and possibly the last 30 days.
  7. Call me Don Draper, I’m THAT Cool: Chris Tanev continues to amaze me with his poise, his patience and his growing ability to read the play and make the right decision on how to counter it. Jim Hughson brought up Bieksa’s comment about how Tanev could play with a cigarette in his mouth, he is that cool.
  8. Don Cherry Hooked on Phonics award: Craig Simpson calling Dubnyk DUHB-NIK instead of DOOB-NIK on air. Really Craig?
  9. Hairdo of the Night: Dallas Eakins with his Brandon Walsh 90210 coif. He’s more worried about his hair than the fact his team is in the running for another race to the 1st over-all pick.
  10. Trash talk of the night: Zack Kassian. I don’t want to explain it to you, I’d rather show you. 

 

Top 10 Honourable Mention: Dale Weise with a power play goal. The fourth line clocked over 10 minutes of ice time. Their presence was felt. They were rewarded and Weise capped it off with a nice dinger on the power play. Good job to Weise, Welsh and Dalpe.


 

The Canucks showed up last night. The Oilers did not. The Canucks were focused while the Oilers were distracted. However, the better team won, and the better team showed why they are fighting for a playoff spot instead of another “First Overall” draft pick. Yes, Edmonton fans, my team has yet to win a Stanley Cup. Yes, your team has five of them. I get it, you can count. I have some numbers too…

3- Goals Devan Dubnyk let in 5-hole last night. I almost mistook him for the Massey Tunnel.

0- Are the number of goals score by Eberle, Hall, RNH, Gagner and Yakopov last night.

2-0 The season series between the Canucks and the Oilers so far. Canucks are the two, in case you were wondering.

23- The number of years since the Oilers won the cup. Your most recent three “First Overall” draft picks weren’t even born. Taylor Hall (b.1991) Ryan Nugent-Hopkins(b.1993) Nail Yakopov (b.1993) Long gone are the days of Messier, Gretzky and co. Relevance, matters.

8- post seasons the Oilers have missed presently and consecutively.

25- Points in the standings. Good enough for last place in the Western Conference. Only Buffalo is worse with 23, but they have some guys on defence and Ryan Miller. First Overall Pick is looking like a possibility again!

In conclusion, I would rather be in the shoes (and the city) of the Vancouver Canucks than the Edmonton Oilers right now. Sure the Canucks might get ousted in the first round again, or they may not, but having that chance at the post season is a far better problem to have than what is going on in Edmonton. See you in January.
Justine Galo

@Aviewfromabroad

 

 

 

No success without a dependable fourth line

van-kesler-sedin

In my first article back in October I talked about the Canucks bottom 6 not being good enough. A month and a half into the season, I can say I am content with the part of the bottom 6. The third line has been dependable. The fourth line hasn’t.

John Tortorella doesn’t have faith in his fourth line and is reluctant to put them on the ice. I can’t blame him for that. For the better part of the season, it seems like whenever the fourth line is out on the ice they are getting scored on or can’t get out of their own zone. The Canucks best fourth liner is Dale Weise. He’s hurt. Darren Archibald showed more in his 8 games up with the big club than Tom Sestito, Zac Dalpe and Jeremy Welsh have shown in their games, but the Canucks sent the big forward back down to Utica to room for David Booth.

Injuries have forced the Canucks hand all year. They had not, until Sunday, been able ice the line-up they had envisioned during training camp and arguably still haven’t considering Jordan Schroeder is out for the second time this season. Jannik Hansen’s return and Richardson’s move to the fourth line didn’t make a difference in how much the fourth liners played. Richardson has averaged 13 minutes throughout the season; he played under 8 Sunday night against Dallas. Tom Sestito has played an average of five and a half minutes so far this season, he played 30 seconds Sunday. Jeremy Welsh played just 2 shifts in the game, totalling 18 seconds. It’s not a recipe for success.

Like I mentioned in my previous article, teams that win the cup have dependable fourth lines that can at least go out there to give the top guys a little bit of a break. This year’s Canucks team doesn’t have the luxury. Last year’s team didn’t have that. Amongst forwards, the Sedins and Kesler are in the top 4 for average minutes played a game. It’s not sustainable. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but until the team upgrades the fourth line, it will be tough to make a deep run come April, May and June.

10 Things: I Hate About You, Canucks fans

Sitting pretty and quietly at The Rog

Sitting pretty and quietly at The Rog

 

As I visit the twitter verse, Facebook pages, fan sites and just a simple conversation with a good number of Canucks fans, I at times want to ram my head through a wall. Why? To simplify it for some, no matter what happens with the team, some of them are just not satisfied…with anything.

I decided to put together a short list about what I hate about Canucks fans, from a Canucks fan.

1. Over-analyzing trades: There isn’t a fan base in the whole league who would break apart a trade and find as many ways as to why it was such a terrible trade for the Vancouver Canucks. It’s been nearly two years, and the Cody Hodgson/Zack Kassian trade is ripped apart on a daily, no make that hourly basis here in Vancouver. Hell, some are still talking about the Cam Neely trade from the 1980’s! Give it up already! Deal with it, and carry on. For my two cents on the Hodgson/Kassian trade. The immediacy of a competent 3rd line centre is making this trade look more like a ‘mistake’. The Canucks don’t really *need* a power forward type of player currently. It will also take Kassian to develop to see if he will make the grade. Don’t believe me? Two words: Todd Bertuzzi.
2. Blame Luongo: No matter if this man has a good game or a great game, there are many out there that would rather rip into him rather than give him any credit. He is the first to get blamed, and the last to get praise. When the Canucks lose 4-1 to any team, immediately, some fans cry, “Luongo let in four goals!” It is hardly ever, “Wow, the team only has one goal to support an effort by Bobby Lu.” I know he has to be the money guy, and at times he has been, but when there is no goal scoring, a goalie can only keep out so many on his own. Remember that “own goal”, Vancouver so graciously gave Montreal? There was a tweeter that RT’ed someone bringing up that Luongo should have had his skate right at the post so that would not have gone in. Well, smarty pants, Luongo wasn’t exactly expecting an error of communication in front of him between two defensemen that he should be guarding his post oh so dearly. If that was Schneider or even Lack in net, no one would blame them whatsoever. So, has Schneider got his first win yet on a winless NJ team? I’m sure Jersey fans are blaming their guys between the pipes for that too.
3. National Lampoon’s Anthem: I’m not sure what is wrong with some that come to the arena and hoot and holler all throughout the anthem(s), but it seems to happen way too often. How about we show the singer, the countries and yourselves a little respect and either just sing, or just shut the f*** up, please! There is no worse arena in the league that does that. Have some national pride.
4. Bronx Cheering Inappropriately: You realize how this all started right? It was the Yankees fans razzing the opposing team’s pitchers that just gave up a crap ton of runs to their team. Translate that into hockey and it’s when your team has a good lead, and the opposing team’s goalie lets in so many goals, he is either pulled or continues the frustration on the blue ice. So when Carey Price has a 1-1 tie, you can’t start rousing the “CAARRRRRREEEEEEEEE” chant. Tactless, unacceptable, and just down right makes not only you, but the rest of us look stupid.
5. Diminishing The “W”:Winning pretty or winning ugly have a common denominator, can you guess? I will give you a hint, it starts with a Wih– and ends with a “ning”. Now, I’m not sure, but I believe the objective of the game is to score more goals than the opponent. Whether is 12-1 or 2-1, both types of game equate to the same thing at the end of 60 minutes or 60 to 65 minutes or through to the shoot out, two points. Now, although I would love to see the Canucks win with pretty goals, keeping their opponents on their heels, an ugly win still counts. If the team is struggling but still winning, it does make it easier for them to get a groove and feel less pressure to live up to the expectations. Take the two points, know it can get better, but two points now is just as important as two points in March.
6. The Game Starts at…:So get your asses in your seats and get ready for game time! So many times, I am in my seat, and I see between 1/4 to 1/3 of Rogers Arena and it takes well into the first period before the seats looks more full than not. Is it the beer lines? Is it the entrance door staff? Whatever it is, when the puck is dropped, a good number of the Rogers Arena Contingent can’t seem to be on time for the start of the game.
7. “The Sellout” Crowd: Yes, technically if all tickets are sold, but not all seats are filled, it’s a sellout. And I don’t really blame the Canucks for this one. You can have people buy the tickets, but you can’t head to their houses and places of employment or hire a F/T person to individually call the season ticket holders who leave their seats empty for games they aren’t attending to show up come game time. If you have tickets, but cannot attend the game, instead of wasting them and not having success re-selling them, how about donating them to a local charity? I’m sure a worker, or a prize winner would love to have that as a bonus.
8. Gossip Girls/Guys: Whether a rumour be true or not, I find it extremely laughable how much some out in Canuckland, eat the gossip cookies like it was their last meal. People get fed a rumour about the team, and next thing you know, a player was traded as a result of that rumour. Who really knows but those with the inside track. If someone brings up points to oppose the popular beliefs, they are tagged as “ignorant” or aren’t “in the know” of the inner dealings, feelings and wheelings of the Vancouver Canucks. Ask yourself, unless you were a fly in that jock strap, are you an insider?
9. Rogers Library errr Arena: I am not quite sure what has happened over the last few years, but the once electric atmosphere of Rogers Arena/GM Place, is more these days seemingly a part of the Vancouver Public Library branches. You don’t have to have permission or repeatedly be told to “MAKE SOME NOISE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” by DJ Dave. Make some on your own accord. Have some fun, cheer on the boys when they are down, make those around see how much you enjoy the game and your team. Having to be prompted to cheer on your team is right up there with Inappropriate Bronx Cheering. The only time that place gets loud is when there is a big round of boo’s or when a Canucks goal is scored.
10. “Gotta Catch the Skytrain Before The Rush”: Really? You’re going to get out of the seat that you paid a good amount of $$$ for because you want to be the first to get on the Skytrain home? I don’t care if the Canucks look like paint gun victims and the goal light is permanently red at the Canucks end, I don’t *get it*. . It could be an amazing victory by the home team, but between 3-7 minutes to go in the third period, a mass exodus of Canucks “fans”, make their way for the exits and are homeward bound. Why can’t you just sit another few minutes and finish the game? It’s only a few more minutes? If you’re not standing in a line up to get out of the arena, you’re standing at the Skytrain to get a fare ticket for your ride home or elbowing your way to a cab. I have been to 27 arenas in the NHL, and the Canucks fans are by far the worst at leaving the arena early and so many other fan bases comment on it after seeing it on TV and shake their heads like you caused them to have Parkinson’s disease. So do yourselves and your fellow Canucks fans a favour, sit the f*** down and finish the game. It’s embarrassing.

First blog of the year and I have made sure I endeared myself to the general fan base. Virtual high-fives all around!

Justine Galo

@Aviewfromabroad