O Canada! Canadiens, Canucks, Flames, Jets and Senators Invited to the Dance!

When the NHL playoffs started last year, six of the seven Canadian-based NHL teams were on the outside looking in, Montreal was the only one left to with an invitation to the dance. This is what the rest of the Canadian teams looked like:

Every Canadian team on the outside looking in for last season's playoff. This season, Montreal gets some company. Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg are in!

Every Canadian team on the outside looking in for last season’s playoff. This season, Montreal gets some company. Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg are in!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three of the Western Canadian teams are looking primed for playoffs and have all helped each other one way or another by doing their part to eliminate the LA Kings. I am happy for all the Canadian teams that made the post-season. It’s great to see “North of the 49th” teams compete. And it took the last game but Ottawa joins the rest in the post-season.

I’m not here to make predictions. I am not here to troll teams, (especially my Canucks 1st round opponent the Flames), and I am not here systematically breakdown the teams line by line goalies, defensive pairings 1, 2, 3. I am here for some congratulations to each team and some highlights for each of these Canadian clubs.

montrealcanadiensPuck

 I don’t think there was much surprise with the Habs. They have been improving  vastly  over the last five years. They have a lot of great things happening for them and it’s all starting to come together.

  • Carey Price: Breaking the club record for most wins in a season, Price keeps showing why he is one of the best, if not the best goalie in the NHL. Let’s note the regular season wins record beat guys like Patrick Roy and  former Hart trophy winner, Jose Theodore.
  • Brendan Gallagher: You have to cheer on former WHL Vancouver Giants alumni being an integral part of Montreal’s success. He’s a guy that doesn’t have size, but a whole lot of heart and determination.
  • Michel Therrien: Definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but he has made this line-up work, one way or another. He has the team believing in each other, and really that’s all that matters.
  • PK Subban: When your No.1 defenceman is second in points on a club, it’s a good thing. Just ask the Bruins and Raymond Bourque about it.

Calpuck

 

Who are these guys? I thought this team was on a ‘rebuild’? They were about 3-5 years away from playoff anything! However, they are in the dance and 3rd place (so far) in the Pacific division to boot! You have to give the Flames credit, everyone is stunned, but the more the season went along, the Flames were not only making their fan base believe, but the NHL also.

  • Johnny Gaudreau: AKA “Johnny Hockey” This NCAA Hobey Baker winner stunned everyone with his speed and skill. He is so fun to watch and despite being diminutive for the NHL, he’s making a big impact for Calgary.
  • Mark Giordano: The Flames captain was well on his way to probably winning the Norris trophy for top defenceman in the NHL. Unfortunately for him, his injury took him out for the remainder of the season. An enormous reason for Calgary’s success this season. Before his injury he had 48 points, currently 5th on the team.
  • Jiri Hudler: The Czech player is tops of NHL players 31 years of age or older with 76 points. He is followed by Daniel Sedin, of our Canucks and producing time points for dramatic wins.
  • Bob Hartley: Finding something that works for this young team through his coaching methods. Mixing in the right amount of veterans to prospects is not always an easy task, but he’s doing it and at Game 81, still amazing some fans in the NHL.

WPGJets

The city of Winnipeg have not seen NHL Playoff hockey since 1996. Although the franchise is different, the logo is different, the Jets will always be “The Jets” in Winnipeg. Get ready for some “White Out” at the MTS Centre, everyone. For those that didn’t get to see it during the ’90s, you’re in for a treat.

  • Paul Maurice: Perfect man to coach this team. You needed someone who is still young enough to relate to some of these guys, but has a vast experience coaching in the NHL. Maurice is only 48 years old and nearly 20 years of coaching experience in the bigs. However, although a good interview, he’s not quite Claude Noel in terms of his frustration with the press.
  • Ondrej Pavalec: He doesn’t always get the respect he deserves but Pavalec has been lights out for the Jets, especially with three shutouts in the row. Yes, I realised he lost his last game in a shootout, but he was credited with a shutout.
  • Big Bad Jets: The ginormous Winnipeg Jets are hard-hitting. On top of their size and physical game, the Jets are incredibly fast as well. Which ever team gets the Jets in the 1st round, I can guarantee one thing, that team will be battered and bruised, win or lose.

SENSPuckLate to the party but the Ottawa Senators clinch a playoff spot with a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in the very last game on the very last day of their NHL season. They are 5th and final Canadian team to make the playoffs. What a run they have had in the latter part of season.

  • Hamburglar: Who the hell is Andrew Hammond? Nicknamed “The Hamburglar” he has been spectacular! Hammond has been given an opportunity and running with it. In his 24 NHL games, Hammond has gone 20-1-2 and a sporting a .947%. A hot goalie going into the playoffs is such a good asset to have.
  • Hot Stone Therapy: Rookie scorer, Mark Stone tied with Johnny Gaudreau of the Flames for the rookie scoring lead has been on fire as of late. He has turned on his scoring touch to help propel his team into a playoff spot.
  • Fashionably Late: Since February 17th, the Senators have accumulated 45 points (including today’s game vs. the Flyers). That is tops of the NHL since said date. They were a team on a mission and it’s been accomplished. Welcome to the dance, Ottawa.

 VanNucksPuck

Last but not least, our Vancouver Canucks. The soul-sucking wet towel of last season has been set aside for now, by Canucks fans. Albeit, not completely, but mostly…Canucks Nation hasn’t thought about it much. Despite giving up almost every single first game goal in the regular season, the Canucks are 2nd in the Pacific Division and will set off to face the Flames in the first round, either home or away.  Here’s all I can say about the other ‘surprise’ of the Western Conference. Like Calgary, not many expected the Canucks to make the playoffs. Some felt they would be close but not in. However, they clinched that spot & and now need only 1 point to win home ice advantage in the 1st round vs. The Calgary Flames.

  • Goaltending: Whether your #TeamLack or #TeamMiller, you’re winning. Both their contributions have been integral to the Canucks’ success this past season. Lack has come on strong since Miller’s unfortunate injury on Long Island. Miller will get the last regular season start but I’m guessing, even Miller would concede the start of the playoffs to Lack. Eddie has been very good keep this team in the hunt. If Lack falters, you can revert back to the guy you signed to the big deal in the off season to backstop this team. Oh the burden of two capable goalies.
  • Sedinery: The resurgence of Henrik and Daniel this season has been a delight to see. The management of their minutes by the coaching staff has been excellent this year. As of late, the power play has come to life and that will serve them well going into the post-season. Daniel is sitting 9th in the NHL in scoring with 74 points after 81 games. Henrik is sitting at 16th with 71 points but is a +12. Only Jiri Hudler of the Calgary Flames, is in the Top 20 with Henrik and Daniel that are 31 years and older.
  • Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’: The Vancouver Canucks are finally a four line team. In fact, I don’t ever recall them being one in recent memory. Every line is contributing on the score-sheet. There are 11 forwards who are double digits in goals. Now if they can all only count to five on line changes.
  • Radim Vrbata: Talk about the acquisition of the year for Jim Benning and Trevor Linden. Vrbata has found a home in Vancouver and scoring 31 goals in 81 games, no matter who was centering him. He’s found some chemistry with Nick Bonino and has that line going as well. He’s been such a great addition on the ice and @TheStantion’s GIF game.

It’s great to see a turnaround and presence of these five teams making the playoffs. My dream would be an Ottawa/Vancouver final. 1915 was when these teams first vied for the Stanley Cup and it would be great for the same outcome. Dare to dream. I’m just happy for all the teams and their fans who have made it.  Are you ready Canada it’s going to be a crazy first month of the NHL post-season!

Sorry Oilers and Leafs, maybe next year? *wink*

@Aviewfromabroad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Canuck Nation Growing

As we draw near the end of the eastern road swing for the Vancouver Canucks, there is one constant occurance that has come to my attention. The fan support in the east has strengthened for our beloved team, and surprisingly really showing up strong in the arenas away from home. In fact, many comments throughout the league about the growing support for the Canucks in eastern cities. So what triggers the surge of support?

Montreal had to be the one town that wouldn’t sway their loyalties. The Bell Centre is a different beast from the other two arenas visited. Although I have noticed the pockets of Canucks fans seem bigger than those of previous visits. I have to say it is one arena where you know the undying love for the Habs will never be overshadowed of that of the visiting team. It was enough to propel les Canadiens to a shutout victory (2-0) over our Canucks.

In Ottawa, the pockets for Canucks supporters were evidently quite bigger than it has been in the past. I’d dare say the Canucks had about a third of the arena on their side. That’s a significant number of supporters in the nation’s capital. It was great to see a few westerners also make an eastern road swing trip to support the boys on Remembrance Day on their way to a 6-2 victory over the Senators. There was even a small bar meet-up (so I was told) after the game of Canucks fans. Unfortunately for me, being sick with the flu, I had to decline.



Toronto is Canuck Land? Photo taken by Justine Galo


Now the most surprising surge of support for the Canucks was in the “Centre of the Universe, also known as, Toronto. I used to live in Toronto, both downtown and on the east side, and I’ve run into very few ‘vocal’ Canucks fans in the 416 (or 905 for you suburban people). Usually, the only time I see those fans are when the Canucks visit the Air Canada Centre and even then, they are more reserved. This year, the support for the Canucks in Leaf territory, was, for me, surprisingly stronger than I could have imagined. The support for the Canucks was crazily visible in the stands. Not just pockets of supporters but rows of Canucks fans. More than it has been in the last four years since they started doing the home and home once a year again. Canucks fans were yelling, “Lu!!!!” at the ACC. It was so evident that it couldn’t even be masked on Hockey Night In Canada’s broadcast of the game. I remember just last January, when the Canucks visited the ACC, and the out-right support for the team wasn’t as vocal and in abundance. That was only 11 months ago! I’d dare say the Canucks had about 2000 fans on Saturday night, and that is a huge feat in Leaf Nation. I think only the Montreal Canadiens and the Canadian Sabres fans would be greater in numbers.

So the Canuck fan base is growing, but why? Could it be Luongo winning a gold medal for Canada at the Olympics, or the playmaking of the Sedins? Or could it be that they are a very good team, it makes the easterners realize they probably have the best chance of the Canadian teams to contend for the Stanley Cup. I’m not quite sure, and to be honest, I don’t really care, but it’s been nice to see Canuck Nation growing, especially in places it was once shunned.

On to Buffalo…


Justine Galo [tweetmeme]

It’s a beautiful Remembrance Day

Alex Burrows trades karma for first of the year.by Jason Kurylo

The Vancouver Canucks cancelled their morning skate this Remembrance Day, instead hitting the National War Memorial in Ottawa to honour war veterans. It was a classy move by the organization, one that generated positive press across Canada and positive karma inside Scotiabank Place. The Canucks bounced back from their lacklustre effort in Montreal with a convincing 6-2 win over the Senators. It was the Canucks’ seventh win in eight games, and coach Alain Vigneault’s 300th career W.

Alex Burrows scored his first of the year much as you would have expected – Henrik fires a no-look pass to Daniel behind the net, and Burrows spins off his check into the slot. Dank threads a perfect pass to number 14, who buries a one-timer from three feet out. It was an important goal, one that gave the Canucks a two-goal lead early in the third period, allowing Vancouver to win going away instead of letting the Sens creep their way back into the game. The Sedins each had two points, and factored in on goals that came 22 seconds into the first period and 33 seconds into the third.

Ryan Kesler took advantage of linemate Mikael Samuelsson’s return to form – the Swede looked dangerous for the first time in a few weeks. Kesler scored from the lip of the crease twice, once on a nice pass from Jannik Hansen, the other on a rebound of Samuelsson’s fifth shot.

The fourth line looked more effective than at any other time this season, most likely a result of having a natural centre skating up the middle. Vancouver Giants alumnus Mario Bliznak was called up from the Manitoba Moose to spark the checking line – Tanner Glass moved to the right side, bumping Peter Schaefer, and scored his first of the year. Bliznak then swatted a puck out of mid-air to net his first career goal late in the game. Rick Rypien spent more time in the penalty box than on the ice – he had just under seven minutes of playing time, but 12 minutes in the box.

In their own end, the Canucks were sloppy in the first but got bailed out more often than not by Roberto Luongo. He made several point blank stops, including a one-timer from Jason Spezza and the rebound from Alex Kovalev. The only goal to get by him in the first 56 minutes came when he was unable to smother a puck that dropped to the ice in front of him. Peter Regin drove the crease & poked the rebound home through Bobby Lou’s legs. This has to be on goaltending coach Rollie Melanson’s to-do list: Luongo has given up several goals of this nature in the past few games. The Sens scored a meaningless goal late in the game to make the score 6-2, again off a Canucks miscue. Dan Hamhuis bobbled the puck behind the net, and the opportunistic Regin flipped it out front to Sergei Gonchar. The veteran rearguard slammed it home easily; you can’t blame Luongo for that one.

With the win, the Canucks sit atop the Northwest Division, four points up on the Minnesota Wild. But wait, the Canucks are just one point up on… ANAHEIM??!!?!? The surprising Ducks have played two more games than Vancouver, but holy quack, there might be some mighty left in SoCal after all. Vancouver sits in third place in the Western Conference, and tied for sixth in league standings. Their next game comes on Saturday night, a spotlight game against the snakebitten Toronto Maple Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada.

Follow Jason Kurylo on Twitter.

Subscribe to the Pucked in the Head hockey podcast on iTunes.

[tweetmeme]