Bruce Ng: Canucks Wagon Watch: Game 33 versus Minnesota

Luongo tells the fickle fans how he really feels.

Throughout the season, the Canucks Wagonwatch series will track how much room is on the team’s bandwagon. In addition, it will also track the completely separate Luongo wagon.

The Wild played the first half of a back-to-back set tonight, playing in Calgary tomorrow night. The Wild started off with a strong first period, but were down 1-0 after one period after they gave up late goal to the Canucks power play. It wasn’t a typical Canucks power play goal, as it came off a rush and was scored by Henrik Sedin. The 2nd period saw the Canucks score 2 more. The Canucks 3rd goal was particularly nice – Sedin to Sedin to Burrows.
Canucks Bandwagon: 85% full

After Saturday’s big win in Toronto, I expected the Canucks to come out a little flat – the road trip hangover effect – but was pleasantly surprised to see them put in a good effort. The Sedins were particularly effective – beautiful passing tonight – for 6 points between the twins. John Shorthouse and John Garrett indicated that it would be tough to pick the 3 Stars for the game – Luongo, and the Sedins seemed about right from a statistics point of view, but many other Canucks looked pretty good tonight.

Luongo Bandwagon: 70% full

Luongo was full credit for the win and the shutout tonight – holding his team in the game early in the 1st period, as the Canucks were outshot in the opening frame. After the Canucks scored at the end of the first, the Wild were not able to generate much pressure, or many scoring chances. No such thing as an easy shutout, and Luongo did well to maintain his focus. Maybe the haters will say he looked awkward in the 1st. Or that he shouldn’t have looked over his shoulder in the 3rd. Not much to complain about in this one, as Luongo made it look easy. Very good positionally, and very economical movement. Another 3 shutouts in a row, and who knows, maybe the wagon will be at capacity. Or maybe not.

What the Honey Badger wants, the Honey Badger gets

It is more than a mere rumour that the Canucks have animal nicknames for each of their players (reference: Pass It To Bulis). Jannik Hansen is known as the Honey Badger. Tonight the Honey Badger scored his 11th goal of the season; his previous season high was 9 – done twice. Hansen is looking more like a player that can provide some serious secondary scoring, along with speed and good physical play. At this pace he will have between 20 and 30 goals.

Hansen is given the Honey Badger moniker because he plays with a tenacious and fearless style. If you watch this video, and if you’ve seen Hansen play, you will understand it.

Bruce Ng: Canucks Wagon Watch: Game 26 versus Calgary

Mason Raymond didn't hit the scoresheet tonight, but ladies in Vancouver didn't notice. #Dreamy #WaitWhat?

Throughout the season, the Canucks Wagonwatch series will track how much room is on the team’s bandwagon. In addition, it will also track the completely separate Luongo wagon.

The Flames were on the second game of a back-to-back set, defeating Edmonton last night. The Flames lit the lamp for a 1-0 lead after one period, but their effort dimmed in the 2nd period, and the Canucks extinguished them from there. The Canucks roared back with five unanswered goals to win 5-1.

Canucks Bandwagon: 80% full

After Friday’s disappointing defensive game against the Predators, it was nice to see the Canucks put together a good effort. They gave up only a few good scoring chances. On the offensive side they had a good cycling game and solid forecheck that took advantage of the Flames tired legs. On David Booth’s goal, Chris Higgins stole the puck on the corner boards, and Booth took over on a wraparound from there – a testament to both the Canucks work ethic, and the Flames fatigue.

Luongo Bandwagon: 50% full

Let’s get it out of the way – the one goal that Luongo let in was a softie – it looked to sneak in between his pad and the post, or deflect off his left pad and in. From there, he was lights out, shutting the door the rest of the way. Luongo stopped 21 of 22 shots and looked pretty solid in his first start since his mysterious “Upper Body Injury But Not a Concussion”. The fickle fans of Vancouver might have a problem with the one goal, but can’t argue with the win.

Mason Raymond comeback complete

Mason Raymond made his return to the Canucks lineup tonight, playing his first game since Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. He looked to be fast out there, contributing an assist on Jannik Hansen’s goal, and diving for a Cody Hodgson pass in the slot. I enjoyed watching that line skate – Hodgson’s skills with Hansen and Raymond’s speed. Hope Raymond can keep it up and get his scoring touch back.

Bruce Ng: These Are Not The Droid Goaltenders You Are Looking For

Luongo and Schneider sharing a tender moment in front of thousands of fans.

Tonight Cory Schneider makes his sixth consecutive start in the pipes for the Vancouver Canucks, despite Roberto Luongo being pronounced healthy for the last few games.

Is there a goalie controversy here? The Canucks coaches and management would have us believe that there is no controversy, but as Canucks fans tend to do, we make our own drama and decide what is controversial or not.

Here are a few thoughts on Canucks goaltending and where this is all going.

There is a goalie controversy.

Despite what the coaches and goaltenders themselves will tell you, this is a controversy. Luongo should be the number one goaltender, and should have started as soon as he was healthy. This is what starting goalies are supposed to do. All the coaches and goalies talk about being supportive of each other is just covering up what’s really going on. Schneider is staking a claim to Luongo’s spot in the crease.

There is no goalie controversy.

How can you not continue to play a guy that had two shutouts in a row? He’s winning games – the Canucks maybe shouldn’t have beaten Ottawa, if not for Schneider that night. So let him keep playing. Coach Vigneault is just rolling with the hot hand, which happens to be Schneider. Once Schneider loses, Luongo will likely resume his work as number one and regain his spot in the crease. Schneider will then go back to being the NHL’s best backup, to one of the NHL’s best starting goalies.

Luongo’s Upper Body Injury is more serious than originally thought.

Is it possible that Luongo is sitting because he’s not 100%? Maybe. In Luongo’s last start (a 4-1 win versus the New York Islanders), he took a shot off the helmet. Schneider started stretching in the tunnel, but Luongo managed to finish the game. Luongo hasn’t seen action since. He didn’t dress for a couple games, and has been practicing, but sitting as backup since.

The Canucks are showcasing Schneider for trade bait.

Schneider has been playing very well since a 5-1 loss to Chicago. The whole team has been playing better, but there’s no such thing as an easy shutout anymore, and Schneider posted two in a row. First he shut out the Avalanche. Two days later, he shut out the Coyotes. The very next night, he stopped 43-of-45 shots on the second half of a back to back, willing the Canucks to a win in San Jose. There are a number of teams in the NHL that could use a starting goalie of Schneider’s calibre (two of which Schneider shut out on the last road trip). No better way to increase trade value of a young goaltender than to play him more.

Is any of this real?

@transcendwebs: My opinion that #Canucks ride the hot hand (Schneider) til he loses. Also my opinion that Luongo is still the man. #LonelyTweet

I believe the Canucks will do whatever it takes to win. Right now Schneider is winning, Coach Vigneault doesn’t want to mess with a winning formula, so Schneider keeps playing. Call it a goaltending controversy or not, tandem or not, it doesn’t matter.

This isn’t the controversy you’re looking for, so long as the Canucks keep winning.

Bruce Ng: Canucks “Wagon Watch” after a 4-3 loss in Anaheim.

Luongo's wagon isn't this lonely. Yet.

Throughout the season, the Canucks Wagonwatch series will track how much room is on the team’s bandwagon. In addition, it will also track the completely separate Luongo wagon.

Tonight the Canucks lost a tough one 4-3 against the Ducks in Anaheim. Down 4-0 to start the 3rd period, the boys staged a nice comeback effort that ultimately fell short by a goal.

Canucks Bandwagon: 70% Full

The Canucks played the night before in Los Angeles, and picked up a 3-2 win. Last night they built a 3-0 lead after one period, and coasted to the 3-2 final. Tonight, they slow-played the first period, and melted down in the 2nd, allowing 4 goals. To their credit (and my surprise!), the Canucks came roaring back in the 3rd, scoring 3 goals of their own, earning a power play chance late in the game, but still lost by a goal. It was an entertaining finish and gave the fans something to cheer for – at least for the fans that hadn’t shut off their TV by then.

Luongo Bandwagon: 30% Full

Luongo didn’t necessarily play a horrible game, but allowed 4 goals on 19 shots. All 4 goals came in the 2nd period, and Luongo did not return for the 3rd. There is an old hockey adage that says the goaltender needs to be your best penalty killer; unfortunately that wasn’t the case tonight. Luongo’s wagon might have even less people, but Schneider only had to make 2 saves in the entire 3rd period as the Canucks spent the entire period pouring on the offensive pressure. The Luongo Bandwagon exodus was also tempered by the fact that he picked up a pretty good win the night before.

#Rome4Norris Campaign Suffers Setback

Aaron Rome had made some mistakes earlier in the game, but the team was able to get out of the 1st period still in a scoreless tie. Rome took a 5-minute major for elbowing, which came with a game misconduct in the 2nd period. The Ducks scored twice on the ensuing power play, and the Canucks were forced to play the rest of the game with 5 defencemen. If Rome isn’t Shanabanned by the league for that elbow, he’ll have to score at least 2 more goals to make up for tonight’s game.

Bruce Ng: Canucks Wagon Watch after a 6-2 win over Chicago.

The bandwagon is at mid capacity after Sunday's win in Chitown.

Throughout the season, the Canucks Wagonwatch series will track how much room is on the team’s bandwagon. In addition, it will also track the completely separate Luongo wagon.

Canucks Bandwagon: 70% Full

Special teams were surgical tonight. The power play converted 5 out of 6 chances, and the penalty kill was a perfect 5 for 5. The second period has been a big let-down for the Canucks this season, but they outscored the Hawks tonight 4-1 in the middle frame, and sustained a decent pace throughout the game. It was a big win in tough enemy territory, so the wagon has a few more folks on it.

Luongo Bandwagon: 50% Full

The Blackhawks first goal tied the game at 1. It really was a bad goal – Frolik beat him with a long wrist shot from 55 feet out along the boards. Deflected or not, Luongo should have had that one. After the Blackhawks first goal, I’m pretty sure the Luongo haters were calling for Schneider, and the Hawks fans were salivating hoping that Luongo would cave, however, to his credit, he settled down really nicely after that. Luongo made some solid saves when the score was 4-2, and again at the end of the 2nd period to hold a 3-goal lead heading into the intermission. Despite making 38 saves, the first goal prevented fans from climbing back onto the wagon tonight. Solid performance though.

“Familiarity Breeds Comtempt”

The Canucks posted a 6-2 win over their Western Conference rivals in Chicago. The Canucks might say that they have more contempt for Calgary, and the Hawks number one rival will likely always be the Red Wings, but it’s not hard for either team to get up for this game – they’ve met in the playoffs for the last 3 years running. Each time, the winner has gone to the Stanley Cup Final.

Sunday, the Canucks looked like they finally played a game where they had more answers than questions.