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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poll: Which Team Chasing the Canucks Scares You Most in the 1st Round?

With the final playoff push happening here in the Western Conference, the Canucks are sitting pretty 2nd in the Pacific Division. The four teams battling out for the last few playoffs spots could be potential opponents for the Vancouver Canucks. Each team having attributes to give Vancouver difficulties in the first round (if they matched up) but which team do you think would give the Canucks the hardest time, win or lose in the first round.

  • Minnesota Wild- The Wild are a hard team to pinpoint where they are ‘scary’. With the play of Devon Dubnyk  since being acquired by the Wild, they have been a very good team and a hard one to beat. They already have 37 ROWs, the Canucks have 38 and are only a point behind the Canucks. Luckily they are in the Central Division, but with the format of playoffs, they would be a formidable first round opponent. 
  • Calgary Flames- Flames have been surprising everyone this season. With a year the team was in a supposed ‘rebuild’, they are in a playoff position. They are best 3rd period scoring team in the NHL and have 36 wins (ROWs) on the season. Their biggest issue is the loss of their Captain, Mark Giordano for the remainder of the season with his torn bicep. However, the Flames are still finding ways to win. They are a team the Canucks do not want to stop pressuring in the offensive zone.
  •  Winnipeg Jets- The Jets are a big, fast and hard-hitting team. They are finding ways to win and managing their losses very well. Their biggest issue is actually who will be their starting goaltender if they make the playoffs. Paul Maurice has the team believing in themselves and it looks like Swaggerville could make an appearance in the NHL playoffs for the first times in decades.
  • Los Angeles Kings- The defending Stanley Cup Champions are the team on the outside looking in but are a threat to take that last playoff spot or even move up higher in the standings. Although they have cruised most of the regular season, the Kings are always considered a contender. Jonathan Quick has been nothing short of brilliant in recent playoff performances and they all seem to find a way to get it done, when it matters most.
Which team chasing the Canucks 'scares' you the most if they were to face them in the playoffs?

 LA is at the top of that list for me, followed by the Minnesota Wild. In reality, the playoffs are a different beast and the Canucks have to ‘flip the switch’ and play ‘balls out’ for 60 minutes plus a game. There are no shootouts and every goal either gets you closer to the next game or closer to golf course.

@Aviewfromabroad

Hank and the boys are gearing up for playoffs, Vancouver are you?

Hank and the boys are gearing up for playoffs, Vancouver are you?

 

 

Three Up, Three Down: Winnipeg Jets Grounded at YVR

When I entered the arena last night, I felt a different vibe. I knew it was going to be good game. I just didn’t think it would be as good as it turned out. With a good number of displaced Jets fans, many former ‘Peggers, the 18,000+ seat library known as Rogers Arena, was going to be rocking just a little more than usual. From the start of the anthem, Jets fans chimed in with their famous, “TRUE NORTH” shout during O Canada. It was on. The first meeting between these two teams this year was going to be a back and forth tilt.

Jets’ Anthony Peluso decided to show how physical the Jets were going to be by getting the first three penalties of the game, in succession. As soon as Peluso was out of the box for his first stint, he gets a cross-checking penalty and then had to answer the bell with Derek Dorsett. Dorsett stood up for his teammate and ended up with an instigator penalty from that fight. The Jets are the most penalized team in the league and they don’t mind throwing their big bodies around with hit after hit. The Canucks were in for a physical match-up.

Numbers:

  • The Winnipeg Jets out-hit the Vancouver Canucks 31-12, with only Enstrom and Pardy as skaters without registering hits. There were three Jets players with 4 hits each.
  • Alex Edler lead all skaters with 26:16 TOI, playing on all 6 PPs and 3PKs.
  • The powerplay went 0/6, but the insertion of Clendening on the 2nd unit seemed to have revived puck movement. We could see a possible replacement to the ever so missed PP QB that the Canucks had in Ehrhoff. No goals, but both units looked good out there. It’s just time to get some finish.
Horvat and Ronalds Kenins celebrate after his tying goal versus the Winnipeg Jets. Two goals in three games for the Latvian. Photo Credit: The Province Sports

Horvat and Ronalds Kenins celebrate after his tying goal versus the Winnipeg Jets. Two goals in three games for the Latvian. Photo Credit: The Province Sports

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Up:

  1. Henrik & Daniel Sedin: In classic Sedinery fashion, the twins look like their 2010 selves last night. I was surprised how ‘quickly’ they were moving the puck. I was pleased to see Daniel took 4 shots and on the power plays, although no one scored, the Sedins dictated the movement and their movement of the puck was brilliant.
  2. Alex Burrows: How valuable has he become again? I’m still baffled how John Tortorella wanted him traded when he suffered two major injuries and wasn’t himself. Burrows was hitting, he was instrumental on the PK and caused great traffic for the power play. How about this goal, from Henrik and Daniel and on his knees, classic Burrows. 
  3. Alex Edler: Seeing Alex Edler playing some of the best hockey he has played in quite some time is a treat. His confidence is growing and in all truth, as much as I wanted him traded last season, I’m glad I am not part of the Canucks brain trust. He kept plays alive all through the game, and bailed out his partners a few times as well. With the unfortunate stick breaking in the defensive zone was just an unlucky play for Edler. However, in OT when everyone thought he was going to drop pass at neutral ice, he decides to channel in his inner Paul Coffey and carry the puck into the zone and shot it. Edler is finally getting to know what type of defenceman he is, and it’s great to see a coach encourage it again.

Burrows on his knees goal tying goal.

 

 Three Down:

  1. Dan Hamhuis: Not a good night for Hammer. He was beaten by a speedy Blake Wheeler for the Jets’ first goal on a breakaway. On the disallowed goal for the Jets, Hammer did not play his man tight enough and although it didn’t count, it left the shooter open. But a bad night for Dan Hamhuis is still better than good nights for some defencemen in the NHL.
  2. Chris Higgins: Higgins needs to find his finish. He had 4 SOG but nothing went in. Although he’s the only with these problems on the team, he’s the one that’s eating up 2nd line minutes not scoring.
  3. Willie Desjardins: Against a big hitting team like Winnipeg, you’d figure that Kassian would have worked in the lineup that night. With Dorsett out with a misconduct, many out in Canuckland were wondering who was left to stand up for their teammates? As big as Edler is, he doesn’t have the mean streak of Ohlund.  Kassian doesn’t mind mixing it up at all, and it made me wish at times, we kept Sestito around just for some backup.

Goal of the Game:

Luca Sbisa delivering the deep dish pass from Vrbata after doing a quick criss-cross to his forehand and rifles the OT winner past Pavelec.

Honourable Mention Goal by the young Latvian, Ronalds Kenins, from Horvat and Clendening. This goal has Jim Benning written all over it. Maybe he (Benning) is on to something.

Probably the best game I’ve seen for 60+ minutes from the Canucks against an opponent with some jam and in contention for a playoff spot. The Winnipeg Jets are proving they are a force to be reckoned with and the Canucks need to find ways to adapt their game to each team. Hopefully that’s a lesson they take with them when the face the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.

@Aviewfromabroad

 

My Top Ten Favourite Hockey Memories

Yes it’s that time of the year again, and at this time we all reflect about the year passed.  I’ll say one thing for me, it’s been good, bad, and ugly. All things occurring, I have to take responsibility and credit.  I’ve had a great year getting back into doing what I love most, writing. I want to thank Brian and Canuckscorner.com for giving the opportunity to continue to hone my skills and write about my favourite sports franchise in the world, the Vancouver Canucks.

I’m going to take a trip down memory lane today and talk about my 27 year tenure of being a Canucks fan.  My most memorable moments, not just on the ice, but just as a fan.   As I read, in another blog and article, the Canucks mean a lot to my life. In fact, I got the privilege to be a part of the Canucks family via work at one point in my life.

Sports and particularly hockey have been a big point of bonding with my father, who didn’t have any sons, so he took his eldest daughter to all the sporting events he could muster. Well, Dad, I just want to say it worked.  I am now more of a fanatic than you are. Thank you, Dad. I miss you and I will see you soon!

10) A Canucks Fan is Born: Before I was a Canucks fan I was a Winnipeg Jets fan, and my first ever NHL game I can recollect was at the Pacific Coliseum. It was the Canucks vs. Jets and I was so excited. My father got us great seats. Section G row 11. Oddly enough those were my season tickets to the Giants.  I remember I fell in love with the Canucks that night. They were my new team.  I was amazed by the play of two players in particular, #12 Stan Smyl and probably my early favourite #23 Thomas Gradin.  We didn’t win that night, but I remember Gradin scoring 2 goals and I was hooked.  This was the moment I was hooked as a Canucks fan. That was 1981,  a 6 year old Canuck junkie was born.

9) Canucks and Friendships: My first Canucks game with my friends without my father. It was 1985, I was 10 years old and our neighbourhood parents decided to buy a block of tickets for us neighbourhood kids to go to a game together. These were the days our parents could drop us off at the arena and pick us up after the game and be safe. It was an exciting time, we all had a blast. The Canucks actually beat the Oilers that night and were in rare form. I got the see Wayne Gretzky not score a goal that night. It was a rarity indeed. I remember my friend Mike yelling, “I’m a Canucks fan for life!”.Great time, good memories

8) Birth of Towel Power: Although I wasn’t there, I got to see this on TV, but I’m sure all Canucks fan remember Roger Nielsen’s “white towel” surrender to the officials. It was Chicago stadium, I was at home watching it with my family. When the Canucks came home to the Pacific Coliseum, my dad took me to that game and I’ve never seen so many white towels being swung ever. The Canucks came home to a hero’s welcome. I was just very fortunate to be a part of it. Towel Power was born.

7) The 1982 Cup Run: Being 7 years old, it was more about the excitement that surrounded me than the actual games themselves. The Canucks were a bunch of muckers and grinders with a few talent players here and there. Nothing like the Stanley Cup Final opponents in the Islanders. The Islanders were THE team back in those days. Although we were slaughtered in the finals in a sweep, I will never forget Bernie Pascal and his enthusiasm during his sports broadcasts talking about how this lunch bucket team has captured the hearts and imagination of the city.

6) Los Angeles 1988: I got to see Wayne Gretzky live for the first time as an LA King at the Great Western Forum. My dad had made that trip to see the Lakers and the Celtics with my uncle, and he saw how much I wanted to go and so he packed me up in the car and drove down to LA with him and my uncle. We went to the Lakers game the night before, which they won, and then got tickets to watch “The Great One” as an LA King for the first time. That was a new era in hockey. Gretzky scored two that night against the St Louis Blues.

5) Pavel Bure’s first game: I’ll never forget his first game at the Pacific Coliseum. It was against my old Winnipeg Jets. Wow. I was off my seat so much I must have hit the end of it when it was raised a few times too many that night. I was 16 years old.  The Russian Rocket was the most exciting player to ever put on a Canuck uniform bar none. Many good memories of the Russian Rocket, but seeing him for the first time that night, I knew he was the real deal.

4) Sweden 2000 Canucks Training Camp: Luckily for me, I was given the opportunity to go Sweden in 2000 and watch the Canucks do their training camp and part of their pre-season there. It was the first time I got to see the Sedins and of course Stockholm, Ornkoldsvik and many other things in Sweden.  Fascinating trip, outside of Canada, I don’t think there is a county that loves their hockey as much as the Swedes.

3) 2005 IIHF World Championships, Austria: Loving my work very much at this point and also my very last assignment for this conglomerate, I was able to see international hockey with NHL stars. It was the lockout year. I balanced my time between babysitting our favourite broadcaster and hanging out and getting some fantastic interviews with members of all the teams involved. I must say the one that I had with Brenden Morrison, his wife Erin and his parents, who live in Europe, one of the most fun. It was unfortunate that the Canadians didn’t win that tournament, but it showed how much the Czech team wanted to win it in front of many of their fans.

2) 1994 Stanley Cup Run: I know that this would be most peoples’ favourite hockey memory if you’re a Canucks fan, but it’s only second compared to mine for very personal reasons.  That run captured the imagination of not just the city but of the whole entire nation.  From the Calgary series when Robert Reichel was stoned by Kirk McLean and Bure’s winner in OT, from the Toronto series, the hardest fought 6 games and finally that heart breaking loss in the game 7 at MSG. I remember being at the airport and waiting for the team and they were applauded. I remember my friend getting arrested for lewd conduct on Robson Street, prior to the disgraceful rioting. It was just a magical run, it was just so sad, and to this day it still hurts, that the Canucks didn’t have the gas to finish the race.

1) January 2001, My Daughter’s first Canucks Game: Yes, this has got to be most memorable moment. My then three year old daughter was hooked on hockey. It was great to see her cheer for our boys and see her reaction to the crowd and take in the atmosphere of a hockey game.  She got her hot dog, her drink, her Canucks shirt and she was all set and very happy.  Passing on the love of hockey to my child to me is my most fond memory. It’s wonderful to know that she can share something I am so passionate about.

Yeah those are some pretty big memories for me as a hockey fan, and especially a Canuck fan.  I just wanted to share them with you all out there.  Remember why you love this team and why you love hockey. It’s beyond what goes on in the game.

Musings from the Mud…

Lotus Blossom