Homeward Bound: Road Trip +/-

It will be up to Eddie Lack to shoulder the heavy load with Ryan Miller out for four weeks. Photo Credit: The Province

It will be up to Eddie Lack to shoulder the heavy load with Ryan Miller out for four weeks. Photo Credit: The Province

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is it me, or did everyone seem to think this game was in the bag? It definitely had all the makings of a great Canucks road trip. The Canucks have been playing very good hockey. When in some trouble, the Canucks have managed to find ways to get out of those jams. The Sedins are on point streaks, the kids were playing with a ton of tenacity and the backup goaltender has been playing spectacular in the absence of Ryan Miller being sidelined to injury. The team was looking good and walking around with a bit of a swagger. However, all day, I have been feeling really off about the game. Almost everyone was publicly, including members of the Canucks’ media (ahem, Tony Gallagher, ahem) were calling it in already for the Canucks. . The words “when” instead of “if” were being used in regards to the Canucks/Sabres game regarding Vancouver winning. I wish I was wrong with my feelings, but the Sabres won 6-3.

The Canucks didn’t have their fairy tale ending to this Eastern swing, but they did have some positives out of it:

  • Goals Scoring: 3/5 games the Canucks have scored three or more goals. The production has been better over all since the All-Star break. With the next few weeks some very important playoff push coming up, they are going to need production up and down the line up. Seeing the kids not being afraid to shoot and the Sedins looking like their 2010/2011 selves has been promising.
  • Confident Defencmen: When you see most of the highlights on this road trip, you see Weber be much more confident jumping in on the play, taking more shots from the point (and more accurate) but also making really good defensive plays to prevent shots and goals. You see Sbisa taking to the body a little more and feeling more confident on the blue line. Clendening will shoot from anywhere and Stanton is his perfect stay at home partner, who will also seize the opportunity if he is given it. Hamhuis looks more and more like Hamhuis as the road trip progressed and Biega looked like he was on the team since October. Very promising to see considering Edler, Tanev, Bieksa and Corrado are all out with injuries.
  • The Kass: I can’t start this with anyone else but Zack Kassian. His play with the Sedins has been a point producing machine. He’s looked really good on the wing with the twins. With the injury to Burrows, Kassian should really take this opportunity to “steal the job”. When Bertuzzi really started to show real signs of being a regular power forward winger, he was about Kassian’s age now. Patience and guidance is what Zack needs, and it looks like Henrik and Daniel can show him that. 
  • The Kids: Horvat playing like he is already a 2nd line centre and having the confidence to not be intimidated by anyone, including Chara, makes every Canucks fan happy about the future. Kenins will hit anyone, anything and he isn’t afraid to try and score, from any angle. Most importantly, Kenins has the ability to make roon for Horvat and Hansen with his hits and fore-checking abilities. Stanton showing why he had high praise from Coach Q in Chicago and Eddie Lack has been playing like he was standing on his head, except for a few games here and there. It makes me excited for Virtanen to join the team next season.
  • Never-Die Attitude: Regardless of winning or losing, the Canucks are sure as hell not giving up. Even when they have been outplayed, out shot, out scored. They will keep playing until the final buzzer, which was a complete 180 of the team we saw in and around this time last season.
  • Sedinery: Henrik and Daniel have been playing some rejuvenated hockey. It’s not quite at the level they played it at in their prime, but they know this team and even themselves, are in a transitional period. Hank and Danny are taking it upon themselves to show the young guys what it takes to stay and play in the league for as long as they have. Play the right way, stick to the system and make things happen. Whether the insertion of Horvat and Kenins is what has inspired the twins, or vice versa, it’s great to see the Sedins play like the Sedins.
Kassian and the Sedins celebrating a goal by No.9. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Kassian and the Sedins celebrating a goal by No.9. Photo Credit: Getty Images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home Improvements: Canucks need to work on…

  • Consistency: The biggest issue with the Canucks since the All Star break has been their Jekyll and Hyde record and it’s reflected by the intensity of their play, especially at home. They have the best road record in the NHL, but their home record has been pretty mediocre. Rogers Arena was once a safe haven for the Canucks but over the last couple of season, it’s been hit and miss.
  • Defending in the Defensive: From time to the time, the Canucks have panicked and turnovers have happened in their own end. It happened in Boston and it happened in Buffalo, numerous times. If they continue heavily rely on their goaltenders, they are asking for the world, and Eddie (and eventually Miller) cannot keep up such a high level of play. It really showed in the Sabres game, and Eddie looked average.
  • Skating Hard, Always: When the Canucks aren’t getting calls for power plays and are always finding themselves in the penalty box, they are not skating hard enough. They are gliding and hoping. They aren’t making things happen.
  • Glue-like Goaltending: When Miller, Lack and soon Markstrom are on their games, they are pretty formidable between the pipes, but this season, the good goaltending has come in spurts and at different times. Neither Miller or Lack have been consistently spectacular. They’ve had their moments. However, with the playoff push coming up, no matter who ends up being in net (Lack at this point) needs to really be on top of it and it doesn’t matter who the backup is, they are going to have to come together and be like glue.
Kenins has been a great compliment to Bo Horvat's line. Creating space and crashing bodies has made Kenins a force on the ice.

Kenins has been a great compliment to Bo Horvat’s line. Creating space and crashing bodies has made Kenins a force on the ice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A long 11 day, five-game road trip has come to an end. The Vancouver Canucks are coming home with a 3-2 record. It could have been better? Yes, and it could have been worse, if Vancouver didn’t win the Rangers game in the shootout, coming back with a losing record on this road trip would have made the playoff race much harder to keep the other teams at bay. But six out of 10 points isn’t bad, but everyone was expecting it would have been eight after tonight. Unfortunately, it was not so.

With three days until their next game, the Canucks will have a day off on Friday and a practice on Saturday to right some wrongs. The next four games coming up are against Western Conference opponents in a very tight playoff race. With St. Louis coming to town on Sunday, followed by a visit from the San Jose Sharks, the Canucks have their work cut out for them before they get on the road for two and then home for five straight, including visits from the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks. With the Metropolitan Division out of the way, for the most part, the Canucks are now in for the real test and so is our fan-dom.

@Aviewfromabroad

 

Ice Drama: Goalies, Blue Line Shuffle and Press Box’ing

It’s been often said that sports are the soap operas for their fans. There are story-lines built into teams, situations and how things have played out from game to game. In Canuckland, it can be at times, even more so of a soap opera. With the happenings that have surrounded the team over the last few years during the Gillis regime, and even presently, the little dramas keep on writing themselves and at times often get pushed in media members’ agendas.

Goalie Controversy

So is there enough to call it a goalie controversy between Ryan Miller and Eddie Lack? Early in the season and the beginning of 2015, there was no question Miller is the starter, but lately has faltered. When he wins, he wins convincingly and when he has lost, it’s been more often than not, a blow out. The one loss he did play well in was the game against the Flames on a second of a back to back which Miller played the night before winning over Boston.  Eddie Lack came back with a win versus the Wild on the following Monday. In fact, in Lack has won three of his last starts and many fans are calling for him to start over Ryan Miller.

Miller was great and then not so great in the Canucks shootout win over the New York Rangers. In the 1st and most of the 2nd, he kept his team in it. Faltered and let in a soft goal and an unfortunate one with a Henrik giveaway.

Miller was great and then not so great in the Canucks shootout win over the New York Rangers. In the 1st and most of the 2nd, he kept his team in it. Faltered and let in a soft goal and an unfortunate one with a Henrik giveaway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve come to the understanding that once Vancouver has a goalie controversy going, overall it’s a good thing. It means the backup is playing very well and the starter can have some rest for the last 25 game push for a playoff spot. When a goalie controversy sparked a few years back, Luongo and Schneider ended up winning the Jennings Trophy. Unfortunately, having this controversy has already cost the Canucks two starting goalies, both aforementioned in the last sentence. With the schedule really picking up and Miller expecting his first child in the very near future, there will be more starts for everyone’s favourite backup.

A more evenly divided workload for the goalies will help the team down the line, but in the process of supporting Eddie Lack, I don’t see why there can’t be love given to Ryan Miller. Without his 27 wins, the Canucks would not be in a playoff spot at the moment. Earlier this season, he’s bailed out his team and stole a few games they had no business winning, twice in San Jose, for that matter. Shouldn’t that count for something? One thing I really love about Miller is his ownership of his play. He has no problem taking responsibility for it when it’s bad, which he did last night.  So before this fan base buries Miller in the graveyard with their shovels in hand, don’t forget all those points he’s acquired the team early in the season. They count exactly the same now, as they did in October, November and early January, two points are two points and they are all important.

Consistently Inconsistent

No one knows what to really make of this whole Kassian situation. And those that do aren’t saying a thing whether it be negative or positive.  A kid with all the tools could be set to be a very effective power forward. However, when Kassian isn’t visible on the ice, it’s glaringly bad or completely unnoticeable, which has earned Zack press-box duties from time to time.  I want him to be effective and although Willie and the coaching staff have to take some responsibility in not always utilizing him to his skill set,  Zack has shown more often than not, he hasn’t earned it. The glaring defensive lapses in his game are the biggest hindrance to his progression as a top six forward. Zack needs to stay focused and to be able to know when to take a penalty and not put his team in a hole because of bone-headed plays. Like I said, Zack has all the tools, but he needs some instruction in using them properly and more importantly, become consistent.

Press-box duties for Kassian versus the Rangers, and we're wondering if he will be out on the ice tonight against Cory Schneider and the New Jersey Devils.

Press-box duties for Kassian versus the Rangers, and we’re wondering if he will be out on the ice tonight against Cory Schneider and the New Jersey Devils.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Line Shuffle

If you don’t know the new dance it town, it’s called the Blue Line Shuffle. With three of the Canucks top six defencemen out with injury, there is a whole new look to the Vancouver blue line. Bieksa and Edler out on the IR and Tanev is day to day. Corrado, who has been the 7th d-man most nights,  is also on the IR prompting the call up of Alex Biega.

Edler is one of three Canucks defencemen out on the Injured Reserved. The Blue Line looks unrecognizable at the moment. Speedy recovery to Alex and his teammates!

Edler is one of three Canucks defencemen out on the Injured Reserved. The Blue Line looks unrecognizable at the moment. Speedy recovery to Alex and his teammates!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pairings have been shuffled quite a bit from this influx of injured blue liners. Hamhuis has been paired with Yannick Weber, and although I think Weber is a fine Bottom 2-type of  guy, I can’t see him shouldering the minutes Hamhuis has picked up with Edler and Tanev both out. Hammer has also been a little tentative since he came back from his injury, and it shows. He’s not hitting like himself and without his top 4 mates, the little mistakes he’d make seem a little bigger these days.  Sbisa is with Biega is unpredictable and Stanton looks steady with Clendening. It’s a big mess, but when will it be rectified? It all depends when Chris Tanev will be ready to go and who works best with him when he is back.

The Canucks are now down to their last 25 games or so. It is time to find out just what they are made of, and if last night versus the New York Rangers was any indication, they are at least entertaining. 

 

@Aviewfromabroad

 Play of the Night

PS, how about that Henrik Sedin guy? The captain shoulders responsibility and brings the Canucks to OT and the chance to win in the shootout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Up, Three Down: Slump Buster Tuesday

The Islanders came to town last night and for many of the Canucks, their visit last year was one they would all love to forget, especially Eddie Lack. Last night, the team had a chance to redeem themselves from that horrible 7-4 loss last March after being up 3-0 going into the third period.Also we saw some things that we haven’t seen in a while. Guys who haven’t tallied a goal in a good amount of time were rippling the mesh and Eddie got a win for a belated birthday gift but this was probably the best gift for Eddie the Canucks have shared with everyone.

 

THREE UP

1. Ryan Stanton scored his first goal in 83 games. Stanton gets his first of the year on this beauty! A perfect time to pinch and a perfect get on the rebound. His second career goal ties the game up.  It is nice to see your “stay at homes” show some offensive initiative from time to time and this was on point.

2. Nick Bonino was on the “Three Down” side of this column last post, but either he’s read every article about his invisibility lately or he wasn’t going to let Ryan Stanton be the only one breaking a slump tonight. Bieksa is the king of giveth away but here he taketh away and shot the puck and Bonino buried the rebound. Not only did Nick bump his goal scoring slump, he and his line were creating some really good chances and making aggressive plays all night.

 

3. Linden Vey gets in on the action too. So yes, all three goal scorers get the “Three Up” from me tonight. Since it’s Slump-buster Tuesday, why not do it on a beautiful breakaway with a pass from Dorsett to put the Canucks up 3-1. Cue the cheesy puns because they were plentiful.

Honourable Mention: Zack Kassian. Although Kassian didn’t hit the score sheet two of his plays lead to goals last night. He’s hands are just incredibly soft and yet he can hit as hard as anyone. Still a young player, I can see Kassian be the next Bertuzzi on this team, if he gets some chances to play with some quality linemates and maybe see some time on the PP.

It’s really great to see these guys have a good game and I hope it continues and gets infectious (like the mumps) to get the rest of the team on the same page.

 

THREE DOWN

1. Henrik Sedin needs to learn that he doesn’t always have to pass. I know he’s not the scoring Sedin, but it would be considered an element of surprise if he just took some shots on goal once in a while. The Captain needs to find his trigger finger and put pucks towards the net. He has the fewest amount of shots out of the top six at 40. Only Linden Vey (33), Bo Horvat (17) and Zack Kassian (26) have less shots on goal than Henrik and Hank is on the ice far more than these guys and Zack has missed a month. Oh Captain, my Captain, Sedinery isn’t always to be saved for OT.

Wonder Twin powers, PLEASE activate!

Wonder Twin powers, PLEASE activate!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Daniel Sedin, just like his brother needs to find his groove more and shoot. He is now too often passing and letting Vrbata do all the shooting. Daniel has great accuracy and when he gets those goals past the goalies, it’s usually a thing of beauty. Maybe he’s just trying to be too perfect, and not looking at the ‘ugly goal’ as an option. However, ugly, pretty, clean, highlight reel goal or not, they all count, so start tallying.

3. Luca Sbisa, what are we going to do with you? More often than not, Sbisa just looks so lost out there and he’s turned more into comic relief for Vancouver fans and media alike. There are genius moments when we all react dumbfounded and there are his dumb moments when we just react in a sad laughter.

I am not sure how much longer I can deal with Sbisa but I know the Sedins have enough talent in those old bones to find a groove, so be like Stella and get your groove back…and oh yeah, SHOOT THE PUCK!

Tweet of the Day:

@strombone1 strikes again with another beauty and drags a once Roxy regular into it.

@strombone1 strikes again with another beauty and drags a once Roxy regular into it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up on Thursday, January 8th, Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers. I expect a good crowd at Rogers Arena and some “Lu’ing” to be happening. 

 

@Aviewfromabroad

Cody, we hardly knew ya. Trade of Hodgson was a surprise and a risk.

Cody Hodgson - Rich Lam / Getty Images
Cody Hodgson’s days in Vancouver are done. – Photo: Richard Lam/Getty Images

When I heard the news that Cody Hodgson had been traded, I can’t say I was genuinely shocked; disappointed would be more accurate. After patiently waiting as a fan for Hodgson to work his way through a back injury and a lack of ice time, this season saw the reward for that patience and perhaps a glimpse at the player the Canucks gave up today.

The depth on the Canucks had a lot to do with this trade. With Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler ahead of him, it was unlikely Hodgson would move up the depth chart in the near future. That depth issue alone could have been the fuel behind today’s move, but with a fan base that has seen few of its draft picks over the years really blossom into stars, you can excuse Canucks nation for being a little sad and somewhat skeptical today.

Zack Kassian may well prove to be a player himself. The 21 year old winger is big and strong but still finding his way in the NHL. He certainly adds some toughness to the lineup, but at the expense of Cody Hodgson’s offence, which isn’t expected to be countered by the addition of Samuel Pahlsson, a 34 year old defensive specialist. The Canucks may have been pushed around by the Bruins in last year’s finals, but they also had a problem scoring goals.

There is talk on the airwaves and online, speculation if you will, that Cody Hodgson or his representatives may have requested a deal. The Canucks of course are saying they don’t comment on internal matters, while Hodgson seemed genuinely stunned by the deal itself, besides expressing that it would be nice to be playing closer to home.

The jury is out on whether this was a good trade for the Canucks. Former Canucks coach Marc Crawford liked the deal saying that the Canucks addressed a need with the deal.

“Cody Hodgson is a better skill player than the skill player they brought back, but they need to be a playoff-style team,” Crawford said. “They’re going to have to play in very physical games in the playoffs. You need players like Samuel Pahlsson and Zack Kassian.”

Others, like Craig Button, thought the Canucks strayed from what makes them successful and pointed to a consistent cup contender in his reasoning.

“I’m not going to call the Vancouver Canucks losers, but when you have one series against the Boston Bruins (albeit an important one) continually in your mind and now you’re making moves based on that, I don’t like those types of moves. While Kassian is a big, strong winger, I think Hodgson is too good. The Detroit Red Wings never give up on their identity which is skill and competitiveness and Hodgson brings that,” Button said.

Hodgson’s progression with the Canucks was slowed by a back misdiagnosed back injury and his relationship with the team got odd to a bit of a rocky start. But it seemed as though all of that was behind both sides, and Hodgson was becoming the player the Canucks had hoped they had drafted. His name hadn’t really been mentioned in trade rumours leading up to the deadline.

So now Canucks fans sit and wait again, hoping that Zack Kassian develops into the player the Canucks think he can be for them.

They’ll also hope that the trade of offence for defence today will help them accomplish what they came within a game from doing last year.