Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Just noticed something...

Team Canada plays at 4:30, the Canucks play at 5:00. This sucks, but given how good this Canada/US tilt is gonna be, looks like there will be a lot of channel flipping in this house. Olympic announcement coming soon, see my picks over on the Blood On The Ice blog .

Canucks 2 Coyotes 3 (SO)

That was an odd game to say the least... Some positives out of that game, good compete level with a team that plays as tough at home as we do, the boys battled back in a close game and took it to OT, Samuelsson getting off the schnied, and Wellwood starting to get hot, another great game from Luongo. A lot of bounces that didn't go our way, some really bad discipline issues (burr and SOB, I'm looking at you two. WTF, dudes? Shake your heads.) and some of the most inconsistent officiating this season (how what Doan did isn't a penalty is more baffling than quantum physics to your average Oklahoma resident). The good thing is we kept pace with LA and the Flames and with a solid effort against the Blues Thursday night the Canucks can continue their march towards the division title.

Last night's game made me realize that I miss Jovocop more than Ohlund. The last 30 seconds of the game also made me realize that sometimes I don't think so clearly when I am sick. Talk about deja-vu, fortunately for the Coyotes the Canucks couldn't capitalize on the PP, as they did a hell of a job blocking the shot lanes and pressuring the Canucks shooters. They have what appears to be a hell of a team there in Phoenix right now. Shame that the whole drama of the last year seems to have soured the locals into not even caring they have a team that is winning for a change, as that was the reason we were told the support wasn't there. Pretty cool to see all those Canucks fans there, this is becoming a regular thing for a lot of these southern US road games, a healthy showing of the Blue & Green, too bad the boys couldn't reward them with two points.

Speaking of mind-boggling, what's stranger: The sheer number of high sticks Ryan Kesler takes to the face without getting the call, or Kevin Bieksa suffering another skate cut to the leg. Some say it's Kesler's yappiness and penchant for embellishing calls that keeps him from getting the benefit of the doubt, but this year especially the non-calls seem to be so much more blatant. I don't get it at all. As for Bieksa, his play hasn't been the same since he came back from the first injury a couple years ago. Does this mean he is gonna get worse, or better when he gets back. All of a sudden, putting Mathieu Schnieder on waivers doesn't seem too good an idea.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

GAME DAY: Canucks @ Flames

Fresh off a decisive 4-1 win over the slumping Edmonton Oilers to wrap up an 8 game home stand which saw them go 6-2, the Canucks are right back at it in a huge game tonight against the Flames at the Pengrowth Saddledome. With a win, the Canucks can vault past the Flames into 2nd in the Northwest and 7th place in the Western Conference. It certainly isn't going to be an easy one, and the Canucks will certainly need to bring a better effort than they did the last two meetings against Calgary. Both games saw the Flames dominate the Canucks in every aspect of the game. That being said, this certainly is not the same Canucks squad they faced back in October. Injuries were mounting then, but now the team is healthy and looking to start bringing the intensity of their home ice play on the road as February and March (and that ridiculous 14 game road trip) loom in the distance. Roberto Luongo was solid last night, and no doubt the Flames will look to start testing him early in the hopes that he is tired from playing the night before. The Canucks will need to match the Flames in the intensity and physicality department, and given the way their power play has been rolling lately, getting the Flames to take penalties by using their speed as they did against the Oilers last night will certainly help. The Flames have been stumbling of late, struggling to find goals amidst signs that Mikka Kiprusoff is cooling off his torrid play from earlier in the season. A team that seemed to be rolling in October and November is now searching for it's identity, still desperately trying to manufacture chemistry between Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen, and get some kind of scoring from anyone not named Bourque. The Canucks on the other hand have put together some decent games lately, 60 minute efforts against the likes of Washington, Los Angeles and Nashville, with balanced scoring to compliment the red hot Sedin twins and a D-core that seems to finally be finding it's legs, in spite of Kevin Bieksa and the Mathieu Schneider saga. I think you will see a tight, hard fought game, with the Canucks putting it away late as they show signs of one hitting the after burners at Christmas time again this year. Game goes at 5, PPV tonight, and on the air as always at

Canucks 4 Oilers 1

If you had asked me at the start of this 8 game home stand if I would be happy with the Canucks winning 6 of 8 I would have said sure. And while the two they lost should have been ones they won handily, overall it was a pretty decent run. With the Olympic road trip from hell looming, the Canucks need to continue to get as many points as possible at home, and hope that they can figure out why they're so bloody awful on the road.

Solid effort from all involved last night, heck I actually only recall cursing out Bieksa twice all game! Roberto Luongo had another strong game, giving up the one goal on what was esentially a perfect shot. The Oilers looked at times like the desperate team they are, but more often than not they showed what seemed like a general disinterest in the game. Nice to see Ehrhoff break out of his goal scoring slump on a beauty set up from Rick Rypien, now if Mikeal Samuelsson could get off the Schneid, we would be laughing. Kesler seemed to be channeling his inner Ryan Johnson last night, as his hard work and shot blocking seemed even more ferocious than normal. A couple nit picky things from last night: that was definitely a knee on knee hit on Kesler by Ryan Stone, horrible blown call there. The other is that it appears Henrik actually scored on a 2 on 1 late in the 3rd (not that it affected the game outcome, but this guy is in the running for the NHL's scoring title, would hate to see that be the reason he lost it). Once that gets posted to youtube, I will throw it on here. The NHL schedule makers have done us a solid once again, by scheduling a back to back night for us, with the rested Calgary Flames waiting in Cowtown for us.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

GAME DAY: Canucks vs. Blues

Game 6 of the 8 game home stand (and their 7th in 13 nights) stands to be an interesting one. So many possible ways this one could go. The Blues are struggling, a bit of a shock actually to see them near the basement in the West after the significant strides they made last season. That could see one of the following scenarios:
a)- The Canucks continue their strong home play, taking it to the Blues and getting a little revenge for a lopsided beating that St. Louis gave them in their last meeting.
b)- The Canucks look past the Blues to a match against the red hot Nashville Predators on Tuesday, and end up giving away an easy 2 points like they have so often to the Blues in years past.
c)- The scenario they said would never happen, the two teams battle hard and go to overtime, the Canucks lose, yet get a standing ovation from the GM Place faithful.

Snarky yes, but they already gave Kyle Wellwood a S.O. for scoring a goal, anything is possible this season and getting their first loser point of the season would probably get their butts outta the seats.

The Canucks will have that 6-1 embarrassment back on Nov. 10th fresh in their minds when they take on the Blues tonight, and it's a safe bet they won't be giving David Perron the kind of room he had that night, when he notched a hat trick. Since then, Perron has gone goalless in 16 of the 17 games the Blues have played, yet remains their leading scorer with 9 markers. The Blues are an offensively gifted team, yet sit last in goals scored with 78. I know what you're thinking; breakout game, right? Well this blogger hopes that this time the bottom dweller has their breakout against someone else.

One of the best parts about Friday night's victory over the Capitals was the team's defensive play. Willie Mitchell had one of his strongest performances of the season, limiting Alex Ovechkin to just 2 shots and the Caps to 27 total. Mitchell and his D counterparts will need to step up the way they did in the playoffs last year against the Blues and show them they do not have a chance of winning this one, and setting the tone with an early goal will help. Henrik Sedin continues his strong play, sitting in 3rd place in league scoring as he rides a 9 game point streak. Mason Raymond was stellar Friday night, notching 2 more goals to increase his career best totals as he moved past Alex Burrows into 3rd place in team scoring. The Canucks will need to be firing on all cylinders, as St. Louis is one of the best teams in the West when it comes to playing on the road at 8-3-3. Normally, with the Canucks PK being as bad as it's been this year (though it was incredible against the Caps and is getting better) I would caution against giving the Blues PP opportunites, but with St. Louis clicking along at 14% with the man advantage, this might not be an issue. Last meeting was also a nasty one, a number of fights and over 100 minutes in penalties, so expect the Canucks not to allow St. Louis to physically dominate them like they did in November. Roberto Luongo will get the start for the Canucks, while Chris Mason should get the nod for the Blues. Game time is at 7pm on Sportsnet Pacific and The Team 1040.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Grabner to the Moose, Demitra goes home

Micheal Grabner has been sent down to the farm for some conditioning games before making his way back into the Canucks lineup. Grabner has missed 20 games with an ankle injury he suffered playing soccer in a pre-game warmup. Pavol Demitra has gone back to Slovakia to see a back specialist who has treated him in the past, in addition to continuing his rehab with the Canucks medical staff. Demitra is looking at a late December/ early January return, after the back issues he is suffering from affected his range of movement.

Canucks 3 Capitals 2

Ovechkin 0. To say that was a lot of hype for what turned out to be an under-whelming performance is putting it mildly. Not to downplay an incredible effort from the Canucks (especially the Kesler line and the PK), but that was like finding a gigantic box under the christmas tree, opening it and finding a pair of underwear. But whatever, we saw more strong play from Luongo last night, as he continues to battle and even showed something I've never seen him do before. When he came out of the crease to get into Semin's face, I got goosebumps. That is the kind of compete level I want to see. Mason Raymond continues to be this year's Alex Burrows. AV and MG deserve all the credit in the world for allowing this kid the time and space to mature, and it's paying off in spades. Kesler played Ovechkin well last night, tenaciously, but not too aggressive. It's funny, but you have to play him the same way as Joe Thornton. Don't poke the bear and he will likely leave you alone. The Caps played a decent game, but the Canucks made the most of their opportunities, got a couple bounces and came through with a clutch goal (a lot of talk about that lately, huh?) when they needed it. Another day of rest before they take on the Blues in game 6 of the homestand. I know you're all dreading this one, as it reeks of deja-vu with the recent matchup against the Ducks. I think however you will not see a repeat, and given the nasty tone of that last game against St. Louis, this one should be a gooder.

Friday, December 18, 2009

GAME DAY: Canucks vs. Capitals

It's always a treat when one of the beasts from the East come to town (thank you Gary Bettman by building the game through lack of exposure to it's greatest talents), and tonight is no exception as Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals take on the Canucks at GM Place. Far from a one man show though, the Caps are near the top of the Eastern Conference with their scary offensive power and a rock solid D led by Mike Green, who should be in the lineup tonight after that hit from behind by Colorado goon David Koci. The Canucks will have their hands full trying to contain Ovi and his mates Nik Backstrom and Alexander Semin, as well as former Canucks C Brendan Morrison, who has seen his career reborn in DC, 9 goals and 24 points for the Pitt Meadows native. The Canucks will be looking to rebound from a disappointing loss to Anaheim on Wednesday as once again the team didn't get the clutch goal they needed to at least get a point after giving up the lead late. Roberto Luongo continued his strong play since returning from injury, and the Sedins are riding an 8 game point streak each heading into tonight's contest. Alex Edler is practicing with the team once again after hurting his shoulder, but likely won't play. Aaron Rome draws in as Mathieu Schneider will sit, as will Darcy Hordichuk, as the embattled Kyle Wellwood gets another shot at redemption tonight against the Caps. Former Hab and Avs goalie Jose Theodore will get the nod tonight against Luongo, puck drop is at 7 pm on TSN.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Canucks 3 Flyers 0

Just one night after an incredibly well-played road effort in New Jersey, the Canucks and Roberto Luongo went into the Comcast Center in Philly, and with Steve Yzerman in the stands, shutout the Flyers 3-0. A very well-rounded defensive effort by the Canucks (in spite of the shot total) as it seemed like the only Flyer who could really get a decent scoring chance was Aaron Asham, who was stoned by Bobby Lu SIX times. You almost feel sorry for the guy. Almost. Goals came from Willie Mitchell on a nice backhand shot off a rebound after Tanner Glass drove to the net (and got away with a little contact on Brian Boucher, which I think he tried too hard to sell), Alex Burrows (off his rear-end) and Christian Ehrhoff. The game wasn't without the traditional Flyers/Canucks ugliness however, most notably legendary D-bag Chris Pronger with a vicious 2 handed chop to the wrist of Ryan Kesler, and a spear by Daniel Briere on Mikeal Samuelsson that the league will likely be looking at given Briere just returned from a suspension for a stick foul, and is a repeat offender. Check out the video below (the spear wasn't detected on the Canucks PPV feed):

Pathetic. Could there be any greater proof that they need to eliminate the instigator penalty? Guys like Briere wouldn't dare try stuff like this if they knew they would be held accountable for their actions on the ice. Not surprised in the least however, as he has proven himself to be a True Flyer, buying in to their long tradition of thuggery and cheapshots (often referred to by those that would defend this garbage as 'old time hockey').

A day off before the ridiculous afternoon game on Saturday (really? 3 games in 4 days and the last one goes at 1:30pm local time? Why Mike Gillis was happy with this schedule is beyond me). That's 10:30 am for those of us here at home. So a lil hockey and a late breakfast, not a bad way to start your weekend, right? Expect Andrew Raycroft to get the start against the surprisingly bad Hurricanes. Sure they have injuries, but no one could have predicted the team would be floundering at the bottom of the NHL's barrel.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Getting it done in Jersey...

A strange one last night to be sure, as no one would have predicted that first period. But once again we see signs of the Canucks team we thought we would see starting to rear it's head. Not a flawless game by any stretch, but their execution overall, including focus on making high % plays as Coach V had discussed before the game with TSN's Ray Ferraro was pretty much bang on. The Sedins with Alex Burrows looked dangerous all night, and while the Devils admittedly didn't play well, it really looked like they struggled to contain the speed and tenacity of the Canucks offensively. Alex Edler had probably his best game of the season, and Shane O'Brien was tough albeit rusty as he drew into the lineup for the first time in 7 games as Mathieu Schneider sat the first half of this back to back. Luongo shook off a couple late first period goals and was flawless the rest of the way, the Canucks D helped by limiting the number of quality chances the Devils got, though he was huge when called upon. We all know that one game isn't going to decide the Olympic goalie question, but this one game certainly sends a message to Luongo's detractors that he is getting into a groove as the Games approach and will be ready if called upon to help lead Team Canada to victory.

So tonight it's the dreaded Flyers, whom we forever struggle against. But could this be a change in that pattern? The Broad Street Bullies have just one win in their last 6, and have not been the team many predicted this season so far. The Flyers have struggled to score this year, though they will get a boost as Daniel Briere returns tonight. They will need him, as the Flyers have scored a mere 12 goals in that 6 game span. Brian Boucher will get the nod for the Flyers tonight, who lost to the Canucks the last time they hosted them back in 2005. No word yet if Luongo will go back to back, though I think this would be a perfect opportunity to get Andrew Raycroft a little work. Luongo isn't going to get many opportunities to rest, and with a brutal December schedule that sees the Canucks play almost literally every 2nd night, they would do well to sit him tonight and have him back in Saturday morning against the Hurricanes. PPV tonight (Canucks are 3-1 in PPV games this year) and it seems that the Flyers are ripe for the picking. Let's hope they're not too tired to get a much needed win against the D-bags from Philly...