Tuesday, December 28, 2010

GM Sutter Steps Down in Calgary

Photo courtesy of Canadian Press
A move that should have taken place a year or two ago, Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter is stepping down as the team's GM, to be replaced by Jay Feaster. The changes comes amid a horrible season for the Flames who sit near the bottom of the division, conference, and league standings.  Unlike their provincial rival, the Flames are not re-building, as they have an older team that is bumping right up against the NHL's salary cap.

Re-acquisitions Olli Jokinen and Alex Tanguay have not panned out - much like many expected - and that combined with the Flames position in the standings likely sent Sutter packing.  Indeed, since a Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2004, the Flames have been ousted in the first round of the playoffs for a few years after, only to miss the playoffs altogether last year.  The team has been in decline for years and this action is probably long overdue for many in the 'Sea of Red'. 

When you look at some of Sutter's moves over the past few years, you wonder why this move did not come sooner.  The decision to trade for Olli Jokinen originally seemed like a decent plan to obtain a front line center for team captain Jarome Iginla.  That off-season however may have been the beginning of the end.  Calgary chose to keep Olli Jokinen and let Mike Cammalleri leave for Montreal - a move that in hindsight definitely appears to have backfired, as Cammalleri has flourished in Montreal while Jokinen sputtered.

To compound matters, the Flames traded Jokinen along with Brandon Prust for Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik.  Higgins left in the off-season and Kotalik was placed on waivers.  So for the original first round pick that was traded for Jokinen, the Flames lost Mike Cammalleri, Brandon Prust, Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik.  Even with the re-acquisition of Olli Jokinen in the off-season, that string of decisions appears to have been an unmitigated disaster.

In Sutter's defense, his acquisition of Miikka Kiprusoff provided some goaltending that the Flames hadn't seen since the Mike Vernon days, and he likely can't be criticized for the Jay Bouwmeester signing, as few could have predicted his struggles.

Regardless of the analysis of his individual decisions, and the numerous coaches he's used over the years (himself, Jim Playfair, himself, Mike Keenan, himself, Harvey the Hound, himself, Brent Sutter), Darryl's legacy will likely be spelled out over the coming year or two.  At this point, he can be remembered for reviving hockey in southern Alberta with a strong run in 2004.  Beyond that, some poor salary cap management and poor personnel decisions did the team no favours.  There may be a long rebuild in Calgary that begins this year or next, and it will be at that time when we can determine how big of a hole Darryl Sutter has dug the Calgary Flames.

For more information on the Flames struggles, Sportsnet's Mark Spector shared his thoughts a mere 10 days ago.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why Pavel Bure Left Vancouver

It's been quite a few years, but the issue of Pavel Bure's departure from Vancouver has recently resurfaced.  When Bure played for the Canucks and requested a trade, there was a lot of secrecy and mystery around the situation at the time.

As a kid in High School, I was more interested in the Canucks on the ice as opposed to off the ice.  Bure's reputation in Vancouver appeared to largely be that he was the amazing player that he is, but also someone who was horrible with fans and not much better with the media.

GM Mike Gillis (and former Pavel Bure agent) appeared on the TEAM 1040 recently and indicated (at least when reading between the lines) that Pavel's number will not be retired by the team.  Instead, the team will do something else special for him.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

NHL All-Star Ballot Needs Facelift

No, this isn't a rant about why Phoenix Coyotes' forward Paul Bissonette is ahead of the likes of Daniel Alfredsson and Ilya Kovalchuk and other much more talented and accomplished forwards in All Star voting this year.  That's the ability fans have to exercise their right to vote for whomever they like. 

What irks me is the ballot selection.  Inevitably every year there is a bit of an outcry about who is included on the ballot and who isn't. It's nice to see the NHL using the internet for this,and even being kind enough to include a write-in section, but why are we still living in the 1950's with the ballots?

Granted, I only had a minor in Political Science, but if this was a federal election, we'd have a list of a handful of candidates to choose from.  Not 37 candidates on the ballot, but maybe 5-10.  I like that they keep the crazies off that list from the fringe parties.  Maybe they limit the number that appear on there for that purpose, or logistical purposes because a paper ballot can only be so long.  Someone who knows the real reason - I welcome you to enlighten me.

I can only assume similar reasons exist with the NHL  Perhaps in the past it wasn't feasible to list more players.  Why else would they create a system where every year the names on the ballot seem to be decided before the season begins. Inevitably there is a bunch of players on the ballot who under perform or get injured, and there's always a handful of players who shine in the first half of the year, but are nowhere to be found on the ballot. (Carey Price, Alexander Semin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Claude Giroux, etc.).

Montreal Canadiens' D Andrei Markov is actually in the top 20 for all-star voting for Defense.  He's played three games all year.  I understand that fans would vote for him, but why is he even on the ballot?

Let's take another example.  Alexander Edler is top 10 in scoring amongst NHL Defensemen.  He's been the best defender on one of the better teams in the league.  Christian Ehrhoff from the Canucks has also been strong.  Yet despite their strong years this year and last, Dan Hamhuis is the Canucks' representative on the ballot.  This makes absolutely no sense.  Heck the injured and mediocre (when he was in the line up this year) Dion Phaneuf has four times the votes of Edler or Anaheim's super rookie Cam Fowler.  I'm not complaining about a disparity in votes based on fans preferences, but I think it's obvious that players on the ballot have a much greater chance of receiving a vote than a player not on the ballot, regardless of their play this season.

Thankfully fans are trying their best.  In fact, as ESPN's Pierre LeBrun points out, 43% of Defensemen are write-in ballots. 

I cannot figure out why the NHL cannot make use of some drop down menus to give all players a fair shot.  At least the NHL's fans are nice enough to poke fun at the system and vote for the likes of Paul Bissonnette - and who could forget the run that former Canucks defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick had as he gave Chris Pronger and Nicklas Lidstrom a run for their money towards being a start in the All-Star game.

The bottom line is, it's about time they made a more interactive ballot.  Computers can do some crazy things these days.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sidney Crosby's 'Dubious' Slew-foot

It's been a few days, but one story that is still persisting across the NHL blogosphere is Sidney Crosby and his alleged slew foot on New York Ranger's forward Ryan Callahan.  Earlier this week, the NHL's Poster Boy - Sidney Crosby - was the subject of some pointed comments by Rangers' forward Brandon Dubinsky,

Here's a replay of the play in question:

Brandon Dubinsky's comments were captured during an interview between periods as the Rangers and Penguins battled it out.

"That's a dirty play," Rangers center Brandon Dubinsky said of Crosby in a broadcast interview during the first intermission. "He's a guy who tries to get away with a lot of that stuff. He complains a lot."

"It's a play that the NHL has tried to get rid of," said Rangers Hall of Fame defenseman Brian Leetch, who now serves as a studio analyst on the team's broadcasts on MSG Network. "It's a dirty play."

When Crosby was interviewed about Dubinsky's comments, he offered the following:

"How many penalty minutes do I have this year?" Crosby asked. Answer: 15. "I'm not dirty. Please. Show me all those dirty plays. It's a battle. He falls. I think [Dubinsky] has done his fair share of things out there that are questionable. I guess he's talking again. I'm not surprised...It's a battle. He's holding me going up ice, and I'm trying to push him off. Is it that calculated? I'm trying to get to the net. I'm not worried about that kind of thing. I'm trying to get to the net and push him off. If I tripped him, I tripped him.  But am I a dirty hockey player? Come on. I think [Dubinsky's] smarter than that."

Enough debate has been made about the Crosby play.  It seems pretty tame overall.  Perhaps it was a slew foot but it does not seem incredibly pre-meditated.  The more interesting story here is the development of a rivalry between two players playing out through the media.

Similar to last year when Canucks' forward Ryan Kesler called then-Blackhawks forward Andrew Ladd a 'coward' for his opportunistic hit on Kesler during the 2009 playoffs.  Ladd caught Kesler without the puck with a hit to the head that went unpenalized.

These comments may be justified or unjustified in both cases, but without the likes of Chris Chelios, Brett Hull, and Jeremy Roenick, the NHL desperately needs some personality.  Media and fans grow weary of the boiler plate questions and answers in nightly post-game scrums, so little rivalries generated from these sound-bites make the games within the game all that more interesting.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pronger's Interference Making 'Waves'

Friday night, with the Philadelphia Flyers and Calgary Flames knotted at two, and the Flyers on the power play in overtime, Chris Pronger was screening Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff.  The Flyers thought they had scored the game winning goal off the stick of Mike Richards seconds later, but Pronger was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty due to his antics in front of the net.  With his back turned, Pronger waved his hand in front of Kiprusoff with similar intent to what Sean Avery did to Martin Brodeur in the 2008 NHL Playoffs.

Below is video of the Pronger incident, the Avery incident from 2008, and a very similar Brendan Shanahan play after Avery's which was not deemed to be a penalty.

Shanahan's act is closest to Prongers, so clearly they either blew the Shanahan call before, or blew the Pronger call Friday night.

Here's a copy of the Avery Rule : "An unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty (Rule 75) will be interpreted and applied, effective immediately, to a situation when an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender and engages in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender's face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender as opposed to positioning himself to try to make a play."

Here is the Philadelphia telecast's call of the controversial call.

You be the judge, did the referees get the call right or wrong?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What are Canada's Stanley Cup Chances?

A quarter of the way through the 2010-11 NHL Season, there have been some surprises, but also a lot of correct predictions that have some prognosticators tooting their own horn, and some scratching their heads in disbelief.  One question inevitably raised before each NHL season is 'will Canada's Stanley Cup drought end this year?' and 'Which Canadian team is most likely to end that drought?'

Let's review the six Canadian teams thus far, in order of their likelihood to take home the Stanley Cup according to PuckWatch, and see whether or not they are on their predicted course.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Colin Campbell - Stephen Walkom Emails Leaked

Many thanks to @JeffMarek for tweeting about a Tyler Dellow article, who runs mc79hockey.com. Tyler has trolled CanLII for interesting cases involving the NHL. In his own words, "it’s generally lousy stuff - a lot of bad divorces - but every so often you find something awesome".

Reading over the emails made available through former NHL referee Dean Warren's labour relations case with the league, Dellow yields some incredible information shared via email between NHL's Colin Campbell, and the NHL's Director of Officiating at the time, Stephen Walkom.

Some highlights from the article include

  • Colin Campbell's attempts to get Warren fired, and criticisms of other officials
  • Campbell's disdain for "little fake artist" Marc Savard
  • Campbell's scrutiny over his son (Gregory Campbell)'s games
This could become a big story in the coming days.

Here again is the link to Dellow's article

Saturday, November 13, 2010

NHL's West Dominates East

CBC's Jim Hughson published a great article today highlighting some interesting statistics between the NHL's Western and Eastern Conference teams.  It appears as if the West is dominant - and that should not be a surprise - but what might be a surprise is just how wide the gap appears to be.

Last season the West was 66 wins over .500 against the East, and only three teams (Dallas, Edmonton and Columbus) had losing records against the opposite conference. All three missed the playoffs.

Already this season the West is 35-15-7 against the East through Wednesday's games.

Since the start of the 2005 season (post-lockout), the West is 574-359-114 for a .603 winning percentage against the East.

Hughson lists a few reasons for the dominance, including a defence first style in the West vs. offence in the East due to high level draft picks - but I beg to differ.

Sure, Washington and Pittsburgh have traditionally been built around offence in the past few years, but if you look at the playoff bound teams in the Eastern Conference in recent years, the defense first New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres are always in the mix.  Philadelphia seems to be a blend of defense and offense, with only Washington and the suffering traditional non-playoff teams like Tampa Bay and Atlanta relying too much upon offense and not defence.

If you look at the Western Conference, there are not a lot of defense-first hockey clubs at the top.  Teams like San Jose, Chicago, Detroit and Vancouver have always been known for a blend of offence and defence.  Those teams are just more well rounded.

I must admit, I did laugh a bit before the regular season when many predicted the Washington Capitals to win the Stanley Cup.  Is their offense that dynamic that it will overcome their questionable defense and rookie goaltender?

I would be much more inclined to pick a team like Philadelphia out of the East again.  However, if the Capitals do make the Stanley Cup Finals, could they shut down a team with the depth of Detroit or Vancouver or Chicago?  All three of those Western teams have incredible depth in their forward lines and on defence, and solid goaltenders.  When you throw Los Angeles, St. Louis and San Jose into the mix, the Western Conference has a lot of strength.  Even the teams fighting for the last few spots could really do some damage.  The Colorado Avalanche lead the league in goal scoring, and you can never count out Anaheim or perhaps even Dallas from making an impression this year.

Hughson is right about one thing - the Western Conference teams need to load up just to compete.  When you look at the East, the bottom teams in the top 8 would likely be nestled at the bottom of the Western Conference.  Imagine if the league had a more interlocking schedule where the weaker teams in the East did not have the chance to play each other six times a year.  The point spread by season's end would be staggering.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Leafs' GM Brian Burke: All bark, no bite

Leafs GM Brian Burke is facing a lot of criticism these days in Toronto.  After reading Mark Spector's recent article on Sportsnet.ca, I felt compelled to lend my two cents on the controversial figure's tenure in the NHL.  Normally I don't do this, but I felt the need to rant.

When Brian Burke was the GM of the Vancouver Canucks,I felt he did a good job.  But as a Vancouverite, I'd been used to sub-par hockey for the majority of the Canucks' existence.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Anisimov, Brassard Lead Must-Have Sleeper List

If your fantasy hockey league team is suffering from unexpected injuries (Dion Phaneuf, Drew Doughty, Brian Rafalski), or expected injuries (Marian Gaborik, Sami Salo, Simon Gagne), you should have a headache when pondering your team's early season failures.  The silver lining in struggling through injuries is that you may be able to snag some players off the waiver-wire, to replace these injured players, or to correct the error of your ways if you drafted Devon Setoguchi.  Either way, if these players are hanging around your waiver wire, or if you can swing a deal or two, nab these youngsters.  These wunderkind weren't necessarily the super sexy pre-season draft picks like Jordan Eberle or Taylor Hall, but they've acquitted themselves extremely well early in the young season and should be scooped up before it's too late.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Avalanche F Chris Stewart flies under radar

A quick glance at any pre-season prognosticators lists of top scorers likely did not include Colorado Avalanche forward Chris Stewart.  Stewart enjoyed a marvelous campaign last year, amassing 28 goals and 64 points in 77 games.  As impressive as that is, it does not really tell the full story.  See, Stewart, a first round pick (18th overall) in 2006 accomplished that in his first full season in the league.  He even began last year's campaign rather slowly when he was mired on one of the bottom lines in Colorado, with one goal and five assists in the first 18 games of the year.  After a 5-2 loss against Vancouver where he played only eight minutes, the Avalanche moved Stewart to their top line, and they haven't really looked back.

Since that game, Stewart recorded 27 goals and 58 points in his next 59 games.  That would put him on pace for about a 40 goal, 80 point campaign.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Doughty heads list of slow starters

The NHL season is only a couple of weeks old, but if you've been following the NHL, you may have noticed some of the game's biggest names mysteriously absent from the leader board in scoring.  In fact, many high profile stars are off to such lousy starts that they've been scratched for mysterious reasons (Ilya Kovalchuk).

Some are forwards, some are defencemen. They all impact your fantasy hockey team, or office hockey pool. Here are the top ten slow starters this season as determined by PuckWatch.

Cory Schneider Earning His Keep

Is it too soon to say there's a goaltending controversy in Vancouver?  Okay, maybe it is.

Luongo is not at risk of losing his starting job, but backup goaltender Cory Schneider has played two great games on home ice, backstopping the Vancouver Canucks to identical 5-1 wins over the Carolina Hurricanes and the Minnesota Wild.

On Friday night, Schneider stopped 23-24 shots and appeared well composed and in great position.  He was on pace to record a shutout until the Wild got a late goal with just over two minutes left.  Schneider has been one of the season's early highlights for Vancouver, who has endured a slow start out of the gates this year.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rick Rypien Attacks Fan

Not only was it ugly on the scoreboard tonight for Vancouver, but Canucks' forward Rick Rypien will most likely be hearing from the National Hockey League after his altercation with a fan that will most likely result in a suspension.

The Canucks posted a season worst effort in a disheartening 6-2 loss, where they collapsed in the first period giving up three goals.  Roberto Luongo allowed 6 goals on 17 shots, but the real story involved Rick Rypien's altercation with a fan.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Andrew Alberts proving his value

It's been an interesting year for Vancouver Canucks' defenseman Andrew Alberts, but after a strong off season training regimen, he is asserting himself on the Canucks' blueline.

Last year towards the trading deadline, Alberts was dealt from the struggling Carolina Hurricanes to the playoff bound Vancouver Canucks - but the good news did not last.  Alberts was an instant goat in Vancouver for frequent giveaways, poor defensive play, and horrible penalties that resulted in power play goals against, especially in last year's playoffs.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

NHL's own 'Obscene Gesture'

Chicago Blackhawks D Niklas Hjalmarsson hits Buffalo's Jason Pomminville
The NHL is starting off this season the way it conducted itself most of last year - making odd decisions regarding suspensions with surprisingly little knowledge or regard for previous offences, or what actually is harmful to the game.

During a matinee game earlier this week, New York Islanders' Defenceman James Wisniewski was suspended for two games for making an 'obscene gesture' toward New York Rangers' super pest Sean Avery.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wisniewski makes 'obscene gesture' to Sean Avery

Anyone watching the Rangers @ Islanders game on Sunday afternoon might have seen quite the gesture from Islanders' Defenceman James Wisnieswki.  Wisniewski was standing near the Islanders' net when Sean Avery approached, and the two began chirping back and forth.  The Islanders' new defenceman then made an obscene gesture towards Sean Avery that was caught on tape.

TSN is reporting that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was in attendance but did not happen to see the incident when it happens. 

Rangers' fowrard Sean Avery is often at th ecenter of controversy.  Of course he may actually have a right to be annoyed if the league does nothing to Wisniewski for his actions on Sunday.

Avery was only 23 games into a US$15.5-million, four-year deal with the Dallas Stars in December 2008 when Bettman suspended him for six games for a crude remark Avery made about ex-girlfriends dating other hockey players. That incident ended Avery's time with the Stars and led to his return to the Rangers that season after a stint in the minor leagues. Avery also underwent counselling for anger management
"It's pretty obvious what the guy was doing," Avery said of Wisniewski, "but I'm sure nothing will happen to him because nothing ever happens. It's interesting, he'd get a warning for something like that. "Can you imagine if I did that? They sent me to rehab the last time I did something. It's crazy."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Canucks' Larscheid Fired from TEAM 1040

In what appears to be a potential Public Relations nightmare, the beloved Vancouver Canucks colour commentator for the past 33 years has been released - his last game to be versus Los Angeles this Saturday - due to what appears to be the result of posturing prior to a bid for Canucks radio broadcast rights, and the result of censorship.

Iain MacIntyre reports that Larscheid will call his last game this Saturday.  Larscheid was an Americanborn former football player when he was hired in 1977 to work with play-by-play icon Jim Robson on Canuck broadcasts.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

EA Sports: Canucks to win Stanley Cup

EA Sports' yearly simulation of the NHL's regular season concludes that the Vancouver Canucks will end their drought and hoist the Stanley Cup.  The game that predicted last spring’s Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup victory has called for the same team to be knocked out of the first round of the playoffs this year.  While at the same time the Vancouver Canucks look to dominate the season and leave all teams in their wake en route to their first Stanley Cup victory since they were named the Millionaires back in 1915.

Many in the media have predicted the Canucks are pre-season favourites to hoist the cup.  Time will tell if this team is equipped to shoulder the load of expectations heaped on them thus far.

According to EA Sports, the Canucks will beat the Calgary Flames, St. Louis Blues, and Los Angeles Kings en route to an exciting seven game finale against the Boston Bruins, where Daniel Sedin will earn Conn Smythe honours.

Canucks cap woes: re-assign Schneider, Tambellini, Bolduc

As Canucks.com is reporting, the Vancouver Canucks have recalled D Lee Sweatt, and re-assigned G Cory Schneider, F Jeff Tambellini, and F Alexandre Bolduc.  This is a somewhat curious move, but can be explained by the Canucks need to be under the salary cap before the year begins.

Cory Schneider was slotted to be Roberto Luongo's backup for the season, and undoubtedly will be.  So why was he sent to Manitoba?  Well according to Dan Murphy of Rogers' Sportsnet. the Canucks are going to activate Alexandre Burrows and Sami Salo for the first game of the year, just so they can put them on Long-Term injury to get their salaries off the books.  It's a bit of a quirky move by Canucks' 'salary capologist' Laurence Gillman to ensure the best long-term strategy for the Canucks.

Monday, October 4, 2010

NHL Fantasy Hockey Draft Tips

Sitting atop the standings by season’s end usually takes a little bit of luck.  Avoiding injuries, and predicting who will have a career year can literally make or break your chances.  Stick to our plan, and you’ll guarantee yourself a finish at or near the top.  By following some simple principles, you can ensure you’re in the money.  Let’s start with 7 simple rules to beat your friends and show up your coworkers.  These 7 tricks will mean the difference between being the laughing stock of your office and the subject of ridicule, or the person collecting some crisp bills and bragging rights.

Morrison signs with Flames

Brendan Morrison is a man without a contract no longer.  One day after being released by the Vancouver Canucks, Brendan Morrison has chosed to sign with one of their main rivals, the Calgary Flames.

Morrison will likely play on one of the top two lines in Calgary and may even get some time against a man he used to make a living against checking closely, Jarome Iginla.

As TSN is reporting, The Flames have been looking to add a centre after a rash of injuries struck them down the middle.  Daymond Langkow, Matt Stajan and David Moss are all expected to miss time, while Olli Jokinen just returned from a back muscle injury.  Morrison should add some veteran experience and play-making ability and may well work his way on to one of the Flames' top two lines.

The deal is for one year and is worth a reported $725,000. 

While the Flames are looking to fill holes created by injuries, the Canucks meanwhile look to reduce their roster by as many as five more players before opening night.

Here's a clip of arguably the biggest goal of Morrison's career, a triple overtime winner for the Canucks against the Flames in the playoffs a few years back.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Canucks waive O'Brien & Hordichuk

On Saturday, the Vancouver Canucks waived Shane O'Brien and Darcy Hordichuk.  Likely due to salary cap constraints, and solid competition for their roles, the two hard-nosed players will see if anyone claims them, before potentailly reporting to the Manitoba Moose.

Darcy Hordichuk saw spot duty on the fourth line for most of last year, taking on the tougher foes and defending his teammates, but not providing much else other than an untimely hooking call.  That was the bad side of Hordichuk, the good side was his team play and his contributions in the community - which were greatly appreciated by the team and their fans.

Shane O'Brien meanwhile enjoyed a more permanent role with the club, but did fall out of favour for what reportedly included showing up late for practice a couple of times and for potentially enjoying himself too much socially.

What does this mean for their future? Well, the Canucks may have the option of having them play for the Manitoba Moose.  What this likely means however is that either Aaron Rome or Andrew Alberts wil occupy the last two spots on defence, after Edler, Ehrhoff, Hamhuis, Ballard and Bieksa.

Other NHL teams will have an opportunity to claim O'Brien or Hordichuk, but odds are that their contracts may prohibit them from being picked up.  Of course, they could serve as injury recalls and will likely see some time with the Canucks this year if they do report to Manitoba.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Savard, Streit lead NHL injury headlines

If you are preparing for a Fantasy Hockey League, your Office Pool, or paying attention to your favourite team, you should be aware of some injury woes being felt throughout the league at present.  While Andrei Markov was injured some time ago, recent additions to the list include New York Islanders' D Mark Streit, and F Kyle Okposo, as well as the ongoing saga of Marc Savard in Boston.

Here is a breakdown of some of the key injuries across the league that may have an impact on your pool / draft in the days to come.

Anaheim Ducks – Joffrey Lupul – Day to Day

Atlanta Thrashers – Patrice Cormier – out indefinitely

Boston BruinsMarco Sturm – 2 months, Marc Savard – out indefinitely.

Calgary FlamesDaymond Langkow - out indefinitely, Matt Stajan – out indefinitely.

Minnesota WildJames Sheppard – out indefinitely, Josh Harding – out for season

Montreal CanadiensAndrei Markov – out indefinitely

New York IslandersMark Streit – out indefinitely (6 months), Kyle Okposo - out indefinitely

New York RangersChris Drury – Out four (4) weeks

Philadelphia FlyersChris Pronger – day to day, Michael Leighton – out four (4) weeks

Pittsburgh PenguinsJordan Staal – Out 4-6 weeks

Tampa Bay LightningPaul Ranger – out indefnitely

Vancouver CanucksAlexandre Burrows – Out 1-2 months, Sami Salo - out indefinitely (at least December).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Canucks' Sweatt, Connauton Impress

Canucks' Sergei Shirokov comes to Daniel Sedin's aid
After a meaningless 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers, Alain Vigneault cut his team some slack.  Having played two games in two nights, there were bound to be some tired legs.  Well, there were actually three games in two nights, but that's just too weird for words.

As is typical in pre-season NHL games, the team playing more veterans tends to lose.  Probably due to the vets breaking themselves in slowly, working on their timing and line combinations, they seem to go through the motions a bit while the youngsters work their tails off to earn a job.  It's fairly predictable that the group with more people with jobs on the line will win the night.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Roberto Luongo relenquishes Canucks' Captaincy

As has been long speculated, the Vancouver Canucks Goaltender Roberto Luongo has surrendered his captaincy before the start of the upcoming 2010-11 season.  As TSN is reporting, Luongo decided to step down to reduce distractions and focus on winning a championship.

Luongo was criticized unfairly last year for comments he made about the team play, but when you're team captain and asked what went wrong, how much are you allowed to say as a goaltender?

In a market like Vancouver, Luongo's words were scrutinized regularly. If he made a comment about the team's defence, some people believed he was criticizing the players' performance.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

GM Place now Rogers Arena

What has been known as General Motors Place in Vancouver since 1995 will now be known as Rogers Arena.  That's right, in TELUS' own backyard, Rogers snuck in and purchased the name of GM Place after the contract with General Motors expired.

The deal reportedly involves communications rights as well, while GM will continue to have contests and other tidbits within the arena itself.

As the Globe and Mail reports, Rogers becomes the first company in Canucks history to have partnered on arena naming rights, telecommunications sponsorship and broadcast rights, via Rogers Sportsnet, at one time. The Canucks said Rogers would work with them on “new and innovative” ways to connect with fans.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Canucks' Free Agent Wishlist

In Part 1 of our series, we looked at the Canucks' Offseason Gameplan - Forwards, analyzing their current talent and depth chart.  In Part Two of our series, we reviewed the Canucks' Offseason Gameplan - Defence and reviewed their depth on the back end, and what the future holds for both the team and the individuals that comprise their blueline.

In the third installment of the series, we synthesize the Canucks needs, and provide them with some options that are presently available via free agency.

As Part One demonstrated, the Canucks have scoring depth, but lack size and depth in their bottom six.  GM Mike Gillis has come out and said that their third line needs to get bigger, so let's look at some options out there.

Canucks' Offseason Gameplan - Defence

We continue our look at the Vancouver Canucks as they look to fill out their roster prior to training camp.  In the first section, we looked at the Vancouver Canucks' Offseason Gameplan at Forward.  Now before we look at who is available via free agency, let's look at their defence.  With the recent addition of Keith Ballard, the Canucks certainly have some options on the back end, but are they done adding to their line up?  Perhaps more importantly, are they deep and talented enough to compete with the Chicago Blackhawks in the ultra-tough Western Conference?

Let's take a look at who is under contract for next season, and their depth chart.

Canucks' Offseason Gameplan - Forwards

Before the July 1st Free Agency period begins for the NHL, let's take a look at the Vancouver Canucks roster, and where areas they are likely to address, as well as some favourable options available to them.

Line #1 - D. Sedin - H. Sedin - Burrows
The Canucks top line will likely remain intact, with reigning Hart Trophy winner Henrik Sedin centering Daniel Sedin and spark plug Alexandre Burrows.  While Burrows may miss some time early with off-season surgery, this line should be together for the season, with occasional tinkering a la Mikael Samuelsson.

Breaking down the Ballard deal

At the NHL Entry Draft this past weekend, the Vancouver Canucks pulled off the largest deal of the day with the Florida Panthers.

The Canucks sent forwards Steve Bernier, Michael Grabner, and their 1st Round pick (25th overall) to the Panthers in exchange for Defenceman Keith Ballard, and forward Viktor Oreskovich.

Many Vancouver fans and members of the media feel that the Canucks overpaid, and that is probably true - but let's analyze the deal a bit more.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Henrik Sedin wins Hart Trophy

Vancouver Canucks' forward and Art Ross Trophy winner Henrik Sedin has added to his trophy case tonight.  The man who led the Canucks to a Division title and led the NHL in points this year was awarded the NHL's Hart Memorial Trophy as the league's most valuable player.

Edging out Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby surprised some and certainly comes as an extreme honour to Henrik Sedin.  In typical Sedin twin fashion however, he deflected the praise worthy of a Hart winner, stating that Ovechkin and Crosby were the two best players in the league, and how excited he is to be mentioned in the same breath as them and the previous greats who won the trophy.

Will Blackhawks miss Byfuglien?

Chicago Blackhawks Dustin Byfuglien has been traded to the Atlanta Thrashers Wednesday night.

As part of an 8 player deal, Byfuglien heads to Atlanta along with Ben Eager, Brent Sopel, and prospect Akim Aliu (you can read up on him here).  Aliu is touted by some as a very underrated prospect, while Eager and Sopel are obviously useful journeymen at this stage.  Heading back to Chicago are the Thrashers 1st round pick, (24th overall), a 2nd round pick, prospect Jeremy Morin , and journeyman forward Marty Reasoner.

As TSN.ca reports, Byfuglien, 25, had 17 goals and 17 assists in 82 games with Chicago last season. He became a hero to Chicago fans in the playoffs with clutch performances and five game-winning goals during the Blackhawks' post-season run.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Blackhawks angry over Pronger's antics

No sympathy for the Devil.  While Canucks fans are all too familiar with Chris Pronger's antics, the Chicago Blackhawks are now experiencing them first hand.  Philadelphia Flyer Chris Pronger has been at his best - or worst - depending on how you look at it.  Pronger has been cross checking, slashing, interfering, you name it - all in an effort to get the Chicago Blackhawks off their game and turn the tide of the Stanley Cup Final series.

Mission accomplished.  The Blackhawks are as pre-occupied with Chris Pronger as the Vancouver Canucks were with Dustin Byfuglien.  CBC reported before Game Five that the Blackhawks have been complaining to the league about Pronger's style of play going undisciplined, and apparently after Game 4 especially.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Is There a Purpose to Pronger Stealing the Pucks

Chris Pronger is once again at the centre of media attention. This time it is for his interesting antics at the end of games one and two. After games one and two, both Flyers losses to the Blackhawks, Pronger felt the need to steal the game pucks.

This led to an incident after game two when the Blackhawks Ben Eager confronted Pronger.

"He's been picking up pucks after the game, and I just told him he can keep it," Eager explained. Eager went on to say that it is no big deal and that the Blackhawks could care less if Pronger takes the pucks after the Flyers lose.

Call it gamesmanship, or deflecting media attention away from his team, but the fact is Chris Pronger is being Chris Pronger. His actions did not resemble those of a playoff warrior, or even a grown man, they resembled behavior one would expect to find on an elementary school playground. It was nothing more than Pronger being a sore loser. The fact that this is even news is baffling in itself.

Here is an excerpt from Pronger's interview:

What happened?

"I couldn't hear him, I don't speak gibberish," said Pronger, who picked up a misconduct penalty at the very end and got into it with Eager.

Where's the puck, Pronger was asked.

"It's in the garbage," Pronger replied. "Where it belongs."

You shot a towel at Eager when he complained?

"So what," Pronger replied.

You're collecting pucks now?

"Why not? What's wrong? It's sitting there. What else is gonna happen to it? It's sitting there. Sure, why not. You got a problem with that?"

Are you gonna sell it on eBay?

"I don't know. Apparently, it got him upset. So I guess it worked, didn't it? It's too bad. I guess little things amuse little minds."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Canucks ink Cory Schneider & Anton Rodin

TSN is reporting that the Vancouver Canucks have inked G Cory Schneider to a 2-year deal worth $900,000 per year.  It is a one-way contract and likely spells the end of Andrew Raycroft's time in Vancouver.

Schneider, 24, played 60 games for the AHL's Manitoba Moose last season, collecting a career-high 35 wins, along with a .919 save percentage and four shutouts.

Canucks' fans may remember Schneider played two NHL games for the Canucks, including a marvelous performance against the Dallas Stars.  He was credited with a loss, but stood on his head in making 45 saves in a 2-1 loss.  At one point in that game that Canucks were outshot 40-16, while only trailing 1-0.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Canucks Sign Yann Sauve, Two Other Defensemen

The Vancouver Canucks announced on Monday that they have signed defensemen Yann Sauve, Lee Sweatt, and Chris Tanev. The terms of the deals were not revealed.

Yann Sauve was the Canucks second round pick (41st overall) in the 2008 draft. The 20 year old Sauve finished the season with 7 goals, 29 assists and a + 42 in 61 games for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL.

Lee Sweatt and Chris Tanev were both free agents. Sweatt, a 24 year old from Elburn Illinois, spent time with both Riga Dynamo of the KHL, and TPS Turku in the FNL in Finland. He recorded seven points in 37 games in Riga, and 16 points in 21 games with Turku.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tampa Bay Lightning Announce Steve Yzerman is their New GM

The Tampa Bay Lightning have announced that former Detroit Red Wings captain and executive Steve Yzerman is their new General Manager. The Lightning have been on a steady decline since winning the Stanley Cup six years ago.

The Lightning fired GM Brian Lawton and coach Rick Tocchet back on April 12. They have now filled one of the two positions.

Steve Yzerman brings a wealth of hockey experience as well as a reputation of being one of the classiest and most decent people in all of sports. Most recently Yzerman was the General Manager of team Canada's gold medal winning hockey team at the Vancouver Olympics.

This is a great move by the Lightning, which also has a bright future with rising stars like Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman. With Yzerman at the helm the Lightning will certainly be a factor in the NHL in the near future.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Kings Coach Mark Hardy arrested for sexual assault

Los Angeles Kings Assistant Coach Mark Hardy has been arrested for sexual abuse on a complaint from a woman in her 20's.  The Los Angeles Times is reporting

One source, TMZ.com, has reported that the woman was Hardy’s daughter. Hardy has a daughter, Jessica, who attends Georgetown University. He reportedly was taken into custody at the Mayflower Hotel.

The Los Angeles Kings are reeling with the news of this story and have offered the following thus far. 

"We are aware of the charge. Due to the legal nature of this matter, we will not have any additional comments at this time."

Hardy's daughter has allegedly claimed that her father, Mark, placed his hand down her shorts in a sexual manner.  Further details as to the location or time when these events are to have occured are not presently available.

Hardy played for the Kings from 1979-88 and again from 1992-94 and has twice served as an assistant coach.  The Los Angeles Kings were eliminated from this year's playoffs in the first round against the Vancouver Canucks.

More to follow...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Montreal Reporter's Car a Victim of Vandalism

Shortly after Game One of the Montreal - Philadelphia Conference Final serires, Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette returned to his car in the parking lot, only to find it had been seriously vandalized.
As reported by the Toronto Sun, Hickey's car had it's license plate and other objects torn from it after the Flyers' victory, only to have Hickey file a police report and be prompted to show it to authorities multiple times on his way back to Canada.

IIHF apologizes for ignorance

The IIHF President Rene Fasel apologized today for a ridiculous article posted on it's website entitled "Saying No To Your Country.  Fasel apparently called Pat Brisson, Crosby's agent, to apologize for the references in the article for his unwillingness to join Team Canada in Germany after he and his Pittsburgh Penguins were eliminated from the NHL Playoffs.  TSN is reporting that the story, written by IIHF communications director Szymon Szemberg, said players who chose not to participate were turning "their backs not only on the team and its fans but also to the system which developed them and made them rich and famous."

Among those peeved by the article include Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, and undoubtedly numerous NHL players and their fans due to the tone and intent of the article.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Blackhawks eliminate Canucks yet again

It was a night full of mixed emotions at GM Place last night in Vancouver. For Canucks fans, their season came to an end yet again at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks. Unlike last year, the ending was not such a surprise as the series developed. Last season of course, the Canucks were moments away from a 3-1 series lead before collapsing in a matter of 4-5 days and losing the series.

This year, the Canucks should have been up 2-0, but failed to protect a lead and then failed to maintain their composure for games three and four at home and wound up down 3-1 against a solid Blackhawk squad. At the point, many Canucks fans had their hopes dashed as the proverbial writing was on the wall.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Canucks prepare for Game 6 vs Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks team motto is ‘one goal’, and thankfully for the Vancouver Canucks, that’s all the Blackhawks got in Game Five. Game Six will have to be similar if the Vancouver Canucks are to realize their goal of forcing a decisive Game Seven back in Chicago on Thursday night.

For the Canucks, they will likely be without Sami Salo and will have to insert Laurence Nycholat into the lineup. Nycholat is a veteran but has not played much for the Canucks this year. With Salo and Mitchell out, the Canucks blue line will have to be especially sharp and need continued strong contributions from the likes of Christian Ehrhoff, Kevin Bieksa, Alexander Edler, and the bottom three, Shane O’Brien, Laurence Nycholat and Andrew Alberts.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Salo suffers Ruptured Testicle

Vancouver Canucks' D Sami Salo has suffered a ruptured testicle in Sunday's Game 5 win in Chicago.  Salo blocked a shot late in the first period from Duncan Keith that initially appeared to be a wrist or abdominal injury.  He lay prone on the ice for quite some time, writhin in pain in fact, before being escotred to the ice.  Speculation was that me may return but that was quickly put to bed as he was taken on a stretcher to a Chicago hospital for further evaluation.

TSN is now reporting, as is the TEAM 1040 radio in Vancouver that Salo suffered a ruptured testicle.  There is no further word at this time on his status.  However, according to a quick google search, a "testicular rupture [...] is a rare type of testicular trauma. This can happen when the testicle receives a forceful direct blow or when the testicle is crushed against the pubic bone (the bone that forms the front of the pelvis), causing blood to leak into the scrotum. Testicular rupture, like testicular torsion and other serious injuries to the testicles, causes extreme pain, swelling in the scrotum, nausea, and vomiting. To fix the problem, surgery is necessary to repair the ruptured testicle."

 Salo's absence for Game 6 likely means Aaron Rome will draw back into the lineup.  O'Brien will be fine from his six stitches he received and will likely play alongside Christian Ehrhoff while Alexandre Edler may be paired with either Aaron Rome or Kevin Bieksa, leaving Alberts with Bieksa or Rome on the third pairing.

NOTES: This injury would be Sami Salo's 39th in his career.  Poor Salo made it quite awhile in this post-season before suffering a set-back.  Hopefully his recovery is as speedy as his slap shot.

Canucks rally to force Game 6

The Vancouver Canucks appear to have learned their lesson - for at least one evening.  Game 5 unfolded nearly perfectly for the Vancouver squad.  They scored early and did not sit back and Roberto Luongo had a solid game en route to a 4-1 win.

So what were the keys to Vancouver's win?

Well, for starters they finally drove to the front of the net with a purpose.  Alexandre Burrows was especially prevalent.  Parked perfectly in front of Niemi for Ehrhoff's 1-0 goal and Kevin Bieksa's 3-0 goal, Burrows also added an empty netter to cinch the victory.  Burrows effort was perhaps only surpassed by Kevin Bieksa and Shane O'Brien who had memorable evenings on defense.  Canucks D Sami Salo suffered an injury early in the game and the rest of the Canucks defense was forced into increased action.  Kevin Bieksa showed his potential on this evening to be a game-breaking defenseman as he joined the rush for an important 2-0 goal and added another on his powerplay tally late in the second period to push the Canucks ahead 3-0.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Canucks' Luongo "second best goaltender on the ice"

7uongo, Reboundo Luongo, you name it, he's heard it this season.

After winning a gold medal for Team Canada, some detractors changed their minds and felt that Roberto Luongo could win 'the big game', but 10 games into another post-season, the Canucks and their netminder are floundering.

In their second round series against Chicago, the poor statistics are endless.  Head Coach Alain Vigneault called Luongo 'the second best goaltender on the ice' tonight when asked about his performance.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

NHL admits Blackhawks' goal was bad call

Darren Dreger of TSN tweeted earlier today that the fifth goal in last night's Canucks - Blackhawks game should not have counted. The NHL's supervisor of officials, Terry Gregson, conferred with the referees and in hind sight acknowledged that the goal should have been disallowed.

The reason for the 'missed call' is unknown, but Dreger and TSN speculate that the referees were distracted by looking for the puck at the goal line rather than the players and their positioning. While the referees may have missed it, it's hard to comprehend for Canucks fans who all saw it clear as day as it happened.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

NBC falls for Canucks Pizza Crawl in Chicago

As if they hadn't learned enough from Ryan Miller prank calls during the Olympics, NBC in Chicago has fallen for a prank yet again.

As reported by Deadspin.com, Canucks Shane O'Brien and Kyle Wellwood were implicated in a satirical article posted by Hockey Independent  where it is jokingly asserted that the two Canucks planned a Pizza crawl throughout Chicago and wound up punished as a result.

The website went as far as to display a fictitious facebook thread about the supposed event.

Byfuglien's Hat-Trick Propels Hawks over Canucks

One of the largest storylines heading into this Chicago - Vancouver series came to fruition tonight, as Blackhawks' forward Dustin Byfuglien registered a hat-trick en route to a 5-2 Chicago win.

The win was gave the Blackhawks a 2-1 series lead, and they played a strong game.  From a Chicago perspective, goaltender Antti Niemi weathered the Canucks early storm with some great saves, and the Blackhawks capitalized on their opportunities.

Virtually every goal the Hawks scored tonight was in a goal mouth scramble, within about 5 feet of the net.  The Blackhawks played a simple north-south game, put pucks to the net, put bodies in front and definitely had their share of bounces. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Blackhawks Tie Series with Canucks 1-1

After being embarrassed in the opener to the series, the Blackhawks found a way on home ice to steal a victory from the Vancouver Canucks.
 Trailing 2-1 after two periods, Patrick Sharp scored a short-handed goal in the third period, and Kris Versteeg scored with 1:30 left in regulation to put the Hawks up 3-2 to level the series at one game apiece.

The game had an ominous start for Chicago, who were outshot 9-1 early and gave up two goals in the opening five minutes. Brent Seabrook scored a key goal a couple of minutes after to draw the Blackhawks within one, and after that the game leveled off and became an exciting end to end match with a lot of scoring chances.
The Blackhawks really came on strong and forced play more than they had at any time in Game One, but the Canucks held their ground and kept the shot totals even, they just failed to expand their lead despite their chances.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Canucks beat Blackhawks to take series opener

The Vancouver Canucks scored early and often en route to a 5-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in game one of their Western Conference Semi-Finals.  The much touted rivalry did not develop a great deal of physical play or scrums after the whistles.  The play was rather even for most of the match, although the Canucks capitalized on their chances and had a strong outing from Roberto Luongo, while the Blackhawks failed to capitalize on their early power plays, and goaltender Antti Niemi gave up some juicy rebounds and received little help in the defensive zone en route to a Canucks 1-0 series lead.

Canucks & Blackhawks - Anybody's Series

The Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks renew hostilities tonight as their Western Conference semi-final begins in Chicago at 5:00 p.m. For the second straight year the two teams meet in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Canucks are looking for redemption as Chicago knocked Vancouver out in six games last year.

These are the two best offensive teams in the Western Conference. Both have plenty of skill, speed, and depth up front. The Canucks led the NHL with six 25+ goal scorers, including the Art Ross trophy winner Henrik Sedin. The Hawks were not far behind, having six 20+ goal scorers, and both Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien had 17. It is very difficult to find who has the edge in the offensive department between the two rivals.

Just like offensively, the two teams match-up very well defensively as well. Vancouver is missing key defenseman Willie Mitchell to post concussion symptoms. Chicago is missing Kim Johnsson to a concussion and Brian Campbell is finally back from a broken collarbone but is not yet 100%. Both teams have also had a young swedish defenseman step up in the first round. Vancouver's Alex Edler was incredible against the Kings notching one goal and two assists and an amazing + seven. He was also a beast in the physical department as well. Chicago's Nik Hjalmarsson was just as good, also notching one goal and two assists and being + six. It could come down to both teams third pairings and overall health to find an advantage here.

This series is so tight that it could very well come down to goaltending and special teams. The edge in goaltending is easily held by the Canucks. Veteran all-star goaltender Roberto Luongo played better and better as the series went on against Los Angeles, and Luongo is as determined and focused as ever to play Chicago. Luongo can be the best goalie in the NHL when he is focused, this is a scary thought for Chicago and their long suffering fans. Luongo has had an entire calendar year to dwell on the painful loss to the Blackhawks in last years Western Conference semi-final. He is ready.

At the other end will be rookie goalie Antii Niemi, who took the number one job away from Cristobal Huet. It is always a question mark when a team is relying on a rookie goalie in the playoffs, especially when the team is a legitimate Cup contender like the Blackhawks. Despite being a rookie however, Niemi has posted impressive statistics. He was in the top five in GAA, with 2.25, and shutouts with 7, in just 35 starts. Niemi has shown the ability to bounce back after disappointing outings. But this is the playoffs, so you never know how a rookie will respond.

These teams hate each other. It does not take a genius to figure out how important discipline will be in this series. During the regular season Vancouver's power play ranked 6th with 20.9%, versus Chicago's 17.7% which ranked 16th. Chicago's penalty kill ranked 4th while Vancouver's was 17th. Again very similar since both teams power plays versus penalty kills rank about the same.

This series is too close to call. The Blackhawks are still very young so experience is on the side of the Canucks. The Hawks also should have the edge in grit, with having so many western Canadian boys on their roster who love playing in Vancouver. Should be a classic either way.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Capitals' Forward Brooks Laich Remains Classy Despite Loss

Despite the hockey heartbreak of his life, Washington Capitals forward Brooks Laich took time out of his night to help a stranded motorist. Laich was driving home after the devastating game seven loss to the Montreal Canadiens when he pulled over to help a woman and her daughter change a flat tire.

The woman described Laich as "an angel" and "an answer to her prayers." It was baffling to the woman and her daughter that a big hockey star would stop and help them in their time of need. Especially since it was less than hours after the horrible defeat.

Laich didn't think it was such a big deal. "It was just a tire. It's a busy spot, on that bridge, and I just pulled over to help them. That's it." He went on to say "just because my day sucked didn't mean that I couldn't help someone else."

When asked by a reporter why he stopped to help, Laich replied "Saskatchewan education."

These days we are used to hearing negative stories about spoiled, rich athletes who get in trouble and don't live up to expectations as role models. Hockey players, for the most part, have great reputations as being great people. And stories like this, as small as they are, help to maintain this positive image.

Thanks for showing great character and class Brooks, even in your time of heartbreak.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Canucks and Blackhawks Renew Rivalry

In their Western Conference second round series, both the Vancouver Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks have numerous story lines that will present themselves throughout the next couple of weeks.  As these rivals play on, many of them will be prevalent.  Will the Canucks avenge last year? Are Kesler and Burrows up to the task?  Will both bluelines withstand the physical challenge? Will Luongo be able to fight through the crease crashing and interference?

Here is a look at what most likely will be the feistiest of the second round series in this year's NHL Playoffs.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Canucks Prepare for Blackhawks in Round Two

This weekend, the Vancouver Canucks will embark on a path towards potential redemption. After a heart-wrenching series loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Conference Semi-Finals last season, the Canucks are back at it again and will face the Hawks in the second round for the second year in a row.

The Canucks were a confident bunch last year at this time. Coming off a four-game sweep of St. Louis, and with veterans Mats Sundin and Pavol Demitra skating with Ryan Kesler, the Canucks boasted two legitimate scoring lines for the first time in a few years. Those strong suits built confidence in the Canucks' ability to handle the upstart Chicago Blackhawks, an up and coming young team who was supposed to be ‘just happy’ to be in the second round.  Three and a half games into the series, that appeared to be the case. The Canucks had Chicago on the ropes. Up two games to one in the series and leading 1-0 late in game 4, the Canucks were poised to return to Vancouver up three games to one, with three chances to close out the series – two of those on home ice. Instead, an unfortunate giveaway led to a Chicago goal with about four minutes left to play. The Hawks rallied and won in overtime, tying the series at two.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Canucks look to close out Kings

After an impressive Game 5 effort that saw the Canucks post 7 goals on LA Kings goaltending, the Kings were left scratching their heads. Vancouver victimized Jonathan Quick with a series of well-aimed shots and rebounds that left Kings coach Murray scratching his head.

Roberto Luongo meanwhile appears to be gaining more consistency as the series goes on and looked solid in net in front of the home fans in Game 5.

The Kings and their coaching staff will have to stem the tide which appears to be propelling the Canucks towards the second round. With 13 goals in their past 2 games, the Canucks have appeared fairly dominant of late - especially the last four periods of play - out-scoring LA 11-3 in that span.