Thursday, September 26, 2013

Kassian & Gagner: Reply to @mc79Hockey

When I began this blog a few years ago, I planned on posting periodically to counter some ‘expert analysis’ that I saw out there in mainstream papers and the blogosphere. After Zack Kassian’s high-stick caught Sam Gagner in the face last Saturday night in Edmonton, some journalists and bloggers rushed to put their take online for others to read. Most were very level-headed, but one particular tweet caught my eye.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

PuckWatch Daily Picks Return

As the NHL regular season approaches, PuckWatch will be here with you.  After a summer without much hockey, it's time to ramp up our daily money line picks and fantasy draft tips to ensure you can win your pool and make some money.

Here's our history of picking winners over the past four (4) seasons

OVERALL RECORD: 2207-869-349 (69.5%)
2012-13 Record: 407-181-60 (67.4%)
2011-12 Record: 828-296-106 (71.6%)
2010-11 Record: 782-310-138 (69.2%)

2009-10 Record: 190-82-45 - (67%)

2013 Playoff Series Record:13-2
2012 Playoff Series Record: 8-7
2011 Playoff Record: 61-27 - Series 12-3
2010 Playoff Series Record: Series 11-4

Stay with PuckWatch every step of the way to get the edge!

Fantasy Hockey Tips

Fantasy Hockey 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.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Canucks' Alain Vigneault's 'Firing Statement'

Canucks Head Coach Alain Vigneault took the fall for the Vancouver Canucks' playoff failures the past couple of seasons.  Upon being released from his post after seven seasons, the former Canucks' bench boss offered the following statement.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Acquilini family, Mike Gillis, Lorne Henning, Laurence Gillman, Victor Debonis, Stan Smyl and the entire, coaching, training and front office staff of the Vancouver Canucks. 

The past 7 years have been an honour for me to coach and work for a great franchise in a wonderful Canadian city.  To work in a city with such passionate and loyal fans is a privilege – I enjoyed every moment of it.  I’d like to thank Dave Nonis and Steve Tambellini for the opportunity they provided me 8 years ago.  Over the past 7 years I have made many good friends in Vancouver, and had the chance to coach quality players who care deeply about their commitment to winning.  I am grateful to the players and their families for the sacrifice and dedication they showed to be the best they could be.  I saw many of the players start families, become fathers, and grew as men on and off the ice was equally rewarding. 

To Rick Bowness and Newell Brown, Rollie Melanson and Darrell Williams I thank you for your tireless effort every day and am grateful for your friendship and dedication, you should all be very proud of your achievements.  I am proud of the many things we accomplished as a group in my seven seasons in Vancouver, and only wish we were able to win the Canucks first Stanley Cup.  I am a career coach, it is what I love to do, I hope to coach again in this league and I will always have good memories of my time and the fans of Vancouver."

- Alain Vigneault

Thursday, May 9, 2013

PREDICTION: Mike Gillis' Press Conference

As Canucks GM Mike Gillis prepares to take to the podium for a state of the union address after their most recent post-season debacle, fans and media that follow the team have been speculating about the future of Alain Vigneault, Gillis himself, and the team's core.

Here are some not-so-bold predictions of what will be said in just a few hours time. 

1) No Immediate Decision on Alain Vigneault
Fans hoping or expecting for Gillis to fire longtime head coach Alain Vigneault will be sorely disappointed.  If nothing else, Gillis has proven to be exceptionally patient and stubborn.  He will not make a knee-jerk reaction and fire Alain Vigneault.  Gillis will take "a couple of weeks" to digest the loss and analyze where things went wrong.

2) Not Trading Roberto Luongo was intentional and paid off
Gillis will most likely say that the team did not receive an offer of fair value for Roberto and decided to hang onto him.  Gillis will say that the goaltending controversy did not hang over the team, and in fact, Roberto's availability came in handy when Schneider succumbed to injury late in the season.

3) Gillis will not blame the loss on officiating
Sorry folks, for those of you expecting Gillis to rip the league for its poor and inconsistent officiating, good luck.  Too many people that work with the NHL have grown to just accept the sub-standard officiating and Gillis and the Canucks will be advised to do nothing other than take their medicine.

Of course, the real question that Mike Gillis must ask himself is whether the team's performance stems from poor coaching decisions from AV, or if Gillis himself inadequately addressed the teams needs. While criticisms of Alain Vigneault stem from his preference of certain players (Andrew Ebbett, Andrew Alberts, Mason Raymond) over others (Keith Ballard, Jordan Schroeder, Cody Hodgson, etc), it could be argued that Gillis failed to provide Vigneault with a third line center, failed to resolve the goaltending issue, and failed to acquire suitable depth forwards and defencemen. 

Ultimately, there is a disconnect between Vigneault and Gillis.  Players such as Keith Ballard - that Gillis paid an arm and a leg for - were not utilized by Vigneault to their fullest extent.  That likely means that changes will be coming to the Canucks coaching staff, as the head coach is usually the first to go.  The only real question for right now is, does Gillis feel that he equipped Vigneault properly to ice a cup calibre team, or that Vigneault dropped the ball?

We will learn that answer soon enough, but do not expect any decisions to be made today.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Stats Back it Up: Cory Schneider should start

After last year's early post-season exit at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings, the Vancouver Canucks seemed poised to move Roberto Luongo and run with Cory Schneider.  However, whether it was due to the lock out, lack of a trade market, Gillis' expectations, or Luongo's monster contract, a deal never materialized.

When Roberto unexpectedly began the season with Vancouver, his torrid start earned him plenty of starts while Cory Schneider took some time to find his game.  Obviously, this story has garnered plenty of attention over the past few months, yet as of mid-March, both goaltenders boast pretty good statistics overall:

                              GAA      SP%

Roberto Luongo     2.47      0.904

Cory Schneider      2.63     0.910

However, since January's abnormaly strong performances from Luongo, the Canucks' current/former #1 goaltender has been pretty average.  In fact, his numbers are actually below an acceptable level for any starting NHL goaltender since January.   Take a look at his numbers month over month this season:      

Roberto Luongo      GAA      SP%
January                    1.61       0.938
February                  2.40       0.902
March                      3.18       0.881

From February on, his save percentage is well below .900.  Sure, the Canucks were off to an 8-2-2 start and have struggled mightily of late with five wins in 16 games, so perhaps that influences Roberto's numbers.  What about Cory Schneider's numbers over the same time period?

Cory Schneider       GAA       SP%
January                    3.13       0.897
February                  2.49       0.914
March                      2.43       0.916

Hmmm... so despite the team's struggles, Schneider's number continue to improve, while Luongo's are getting worse.  Neither goaltender is winning very often these days thanks to the lack of offence, but Roberto has had third period meltdowns against Detroit twice, Minnesota, and nearly blew a huge lead to Nashville before the Canucks rebounded to win 7-4.

Luongo is a notorious slow-starter who hits his groove later in the year, so what gives?  Perhaps his patience is wearing thin while he waits for a deal out of Vancouver?  There have been crazier theories out there...
For now, it appears as if Cory Schneider may be the goaltender to take the reins for the majority of the starts here on out.  Of course, banishing Luongo to the bench hardly showcases his value to potential suitors.  Then again, neither do third period collapses and a sub .900 SP%.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Canucks' Hansen elbows Blackhawks' Hossa

Curious play on Tuesday night that resulted in Marian Hossa being on the receiving end of what appeared to be an accidental elbow to the back of the head.  Canucks' winger Jannik Hansen reached out to retrieve a puck that was fluttering in the air when his elbow struck Hossa.

Hossa lay on the ice for a few moments before being helped to the locker room - he did not return to the game.

There was no penalty on the play at the time, but as Hossa continued to lay on the ice, Hansen was whistled for a 2-minute minor penalty after the play had stopped.

Marian Hossa was having a terrific game, but it appears to be an accident.  Hossa's injury history (and Hansen's lack of supplemental discipline) suggest that Hansen may receive a call of inquiry from the league, but likely no supplemental discipline in the form of suspension.

Of course, the Hawks broadcasters are complete homers and felt that Hansen "made no intention for the puck"... which begs the question, why would he reach outwards with one hand in the first place.

Judge for yourself:

Of course, the Blackhawks local broadcasters probably saw nothing wrong with this from the first period of tonight's game.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Roberto Luongo calls Scott Oake 'Milt'

Well, Saturday night was pretty eventful for Hockey Night in Canada.  The Canucks won 5-1 over the Calgary Flames, and Roberto Luongo was featured on CBC's After Hours.  Roberto came clean about digestive distress against Anaheim in the playoffs years ago, pretty much confirmed his Twitter activity as @Strombone1, and naturally, called Scott Oake fish sperm.


That's right... Luongo cited a couple of inside jokes, including the terms 'shap' and 'milt', and decided to call Scott Oake Milt.  Oake perhaps thought it's similar to Milf, but, guess again.  Here's a definition.  Taking things one step further (as if that were possible, all of British COlumbia must've googled what the term refers to, including Radio "personality" Dan Russell, as evidenced through his own twitter feed.

You gotta love the new and improved Roberto Luongo.  While it might be difficult to say he was all class on an evening where he called a sports broadcaster sperm, he handled every tough question with self-deprecating humour and class.

Luongo frequently joked about being a back-up goalie, not being included on 'experts' picks for the 2014 Olympic team, and on his past for being too brash and not politically correct with the media.

There will be no shortage of twitter buzz over his segments this evening on CBC.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Canucks Game #10 Review: @ Minnesota Wild

Vancouver Canucks 4 - Minnesota Wild 1

Game Review:

Well, make that four in a row.  The Vancouver Canucks are 'finally' getting on a roll and putting together some solid efforts for 60 minutes.  Perhaps Danial Sedin was on to something when he suggested that the final 30 minutes of their last game against the Edmonton Oilers saw them turn a corner.

Daniel opened the scoring in tonight's game and the Canucks dominated the Wild in the first period, playing a near-perfect road game en route to victory.

Cory Schneider got the start and was not tested much in the first 20 minutes, but he was there when he needed to be in the second period.  He made 22 saves for the win and look impressive.  He should get the start Saturday against Calgary - but who knows what Alain Vigneaulut's coin toss suggests he should do.

Three Up

Cory Schneider - Lots of pressure on the Canucks' goaltender these days.  Every time he starts a game he has to be on, or he risks losing his job.  Not an easy feat, but Schneider delivered once again on Thursday night.

Mason Raymond - A terrific pass to set up Jannik Hansen's goal, and a goal of his own on the powerplay to put the game out of reach for the Wild.  Raymond's quietly had a very strong start with four goals and two assists (4-2-6) in 10 games played.  It's still a bit early to talk about 'pace', but Raymond would be on a 30 goal, 50 point pace over a full 82-game season.

Jannik Hansen - Speaking of being fast out of the gates, Hansen continues to fly in whatever role he plays for the Canucks.  His breakaway goal last night showcased his flat out speed and his underrated shot.  This guy may be the unsung hero for the Canucks this early season.

Honourable mention - Dale Weise for his two scraps which ignited his team and drew them a power play.

Three Down

Zenon Konopka - It's cool to assert yourself and try to establish your game and generate momentum for your team, and that's what Konopka did in the first period.  But in the third period, with the score 4-0 and the Canucks in full control, Konopka went out of his way to instigate a second fight with Dale Weise.  Poor form Zenon.  Weise clearly was not interested in a pointless second fight.  Thankfully, the officials dinged Konopka for an instigator penalty and kicked him out.

Minnesota Wild - That's right, their whole team.  It must take a while for free agents signings Parise and Suter to integrate with the rest of the group on the ice, but Thursday night's effort wasn't lacking on execution, it was lacking on effort.  Mike Yeo's days as head coach may be numbered.

Penalty Killing - On a night where the Wild were sleepwalking through most of the game, the Canucks pretty much gifted Tom Gilbert  the Wild's only goal.  With Keith Ballard already behind the net in a puck battle, Jason Garrison chose to join him, leaving the Canuck forwards extremely out-numbered, and TOm Gilbert wide open in the slot.  Those two do not normally play together, and it was one gaffe on a very strong night for the defense, but the Canucks penalty kill percentage suffered as a result.

Final Thought

Media in Vancouver will point out how tough the fans are on the team at times - and they're right.  The Canucks aren't just expected to win, but they have to win 'convincingly'.  Thursday night, they got their wish for only the third time this season.  Three of the Canucks' wins have come in overtime or the shootout, while four of their losses have involved blowing leads or not showing up at all.

Despite the mixed efforts over the first 10 games, their results are strong with a 6-2-2 record.  The best Canucks 10 games in have probably been Jannik Hansen, Mason Raymond, Zack Kassian, Keith Ballard, Chris Tanev, Roberto Luongo, and Cory Schneider.  Who on earth would have predicted THAT before the season began?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Canucks Game #9 Review: @ Edmonton Oilers

Game #8: Vancouver Canucks 3 - Edmonton Oilers 2 (OT)

Chris Tanev celebrates his OT winner and first NHL goal

Game Summary

A lackluster power play did it's best to derail an otherwise formidable effort from the Canucks, but Roberto Luongo's goaltending and some heroics from the team's defense salvaged two points late in the evening in Edmonton.

After falling behind 2-0, the Canucks rallied.  Jannik Hansen's yeoman-like effort brought the Canucks within one, but it took 58 minutes for the Canucks to find the back of the net for a second time.

Despite out-shooting the Oilers 22-4 during the middle of the game, the Canucks could not buy a goal.  That is, until Kevin Bieksa hammered a shot through a screened Devan Dubnyk late in the third, which set the stage for overtime.

In overtime, a long shift from the Sedin twins resulted in a giveaway and ultimately a penalty shot for Taylor Hall.  No problem - Roberto Luongo to the rescue.  The Canucks' goaltender made the stop look easy, and queued a terrific moment for Chris Tanev.  With seconds left in overtime, the Sedin twins set up Tanev in the slot, who wired the game winner - and his first NHL goal - past Devan Dubnyk.

Three Up

Roberto Luongo - this is a recording.  Bobby Lou has been nothing short of terrific.  The NHL star of the week and best back up goaltender in the league proved his value once again tonight.  He was the less active goalie but made numerous highlight reel saves to keep his team in the game and he could not be faulted on either goal.  His stop on Taylor Hall's penalty shot saved the Canucks big time.

Jannik Hansen - The Great Dane was all over the ice tonight.  With a goal and an assist, Hansen skated for miles and was a factor all night.

Chris Tanev - It was not Tanev's best game ever, but the Ballard - Tanev pairing was good enough to be put out in the last minute of overtime - a marked departure from typical Alain Vigneault thinking.  Tanev's game winner and ensuing celebration will be a highlight of this year's shortened season.

Three Down

Zack Kassian - the big guy did not have a horrible night, but he was booted off of the top line in favour of Alex Burrows.  Once Burrows reunited with the twins, they're play did improve.

Alex Edler - another nonchalant play resulted in a short-handed goal against.  His offensive upside is tremendous, but he's been a negative factor too often in this young season.

Powerplay - Speaking of a negative factor, the Canucks power play has now run up a 1/26 stretch.  The power outage has handed points over to conference rivals.  Hopefully they can simplify their approach and pot some goals before it costs them more points.

Final Thought

There's a few ways to look at tonight's game.  On the one hand, the team played well enough to win and dominated the Oilers for long stretches.  Shots were 40-25 Vancouver, and face-offs were even more lopsided.

On the other hand, special teams were suspect once again, and if it were not for the terrific goaltending of Roberto Luongo, the Oilers could have padded their lead and won going away.

It's a difficult Canucks team to read. After the game, Daniel Sedin said on Sportsnet that he felt like the last 30 minutes of the game saw the team finally come together and play their style.  Out-scoring the Oilers 3-0 over that span is a good start, but keep in mind that two of those goals were scored by the defense. 

The team is starving for offense, as witnessed by Jordan Shroeder's nearly 19 minutes in ice time.  Raymond, Hansen and Schroeder were arguably the Canucks' best line all night long, but if you believed that would be true before the year began, good on you - head to Vegas.

Canucks Game #8 Review vs Chicago Blackhawks

Game #8: Blackhawks 1 - Vancouver 2 (SO)

Game Summary

The Canucks held tough and managed to win this grudge match, but it was not a dominating performance.  In fact, they narrowly escaped with the victory.  Roberto Luongo was terrific, as he kept Alexander Edler's goal meaningful for nearly 50 minutes.  After Patrick Kane tied the game in the third period, Luongo stood tall for the remainder of regulation, overtime, and even stopped all four shooters he faced in the shootout.

For the home team, Jordan Schroeder came up huge with the game winning shootout goal, beating the nearly impenetrable wall established by Corey Crawford.

Three Up

Roberto Luongo - Despite being outshot, the Canucks led for most of the night and pulled out a victory in the shootout.  Bobby Lou was the largest reason for this.

Jordan Schroeder - Scoring the shootout winner and playing another solid game, this young forward has been creative offensively and responsible defensively.

Team Discipline: True, these are not the Chicago Blackhawks of 2010 that steamrolled the Canucks physically en route to their Stanley Cup, but they still have the pesky Patrick Kane, Dave "the rat" Bolland, and a host of team toughness to go along with it, but the Canucks didn't bother to go out of their way to get retribution for Duncan Keith's hit on Daniel Sedin.  The Canucks showed poise and discipline and walked away with two points.

Three Down

Sedin Twins: Yet again, the twins did very little offensively.  In fact, the scoring chances were 15-5 for the Blackhawks, and the Canucks tried to trap and suck every ounce of excitement out of this game.  The Sedins need to find their legs and their scoring touch soon, as the team is relying upon amazing goaltending and timely goals from the defence to get by.

Powerplay:  Once again, the Canucks struggled on the power play.  The third period alone saw multiple opportunities to re-take the lead, but they were unable to capitalize.

Secondary Scoring:  Not to beat a dead horse, but Alexander Edler provided the only offence for a team starving for goals from the forwards.  Burrows has been better, but Henrik, Higgins, Hansen and most of the 4th line have yet to hit the scoreboard.  Daniel Sedin's two goals are also not on pace for a player of his calibre.

Final Thought

The team has managed a 4-2-2 record to start, but has forfeited third period leads in four separate games and given away points to conference rivals in every one of those games.  Perhaps a win is a win, but there are some troubling trends.

Defenders are providing a lot of offence for the Canucks - which is good - but a lack of primary scoring and sporadic secondary scoring has been flying under the radar thanks to Zack Kassian, Mason Raymond, and the amazing start to the year by Roberto Luongo.

All in all, a win is a win, but hopefully the 'real' Canucks will show up soon for their fans.  Or, are these the real Canucks?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Canucks Game #7 Review: Vs Colorado Avalanche

Game #7: Avalanche 0 - Canucks 3

Luongo & Schneider, photo courtesy of ESPN

Game Summary:

The Canucks played a heck of a lot better than in their California odyssey this past week.  Roberto Luongo got the surprise start and was good early when the Avalanche created a few chances early on.  The Canucks actually didn't manage a shot for the first five minutes of the game, but Jason Garrison got them on the board with a harmless albeit quick shot from just inside the blueline.

After the goal, the Canucks carried play and didn't look back.  The Avs had the odd foray into the Vancouver zone and matched them for shots, but the Canucks' victory never appeared in doubt.

The hairiest moment for Canucks fans would have been an extended 5-on-3 for the Avs that seemed to last forever - though it was really about a minute and a half.  Alex Burrows was the most prominent of the Canuck penalty killers, and managed to thwart Colorado's attack.

Max Lapierre (bad groin and all) made it 2-0 by out-hustling Colorado's defense and putting one through Colorado's goaltender Varlamov's legs.  Zack Kassian added an insurance marker on the power play and that was all she wrote.  Luongo was very steady and made a couple of terrific saves off of Matt Duchene and John Mitchell - the former off a short-handed breakaway and the latter off of a terrific chance in the slot with just over a minute left in regulation.

Three Up

Roberto Luongo: Recorded a shutout and was full value for the win.  He made some terrific saves and backstopped the Canucks to the victory.  He kept his team in the game long enough for them to find their footing,

Power Play: It actually scored a goal!  Okay, okay, it also looked pretty good on the night, with a lot of zone time and if only they could get more shots.

Alex Burrows: Further proving his hockey acumen and versatility, Burrows was terrific on the PK and showed once again that he is not out of place playing as the team's second pivot between Jannik Hansen and Chris Higgins.  (Honourable mention to Higgins who appeared to get his quickness back.  Look for the upcoming motion pitcure: "How Higgy got His Groove Back"

Three Down

Power Play: Admittedly, this is knit-picking in a 3-0 win, but Vigneault has often struggled to put pointmen on the powerplay who are in positions to accept one timers (left handers on the right side, right handers on the left side).  Presumably this helps maintain possession by keeping the puck in the zone on clearing attempts, but it doesn't bode well for a threat from the point.  It would be nice to see Garrison or even Edler unload the occassional slap shot.

Defence Pairings: Coach V has been using Keith Ballard and Chris Tanev upwards of 18 minutes a night of late.  While that's great news for that pairing, it's a minor indictment of the rest.  Edler, Hamhuis, Bieksa and Garrison have all started fairly slowly.  For a team touted for it's defence and goaltending, surely the Canucks would like more from their 'top 2' pairings.

Goaltending Controversy: Fantastic news that Canucks recorded their second shutout of the year - one from each keeper, but the refusal to pick a starting goalie will undoubtedly become a distraction sooner or later.  Other teams have survived with two goalies, but conventional wisdom suggests that you can only win a Stanley Cup while riding one goaltender.  There have been a couple of recent exceptions, where the Hurricanes (Irbe/Ward) and Red Wings (Osgood/Whoever) have managed to beat the odds, but the curious choice of Luongo suggests that the starter's job may be up for grabs.  Good news for this game, but confusion is nobody's friend long term.

Final Thought

Continuing on the thought from above, Luongo's strong performance suggests a repeat (threepeat?) is in order on Friday when the Canucks suit up against the Blackhawks.  If Luongo gets that start and does well, he strengthens his case - and appearance - as the Canucks starter.  It also builds his trade value, as if he needs another win to pad his resume. 

On the other hand, playing Luongo MORE shows a lack of confidence in Cory Schneider.  So if the Canucks are simply riding the hot hand of Luongo or 'showcasing' that he's still got it, they could be doing themselves a disservice.  If Schneider doesn't play and doesn't look capable or carrying the torch, Canucks fans will want to keep Luongo and Mike Gillis will appear more keen on keeping him.  If Schneider appears to falter, the Canucks psosition of power in the trade market declines. 

If the Canucks aren't careful, they'll have their 'best' goaltender on the market, won't get much for him, and will upset everyone in the process.

Next Chapter - Friday night!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Canucks Game #6 Review: @ Los Angeles Kings

Game 6: Canucks 2 - Kings 3 (SO)

Edler takes puck in the eye.  Photo courtesy

Just another greasy road wi-what?  *sigh.  A tired Canucks team ventured into Los Angeles to take on the Kings and potentially exorcise their playoff demons from 9 months ago.  Playing their third road game in four nights, and fourth game in six nights, Vancouver put their best foot forward by scoring two goals in the opening 25 minutes. 

However, fatigue got the better of them, as the Kings scored twice to tie the game, and carried the majority of play for the second half of the contest, leading to a shootout victory.

The referees were bloody inconsistent tonight, making many terrible calls and missing some blatant ones on both sides.  Here's a penalty summary...

Penalty Summary

1st Period
08:21VAN Aaron Volpatti : Tripping  (Trevor Lewis)
14:17VAN Henrik Sedin : Revenge (Dustin Brown)
17:52LAK Jordan Nolan : Interference  (Daniel Sedin)
2nd Period
15:14VAN Christopher Tanev : Falling Down  (Dustin Brown)
3rd Period
05:16LAK Dustin Brown : Interference on goalkeeper  (Roberto Luongo)
09:13LAK Simon Gagne : Being the middle of sandwich (Alexander Edler)
11:31VAN Dan Hamhuis : Standing still (Drew Doughty)

Three Up

Roberto Luongo: Bobby Lu kept his team in the game through two periods, making several sparkling saves on terrific chances in close. 

Zack Kassian: Somehow the big man managed to keep scoring without any points from the Sedin twins.  Kassian notched his fourth goal in five games and continued to be a physical presence. 

Alex Burrows: Playing center? no problem.  Burrows was as good as any Vancouver center on faceoffs tonight (not very) and contributed a goal, tied for the team lead with four shots on net and was the versatile forward that the team needs him to be.

Three Down

Sedin Twins: Once again, the twins produced goose eggs on the power play, and also spent more than their fair share in their own end of the ice.  They certainly were not horrible tonight, but they were not part of the solution.

Special Teams: Once again the Canucks had two third period power plays to put the game away, and once again they came away with nothing.  Veteran, skilled teams are supposed to take advantage of those opportunities, alas, such is life for the Canucks in January.  The powerplay was 0/3 and the PK gave up a goal to a woeful Kings power play that had not scored all season.

Alain Vigneault: Sure the team was tired, but he's been frustrating in his attempts to sit back and ride out victories. It hasn't worked yet this year.  And why would it?  You've got Henrik Sedin, Alex Burrows and Jordan Schroeder as your top three centers, and you're playing Malhotra 10 minutes a night. 

What's worse?  AV insists on throwing Edler out there in the shootout.  The lanky Swede is now 6/20 overall.

Final Thought

This game had it all!  Great goaltending, inconsistent officiating, and a skills competition.  If you're a Canucks fan, it also had the 2013 trend of sitting on two goal leads and failing to convert PP chances.  On the bright side, the Canucks stepped into the Stanley Cup Champions barn for their fourth game in six nights and walked away with a point.

On the other hand, they squandered a 2-0 lead, multiple opportunities to seal the deal, and a terrific goaltending performance from Roberto Luongo.

Take a day off, practice the power play for god's sake, take Edler off the shootout and find some more offense.  How's Kesler doing anyways???

Canucks Game #5 Review: @ San Jose Sharks

Game 5: Canucks 1 - Sharks 4

Game Summary

Similar to the Anaheim game, the Canucks came out rather sluggish.  Unlike the Anaheim game, they paid for their mistakes this time.  Jason Garrison and Alex Edler combined for two horrendous giveaways to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead in the first four minutes. 

The Canucks settled down and began to outplay the Sharks, in thanks for Ryan Clowe's best Ben Eager impression.  (Clowe recorded 35 minutes in penalties and gave the Canucks a handful of power plays).  Eventually, Alex Burrows got a lucky bounce and scored his first of the year off of Dan Boyle's skate. 

That's when Max Lapierre had a brain cramp and took a horrible penalty 200 feet from his own net.  The ensuing Sharks power play resulted in a 3-1 goal and took away any momentum the Canucks worked so hard to wrestle back from San Jose.

The latter half of Clowe's meltdown resulted in a four minute powerplay for the Canucks - three minutes of it to begin the third period, but they didn't even muster a shot on goal.  The Sharks increased their lead to 4-1, and that was all she wrote.

Three Up

Jannik Hansen: The Great Dane was all over the ice tonight.  Ferocious on the forecheck and quick with puck, Hansen, Higgins and Burrows actually looked like a second line at times tonight.

Alex Burrows: Scored his first goal of the season, got under the skin of Logan Couture, Ryan Clowe, and Joe Thornton and was at his usual pesky best.

Physical Play: Three fights, and a lot of hits.  The Canucks didn't back down from the Sharks.  Kassian, Volpatti and Bieksa all fought and are doing good work towards altering Vancouver's perception as a team you can physically intimidate. Finally.

Three Down

Maxim Lapierre: A stupid penalty in the second period cost the Canucks dearly as the forfeited a goal and their momentum.  Max saw time on the pine in the third period and was called out by Canucks' coach Alain Vigneault after the game for the lapse in judgment.  Perhaps 'Lapse' should be his on-ice nickname instead of Lappy.

Alex Edler: Another game, another horrible Edler giveaway.  This one was right on the stick of Joe Pavelski in the slot.  Even Joe Thornton would be impressed.  Maybe it's the new contract, maybe it's the lack of a pre-season, but we saw this Edler against the Kings in the playoffs and it's concerning to some die-hard Canucks' fans that the $30 million man is making such blatant miscues in his own end.

Sedin Twins: Also starting the year slowly, the Sedin twins failed to convert any of the seven power play opportunities afforded them.  To be fair, Vigneault actually sat the twins for an entire two minute power play in the third period to send a message.  With Kesler (and Booth, to a lesser degree) out of the lineup, all of the opposition's defensive focus shifts to the twins, but they are not impressing their coach with the inability to generate offence with all that power play time.

Final Thought

What a debacle that was.  While some numbers from last night's game (summarized by CanucksArmy) suggest that the Canucks played better than they did against Anaheim, this is probably a situation where statistics lie. 

If you like your glass of water half-full - then sure, they had better numbers at even-strength, hit five goal posts, and were unlucky in their own end.  But suggesting that another effort like that would result in a win against Los Angeles on Monday would probably be false.

In fact, Schneider played fairly well and was the victim of a couple of bad bounces.  What really hurt the Canucks was something statistics do not account for - their lack of mental sharpness.  The costly mistakes over-shadowed their hard work.  Some poor penalties, a horrendous power play and defensive lapses were untimely, preventable mistakes that need to be removed from their game if they are to win in Los Angeles.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Canucks Game #4 Review: Anaheim Ducks

Game 4: Canucks 5 - Ducks 0

Game Summary

Despite being outplayed for the first half of the first period, the Canucks found themselves to be the beneficiary of a lack of Anaheim discipline.  Daniel Sedin converted a Henrik Sedin pass on a 5-on-3 power play to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead.  Mason Raymond later converted a nice rush from Alex Burrows on a late power play to extend the lead to 2-0. 

Aaron Volpatti made it 3-0 before the end of the second period, while Zack Kassian and Mason Raymond added tallies in the third to put the Ducks away for good.  Corey Perry was a sore loser while Cory Schneider played well and earned his first shutout of the season.

Three Up

Aaron Volpatti: The rugged winger was all over the scoresheet and the ice in a limited role.  Volpatti fought Matt Beleskey, had a few solid hits and even scored the 3-0 goal in the second period to put the Canucks out of reach for Anaheim.

Mason Raymond: Continuing his strong play from early this season, Raymond added two goals this evening and has developed some nice chemistry with Jordan Schroeder during his call up.  Raymond has been a pleasant surprise this year after being a rod for criticism upon his return from injury last year.

Cory Schneider: Can we all calm down for a minute about goaltending in Vancouver? Schneider was extra solid early on in the game to keep it scoreless while the Canucks found their legs.   Schneider certainly made good use of his though, including preserving his shutout against a Cam Fowler attempt late in the game with a great left to right kick save.

Three Down

Not much to criticize in a 5-0 shutout win on the road... so let's pick on the other team.

Corey Perry: After being hit Alex Edler and not liking it, Perry thought it would be a good idea to skate across the ice, jump as high as he can and propel himself into the Canucks defender.  Then, it's probably a good idea to cross check Edler, jump Keith Ballard and whine from the penalty box.  Seriously, is there any one who hates losing more than Corey Perry? 

Jonas Hiller: He wasn't very good.  Exhibit A: Mason Raymond's second goal.  Exhibit B: Dive when Henrik Sedin "plowed" into him.

Teemu Selanne: Hard to discount someone as prolific as the Finnish Flash, but after a four point opening night performance on the road, Selanne was virtually invisible tonight for the Ducks, with only one shot and a -1 rating in just over 13 minutes.

Final Thoughts

Getting away from the Vancouver media circus may have been just what the doctor ordered.  Schneider, Raymond and the Sedins all had terrific games.  The Canucks have improved with each passing game, but perhaps the best point of all is, with Kassian, Raymond and the defence pitching in the odd goal, no one is pressing Kesler and Booth to return sooner than they are able and no one is asking questions about secondary scoring.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Canucks Game Review: Calgary Flames, January 23rd

Game 2: Flames 2 - Canucks 3 (SO)

Game Summary

It took three games, but the Vancouver Canucks got off the schneid by riding the Schneid en route to a 3-2 shootout victory over the (lowly) Calgary Flames.  The Canucks carried the play for most of the first half of the game.  New-look top three lines included the Sedin twins with Zack Kassian, Burrows centering Higgins and Hansen, and Jordan Schroeder's first NHL game between Raymond and Weise. 

Kassian and Raymond scored nice looking goals to get their team up 2-0, but poor defensive coverage by Bieksa and Hamhuis, and a slew of penalties against the Canucks allowed the Flames to tie the game.  The strange parade of penalties presented the Flames with over three minutes of 5-on-3 power play time, and included an odd call on Alexander Edler for concealing the puck.  In a play seen often in years' past, Edler was whistled for closing his hand on the puck, a new rule for this year according to a) the NHL rule book, and b) Kerry Fraser on TSN.

The Canucks were on their heels for the rest of the game, as a 25-9 shots on goal advantage was nullified to a 36-36 draw at the conclusion of overtime.  In the shootout, Alex Burrows scored with his patented move, and Zack Kassian scored a beauty, leaving Miikka Kiprusoff in the corner with a tremendous deke.  Cory Schneider stood tall and lived up to his end of the bargain and the Canucks left with the 'W'.

Three Up

Zack Kassian: What can you say about this kid?  He's been terrific so far this year.  As the game's #1 star for the second outing in a row, he was physical, scored a nice goal, and actually carried the Sedin line tonight.  He scored the shootout winner and is tantalizing Canucks' fans with his potential.  Tough to expect this night in and night out, but if he's consistently a positive force on the ice like this, Canucks fans may forget about Cody Hodgson sooner rather than later.

Mason Raymond: Raymond scored a beautiful goal and was all over the ice tonight.  Whether it's the difference that playing against the Flames makes (9 goals versus Calgary, most in his career against any team), or the fact that the goal propelled his confidence, Raymond was a difference maker out there.  He distributed the puck well and made smart decisions all over the ice.

Jordan Schroeder: Not bad for his first NHL game.  The diminutive center was between Raymond and Dale Weise at even strength, and enjoyed some time on the second power play unit.  Schroeder acclimated himself well, made good decisions and some good passes on the break out.  Would have been nice to see him in the shoot out, but perhaps another day.

Three Down

Alexander Edler: The boxscore shows Edler with only two giveaways, but rest assured, he handled the puck like a hand grenade all night long.  Every pass seemed to flutter off his stick and wind up with Calgary.  Not sure at this point if he's a bit rusty, or trying to do too much, but he's been struggling out there so far.

Kevin Bieksa: Bieksa was his usual feisty self - which included cross-checking Jarome Iginla into the post to knock the net off on one of Schneider's great saves - but 'Juice' has more to give too.  He was out of position at times throughout the game and had a few poor passes and even poorer rushes up the ice.  At one point he appeared to be hobbling but stayed out for his shift.  Canucks fans hope he rounds into form soon.

Sedin Twins: It's not often the Sedin twins are called out, but let's be honest, Zack Kassian was the top line tonight.  The twins displayed their usual magic along the boards and made some terrific zone entries, but really did not generate all that much offence.  The top power play unit looked disjointed as it never generated much offence - even the simplest task such as setting up a Garrison howitzer seemed beyond them.  Hopefully the odd practice can tighten up the power play.

Final Thought

Cory Schneider played a lot better and deserved the win.  A couple of terrific shots beat him, but nothing else.  He would up with 34 saves, plus four more in the shootout.  Up front, Kassian and Raymond proved that the Canucks have some secondary offence without Ryan Kesler and David Booth.  The defence continues to improve but is nowhere near where it needs to be.

It could be said that Keith Ballard and Chris Tanev were the Canucks' best D pairing last night.  We'll leave it up to you as to whether that's a good thing, or a bad thing.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Canucks Game Review: Edmonton Oilers, January 20th

Game 2: Oilers 3 - Canucks 2 (SO)


Game Summary

Looking to redeem themselves from a horrendous first outing against the Ducks the night before, the Canucks faced the 'youthful', 'talented', and 'exciting' Edmonton Oilers.  The first period was fairly fast paced and saw Alex Edler score a beauty.  It looked like a bit of a road hockey goal as he broke up a 2-on-1 and led the rush the other way.  Rather than send Lapierre on a partial breakaway, Edler kept the puck, hit the blueline moving right to left and wired a slapper past Oilers' netminder Devan Dubnyk.

The second period saw the Oilers press a bit more and out-shoot the Canucks 14-9.  Despite the Oilers' advantage, Zack Kassian finished a great demonstration of passing and puck possession by the Sedin twins to put the Canucks up 2-0.

Looking home and cool towards the end of the period, the Canucks suffered a defensive breakdown and gave up a goal to Jordan Eberle with three seconds left.  Alex Edler did his best Dion Phaneuf impression here, and Luongo clearly misplayed the shot.  Eberle has a terrific shot, but it was a comedy of errors on the Canucks' part for sure.

The third period saw the Canucks squander the power play chances, and Ales Hemsky made them pay with a tying goal on the Oilers' PP chance.   As the game went to a shootout, Canucks' fans worst fears came to fruition.  Two failed attempts at one end and two goals at the other.  Canucks fall 3-2 in the shootout.

Three Up 

Zack Kassian: Playing in the AHL for the past few months seems to have helped the rugged young winger.  Kassian was the Canucks' leader on the ice tonight.  Scoring a goal, generating multiple chances and scrapping with Ben Eager all showed the passion and toughness that GM Mike Gillis saw when he traded Cody Hodgson away to land Kassian last year.

Dale Weise: For the second night in a row, Weise made use of his speed and was all over the ice.  His hard work and great play even landed him a few shifts with the Sedin twins in the third period.  It appears he came back from his time in the Netherlands with some new found confidence and speed.

Mason Raymond: Call me crazy, but Raymond is playing good hockey.  Fesity on the forecheck, willing to go to the dirty areas, and making smart plays, Raymond was one of the good guys tonight.  Would be good to see him make some more contributions on the scoreboard, but Vigneault is probably happy with his play early on this year.

Three Down

Keith Ballard: A horrible giveaway to Shaun Horcoff and some awkward passes to Chris Tanev left the Rogers Arena faithful a bit nervous whenever he had the puck.  Everyone hopes Ballard can regain his form this year and be a steadying influence on the blue line, but early returns are not good.

Special Teams: Veteran teams score timely goals and take advantage of their opportunities.  The Canucks failed to do both.  Multiple power play attempts went unconverted and allowed to Oilers to stay within a goal.  Then, when the Oilers got their chance with the man advantage, Ales Hemsky converted.  Vancouver has allowed powerplay goals on 4/7 opportunities this year.

Roberto Luongo: Despite a 30 save performance that featured a few good saves to bail out defenders, Luongo deserves some criticism for the goals he allowed and his shootout performance.  Eberle's goal with three seconds left in the 2nd period featured horrible positioning by Luongo, as he leaned into the post to protect the short-side, leaving the far side wide open.  Hemsky's goal also went under Luongo's arm, while the shootout featured a classic "Just stop one!!!" feeling from this Canucks fan. 

Final Thoughts

The Canucks offered a far more disciplined and systematic approach to tonight's game, but failed to capitalize on opportunities and failed to get a good timely save when they needed it.  By giving up a goal in the dying seconds of a period, failing to convert power play opportunities and blowing a 2-0 lead, the Canucks looked like the team of kids tonight.

Roberto Luongo could have potentially won his starting job back with a great effort tonight, but the two goals allowed and the shootout performance open the door for Cory Schneider to start their next game.  The Canucks enjoy an embarrassment of riches between the pipes, but two games into the season the goaltending looks to be just embarrassing.

Of course, goaltenders' mistakes are often magnified above those of position players, but the Canucks better find some league leading goaltending soon or they'll be mixed up with the rest of the conference fighting for their playoff lives.

On the bright side, Zack Kassian played his best game as a Canuck - and it was a great game.  Many scoring chances, a nice goal, some big hits and a beauty of a fight.  Let's see Cody Hodgson bloody Ben Eager.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Canucks Game Review: Anaheim Ducks, January 19th

Game 1: Ducks 7 - Canucks 3


It wasn't a pretty night to be a Vancouver Canucks' fan - though it certainly was interesting.  The Canucks were never all that crisp on the evening, but played a solid first period and entered the intermission tied at two.

The second period saw the team unravel due to poor defensive coverage, sloppy play, and average goaltending.  A 5-2 deficit after two periods chased Cory Schneider and should have generated a determined effort in the third, but the Canucks came out flat and did not manage a shot until they scored on an Alex Edler laser beam halfway through the period.  The rest of the game saw about six or seven odd-man rushes against from untimely gambles and horrible defensive coverage.

So what went wrong and was there any silver lining?

Monday, January 7, 2013

NHL Hockey is Back

Photo courtesy of Montreal Gazette
NHL Hockey is back.  That didn't take long. *Sarcasm.

With the NHL lockout officially over and a season set to begin in less than two weeks, teams are clamoring to adapt to a new way of doing business. Different salary caps and newly implemented contract limitations should cause many franchises to adjust their rosters heading into the shortened 2013 season. Speaking of rosters, the extra long off-season introduces a new set of potential trade scenarios, along with a few retirements and injuries. So what are some of the big questions heading into the 2013 season?