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?