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 possession...now 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!