Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bertuzzi and Jovanovski Heading to Turin

The Olympic Men's Hockey Team roster has been announced and both Todd Bertuzzi and Ed Jovanovski have made the team.

More to come...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Canucks - Flyers Start Time Delayed

According to Dan Murphy the start time of tonight's game is being pushed back by half an hour due to a snow storm in Philadelphia. Catch the game on Sportsnet, and the replay at 7:30(assuming the delay doesn't change their plans.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Thoughts on the Cloutier Injury

Yesterdays news was a definite blow to the franchise and of course Dan Cloutier's career. The potentially season ending injury leaves Vancouver in a serious dilemma and may mark the end of Cloutier's tenure in Vancouver.

This season was supposed to be the one in which Vancouver was to make another run at the Stanley Cup with a core of players who have been together for many years. Dave Nonis had two options in the off-season: 1) Stick with the core that has been one of the best teams in the NHL. 2) Use the opportunity of an unprecedented free agent crop to move in another direction. Nonis could have gambled and took the team in a new direction, but when Markus Naslund re-signed, he made the decision to stick with the core group. With Naslund in the fold there was little salary cap room. New deals for Matt Cooke, Brendan Morrison and Dan Cloutier along with the signings of Anson Carter and Richard Park, put Vancouver near the $39m. By going in this direction Nonis knew that the team that took the ice in September would very likely be the same team going into March. That all changed yesterday.

With the remaining portion of Dan Cloutier's $2.45m off the books, Vancouver now has roughly $2.5 in cap space.

Where to go from here?

There are many options for Dave Nonis. Currently, Alex Auld is playing well enough for the team to win. The Canucks are saying all the right things, they don't have to make an immmediate move. However, don't buy into this too far. Vancouver will need to get another goaltender sooner rather than later. While Alex Auld has been solid, the more he plays the more his shortcomings will be exposed. Teams have already picked up on some of those weaknesses, most noticeably his poor rebound control. As Auld plays more, and teams develop scouting reports, things are going to be more difficult. Like a rookie baseball player going through the league for the second time, there his a huge difference between being successful playing 1-2 times a week and playing every game. That's what separates the good goaltenders from the average ones. I'm not saying Auld can't be the guy, but the odds of him taking the reigns and leading this team through the playoffs aren't great.

Of course, while he has been forced to play every game, Auld has for the most part gotten the job done. His teammates feel comfortable playing in front of him, Crawford has confidence in him(unlike Skudra and Hedberg) and Vancouver's December schedule does not contain any back to back games. These factors give Vancouver some leeway, but not much. The combination of Alex Auld and Maxime Ouellet is not going to cut it for long. So, Dave Nonis has a few options to consider...

  1. There is a guy by the name of Wade Flaherty playing in Manitoba. Now that the cap situation isn't as dire, Vancouver can afford the scenario of paying half of Flaherty's salary should he be claimed on waivers by another team. Still, Flaherty only has 120 career games in the NHL and fewer then 30 this decade. He has played very well for the Manitoba Moose, but the AHL is a lot different than the NHL. Wade Flaherty would be a band-aid solution at best.
  2. Flaherty or another similar veteran opens up option number 2, waiting until closer to the deadline before acquiring a legitimate NHL starter for the playoff run. The longer they wait, the more cap room they save.
  3. They make a move now for one of the current veterans who have recently fallen out of favor with their current clubs. This group includes the likes of Jocelyn Thibault and Patrick Lalime. Expensive guys who have not played well, but have had success in the past.
  4. Another option is to go for the big stopper. With the cap room guys like Olaf Kolzig are now a possibility. The cap room now gives Nonis the option of trading for guys like Luongo, Kolzig, Biron and others. This of course is going to cost some significant assets. Also, Cloutier is still under contract for next season, so that is an important fact to keep in mind. You can't have two veteran number 1's in a salary cap world.
  5. Lightning in a bottle. Every now and then a guy like Mikka Kiprusoff comes out of nowhere, is there a younger backup out there who could catch fire and become a dominating goaltender who can take you to the finals?
  6. Finally, there is another less obvious option. Spend the money elsewhere. There's no rule stating that Vancouver must spend the free cap space on a goaltender. The free cap space gives Nonis the option of upgrading the much maligned blueline. Upgrading on Steve McCarthy would be a big help to the team. Nonis can add some extra parts and another cheaper goalie rather than blowing it all on one goalie.

This team is built for a Stanley Cup run this season. The window of opportunity is small, can you gamble on Alex Auld?

Currently Nonis is doing the smart thing, he doesn't have to make a move right now, he can wait for the right deal. As long as Auld continues to play well Nonis can be patient and more importantly, not look desperate.

This is Nonis' first real test as General Manager of the Vancouver Canucks. What he does will likely define this season and potentially his tenure in Vancouver.

Personally if I was in charge there is one guy I would be going after, Dwayne Roloson. The Wild are slipping out of the playoff race and one of their goalies will not be returning next season. Acquiring Roloson would give Vancouver an excellent goalie who is cheap, meaning they would have money to shore up the blueline and add some depth up front. That's what I would like to see.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Cloutier Out for the Year?

Dan Cloutier will have surgery on his ACL and could be out for 4 months, potentially ending his season.

More to come...

Cooke Returns vs Rangers

A few quick notes on tonights game...

  • Vancouver Canucks forward Matt Cooke will be back in the lineup tonight against the New York Rangers. Cooke has missed 17 games since breaking his jaw in practice. He'll be wearing a full shield.
  • Also new to the lineup tonight will be goaltender Maxime Ouellet who will be backing up Alex Auld.
  • Markus Naslund missed another practice yesterday, resting his injured groin, but he will be in the lineup tonight. I hope the Canucks are being careful with this one, Markus might be trying to play through something he shouldn't.
  • The Rangers are 10-2-2 at home, which includes five straight victories, they have only lost 4 games since the beginning of November.
  • This is another one of those games in which the Canucks shouldn't have a problem "getting up" for. Back to back solid efforts would be a refreshing sign.
  • Should be interesting to see how Bertuzzi plays after his little interview and coming off one of his best efforts of the season.

TV: RSN 4:00, also you can catch the replay at 7:30

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Measuring Stick?

So, the best team in the NHL is in town tonight and the Canucks are finally back in action after a long layoff. Tonight's game is probably the most anticipated of the season and has been hyped ad nauseum by the Vancouver media.

Since their six game winning streak in late October, the Canucks have had a long run of inconsistency and, at times, mediocrity. Vancouver is 9-8-1 since that winning streak. One game above .500 over six weeks is simply not good enough for this hockey club.

There are several contributing factors to the inconsistency, but there is one recurring theme and that is a lack of work ethic. I hate to harp on this fact, but it's unavoidable. The Vancouver Canucks do not work hard enough.

Tonight they'll have to bring their work boots or it will be a very long night. The Ottawa Senators have been dominant, routinely embarrassing teams. They are a powerhouse and Vancouver will have to be at the top of their game, somewhere they have rarely been this season.

This is a big test for Vancouver. They need to play a 60 minute game and they need some goaltending out of Alex Auld. Tonight we find out how they measure up against the league's best.

  • Vancouver has been nearly perfect on home ice at 12-1, while the Senators are 9-2 on the road.
  • Markus Naslund and Henrik Sedin have both been nursing groin injuries, however both will be in the lineup tonight.
  • Unfortunately for the Senators they will be without Wade Redden who is still out with a knee injury, and of course they begin life without Martin Havlat who is out for the remainder of the season.
  • Rob McVicar will be backing up Alex Auld. McVicar is being re-called from Victoria
  • No other players will be re-called, so that means both Wade Brookbank and Lee Goren will be in the lineup.

TV: SNET 7:00

Notes from Nuckland (and Mooseland)

Time to catch up on a few things...

  • Jason King is on the road to recovery from his concussion problems. He is now participating in full contact practices and could join the Moose soon.
  • The Canucks have one less option from the farm as Josh Green is out for 6 weeks after injuring tendons in his hand. Tough break for Green and the Canucks as he was playing rather well, especially considering the amount of travel he's had to endure.
  • Rob McVicar was assigned to the Victoria Salmon Kings of the ECHL, rather than the Manitoba Moose. This is a move to reduce the travel for McVicar while Cloutier is out. Victoria is not an affiliate of Vancouver, but there is strong speculation that Vancouver will change their ECHL affiliation (currently with Columbia) next season.
  • Newcomer Maxime Ouellet is 2-0 with a 2.61 GAA and .907 SvPct in 3 games with the Moose.
  • Jozef Balej had a good showing in his one game callup and now has 12 goals and 9 assists in 27 games for the Moose.
  • Sven Butenschon has been great for the Moose with 7 goals and 11 assists and a +10 rating in 24 games.
  • Tomas Mojzis has 8 points in 10 games since returning from his broken jaw.
  • Nathan Smith may be out for the remainder of the season after undergoing knee surgery.
  • According to Crawford, Matt Cooke could be ready to go next week.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Canucks Acquire G Maxime Ouellet

The Vancouver Canucks have acquired goaltender Maxime Ouellet from the Washington Capitals in exchange for a 5th round pick(2006).

Ouellet was drafted 22nd overall by the Flyers in 1999 and was involved in the Adam Oates deadline deal back in 2002. Ouellet has obviously not lived up to his potential, as demonstrated by the 5th rounder going the other way.

Here's the Canucks Press Release

One interesting note is that the draft pick heading the other way is likely the one included in the Fedor Fedorov trade. Fedorov for Ouellet and Balej doesn't sound too bad. I'll have more thoughts later.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Game Report: Vancouver 5 Colorado 2

The Vancouver Canucks got the monkey off their back. After losing four straight to the Avalanche, including a couple ugly first period blowouts, the Canucks got their act together and responded.

It didn't look good early as Joe Sakic scored quickly while the Avalanche also generated several early chances off the rush. But unlike past first periods, Vancouver responded right away and in the span of 90 seconds they had the lead. There was a small bump in the road when Colorado tied the game at 2, but Brendan Morrison's breakaway goal would give the Canucks the lead for good as they went on to a 5-2 victory.

Game Notes

  • It's amazing what happens when you work hard. The Canucks were winning the battles for pucks and generating penalties. They would end up with 8 power plays and 44 shots on goal.
  • I've often criticized Ed Jovanovski this season, but I thought he had one of his stronger games of the year. Jovo had the legs going and played very well defensively.
  • Speaking of legs going, Daniel Sedin was buzzing around all night long. While he didn't get a point, he managed 3 shots on goal and generated several scoring chances.
  • Todd Bertuzzi came to play, skating well and finishing with an assist and 6 shots on goal. So which Bertuzzi shows up in Edmonton? If I was a betting man (who am I kidding, I am), I wouldn't put my money on the one from last night, but I'd like to see Bertuzzi prove me wrong.
  • Anson Carter took a high stick in the third and while he looked like he would be all right I don't believe he returned to the game.
  • Brendan Morrison scored the game winner and added 5 shots on goal... Vancouver needs to see more of that from Mo.
  • I thought Trevor Linden had a very good game, he seems to have more jump in his step since he scored that shootout goal.
  • Steve McCarthy was the only Canuck not to register a shot on goal, yes that means Wade Brookbank had a shot on goal in his 3:48 of ice time.
  • Rob Blake was great. He got off to a slow start this season, but if that game is any indication he is still a lock for the Olympic team.
  • Finally, wasn't it great to see Mick McGeough again! If I was bored I would tally up the number of Canuck games he has officiated(I would guess at least a dozen), but I'm not, so I won't.

Vancouver is now 16-8-2, 3 points ahead of Calgary for the division lead. They head into Edmonton(who they have a 5 point lead on) tonight. Edmonton is coming off a loss to the Avalanche on Tuesday. Catch the game on Sportsnet at 6:00 pm.

Finally for today, the November report card is in the works, hopefully it does not take me as long as the October Report Card.

The Thornton Trade

While waiting for the Canuck game I was half asleep listening to the Leaf/Lightning game when I hear a breaking "major" news update... Joe Thornton traded to the San Jose Sharks for Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau.

First thought: "That's like Morrison, Allen and Ruutu." Second thought: "WTF is Boston thinking."

The Boston Bruins traded their best player, the face of the franchise and one of the best young talents in the NHL without getting an impact player or top prospect back in return. Quite frankly this is a terrible trade.

  • First, while Marco Sturm and Brad Stuart are pretty good players they aren't the type of players you build your team around. Sturm's upside is essentially a second line forward. Brad Stuart has, in the opinion of many, plateaued and it does not appear that he will live up to the potential that saw him drafted 3rd overall in 1998. Stuart will likely remain a 2nd pairing guy on any type of contending team.
  • Short term this deal gives Boston some much needed depth, especially on the blueline, but it does not help long term.
  • The Bruins have just pissed away their biggest asset. They had one of the most desirable young centre's in the NHL and they failed to maximize their return.
  • This move is an act of desperation by an incompetent ownership group and a GM solely interested in saving his own skin. This notoriously cheap organization failed to get an adequate return on their biggest asset, but hey, they save a few bucks.
  • If the Bruins were so intent on getting rid of Thornton they should have been smart about it. They could have dealt Thornton in the summer for assets and used the saved money to acquire one of the numerous quality free agents available.
  • Finally the fact that they did not shop Thornton only adds to the ridiculousness of the trade.

There is simply no way to defend this move.

Could the Canucks have got Thornton?

I'm sure a lot Canuck fans thought, "hey we could have matched that deal!" Vancouver certainly could have matched the talent quite easily, but that talent comes with large dollars attached.

Any deal for Thornton would require the equivalent of Thornton's $6.6m going back to Boston, something which Boston would not be interested in. But for arguments sake let's see who could have gone the other way:

  • Jovanovski($3.99m) & Morrison ($3.2m) - This would certainly be an upgrade up front, but that would be offset with a gaping hole on the already weak backend. This simply would not make the Canucks better.
  • Bertuzzi($5.27) & another $1.4m of salary - You could send Matt Cooke or Sami Salo to make up the salary difference, but either way it is unlikely that Boston would be interested in Bertuzzi's contract.
  • Morrison($3.2m) & Allen ($941k) & Cooke ($1.5) & more salary - This is probably the closest match to the San Jose deal, but even if you are willing to move those players and Boston wants them, you are still over the cap with Thornton by about a million dollars.

I could demonstrate other combinations, but it would be redundent. Simply put, any move for Thornton would require us moving the equivalent of Thornton's salary and one of our top defensemen. Since Boston is not likely to be interested in salary and the Canucks cannot afford to lose one of their top 4 defenseman(and would have no cap room for a replacement) there isn't a deal to be done.

Thornton would look great in a Canuck jersey, but in the salary cap world Vancouver was not a viable trading partner.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Time to Show Up

I was off enjoying Grey Cup festivities, so fortunately I was not subjected to yet another blowout loss to the Colorado Avalanche. The Canucks have now lost two in a row and not surprisingly, call-in shows and message boards are full of people bitching about the state of affairs in Canuck land. If you had just awoke from a coma and looked at the standings you'd wonder what the fuss was about. 15-8-2, leading the division and people are complaining? This is the same franchise that has finished at .500 or above in only 11 of 34 seasons?

It seems strange complaining about a 15-8-3 team, doesn't it?

Let's face it, there is nothing wrong with the record of this hockey club, but something is not right in Canuck land.

They have continually been out-played in the first period, one of their best players shows up once a week, they have been abysmal on the road and yet nearly perfect at home, and most perplexing of all, they have repeatedly come out flat against their biggest rival.

Tonight they are playing the Avalanche for the sixth time this season. Vancouver has lossed each of the last four meetings while being out-scored 21-10. How many times will they need to be embarrassed before they show up to play? Will tonight be the night?

Vancouver is 5-5 in their last ten games and have seen their division lead dissappear. If they don't get their act together they could easily find themselves in 4th place behind the Avalanche, Flames and Oilers. Clearly the players have taken notice of their precarious position, yesterday they called a players only meeting. Pehaps it was long overdue.

Of course, while there is plenty to be concerned with, the sky isn't falling. The team is still 7 games over .500 despite not finding consistency in their game. They have been nearly unbeatable on home ice. Their special teams have steadily improved since a slow start. They've even managed to "win ugly," something which they have been unable to do in years past.

So then what's wrong with this Canucks team?

While there are many things which need improvement it all comes down to one simple concept. Hard work.

It really is that simple. On their bad nights this team is still good enough to beat most teams based on talent alone. They can beat teams in 5 minutes while most opponents need to play 60 just to be in it. They can coast for the rest of this season and still finish in the middle of the conference.

However that is not going to cut it if they hope to have any playoff success. Teams like Calgary and Minnesota will out work them and it will be another early exit for this core of players.

Speaking of the core, this is it for them. Rightly or wrongly Dave Nonis has given this core another opportunity. There is no cap-room to make significant changes without weakening another area of the team. The coaching staff isn't going to take the fall for the players' lack of effort. What you see is what you get and the sooner the players realize this the better.

The success of this team is squarely on their shoulders and it is completely up to them to show up and play like they mean it.

Tonight is a critical juncture in this season. Another slow start and weak effort would be very disturbing.

It's time to show up.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Gameday: Sharks at Canucks

The San Jose Sharks haven't won a game in almost three weeks and they come into Vancouver to face a team who is 9-1-0 on home ice. To make matters worse for San Jose they are playing their second game in two nights... doesn't look good on paper, but you've still gotta play 'em.

Team Notes

San Jose Sharks (8-8-4)

Special Teams: PP 13.6% (25th) PK 81.3% (20th) PPopp/TS (139/102 +37)

  • San Jose's season has been a tremendous disappointment thus far and it does not look like it's going to get better any time soon.
  • They have lossed seven straight and have not scored more than 3 goals in their last 10 games.
  • The one bright spot for San Jose, Nolan Shaeffer, is expected to get the start in goal.
  • The Sharks power play has been dreadful this season and is obviously a huge contributing factor to their disappointing 8-8-4 record.
  • San Jose is playing back to back road games... they will really have to work hard tonight in order to avoid taking lazy penalties. As of 11:30 am the Sharks have not yet arrived at GM Place(due to fog at airport)... it could be a tough night.

Vancouver Canucks (14-6-2)

Special Teams: PP 17.5% (19th) PK 81% (22nd) PPopp/TS (154/132 +22)

  • Dan Cloutier is out with a sprained knee so Alex Auld will start. Rob McVicar has been recalled to back up Auld. According to Crawford, Cloutier felt the injury in his last game against Anaheim (where he was getting run repeatedly). He did practice yesterday, but he is now being instructed to rest and he will not be accompanying the team on the road trip. Crawford did say that if he was a forward he would likely play, so take that for what it's worth.
  • Sven Butenschon has also been recalled from Manitoba. The Canucks have essentially been playing with 5 defenseman, Butenschon will help relieve some of the workload. That means Nathan Smith will not get a chance to build on his solid game.
  • While Vancouver's power play is still ranked in the bottom third of the league, they have steadily improved over the course of the season... in fact they've added a full percentage point since the last week.
  • Led by Ryan Kesler, the Canucks got a great game out of their third line against Chicago, a good game from their 3rd in 4th lines will put a lot of pressure on a tired San Jose team.
  • The achilles heal of Vancouver has been their slow starts and inconsistent effort. There will be no excuse for losing this game. A good effort will make things extremely difficult on the Sharks.

Game Notes

  • Vancouver defeated San Jose 3-1 last Wednesday in San Jose.
  • Obviously Vancouver is the heavy favorite in this one. The Canucks are on a bit of a roll, while San Jose is mired in a slump. But we all know slumps eventually end and if the Canucks take the Sharks lightly San Jose could easily manage an upset.
  • So how will the officials call this one? Will we get another crapfest like Anaheim or a "whistles in the pocket" game like Chicago? I'm guessing somewhere in the middle.
  • Discipline and special teams will likely decide this one. The Canucks did a great job of staying out of the box against Chicago, while San Jose will likely be tired and could get into penalty trouble. Discipline has been one of San Jose's strong points this season and they will need to draw on that in order to avoid Vancouver's dangerous power play.

TV: SNET 7:00

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Game Report: Vancouver 3 - Chicago 1

"We had to work for this win." Markus Naslund.

It's been said many times this season that the Canucks have not had a full 60 minute effort. They may have finally put that to rest. Led by a strong first shift from the number one line, Vancouver put forth a very good effort against a Chicago team that came out strong in the first period.

While Chicago took the lead late in the first period, the Canucks matched their work ethic and gave you a sense that they would eventually prevail. Led by Markus Naslund and Ryan Kesler, Vancouver would take the lead in the second and finished well for their 14th victory of the season.

Game Notes

  • All the talk after the game was concentrated on the great game by Ryan Kesler. After struggling in recent weeks, Kesler came up with what was probably the best game of his NHL career. Hopefully he can build on his confidence and provide Vancouver with a strong 3rd line presence, something which has been lacking in recent weeks.
  • If Markus Naslund can play like that on a regular basis I would be a very happy camper. That's the kind of effort you need out of your captain. Naslund helped set the tone in the first shift and he maintained his intensity for the entire game. I was especially impressed with his defensive play and effort.
  • Unfortunately I was less than impressed with Bertuzzi. While he started strong he faded as the game went on. There was one play that was indicative of everything that is wrong with Bertuzzi. A Chicago player was skating with the puck along the end boards while Bertuzzi trailed just behind. Instead of skating up beside the Chicago player and hammering him into the boards and taking the puck, Bertuzzi simply coasted behind him. It was just a small little play, but it really stood out to me.
  • The strong effort out of the gate also played a factor in Vancouver only taking one minor penalty. That is not a typo. Go figure, when you actually move your feet and aren't lazy you don't need to take hooking penalties.
  • Alex Auld rebounded well from his last start. Auld was sharp, stopping 32 shots. Also credit the defense for making it very difficult for Chicago to get shots from quality positions.
  • Speaking of the defense, Mattias Ohlund and Bryan Allen were excellent.
  • Nathan Smith looked pretty good in just his third NHL game. Smith got the call rather than Josh Green who was probably a little gassed from all his recent travels. It will be interesting to see if Smith can maintain his level of play once the adrenaline of a callup has worn off.
  • For the first time in a while the bottom two lines had solid contributions. Obviously a lot of that had to do with the amount of 5-on-5 play, but the Canucks need more of a presence from their grinders. For the most part this season our grinders have been outplayed by the opposition's.
  • Finally it was nice to see Henrik Sedin rewarded with a goal. The Sedin line has been the most consistent line all year long and even when they have been slumping on the scoresheet they have made solid contributions game in game out. Anson Carter was particularly good last night.

Next up are the Sharks on Thursday.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Game Report: Vancouver 3 - San Jose 1

The Vancouver Canucks defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-1 last night, in what was one of the more boring games of the season. And of course I payed $11 to see it.

The first period was very tight, but Richard Park managed to put the Canucks on the board with a nice shorthanded goal. The Sharks were the better team in the second and managed to tie the game after a poor play by Wade Brookbank and Todd Bertuzzi at the Shark blueline. But in the third, Vancouver was the better team and managed to draw some penalties from the usually disciplined Shark squad. The Canucks capitalized on the opportunities and that was the difference in the game.

Game Notes

  • The Canuck defense was very good, especially Mattias Ohlund, Sami Salo and Bryan Allen. They were punishing Shark forwards at every opportunity.
  • Vancouver's third and fourth lines really set the tone in the third with back-to-back strong forechecking shifts early in the period. Forechecking from the bottom two lines has been something that has been missing from the Canucks for most of the season.
  • One line that has consistently forechecked well is of course the Sedin line. They were at it again last night, controlling the play in the San Jose zone. Even when they are not scoring they are still controlling possesion, something that shouldn't be overlooked.
  • You could tell right away that Bertuzzi was not going to be a factor. His fancy drop passes and little deflection passes are usually a sign that he's going to take the night off. The attempted third period pass through several players was something he simply cannot do. There's no reason to attempt that pass, especially when you are protecting the lead in the third period. Bertuzzi needs to take that puck deep into the offensive zone instead of turning it over in the neutral zone. Boneheaded play.
  • Dan Cloutier had another very solid game. Sure he had some luck, but he was still very good when he had to be.
  • Nolan Baumgartner has really picked up his game this month and Crawford has taken notice. Baumgartner played nearly 18 minutes and even saw a little PK time. Obviously some of the ice-time has to do with Brookbank being in the lineup, but Baumgartner has earned the extra minutes.
  • Josh Green needs to stay up with the club. Despite his travel fiasco, he was once again one of the better Canuck forwards.
  • Special teams were the difference in this one, and as I mentioned yesterday, the Sharks would have to win that battle if they hoped to win the game. They didn't.

The Canucks are in LA tonight to face the Kings (7:30 SNET). I'll see if I can get a preview up later...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Gameday: Canucks at Sharks

The Vancouver Canucks begin a three game California road trip tonight in San Jose. Vancouver is coming off an impressive 4-1 victory over the league leading Detroit Redwings, while the streaky Sharks are currently on a 3 game streak of the not so good variety.

Team Notes

Vancouver Canucks (11-5-3)

Special Teams: PK (81.3% 20th) PP (16.7% 19th) PPopp/TS (131/107 +24)

  • Vancouver is a perfect 7-0 outside of their own division, however they have lost their last 4 games on the road.
  • After reagravating his groin in practice yesterday, Steve McCarthy is not on the road trip. That means Josh Green is back up with the club and Wade Brookbank will dress as the 6th defenseman.
  • The big line is rolling for Vancouver with 14 points in their last 3 games, including a hat-trick performance by Todd Bertuzzi against Detroit.
  • Dan Cloutier will start in goal. Cloutier is coming off what was arguably his best game of the season.

San Jose Sharks (8-7-2)

Special Teams: PK (81.8% 18th) PP (13.2% 27th) PPopp/TS (113/88 +25)

  • San Jose has lost three in a row, scoring only six goals during that time. The Sharks have struggled with offence this season, scoring only 2.71 goals per game.
  • Evgeni Nabokov returned to the net against Dallas after missing 8 games. He is expected to start tonight.
  • Scott Hannan, who played on Canada's World Cup blueline, is struggling with only 3 points and a -12 rating.
  • LW Scott Thornton has missed the last 5 games, but could suit up tonight. Thornton has given Vancouver trouble in the past.
  • To help improve their struggling power-play, San Jose is experimenting with Patrick Marleau on the point. It worked for one goal against Dallas.

Game Notes

  • Both of these teams have struggled on special teams this season, however they are both good at generating more power play opportunities than shorthanded opportunities. In fact San Jose has only been shorthanded 88 times this season.
  • While San Jose is currently stuggling they've got the talent to turn it around in a hurry. Players like Marleau and Sturm are very dangerous and could break out at any time. Vancouver can't afford to turn the puck over in their own end or they'll soon find it in the back of their net.
  • One other thing these teams share in common is a lack of faceoff prowess. Both are sitting at 48%. This is likely a factor in the stuggling special teams.
  • With the poor special team rankings, five-on-five play could decide this one. Not exactly a good thing for San Jose who have a 0.72 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio, compared to Vancouver's 1.07.
  • Finally, both teams are perfect when leading after the first period, something tells me that will change tonight ;)

I would say that this game is Vancouver's to lose. Right now they have their offense on track while San Jose does not. San Jose will have to jump on Vancouver early and win the special teams battle if they hope to break their slump.

TV: PPV 7:30.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Weekend Wrap-up and a Few Thoughts

The Vancouver Canucks played two games over the weekend losing 5-3 to the Avalanche on Friday and winning 4-1 against Detroit last night.

A few thoughts...

  • Vancouver had yet another terrible first period on Friday, something that has to be a major concern. Fixing the problem isn't as easy as you might think. Obviously the Canucks should be "up" for facing the Avalanche and they themselves are prepared and excited to play. So why the poor start?
  • One thing which is contributing to the slow starts, and has become a big problem, is the poor faceoff numbers. When you are losing draws and thus losing possesion of the puck, it's easy for things to snowball and get out of hand like they did against Colorado. You can prepare and focus as much as you wan't, but if you are continually chasing the opposition you're going to get in trouble. Teams like the Avalanche will bury you if you keep giving them possesion. Faceoffs is the one area that absolutely must be improved and it starts with Brendan Morrison. While Henrik Sedin has improved from 49.4% in Oct. to 52.5% on the year, and Trevor Linden is up from 47% in Oct. to 50.3% overall, Brendan Morrison is still at 45.6%. Granted he was at 42.2% in October, so he is getting better, but it's not good enough, especially for the centreman who is taking the most draws on your team.
  • Ed Jovanovski had an absolutely terrible game against Colorado. He was truely awful. Three of the four goals directly resulted from poor plays by Jovanovski. At this stage in his career(and at his salary) there is no excuse for the types of mistakes he is making. These aren't mistakes caused by "high-risk" offensive play, they are terrible blunders which are not caused by taking offensive chances. Jovo simply needs to be better.
  • Josh Green got the call again from Manitoba and this did not surprise me. I thought he has been very good so far both in Manitoba and Vancouver. I've been impressed with his skating ability and hustle. I would not be surprised if he eventually unseats Lee Goren as the 12th forward.
  • Nathan Smith was also re-called briefly, which is good news for Vancouver. The former first round pick has so far proven to be one of Brian Burke's worst decisions. Smith was nearly out of the Canucks plans until a strong playoff run with Manitoba caught management's attention. Now, there's still a chance that Smith could develop into a 4th line checking centre. While not what you want from a first round pick, that's still better than a complete bust, which was what Smith was looking like not too long ago.
  • Todd Bertuzzi finally had his breakout game and looks to "be back". He's showing some much needed confidence with the puck and seems to be playing without that big weight on his shoulders. Still it's only a few games, so the jury is still out, but that hat-trick is certainly a welcome sign.
  • The officiating in the Detroit game was terrible. Not only was it inconsistent(see goaltender interference or lack therof) but several things were missed including an obvious high stick on Goren(who was the puck carrier no less) and a bizarre delayed call on Fischer who hit Kesler from behind. Throw in plenty of non-calls on hooking and some general weak calls (see Yzerman) and it was a terrible display of officiating.
  • Dan Cloutier returned from his concussion injury and looked extremely sharp against Detroit. Always a good sign.
  • Do the Canucks really miss Matt Cooke? Certainly their record hasn't been great since he went down, but I don't think his absence has been the reason. Is the difference between a Lee Goren, or Josh Green in the lineup, and Matt Cooke really worth $1 million? At the time I did not like the Cooke contract summing up my thoughts with "The bottom line is that the defense is weak and the forward group would be just fine without Cooke." I still maintain that the Canucks would be better off with Cooke's money placed on the blueline.
  • With Steve McCarthy still nursing a groin injury and Wade Brookbank being spotted on the blueline, the rest of the blueline is playing a lot of minutes. This is going to become a problem in the second half if the Canucks cannot find a way to balance out the minutes more. Sami Salo cannot continue playing 25 minutes a night or it will start to catch up with him. He tailed off some in the last half of last season, and will likely do the same if he continues playing this much. Vancouver needs more than 5:00 out of their sixth defenseman.
  • Speaking of the defense, that was a great pass by Baumgartner to send Bertuzzi in alone. His defensive play leaves a lot to be desired, but he certainly has the offensive skills.
  • Finally, there's some good news on the Canuck prospect front... Kirill Koltsov is having a good year in Russia, Jannik Hansen (9th Rd 2004) and Alexander Edler (3rd Rd 2004) are up at the top of the WHL rookie scoring race. There is also a good chance that the Canucks could have two goaltending prospects in the World Junior tournament, with Julien Ellis potentially making team Canada and Cory Schneider potentially starting for the Americans. For more on the Canucks prospect's in the CHL check out Hockey's Future.

Anyway that's all for today. The Canucks are in San Jose Wednesday (PPV), I'll try and get a preview together.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Gameday: Colorado At Vancouver

The Vancouver Canucks are back at the friendly confines of GM Place where they look to maintain their unblemished 7-0-0 home record. In town are the red hot Colorado Avalanche. Colorado leads the season series 2-1.

Colorado Avalanche (8-4-2)

The Colorado Avalanche have been on a tear, finishing their 6 game homestand with a 5-0-1 record. The Avalanche are having no trouble scoring goals as they rank 3rd in the league with 4.3 goals scored per game. In addition to their offence, their special teams also rank up at the top of the league. The power-play is at 22.3%(t 4th) and the penalty kill is at 87.6% (4th).

Defenseman John-Michael Liles still leads the Avalanche with 16 points while Marek Svatos and Antti Laaksonen are tied for the team lead with 6 goals. Colorado has a well balanced attack with 9 players with between 10 and 16 points.

The Avalanche have often started strong, outscoring their opponents 22-10 in the first period leading to a 5-2-1 record when leading after one.

David Aebischer, who has won 6 straight games, will get the start in goal.

Vancouver Canucks (10-4-2)

The Canucks are coming off two straight losses in their back-to-back games in Calgary and have seen their division lead fall to just 4 points. While they have struggled on the road, they have been perfect at home. A win tonight would set a new franchise record.

On the road trip previous to Calgary, Vancouver was in Colorado where they lost 6-2 and 4-3 in OT. Vancouver will be looking for a better showing on home ice.

Vancouver has been bitten by the injury bug of late and tonight defenceman Steve McCarthy will be out of the lineup with a minor groin pull. Taking his place will be Sven Butenschon who was recalled from Manitoba. Butenschon has 6pts in 13 games for Manitoba, he is expected to be paired with Sami Salo.

Up front, there will be a new look on the third line as Lee Goren is expected to join former Moose linemate Ryan Kesler and the slumping Richard Park. Wade Brookbank will draw in on the 4th line with Jarkko Ruutu and Trevor Linden.

In goal, Alex Auld will get the start and Dan Cloutier will be backing up.

Vancouver will need to work hard on special teams which are not performing well. The power-play ranks 18th at 17.2% while the penalty kill is ranked 21st at 80%.

Keys to the Game

  1. Special Teams and Discipline - Both teams need to stay out of penalty trouble as the special teams battle will likely decide the game.
  2. Scoring First - Both teams sport great records when they score first, that's not likely to change tonight.
  3. Playing a full 60 minutes - It's not over till it's over - as both teams have learned in their previous meetings.

With the Bertuzzi "stuff" out of the way, these two teams can finally have the focus back on hockey and the division race. It should be a good one.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

October Report Card

In the better late than never category, here is the Canucks report card for the month of October.

First a few notes on the grades....

  • A: The player is consistently playing at the top of his game and is doing more than expected/demanded.
  • B: The player is doing a good job at what they are expected to do.
  • C: The player is not doing what he should be doing and is under performing.
  • D: The player is significantly under performing.


Stats: Games - G A Pts - Avg Ice Time(Even Strength/Short Handed/Power-play) PIM(Fights)

Bold indicates team leader.

Todd Bertuzzi: C-
12 - 2g 8a 10pts - 18:48 (11:51/0:09/6:48) 19m(1)
It was a tough return to the NHL for Todd Bertuzzi. His 2 October goals translate to less than 14 over an 82 game schedule... not good enough for a player making Bertuzzi money. Despite nearly 7 minutes of pp ice time per game, Bertuzzi managed only 2 pp points. If it were not for the hot start of Markus Naslund, Bertuzzi's numbers would be even worse than they are. On most nights Bertuzzi was simply a non-factor.
Anson Carter: C+
12 - 2g 2a 4pts - 13:58 (8:45/0:54/4:19) 11m(1)
Carter got off to a hot start in the pre-season, unfortunately that did not carry over into the regular season. Four points simply isn't good enough for Anson Carter, especially with the amount of power play ice-time he's receiving. That said, his linemates have been successful and some credit must go to Carter. Carter seems to be opening up more room for the Sedins, giving them more options. With a little more hard work and some puck luck, Carter's numbers should improve.
Matt Cooke: B
12 - 3g 2a 5pts - 13:41 (10:59/2:14/0:27) 14m
Matt Cooke got the big contract, one that raised more than a few eyebrows in Canuck land. Despite the new contract, Cooke's role has essentially remained the same. His ice time is not up and he is rarely seen on the power play. Cooke's production is adequate for his role and on most nights he was noticeable, leading the team with 33 hits. Overall it was a solid month, exactly what you expect from Matt Cooke.
Lee Goren: C+
11 - 1g 0a 1pt - 7:31 (6:08/0:00/1:21) 21(3)
Lee Goren made some noise in the pre-season and managed to make the team. He got off to a pretty good start, scoring a goal early in the year, but he hasn't found the net since. Overall Goren has done his job on the 4th line, throwing checks and generating the odd scoring chance. His skating and defensive game leave a lot to be desired, but his size, physical play and shot give the Canucks a different dynamic on the 4th line.
Ryan Kesler: B-
12 - 2g 0a 2pts - 13:08 (10:22/2:23/0:23) 10m
With only two goals in October, a B- may seem a little generous. However, considering Kesler's age and experience he has done quite well in his first full NHL season. All you have to do is look at the responsibility Crawford gives Kesler. Kesler is getting a lot of penalty kill time and that will only increase as the season moves along. While his offensive game is not there yet, it should come around eventually. Another area needing improvement is his faceoff game. Kesler was 48.3% in October, that must be improved.
Trevor Linden: C
12 - 1g 1a 2pts - 11:36 (8:08/3:09/0:18) 0m
The stat line for Trevor Linden is not pretty. Relegated to 4th line duty Linden has found the points tough to come by. Is Linden on his last legs? I don't think so. Linden can still skate and because of that he is still a very useful player. I expect Linden to get better as the season moves along.
Brendan Morrison: B-
12 - 3g 7a 10pts - 20:06 (12:16/2:41/5:08) 6m
Inconsistency has been the knock on Morrison's game for most of his career and October was just that, inconsistent. He is capable of playing much better and I expect he will. One area where he must improve is on faceoffs. Morrison was terrible in the faceoff circle, winning only 42.2% of his draws.
Markus Naslund: A-
12 - 7g 7a 14pts - 19:17(12:04/0:06/7:06) 4m
Although his linemates struggled, Markus Naslund did not. While he tailed off a bit in the last third of the month, his 7 goals and 14 points lead the team.
Richard Park: B
12 - 3g 3a 6pts - 13:31 (10:18/2:29/0:43) 0m
Richard Park got off to a pretty good start with his new team. Six points in 12 games is a solid contribution from one of your third line players. Park has used his speed and deceptive wrist shot very effectively. He's looking like a very shrewd pickup for Dave Nonis.
Jarkko Ruutu: C+
12 - 1g 1a 2pts - 9:22 (7:33/1:32/0:16) 8m
With so many penalties early in the season Ruutu found consistent ice-time difficult to come by. Ruutu was not bad and he was not good, he was simply "there". With Cooke out for a while Ruutu should have a much better November(which he has started well).
Henrik Sedin: A-
12 - 4g 7a 11pts - 14:26 (9:47/0:11/4:27) 8m
Henrik Sedin is off to the best start of his NHL career. While the second line got off to a bit of a slow start, they heated up as the month progressed and they are now at the point where Crawford is being forced to find more ice time for the Sedins. Through October, Henrik is on pace for a 75 point season... needless to say, the Canucks would be thrilled with that.
Daniel Sedin: B+
12 - 4g 5a 9pts - 14:00 (9:22/0:15/4:22) 10m
Daniel Sedin looks like a different player this year. He appears to have picked up a step in his skating (he is now noticeably faster than his brother) and his shot is also a lot harder. The improved physical skills seem to have led to improved confidence. Daniel Sedin is simply a more confident player. When they have possesion of the puck, the Sedin's now know that they have the ability to score.


Bryan Allen: A+
10 - 1g 2a 3pts - 18:56 (15:12/3:28/0:15) 8m
Bryan Allen gets the highest grade of any Canuck in the month of October. He exceeded expectations and was simply a rock on defense. There were stretches last season where Allen showed he could be a top defensive defenseman... this season Allen has consistently been a top defender, especially on the penalty kill. If he continues to play this well you'll see his minutes creep over the 20 minute mark.
Nolan Baumgartner: C+
12 - 1g 5a 6pts - 15:17 (9:41/0:22/5:13) 2m
What you see with Baumgartner is what you get. He has good puck skills and is very useful on the power play. On the defensive side of things, he is not big or strong on the puck and he often makes mistakes when under pressure. Baumgartner can get exposed in his own end, but when put in the right situation he is a solid contributor. If he can limit his defensive mistakes, his grade will improve.
Wade Brookbank: Incomplete
3 - 0g 0a 0pts - 7:35 (6:28/0:51/0:05) 14m
Brookbank did not receive enough playing time to warrant a grade.
Ed Jovanovski: A-
12 - 2g 8a 10pts - 25:21 (15:03/3:38/6:39) 10m
Ed Jovanovski is certainly making a bid to return to the Canadian Olympic team. Jovo had a great month, especially on the power-play. The only thing missing from Jovo's game is more physical play.
Steve McCarthy: C
12 - 0g 1a pts - 13:39 (11:05/1:12/1:21) 8m
McCarthy had a terrible start in Vancouver. For the first few weeks McCarthy was pretty much brutal. He was not displaying any sort of offensive game and he was continually getting out muscled in the defensive zone. It was not pretty. However over the past few weeks McCarthy has gotten a lot better. He is starting to be more assertive and more physical in the defensive zone and he has cut down on the number of mistakes. If he can get his offensive game together, the Canucks blueline will be looking much better.
Mattias Ohlund: C+
12 - 3g 1a 4pts - 23:16 (14:48/4:19/4:08) 26m
Mattias Ohlund missed the pre-season and it showed in his first month of the season. While he certainly was not bad by any stretch of the imagination, he was not Mattias Ohlund. At times Ohlund has looked a little tired, but as the season progresses I expect him to return to form.
Sami Salo: A
12 - 3g 7a pts - 25:51 (15:13/4:33/6:04) 16m
Sami Salo was one of the more under appreciated Canucks last season. That is starting to change as more people are taking notice of his great play. Salo leads the team in minutes per game, has been a tremendous threat on the power-play and he leads the team in ice-time on the penalty kill. You can't ask for much more.


Alex Auld A
3-0-1 2.25 GAA .914 SvPct
You can't ask for much more from your backup goaltender. Auld only saw four games, but he played well in all. The Canucks finally have a backup they can have some confidence in.
Dan Cloutier B-
5-2-1 3.54 GAA .873 SvPct
As has been the case through most of his tenure with the Canucks the numbers aren't pretty, but you can't argue with the result. Cloutier's numbers are bloated by the blowout in Minnesota and the third period meltdown against Colorado, but for the most part Cloutier has been solid this season. Still Cloutier can be better and he needs to be.

Overall Team Grade: B+

Despite the great record in October, the Canucks have yet to bring their best game. For most of the month the Canucks controlled their fate. If they showed up to play, worked hard and were disciplined they would win. When they didn't show up... well it was ugly.

The Canucks can play better and yet you can't complain about the record. Life's pretty good in Canuck land.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Matt Cooke Out With Fractured Jaw

Vancouver Canucks forward Matt Cooke is out indefinately with a fractured jaw suffered in practice. Cooke will undergo surgery and will be placed on the injured reserve.

With injuries to Bryan Allen, Dan Cloutier and now Matt Cooke, the Canucks are a couple men short.

According to Sportsnet, Josh Green will be getting the call to replace Cooke. Green has 4 goals and 6 assists in 9 games for the Moose.

They will also require a goalie for tommorow's game. Rob McVicar seems to be the most likely candidate, unless the Canucks look outside the organization.

More details on the roster plans should be available tommorow.

Also, the October Report Card is in the works and should be available sometime this week.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Cloutier Out At Least A Week

The Canucks will be without their number one goaltender for at least a week as Dan Cloutier recovers from a concussion. Cloutier is back in Vancouver and is under observation. The NHL requires a minimum of one week off for all concussion injuries.

That means Alex Auld will get the next three starts, while Rob McVicar is expected to be called up from Manitoba for Wednesday's game against Minnesota. McVicar is getting the call because Wade Flaherty would have to clear waivers to be called up. If a team were to claim Flaherty, Vancouver would be on the hook for half his NHL salary. (I can't see this rule lasting beyond this season, minor league veterans are not too happy about it). McVicar is 2-1 with a 2.25 GAA and .919 SvPct for the Moose.

In the short term, Alex Auld will get all the playing time barring a blow out. If Cloutier is out for an extended period of time I would expect the Canucks to sign one of the many veteran goaltenders who are currently free agents.

Note: I don't have a game report for Saturday's loss, but I will have an "October Report Card" up soon, possibly tonight...

Friday, October 28, 2005

Game Report: Colorado 6 - Vancouver 2

For the second time this season the Vancouver Canucks failed to show up in the first game of back-to-backs in the same city. Last time, in Minnesota they we're creamed 6-0, this time in Colorado the result wasn't much different.

Vancouver came out of the gate flat and lifeless. Early penalty troubles and extremely poor defensive coverage compounded problems. The Canucks best players were their worst: Morrison -3, Naslund -3, Bertuzzi -2, Jovanovski -2, Ohlund -2. Considering the attention on this game it's hard to understand how the Canucks could be so lifeless.

The first two periods were terrible, but the Canucks showed some character by coming out strong in the third period, out-shooting Colorado 23-0. It would have been easy for them to phone in the third period, but guys like Ryan Kesler stepped it up and helped gain some momentum heading into Saturday night's rematch.

Canucks Report Card

The Forwards: C-

It was a poor effort all-around and the forward group set the tone for mediocrity. Todd Bertuzzi returned to floating form, Morrison was terrible, Naslund not much better. Once again faceoffs were a problem, Linden was 5 for 10, Sedin 5 for 15 and Morrison, who is having a terrible year in the faceoff circle, was 7 for 16. The only bright spot was Ryan Kesler 8/11.

There were a couple positives on the night, mostly limited to the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler's strong third period.

Overall a pretty crappy effort by the forward group.

The Defense: D

As bad as the forwards were the defense was even worse. With Bryan Allen out of the lineup others had to step up... they didn't. Nolan Baumgartner was brutal in the first period, his play directly contributing to two Colorado goals. Steve McCarthy took two minor penalties. Ed Jovanovski and Mattias Ohlund were both -2.

The down low coverage was non-existent as Colorado pretty much toyed with the Canucks in the offensive zone. It was a poor night on the blueline.

Wade Brookbank actually got some ice-time and was one of the few Canucks to show that they cared about the game. Although he took a couple penalties someone needed to do something to spark the team. Of course Colorado was well aware of this and they did their best to prevent Brookbank from lighting a spark. Brad May's been around a long time in that role to know that there was no reason to give the Canucks any life. The officials didn't help the Canucks cause, as any sort of physical play resulted in a penalty. Clearly they did not wan't things to "get out of hand."

The Goaltending: D

While the goaltenders didn't get any help, they didn't step up to bail out their teammates.

Dan Cloutier looked very sharp early in the first, but poor coverage resulted in a few Colorado goals. As good as Turgeon's shot was you can't allow goals from there. Cloutier started strong, but failed to keep his team in the game.

Alex Auld was not much better. The goal he allowed against Turgeon was brutal.

Neither goalie got any help, but the one positive from this game is that neither goalie was good enough and at least the Cloutier bashers can't whine and say that Auld would have done a better job.

Special Teams: F

The numbers speak for themselves: Vancouver PP 0/8. Colorado PP 3/8.

Overall: D

It was a terrible game by the entire team. The effort was non-existent and the defensive coverage was terrible. The only positive was that they showed up for the third period and I didn't have to miss watching Alias.

The Canuck Fan's Three Stars

Since there were no Canuck stars I'll just go with the announced stars: 1) Ian Laperriere 2) David Aebischer 3) Pierre Turgeon.

Next up: Colorado Saturday 7:00 CBC

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Gameday: Vancouver at Colorado

The Vancouver Canucks are in Colorado for their second meeting of the season. And of course this is Bertuzzi's first game back in Colorado since you know what.

In the last meeting in Vancouver, the game was a rather mundane affair which featured little physical play and no fights. Will things be different tonight? Don't count on it... of course the (Canadian) media will do their best to hype the game.

Vancouver (8-1-1)

The Canucks have won six in a row and have tied the franchise record for the best start to a season. Vancouver's recent success is largely due to two things. The first is their work ethic, they have not been outworked since the 6-0 loss to Minnesota. The second is the improvement of their special teams and their ability to stay out of the penalty box. The power-play is now up to 18.2% and while the penalty kill stats are not good, 78.1%, they have been much better than at the beginning of the season.

Vancouver has been healthy all season, but tonight they will be without the services of Bryan Allen who is suffering the ill-effects of a few blocked shots. Wade Brookbank will take his place on the blueline.

Dan Cloutier will get the start in goal.

Colorado (4-4-1)

Colorado have one two of their last three games, both against the Oilers. The Avalanche will be looking to improve their home record(2-2-1) after blowing three goal leads in their previous two games at the Pepsi Center.

The Avalanche were arguably the better team during 5-on-5 play in Vancouver. This time they have to capitalize on their scoring opportunities and they must find a way to contain the Canucks defense which contributed two goals.

David Aebischer will be getting the start in goal. Aebischer is 3-3-0 with a 3.54 GAA and .870 SvPct.

Keys to the Game

  1. Special Teams & Discipline - This is starting to sound like a broken record, but let's face it, with so many penalties each night most games are being decided by special teams.
  2. Goaltending - In the last meeting, Dan Cloutier was the difference in the first period. Who's going to be the difference tonight?
  3. Avoiding Distractions - Both teams will have to deal with the media attention and the unruly Colorado fans. Both teams must focus on the game and not the hype.

TV: PPV 6:00

In other news Vancouver signed Jason Doig to a two-way contract yesterday. Doig will remain in Manitoba.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Game Report: Vancouver 3 - Minnesota 1

The Vancouver Canucks got on the board first and never trailed in their 3 - 1 victory over the Minnesota Wild.

A few notes...

  • Alex Auld had a strong game stopping 27 of 28 shots. It will be interesting to see if Auld gets one of the starts in Colorado.
  • The Canucks continue to struggle in the faceoff circle. Brendan Morrison was brutal winning only 5 of 17 draws. This will eventually become a problem if they do not improve.
  • The third line is stuggling to find any kind of offence. They managed only 4 shots between them.
  • Bertuzzi still lacks confidence... shoot the puck!

I did not order the PPV so instead of the usual report here are some links to check out...

The Canucks are rolling along and hope to set a new record for the best start to a season tommorow night in Colorado (6:00 PPV).

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Gameday: Vancouver at Minnesota

The Vancouver Canucks are returning to Minnesota for the third meeting of the season between the two teams.

Last time in Minnesota the Canucks of course lost 6-0 in what was by far their worst effort of the season. Vancouver would get some revenge by defeating the Wild 5-3 at GM Place.

Vancouver (7-1-1)

Vancouver has won five straight since their loss in Minnesota. Coming off a perfect homestand the Canucks are now out on the road for three games.

Ed Jovanovski has been red hot, 2 goals 6 assists on the homestand, leading a Canuck defense core that has consistently contributed offence. The defense have helped to improve the power-play which now ranks 12th in the league.

The Canuck lineup should once again remain unchanged. Alex Auld is expected to start in goal.

Minnesota (5-3-1)

Minnesota is coming off a 4-2 loss to Chicago, however they are 4-1-0 at home and are looking for their third straight win on home ice.

The Wild will once again be without Marian Gaborik, who re-injured his groin(or hip-flexor?) on Sunday. Also injured are Phillip Kuba and Alex Henry, Pascal Dupuis is a game time decision.

Manny Fernandez is expected to start for the Wild.

Keys to the Game

  1. Scoring First - As is always the case against Minnesota, it's always a lot easier to win when you score first.
  2. Special Teams - Both teams will need to come through on special teams if they wan't to win.
  3. Goaltending - The Wild always get good goaltending against Vancouver, tonight we'll see a showdown between Auld and Fernandez.

TV: PPV 5:00

With 4 pay-per-view games this month(and two this week) I'm going to take a pass on this one. I've already spent $10.95 watching the Wild once and that's enough for me. So, tomorrow's game report won't be the usual type.

For those interested, the NY Rangers have called up Fedor Fedorov. Fedorov had 1 goal and 4 assists and was a -3 in 5 games for Hartford... Josef Balej has 2 goals and 2 assists in 6 games for the Moose.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Game Report: Canucks 6 - Avalanche 4

(This one is a day late, but here it is anyway)

The Vancouver Canucks defeated the Colorado Avalanche 6-4 in a game that failed to live up to the media hype. But that wasn't surprising to anyone paying attention. It had been over a year and a half since the two teams played each other and with so much turnover in Colorado there was no spark in this traditional rivalry. In fact this was probably one of the tamest contests between the two since they met in the playoffs.

For the most part, Colorado was the better team during 5-on-5 play, however Dan Cloutier kept the Canucks in the game. Unfortunately for the Avalanche they lost the special teams battle. Vancouver went 2 for 9 on the power-play, while Colorado was 0 for 5 before a late power-play goal in the third period.

Speaking of the third period, Vancouver learned a valuable lesson. Leading 5-1 with less than five minutes left, Vancouver stopped playing. They now know you cannot afford to do that as Colorado scored three straight goals to draw within one before Linden scored an empty net goal to finish off the game.

Canucks Report Card

The Forwards: C+

While the Canucks scored six goals, most of them were as a result of power-play opportunities. During 5-on-5 the Avalanche were usually the better team, as evidenced by the final shot totals 32-23. Brendan Morrison had a good game, scoring once and adding two assists. The Sedins were also good, contributing two goals, Henrik was also 8 for 11 in the faceoff circle. Matt Cooke led all players in hits with six. Overall it was a decent effort by the forward group, however they shut it down far too early in the third. They need to finish stronger than that.

The Defense: B-

The defense once again contributed on the scoreboard. Bryan Allen picked up his first goal of the season and Ed Jovanovski had a goal and an assist. On the defensive side of things, Dan Cloutier was forced to make too many good saves as Colorado forwards enjoyed several great scoring opportunities. Overall the defense was adequate, but they can be much better.

Goaltending: A

Quite simply Dan Cloutier was the difference in the game. Cloutier stopped 13 first period shots which included a couple great saves against Joe Sakic. Unfortunately for Cloutier his team hung him out to dry in the final minutes and Colorado added 3 goals to his goals against total.

Special Teams: A

The Canucks power play continues to roll as they scored two goals in nine opportunities. They also had a couple goals which came shortly after the penalized player returned to the ice. The penalty kill was also very good, the only blemish a late goal to Alex Tanguay.

Overall: B

Special teams and goaltending won them this one. They need to play better 5-on-5 and they cannot quit early, even with a 4 goal lead.

The Canuck Fan's Three Stars

  1. Dan Cloutier - Ya ya, he gave up 4 goals, but before his teammates decided to quit early Cloutier was the runaway first star of the game.
  2. Ed Jovanovski - Jovo had another two points in nearly 27 minutes of ice-time. Another strong effort from Jovo.
  3. Daniel Sedin - Daniel had two goals, including the game winner. He also generated several other scoring opportunities.

Next up: Vancouver in Minnesota, Tuesday (PPV).

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Gameday: Colorado at Vancouver

It's the first meeting between the bitter Northwest rivals since you know when. The media has hyped this game beyond belief so I'll spare you that... you'll get you're fill of hype on NHIC.

Let's get to the point...

Vancouver (6-1-1)

The Vancouver Canucks have won five straight since their drubbing in Minnesota. Clearly the embarrassing loss got the team's attention.

Since the Minnesota loss, the Canucks have come out very strong in the first period of each game and will need to do the same again tonight against the Avalanche. In addition to strong starts, their power-play has been scoring on a nightly basis and while the penalty kill struggled early in the year the Canucks were perfect against Phoenix.

The Canucks are getting huge contributions from their defense, Ed Jovanovski has six points during the winning streak, while Mattias Ohlund and Sami Salo have been scoring on the power-play.

The Canucks lineup has remained unchanged during the win streak and I would expect that to continue tonight, although there is a chance that Wade Brookbank could draw into the lineup (I'll try and post an update if I get confirmation on Brookbank).

Dan Cloutier is expected to start.

Colorado (3-3-1)

The Colorado Avalanche are coming off a dominating 7-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers last night. Milan Hejduk made his return to the lineup and managed to score twice and add an assist. Hejduk is a familiar face, referred to by many as "the Canuck Killer", but there aren't too many familiar faces left on the Avalanche. I believe there are only 8 players who were in the Colorado lineup last time these teams met.

The new faces include the likes of Pierre Turgeon, Patrice Brisebois, Andrew Brunette, Anti Laaksonen, Ian Lapperriere and of course Brad May.

Defenseman John-Michael Liles leads the Avalanche in scoring with 4 goals and 6 assists. Alex Tanguay has not scored, but does have 8 assists. Joe Sakic and Pierre Turgeon both have 7 points, while rookie Marek Svatos has 5 goals and 2 assists.

On the blueline, newcomer Partice Brisbois has 3 goals and 2 assists. Rob Blake has had a rough start to the season, Blake is sporting an ugly -5 although he does have 5 assists.

Colorado's special teams have been very good. The power-play is cruising along at 25% while the penalty kill is at 86.6%

Rookie goaltender Peter Budaj is getting the call tonight. Budaj is 1-0-1 with a 1.92 GAA and .931 SvPct.

The Keys to the Game

  1. Special Teams & Discipline - As has been the case for a lot of games this season, this one will probably come down to staying out of the box and taking advantage of your power play opportunities.
  2. Maintaining Focus - With all the hoopla and hype surrounding the game both teams will have to remember that their are an important two points up for grabs.
  3. Hard Work - The Avanlanche are playing their second road game in two nights, the Canucks need to take advantage of that by working hard and starting strong.
  4. Faceoffs - Both teams are struggling in the faceoff circle at around 45%. Whoever prevails tonight could gain an important advantage.

Enjoy the game, it should be a good one.

TV: CBC 7:00

Friday, October 21, 2005

Game Report: Canucks 3 - Coyotes 2

The Vancouver Canucks defeated the Phoenix Coyotes 3-2 in a penalty filled contest which also included some controversy.

Vancouver started strong again, outshooting the Coyotes 19-11 in the first period, however Curtis Joseph was outstanding. Ed Jovanovski scored the only goal of the period on the power play. Phoenix was lucky to get out of the period only down by one.

In the second, Keith Ballard put his team on the board to tie the game at one. Midway through the period Nolan Baumgartner would score on the power play, however shortly after that Geoff Sanderson would even the score with his first goal of the season. Despite being out-shot 30-18, Phoenix would head into the third period tied at two.

With the teams playing 4-on-4 Matt Cooke scored a controversial goal that would hold up as the game winner. Cooke fed a pass to Jovanovski who went to the net hard, the puck ended up at the side where Cooke crashed the goal and knocked the puck in and the net off its moorings. Mick McGeough immediately waved off the goal and called upstairs for a video review.

Replays showed that the net was lifted up as the puck went in the net. However, unlike the old rule where a goal would not count if the net was lifted up at all, the new rule this season states that the goal must be completely off its moorings. The video goal judge made the correct call(judging by how long it took, it was likely the boys in New York who made the call), and allowed the goal to stand. However, despite the goal judge making the correct call, the call by the on ice officials was suspect. Jovanovski was clearly in the crease and a strong case could be made that he interfered with Joseph. That said the NHL has been fairly consistent in allowing these types of goals where the puck carrier goes to the net with the puck and crashes into the goalie. In this case Jovanovski did just that and even made an attempt to avoid the goalie. It's a highly debatable play and I would really like to hear the NHL's stance on the matter.

Despite the controversy, Phoenix certainly had opportunities to tie the game. They enjoyed a 5-on-3 shortly after the Cooke goal, but could not score thanks to some excellent penalty killing by Trevor Linden and Bryan Allen. In the final minutes, Phoenix had the luxury of a 4-on-3 power-play, which would be a 5-on-3 with Joseph out of the goal. Shane Doan hit the post, but that was as close as the Coyotes would come to scoring. Phoenix would finish 0 for 8 on the power play.

Canuck Report Card

The Forwards: C+

It was a tough game for the Vancouver forwards. With 44 minutes in minor penalties it was difficult for the lines to get in sync. Even strength minutes were tough to come by, as a result the 3rd and 4th lines were largely ineffective. Jarkko Ruutu only found five minutes of ice-time, while Lee Goren managed seven thanks to a couple minutes on the power-play. Defensively the forward group was good, especially Trevor Linden who was great on the penalty kill.

The Defense: B-

Once again the Vancouver defense contributed offensively. Both Nolan Baumgartner and Ed Jovanovksi would score on the power-play. Defensively Bryan Allen didn't have one of his best games, but he was great on a third period 5-on-3. The defense grade would be higher if not for a rare miscue by Salo and Ohlund which resulted in the Coyotes second goal.

The Goaltending: B

Dan Cloutier stopped 22 of 24 shots, picking up his 4th victory of the season. Cloutier would probably like to have the Ballard goal back, as he cheated a bit and left too much room upstairs, but overall it was a solid game. Cloutier was especially good in the final hectic minutes of the third period.

Special Teams: A-

For the first time this season the penalty kill came though big time, finishing a perfect 8 for 8. Trevor Linden was the leader of the PK, fearlessly blocking shots and successfully killing off two 5-on-3's. The power-play was once again good, going 2 for 10 on the night. Two power play goals are great, but the Canucks failed to finish off the Coyotes when they had their chance, hence the minus.

Overall: B

The Canucks dominated the first period and were nearly as good in the second. It wasn't their best game and Curtis Joseph was the only reason it was close, however Vancouver failed to put the game away when they had the chance and as a result the game could have easily gone the other way.

The Canuck Fan's Three Stars

  1. Curtis Joseph - Cujo was outstanding, he was by far the best player in the game despite giving up three goals and taking the loss.
  2. Ed Jovanovski - Jovo scored a goal and an assist with three shots on goal and three blocked shots in 28 minutes of ice-time.
  3. Sami Salo - It was tough picking the 3rd star, but I went with Salo for his assist, six shots on goal and most importantly his 6:14 of ice-time on the perfect penalty kill. Honorable mention to Keith Ballard for his goal and a fight. He looks like a keeper.

The Canucks are now at the top of the NHL standings with a 6-1-1 record.

Next up: Colorado in Vancouver, Saturday night (CBC).

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Gameday - Phoenix at Vancouver

The Phoenix Coyotes are in town for the second time this season. In their last matchup on opening night Vancouver defeated Phoenix 3-2. However this is a different Coyotes team than the one that opened the season. Both teams are currently playing their best hockey of the season.

Vancouver Canucks (5-1-1)

Vancouver is coming off a 6-2 victory over Chicago and have won three in a row.

The Canucks have their power-play rolling, now 12th in the league at 18.%, and while their penalty kill continues to struggle (70.5%) they are doing an excellent job of staying out of the box (34 times shorthanded, tied for 4th best in league).

Vancouver's top line had their best game of the season against Chicago, Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison we're much better than they have been all year. With all 4 lines and defense contributing, the offence is in top form.

Now that the big line is playing well you can expect to see more consistency on the forward lines. Lee Goren has settled into the physical 4th line with Linden and Ruutu, while the third line of Cooke, Kesler and Park have provided excellent speed and a strong forecheck. All things considered, the Canucks have a well balanced forward group.

On the defensive side of things the Canucks have done a pretty good job. In 5 on 5 play the Canucks have only given up nine goals, good for 9th in the league. If they can continue staying out of the box (nearly half their goals against have been while shorthanded) they should be tough to score on.

Dan Cloutier is expected to get the start, should things change today I'll try and post an update.

Phoenix Coyotes (3-4-1)

Led by the excellent play of Curtis Joseph the Coyotes are coming off a two game sweep of Alberta.

As mentioned earlier this is a different team than the one we saw on opening night. Brett Hull retired suddenly on Saturday. On Tuesday they traded centre Jeff Taffe to the Rangers in exchange for Jamie Lundmark. On the 8th they traded LW Jason Chimera, D Cale Hulse and C Mike Rupp to Columbus for former Canuck Geoff Sanderson and RW Tim Jackman. Petr Nedved and Ladislav Nagy have both returned from the injured reserve, however they have lost Denis Gauthier(broken finger) and Mike Ricci(broken nose).

Oleg Saprykin and Paul Mara lead the team in scoring with 6pts each, while Mike Comrie is stuggling (2 assists, -4).

The key to the Coyotes' success has been Curtis Joseph. In 5 games Joseph is 3-2 with a 1.80 GAA and .930 Sv%. Cujo is looking for his 400th career victory.

On special teams, Phoenix has the 8th best power play at 21.2%, while their penalty kill is 18th at 81.4%.

Keys to the Game

  1. Special Teams & Discipline. Give them opportunities and Vancouver will beat you on the power play. Phoenix has to limit Vancouver's chances and they must capitalize on their own.
  2. Curtis Joseph. For Phoenix to win, Joseph will have to be the difference.
  3. Focus on tonight. With the most anticipated game of the year coming up on Saturday, Vancouver must remain focused on tonight. If they start the way they have the past three games only Joseph and special teams can prevent them from winning this one.

TV: 7:00 RSN

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Game Report: Canucks 6 - Blackhawks 2

The Vancouver Canucks won their third game in a row, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 6-2. It was one of the more entertaining games of the year, especially in the third period which had long stretches without stoppages, some pretty plays and several big hits. Coming into the game Chicago knew they had to stay out of the box, unfortunately they failed to do so and that ultimately proved to be their downfall.

Chicago actually played well in the first period and remained in the game despite taking three minor penalties.

It was a different story in the second period. Daniel Sedin would open the scoring 2:01 into the period on a wrist shot through traffic. Soon after, the Chicago penalty parade would begin and the Canucks capitalized. Chicago would take five minor penalties leading to two Canuck power-play goals by Mattias Ohlund and then Sami Salo. Ohlund would add another goal to put Vancouver up 4-1 after two.

Chicago would open the third period with a power-play goal of their own, however they would soon find themselves in the penalty box leading to a Morrison power-play goal. Markus Naslund would add one more in the last minute of play.

The game was ultimately decided by Chicago's poor grasp of the "new NHL." Chicago penalties: hooking, interference, holding the stick, hooking, hooking, hooking, goaltender interference, hooking, hooking and interference. The Chicago coaching staff must be driving themselves crazy.

Vancouver didn't make things easy on Chicago. They worked hard and skated well all night, not letting up at all even in the third period when the game was out of reach. It was a complete team effort.


  • The WCE had their best game of the season. Todd Bertuzzi had his best game, skating well and showing confidence with the puck. Brendan Morrison was also great. At times the line was nearly too good, over-passing the puck, but at that point the game was decided and they can be excused for putting on a nice show for the fans.
  • Mattias Ohlund was outstanding, scoring two goals and laying out several big hits. Pavel Vorobiev will not look forward to returning to Vancouver.
  • I've been ripping McCarthy a lot, so I have to point out that he had his best game as a Canuck.
  • The Sedin's are playing well, showing tremendous puck possesion. Daniel in particular is playing with a lot of confidence, as demonstrated by his 4 shots on goal.
  • I really liked the way the team stepped up the physical play in the third period after the high stick on Jovo. They were taking the body hard, sending a message that GM Place won't be a fun place to play. I especially liked the dynamic Goren brings and Ryan Kesler looked possessed, he's going to be a good one come playoff time.
  • Faceoffs are still a problem, Linden was the only centre above 50%(7/13)

The Canuck Fan's Three Stars

  1. Mattias Ohlund - Ohlund was a force, great hits and two goals.
  2. Brendan Morrison - During the 3rd I was debating who would get the 2nd star... Morrison sealed it with his goal that added to his two assists.
  3. Todd Bertuzzi - Bertuzzi had his best game finishing with 3 assists. When Bertuzzi goes into a slump he needs to pull out the tape of this game. Skate and you can dominate! It's as simple as moving your feet.

Next up for Vancouver are the suddenly streaking Coyotes, Thursday 7:00 pm RSN.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Gameday - Chicago At Vancouver

The Chicago Blackhawks are in town to face the Vancouver Canucks in their first meeting of the season. The Blackhawks have not won in Vancouver in more than four years and are coming into the contest with three losses in their last four games. It wasn't long ago that Chicago used to own Vancouver's number, but times have changed...

Vancouver (4-1-1)

Vancouver has won back-to-back games, coming out of the gates strong in both contests. After a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Minnesota, Vancouver has stepped up their work ethic and the result has been apparent on the score sheets. The Canucks combined to outshoot the Wild and Stars 76-33, while outscoring them 10-5.

Vancouver finally got their power-play going against Dallas, however they still rank 15th in the league at 15.5%. While the power-play is improving the penalty kill is still struggling. Vancouver is ranked 29th in the NHL at 72.4%, only Calgary is worse at 68.1%. Fortunately for Vancouver they are the 2nd least penalized team, being shorthanded only 29 times.

One area of concern for Vancouver is in the faceoff circle. Vancouver is 2nd last in the league at 44.8%, fortunately Chicago is not much better at 47.6%. Vancouver centres (Sedin 48%, Linden 44.9%, Kesler 44.3%, Morrison 41.3%) need to improve in the faceoff circle.

Expect Dan Cloutier to get the call in goal and the rest of the lineup should remain unchanged from Sunday.

Chicago (2-4-0)

Chicago is at the end of a four game road trip in which they have lost two of three so far. In a strange scheduling quirk, this is Chicago's only game this week so expect them to "leave everything on the ice."

The Blackhawks have struggled on special teams. Their power-play is ranked 20th in the league at 13.6% and they have given up 2 short handed markers, putting their power-play at +4. Meanwhile their penalty kill has not been any better, it ranks 23rd at 80%. To make matters worse, Chicago has been shorthanded 50 times(3rd most in league), 21 more than Vancouver!

Their biggest off-season acquisition, Nikolai Khabibulin, has dissapointed so far. Khabibulin is 2-3 with a 3.40 GAA and .866 Sv%. Fortunately for Khabibulin, the Blackhawks other big acquisition will be returning to the lineup. Adrian Aucoin is making a return visit to Vancouver, Aucoin has been nursing... you guessed it, a sore groin.

Chicago will however be without the injured Eric Daze (what else is new?) and Tuomo Ruutu is questionable with a sore back.

Keys to the Game

  1. Hard Work - If the Canucks are working and skating hard they should be able to dominate the Blackhawks.
  2. Discipline - The Blackhawks cannot afford to take penalties. They must do a better job staying out of the box.
  3. Goaltending - If the Canucks show up the Blackhawks will need Khabibulin to be the difference.

TV: PPV 7:00

Monday, October 17, 2005

Weekend Wrap-up

I had a couple of game reports ready to post over the weekend, but alas internet troubles prevented me from doing so. Instead I'll combine the two game reports into one...

Vancouver 5 - Minnesota 3

It's amazing what happens when you move your feet. After a terrible effort on Wednesday the Canucks came out of the gate with some determination and effort, out-shooting the Wild 13-1. The hard work continued into the 2nd period, yet somehow the Wild managed to score twice on only 6 shots. However, the Canucks finally got a bounce to go their way as Naslund tied the game on a lucky bank shot off a skate. Three minutes later Kesler showed great hands, first by accepting the bouncing pass from Richard Park and then by deaking Rolloson and roofing the puck under the bar. The lead was short lived as Brian Rolston tied the game with a power play goal in the final minute of the period.

After two periods the shots were 31-9 in favour of the Canucks, yet the score was even at 3 a piece. But Richard Park gave the Canucks the lead early in the third period when he snapped a wrist shot past Roloson. The Canucks would hang on and Bertuzzi would seal the deal with an empty net goal, much to the chagrin of the fans in attendance.

The Canucks worked hard all night, out-shooting the Wild 41-13. It was a much needed great effort, marred only by difficulties on the penalty kill.

Vancouver 5 - Dallas 2

The Canucks started their first homestand of the season the same way they ended the road trip. They came out of the gate skating and working hard. Brendan Morrison set the tone for the night early in the first as he battled to win a faceoff and then out hustled the Stars power play down the ice. The Canucks' hard work payed off early as they drew several penalties, leading to power play goals by Daniel Sedin and Sami Salo. The Canucks out-shot the Stars 13-6 in the first period and enjoyed a 2-0 lead heading into the second.

Despite the two goals, the Canucks had squandered a 5 on 3 power play opportunity which included a double minor by Boucher (ridiculous call on Boucher by the way). The Canucks would regret the squandered opportunities as Jeri Lehtinen would score two goals in the second to tie the game at 2-2.

However the Canucks were not discouraged, they continued working hard and took the lead after Lee Goren deflected a point shot for his first goal as a Canuck. Bertuzzi would score on the power-play and Richard Park would add another (on a weak play by Turco) to give the Canucks the 5-2 victory.

Some Thoughts...

  • Hopefully the Canucks have realized that their success, or lack thereof, comes down to their effort. When the team is skating and working hard they are very difficult to beat.
  • Todd Bertuzzi appears to be getting his hands back, however I am far from satisfied with his work ethic. He needs to be moving his feat to be successful, he spends far too much time coasting.
  • Bryan Allen has quite simply been outstanding so far this season. He's blocking shots, throwing hits, moving the puck well and he has been positionally sound. He has been a rock on the blueline.
  • Nolan Baumgartner had his best game of the season against Dallas. He showed a lot of confidence with the puck and played a strong positional game.
  • Unfortunately the same cannot be said of Steve McCarthy. McCarthy clearly does not have the confidence of Crawford. He needs to play much better in his own end and he has to show the skating and puck skills that made him attractive to the Canucks. His physical play has improved in the last few games, but he needs to do more.
  • Lee Goren is fitting in nicely on the 4th line. Not many teams have the luxury of a 4th liner who can put the puck in the net. While not a great skater or checking forward, his size, grit, willingness to fight and scoring ability have been a pleasant surprise.
  • Matt Cooke continues to play well, providing much needed energy whenever he is on the ice.
  • Richard Park has been great, proving to be Nonis' best move so far.
  • Mattias Ohlund looks a little tired, he's still been good, but the last few games haven't been up to his usual level.
  • Finally, despite not playing their best hockey, the Canucks have started the season at 4-1-1. That is a very good sign.

Next up are the Blackhawks on Tuesday (PPV)

Friday, October 14, 2005

Gameday Part 2: Vancouver at Minnesota

I'll skip the regular gameday preview and get right to the point...

Keys to the Game

  1. Effort - No need to elaborate here.
  2. Scoring First - As we saw in the last game, once they fell behind the Canucks started to press and played right into the Wild's gameplan. Scoring first will be practically essential if they hope to win this one.
  3. Breaking the Trap - The first two keys to the game will play a major role in breaking the trap, however they must also do a much better job on dump ins.
  4. Special Teams & Discipline - The Canucks started the first game by taking some lazy penalties, they must stay out of the box. The Canucks powerplay(3-29) also must be a lot better.

TV: RSN 5:00pm

Moose Notes

The Manitoba Moose have lost defenseman Tomas Mojzis who broke his jaw in Wednesday's game against Omaha. Mojzis is out indefinately. The loss of Mojzis is a major blow to the Moose blueline and does not help matters for the Vancouver Canucks weak back-end. With both McCarthy and Baumgartner struggling, Mojzis could have been a candidate for a callup should the aforementioned continue their poor play.

The Moose are now 1-2 after three games... Mike Keane will make his debut tonight.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Game Report: Wild: A whole bunch - Canucks: None

Great game eh?

It was quite a pathetic display by the Canucks. It was so bad I didn't even watch the third period, so this won't be a proper game report.

I only have one thing to say.

The first period effort was absolutely pathetic. Leading the charge of patheticness was Todd Bertuzzi. Bertuzzi should be completely embarrassed by his play, his game was a text book example of floating. Just pathetic. He of course wasn't the only floater on the night, but really, as a veteran of the team and a supposed leader he needs to be much better.

I could go on a big rant about the game, but I'm not going to. I'll just stop right now and be sure to buy plenty of beer for Friday's game just in case they put on another embarrassing performance.

If you really wan't to read about the game check out the papers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Gameday - Vancouver at Minnesota

The Vancouver Canucks are in Minnesota for the first of two back to back games against the Wild.

NOTE: The start time has been moved back by half an hour to accommodate the double header on TSN. Game time is now 5:30 pst

With back to back games in the same city, we get our first look at the new scheduling quirks introduced this season. This should definitely increase the intensity level between these two divisional rivals.

Vancouver (2-0-1)

The Canucks are coming off a 4-2 victory in Detroit on Monday. Vancouver juggled their forward lines in an effort to avoid Detroit's checking line and also to get more ice-time for the guys who don't get out on the power play. If there are several penalties early, I would expect Crawford to start mixing things up again.

Previous to the Detroit victory Vancouver lost in a shootout to the Oilers. To improve their shootout prowess the Canucks have been practicing shootouts. Vancouver struggled with the shootout in the pre-season and did not look any better in Edmonton.

As for the Canuck lineup, Wade Brookbank is the only healthy player on the roster who has not seen action. With back to back games against a division rival, who also has a couple tough guys, the Canucks can certainly use some toughness. According to Tom Larschied, Brookbank will be in the lineup at the expense of Lee Goren.

With Alex Auld starting in Detroit, Dan Cloutier is expected to get the call between the pipes.

Minnesota (1-1-1)

The Wild lost their last game 2-1 in overtime to the Kings on Sunday. After scoring 6 goals in their first game, the Wild offense has dried up, producing only two goals in their last two games. The offence was hoping to receive a big boost tonight as star forward, and Canuck killer, Marion Gaborik was hoping to return from a groin injury. However, Jacques Lemaire is being cautious with his star, keeping him out for the rest of the week.

Minnesota's success largely depends on the stifling defensive system of Jacques Lemaire. Despite the new rules designed to open up the game, the Wild will still base their game on sitting back and waiting for turnovers. The Wild have a tremendous transition game and their offence almost entirely relies on their ability to create turnovers and to use their speed to capitalize on mistakes by the opposition.

Between the pipes, the Wild feature the goaltending duo of Manny Fernandez and Dwayne Roloson. Fernandez played Sunday after missing the first two games with a back problem, so Dwayne Roloson is likely to get the start.

Last time hockey was played, Minnesota won the season series (2-1-3)... Roloson was undefeated in the five games he started.

Keys to the Game

  1. Scoring First - The Wild would love nothing more than to score first and then sit back in an attempt to frustrate the Canucks. If the Canucks can get on the board first they can put a lot of pressure on the Wild's struggling offence.
  2. Turnovers - As mentioned earlier, the Wild love creating turnovers in the neutral zone and at their own blueline. Vancouver must avoid making mistakes in those areas.
  3. Special Teams & Discipline - Staying out of the penalty box will be a key for both teams. The Canucks, while always dangerous on the PP, are only 3 for 21(14.3%) so far this season. They have also had a little trouble on the PK at 82.4%. Meanwhile the Wild are ranked 3rd in the league in both penalty killing and on the power play.
  4. Goaltending - As most games often do, this one could come down to goaltending. Cloutier has been excellent so far and both Minnesota goalies have always enjoyed success against Vancouver.

TV: TSN 5:30 pm.

Also, the Canuck radio broadcast will be synched up to the TV feed, so there will not be the usual two second delay.