Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Long Weekend Wrap-up

The Vancouver Canucks played two games over the Thanksgiving Weekend, losing in a shootout to Edmonton on Saturday and winning in Detroit on Monday.

Saturday was a penalty filled contest which included a lame penalty to Mattias Ohlund in the last minute of play, giving the Oilers an opportunity to tie it up. The Oilers outplayed the Canucks for most of the night and deserved the win, however the penalty to Ohlund was cheap. I've never liked the rule when it applied to goalies accidentally clearing the puck over the glass and it's even more absurd to call it on a player who accidentally shoots the puck over the glass. Please note the emphasis on "accidentally." If any player (goalies included) intentionally shoots the puck out of play it should be a penalty, however penalizing a team for accidentally shooting the puck over the glass is ridiculous IMO. Imagine a playoff game where a team loses because a defenseman shot the puck an inch too high... there that's my rant.

As for the game itself, the Canucks were generally out-worked and out-played and if it were not for all the power play opportunities they would have likely been out of the game early. The Canucks were simply out-worked all night long, Edmonton deserved the win.

It was a different story in Detroit. Unlike in Edmonton, the Canucks out hustled a Detroit team who was playing it's second game in two days. Managing to stay out of the penalty box, Vancouver rolled four lines all night long as Detroit had trouble matching the Canucks forward depth. Alex Auld was solid in his first start of the season and the Canucks finally got some offence from someone not named Naslund. The Canucks now have 3 out of a possible 4 points on the road trip which continues in Minnesota on Wednesday.

Thoughts on the season so far...

The Canucks are 2-0-1 despite having not played up to the level they are capable of.

The Forwards

The Canucks have been led by Markus Naslund, who has been great so far this season. Naslund looks to be in mid-season form, he's even starting to play the body, something he has rarely done in his NHL career. Unfortunately for Vancouver the rest of the forward group has not been good.

Todd Bertuzzi has been mediocre and that's being kind. I understand that it will take some time for him to get back into form, but that does not excuse his lack of hustle. Move your damn feet!

The other third of the West Coast Express is also struggling. Morrison was brutal on faceoffs in Edmonton and has yet to click offensively. He has been sound defensively but the Canucks need more offense out of B-Mo. I have some suspicion that Morrison may be nursing an injury... combine his face-off difficulties and the fact that Crawford was so quick to break up the WCE in Detroit... just a guess on my part.

The Sedin-Carter line was nearly invisible until they broke out in Detroit. Hopefully the confidence boost will boost their play.

The speedy third line was disappointing in Edmonton, but it was Matt Cooke who started the ball rolling in Detroit(BTW Cooke should be suspended for the knee on Williams). Kesler also looked good, especially when playing with Naslund, and Richard Park also had a solid game.

The fourth line has had trouble finding consistent ice-time so far this season, but they had their best game in Detroit. Trevor Linden was flying while Jarrko Ruutu and Lee Goren forchecked well, drawing a penalty and generating a few decent scoring chances.

It's been a slow start, but overall the Canucks have shown that they have tremendous depth up front. When they are capable of rolling four lines there are very few teams who can keep pace.

The Defense

The weakest link of the Canucks has pretty much played as expected. Mattias Ohlund and Ed Jovanovski have played very well. Sami Salo has been outstanding while logging a lot of minutes. Most encouraging is the play of Bryan Allen. Allen has simply been great so far.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the bottom two defensemen. Nolan Baumgartner has been decent, looking good on the powerplay, not so good at even strength. Baumgartner simply isn't an everday top 6 defenseman. He's doing a decent job filling in, but the Canucks could certainly use an upgrade. The scary part is that Baumgartner has been the fifth best defenseman, outplaying Steve McCarthy. McCarthy has been brutal, there's no other way to say it. We all new that he would probably have trouble with the physical side of the game, however we expected his skating and puck moving abilities to compensate. So far McCarthy has done nothing offensively and has been overmatched defensively. If he hasn't already, McCarthy will soon become the new whipping boy for Canuck fans.

The Goaltending

After 3 games the goaltending has been the strongest component of the Vancouver Canucks. Dan Cloutier has played well and has kept his team in it when they have been outplayed. Alex Auld was solid in Detroit and should certainly give Crawford confidence in his backup. There's not much more to say about the goaltending, they've simply got the job done.

Finally today, I just have to say that it was awesome to have Hockey Night in Canada back. Saturdays just weren't the same without it.

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