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.

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