Thursday, November 27, 2008

Brian Burke Agrees to Terms With the Toronto Maple Leafs

Former Vancouver Canuck GM Brian Burke has finally agreed to contract terms with the Toronto Maple Leafs. According to TSN and Sportsnet the deal has not been officially signed, but the terms have been agreed upon. The deal is reportedly for 6 years and $18 million.

So does that mean we only have to endure one more Saturday night of nauseating Brian Burke talk on Hockey Night in Canada... don't hold your breath.

Gameday - Flames at Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks take on the Calgary Flames tonight in the first game of a home and home series. It's only November, but it's hard not to call these "big games". Two wins by Vancouver and they can put Calgary nine points back, on the other hand two wins by Calgary and the Flames can get within one point of the Canucks.

The Flames are coming off a 6-2 rout of the Los Angelos Kings, following their trend of beating the lesser teams in the NHL. Unfortunately for Calgary, the Flames have had a lot of trouble beating the better teams in the NHL. They will hope to change that tonight.

Who's in Who's Out?

Courtesy of Tom Larschied on the Team 1040:

  • Kevin Bieksa will be back in the lineup, returning from his fractured foot. That means the Canucks will have their regular top 6 defensemen and regular pairings.
  • Steve Bernier will not play tonight, but is expected to practice tomorrow so he may be back for Saturday's tilt.
  • With Bernier out Mayson Raymond will get a chance to return to the 2nd line with Kyle Wellwood and Taylor Pyatt.
  • Mike Brown will get back in the lineup on the 4th line. It's about time he shows he can do something other than drop the gloves. Quite frankly, Brown hasn't contributed a thing and has often been a liability.
  • Alexander Bolduc will make his NHL debut replacing the injured Ryan Johnson. Bolduc has some pretty big shoes to fill as Johnson has been excellent on the penalty kill.

Keys to the Game

Miikka Kiprusoff has struggled at times this season while the Canucks will be going with Curtis Sanford again. Sanford has played very well, although I don't think he has been as good as many seem to think. He's allowed a weak goal in every game and has often looked awkward, particularly on the short side and while guarding the posts. The good news is that he has shut the door when he's had to. Kiprusoff comes into the game sporting an ugly 3.15 GAA and .893 Sv %. Can Sanford continue to shut the door or will the Flames exploit his small stature? Which Kiprusoff shows up tonight? Those two questions will likely decide the game.
The Flames Defense
The Canucks will want to exploit the foot speed of the Calgary defense. The Canucks need to get the puck deep and turn the defensemen around. Guys like Raymond, Kesler, Burrows and Hansen could have big games.
Special Teams and Discipline
This will be another physical game between these two division rivals. Whoever stays away from the bad penalties will have a very good chance of taking this game. The Canucks will need to find a way to replace the loss of Johnson on the PK and contain Dion Phaneuf's shot from the point (particularly with the smaller Sanford in net).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ryan Johnson Out With Broken Foot

Well, not only does Ryan Johnson have a broken finger, he also has a broken foot. The Canucks revealed today that Johnson has been playing with a broken foot since the game in Washington. Johnson could be out 4 weeks.

Looks like Alexander Bolduc is going to get a good opportunity.

Still On a Roll

It seems like the past week or so has been a string of "biggest win of the season" games and just when you think it couldn't possibly continue they pull another one off. Coming off a shootout loss to the Islanders, in which they played one of their worst periods of the year, the Canucks picked up what was essentially a "road trip saving" win against the Rangers. The next day they followed it up with one of the biggest wins in recent memory against the Wild, a game everyone thought they would probably lose. Two days later they lose their captain to what appears to be a devastating injury, yet they still manage to pull out a victory against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins. Back home they learn that Luongo is going to be out for a while and then they get to face the defending Stanley Cup champions...

The Red Wings were the better team for most of the night, winning most of the battles against a Canuck team that looked out of gas. And yet the Canucks were still playing well, limiting Detroit's chances while generating a good number for themselves. It was a valiant effort, spoiled by a Detroit goal with 3:30 to go... this one was over. A minute later Sami Salo floats one towards the net and Daniel Sedin gets a piece of it, managing to bounce the puck past Chris Osgood... tie game, did that really just happen? On to overtime and the Canucks catch a break and get to go on the power play, Sami Salo absolutely wires a shot top corner and the Canucks win again. Another huge win.

The Canucks now get the Flames tomorrow at home before heading to Calgary to start a seven game road trip. Needless to say, the next two games are pretty big. Their goal should be a split, which would keep the Flames five points back and give the Canucks a nice cushion for their tough road trip. A sweep would put them nine up on the Flames, but you have to think that this roll is going to come to an end soon. I guess we'll find out starting tomorrow night...

Injury Updates

  • On Monday I wrote that Kevin Bieksa was still a ways off... but looking back at his prognosis he was listed as 2-4 weeks, it's been almost two. Still a little early, but it sounds like he's probably going to be ready for Thursday's game.
  • Ryan Johnson has been playing with a broken finger and will miss the next couple games as they re-assess the injury. Hopefully he won't miss a significant amount of time, but it doesn't look too good. He's been great on the PK. Alexander Bolduc has been called up to replace him on the 4th line. Bolduc had a very solid pre-season, sticking around until the final two pre-season games.
  • Steve Bernier banged up his shoulder against the wings, but everyone seems confident that he will be able to play Thursday. Update: Bernier did not skate today and is now doubtful for Thursday's game. Obviously the shoulder and toe injuries are bothering Bernier more then they let on yesterday.

An interesting side note... think Canuck fans were desperate to find some news on Luongo's injury? Well, on Monday visits to this blog were up 800% compared to an average day.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Roberto Luongo Week to Week with Abductor Strain

The Canucks have finally spoken and have basically told the fans what they already knew. Roberto Luongo is going to be out with a groin injury and it's probably going to be a few weeks.

You didn't really expect a time frame did you?

Life Without Luongo

Life without Luongo begins tonight against Detroit. Curtis Sanford is going to get a chance to run with the ball, but the Canucks won't hesitate to go with Schneider should Sanford drop the ball. My guess is that Sanford will start until he loses, simple as that.

Sanford has been receiving plenty of praise however I'm not sold on his play, at all. Yes he has made some big saves, but he has also let in a couple really poor goals. Great saves and bad goals aside, the reason I'm not terribly confident in Sanford is that he is a small goaltender. Simple as that. There is just too much net to shoot at. With that said, one of the positives of having Sanford between the pipes is his ability to handle the puck. Sanford is a significant improvement over Luongo in that department and that will be a big help for the guys on the backend.

After a strong pre-season with the Canucks Cory Schneider has been phenomenal in the AHL, sporting a 10-1 record with a 1.37 GAA and .945 save percentage. With those kind of numbers combined with top prospect status, the Canucks will be very interested in what Schneider is capable of at the NHL level. He will have to earn his playing time, but the Canucks won't hesitate to go with him if Sanford falters.

Blueline Getting Healthier

The news isn't all bad for the Canucks. Sami Salo will be back in the lineup tonight after being out with what the team has been calling the flu. Kevin Bieksa also skated for the first time today, he's still a ways off but the fact that he is already skating is certainly encouraging.

Nolan Baumgartner has been sent back to Manitoba.

Luongo Injury Update

There is no official news as of yet, but La Presse is reporting that Luongo will miss 4-5 weeks. There is a direct quote from Luongo's agent Gilles Lupien (which is now refuted).

Still waiting on official confirmation from the Canucks, but 4-5 weeks isn't too bad. Could have been a lot worse.

More to come...

Update #1

The Team 1040 is reporting that Luongo is having an MRI today and the Canucks won't be updating his status until tommorow. We'll see how this plays out as the day moves along...

Update #2

On the Team 1040, Pierre McGuire is saying that Luongo's agent is denying he spoke to the paper. So take that for what it's worth.

Update #3

Roberto Luongo listed as week-to-week.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Still Waiting on Luongo Injury Update

It looks like Canuck fans will have to wait another day to find out the severity of Roberto Luongo's injury.

The Canucks will not be updating Luongo's status until after Monday's morning skate. I don't know what to read into the delay, is it more severe than first feared?

The Canucks have a history of being less than truthful when it comes to disclosing injuries, but in this case you would think they would be honest with the fans. We shall see.

Until then enjoy the Grey Cup.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Roberto Luongo Injured in 1st Period VS Pittsburgh

Just when everything seemed to be going right in Canuck land... Roberto Luongo hurt his left leg on a routine save, extending his left pad.

I'm no doctor, but it appeared to be either a groin injury or possibly a knee injury. No word from the Canucks as of yet and there likely won't be many details until the Canucks return to Vancouver. Canuck fans will be keeping their fingers crossed that the injury is some kind of groin strain and not any kind of tear or knee injury... worse case scenario would be a Brendan Morrow style knee injury (torn ACL - 6 months).

In the meantime, the Canucks will be riding the Sandman. Canuck fans are also likely to see Cory Schneider a lot sooner than they had hoped.

More to come post-game...


Ian MacIntyre during the intermission on the Team 1040 is confirming that the injury is groin related and thinks it is "very serious".

Update #2

Well the radio guys are saying that Luongo was in good spirits "joking with the trainers" and that they don't think it is a torn groin... Canucks won't know for sure until he is checked out in Vancouver.

Update #3

OK, Luongo and Vigneault were both interviewed post-game. It is the groin, will have MRI done in Vancouver(within 24 hours), no prognosis until then. I'm sure they will replay the interviews again on Hockey Night in Canada at some point tonight, if you want to see/hear for yourself. By the way he was limping I'm gonna throw out 2-4 weeks as my guess. Cory Schneider should get the callup.

Canucks Win 2-1

Another huge win to cap off one of the best road trips in team history.

  • Mitchell and O'Brien were outstanding
  • Mattias Ohlund has really stepped up his game since Bieksa and Salo have been out.
  • However, Davison and Nycholat have to be a concern. Either is fine as a short term fill in, but the Canucks can't go long term trying to hide two defensemen.
  • Matt Turtle was up to his old tricks... forcing his teammates to stick up for him... it's obvious no one in the Canuck room was sad to see him moved last year.
  • Malkin and Crosby were invisible for most of the game.
  • Michel Therrien did a poor job of exploiting the Canucks lack of depth on defense, or the disjointed 3rd and 4th lines of the Canucks. When you have the benefit of the last change and have talent like Crosby and Malkin you have to take advantage of it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Canucks 3 - Wild 2 - Game Notes

The Game Log...

First Period

  • The 4th line sure looks more capable of generating a forecheck. Is it more to do with having Raymond or not having Brown?
  • Despite 5 minor penalties in New York, Shane O'Brien is playing with a lot of confidence.
  • Two slashes on puck carriers and a missed high stick on Nycholat... is there some league directive not to call penalties on Jacques Lemaire?
  • Easy to be a tough guy with a shield over your face. How does O'Brien get the only extra penalty for slashing the stick? No call on the cross check to the kidneys from behind with an official looking right at it. Wellwood was abused in NY nice to see guys sticking up for him tonight.
  • That Sanford whiff was scary, could have been a turning point in Sanford's Canuck career. If that goes in and they lose the Canucks would probably be considering other options.
  • Bernier gets away with a grab on the stick.
  • Daniel made an absolutely terrible pass to a Wild player on the power play.
  • Demitra playing the point on the power play was almost beat by Koivu. Again not a fan of forwards on the point. Why isn't Nycholat out there?
  • Decent period by the Canucks, terrible period to watch.

Second Period

  • As good as their shift was in the first period the 4th line had one that was equally bad to start the second. Raymond's gotta pick up his stick.
  • Kesler slashed while flying through neutral zone... not called. It's frustrating enough watching a Lemaire coached team play, but it's doubly so when they get away with any kind of interference in the neutral zone.
  • Weak goal by Sanford. Not acceptable.
  • Boy, Raymond is really fighting it right now.
  • Canucks were lucky not to get another too many men on the ice penalty as Burrows got caught up with a Wild forward.
  • I have a feeling the Canucks are going to have to score on the power play if they hope to come back and win this one.
  • Nice work by Bernier, finally caught a break.
  • Mitchell is doing a great job of both getting pucks on net and jumping up in the play when it's there.
  • Great pad save by Backstrom on Demitra.
  • Sanford barely out of the blue paint on Koivu breakaway goal. Edler was right on Koivu, Sanford has to come out more. Bad bounce on the Canucks end, but it was also a poor centering attempt.
  • Canucks get a lucky bounce in return. Sometimes karma is on your side.

Third Period

  • I like the way Vigneault is swapping Raymond and Pyatt back and forth on the 2nd and 4th lines... its giving Lemaire something to think about (speed vs size dynamic).
  • Great power play shift by the Sedins, one of the best of the season. Too bad the second unit couldn't follow it up.
  • Man the Wild are excellent at supporting the puck. Seems like every pass they have to make is under 8 feet.
  • Linesmen are having a rough night... botched icing call and two obvious missed offside calls (at least it's one for each team).
  • Great shift by the Sedin line leading to the goal... can they hang on?
  • Willie Mitchell is having a great game.
  • Two minutes left and Ohlund fails to get the puck out... he's been struggling in this department... doesn't cost them.
  • Have to wonder what Lemaire was waiting for, the Wild had control of the puck for a good 20+ seconds and Backstrom didn't come out. Missed opportunity.
  • Woot! Great win, biggest of the season.

Post Game Thoughts

Still to come...

Gameday - Canucks at Wild

Big Game

A battle for the Northwest Division lead features what should be a tired Canuck team facing the Minnesota Wild. The Canucks flew out from New York after the game last night and ended up hitting their beds around 2:30 local time.

Sami Salo is out with a combination of the "flu" and a hamstring problem. Nolan Baumgartner has been called up and may replace Salo's right handed shot. Not sure which defensemen are going to play, Nycholat in my eyes wasn't good last night so Davison may draw back in. Expect the forwards to remain the same.

Curtis Sanford gets the call between the pipes. This is a huge game for Sanford which will have significant ramifications on how the Canucks manage Luongo the rest of the season. Like Sabourin two years ago, Sanford failed to gain the confidence of the players and coaching staff last season and it forced the Canucks to go with Luongo on nights they would have preferred to give him a rest.

Meanwhile, Minnesota is coming off three straight wins since their 2-0 loss at the hands of the Canucks. Minnesota's bread and butter is their special teams play (more on that below) as they are one of the lowest scoring teams 5 on 5. That's likely to continue as Marion Gaborik is still out of the lineup. Vancouver has the 2nd best 5 on 5 goals for/against ratio at 1.46, while Minnesota ranks 16th at 0.96.

Keys to the Game

Scoring First
This one should be no surprise to anyone. Minnesota is perfect when leading after one period and has won 85.7% of their games when leading after two periods. For the sake of entertainment value alone, who scores first will be very important.
Curtis Sanford
Curtis Sanford needs to shut the door early and gain some confidence, both for himself and the team. Sanford was beat early and often in his lone start this season against Buffalo. He needs to give his team a chance to take the lead. Most importantly he has to show the Canucks that they can go to him in big games.
Discipline & Special Teams
Minnesota is the least penalized team in the league, taking 46 fewer minor penalties than the Canucks. Minnesota also has the best special teams in the league. They rank third on the power play at 23.2% and their penalty kill is the best in the league at 93.8% (only 4 goals against, and only 1 on home ice). On the other hand the Canucks special teams have struggled, the power play is at an anemic 16.7% and the penalty kill is at 79.8%. One of the ways the Canucks can win the special teams battle is to use their statistical advantage in the faceoff circle, 51.4% vs 48.1%.

You would expect the Canucks to be out of gas tonight, but hey you never know... sometimes teams surprise you when you think they should have nothing in the tank.

Game time 5:00pm pst.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Canucks 6 - Rangers 3 - Game Notes

Something a little different tonight, game notes as the game progresses...

First Period

  • Hearing the Hockey Night in Canada theme on TSN is just wrong.
  • Speaking of the broadcast, I don't know if it's just my signal but the sound of the skates on the ice is extremely irritating... it gives you that "nails on chalkboard" effect you sometimes get when you are scraping the frost off your windshield.
  • Great pass by Ohlund to Wellwood on the first goal.
  • It's not often the Canucks have 3 breakaways in a week let alone in one period.
  • Ryan Johnson was brutal in the faceoff circle, 1 for 6.
  • The Kesler line had their best period in a while. Burrows bumps a slump.
  • The Rangers were awful, simply being out-skated everywhere on the ice.
  • Canucks did a good job in their own end keeping the Rangers to the outside, the defense down low was especially solid.
  • Have the Canucks learned from their dismal 2nd period on Long Island? We'll find out...

Second Period

  • Rangers are still awful.
  • Great shift by Pyatt on the 4th goal. This is why many fans are so frustrated with Pyatt.
  • Daniel has to shoot the fricken puck.
  • Johnson loses another draw, directly leading to the second New York goal.
  • Wow, did Lundqvist just pull himself there?
  • Despite scoring his first goal Johnson is having a terrible period.
  • If this was a one goal game that review would have been a lot more controversial. Why don't they have a camera that is solely dedicated to the goal line? Or for that matter why don't they create an electronic system to determine the location of the puck? They can do it in tennis, why not hockey?
  • Not liking Nycholat's play.
  • When I noticed that Voros was going to be a free agent I was hoping the Canucks would go after him. 7 goals already, with toughness.
  • If the Canucks lead would have remained 4, it would have been interesting to see if they would consider putting Sanford in to give Luongo a little rest and then come back with him in Minnesota.

Third Period

  • The Rangers have finally figured out that you can exploit the Canucks defense by dumping the puck in deep.
  • The Canucks look content to sit on the lead... better be careful.
  • Sure enough, they've given the Rangers a chance to get back in it. Can't afford to turn the puck over in the neutral zone... get it deep.
  • It's not often you see a player take 5 minors in one game.
  • It's interesting to see Henrik Sedin out late in the game as the extra faceoff guy. He's come a long way in that department.
  • Thumbs down to TSN for not having any post-game coverage on games that don't involve the Leafs.

Post Game Thoughts

Big win for Vancouver, three out of four points in New York is critical heading in to two tough games in Minnesota and Pittsburgh.

  • Sami Salo did not finish the game... again. Vigneault is saying flu... I'm saying B.S.
  • Ryan Johnson was brutal in the faceoff circle finishing 1 for 9.
  • After a few good first period shifts Steve Bernier was pretty invisible the rest of the way.
  • Other than a third period mistake not getting the puck deep, Taylor Pyatt had another strong game, continuing his improved play in November.
  • After a bit of a funk Mattias Ohlund was much, much better tonight.
  • Luongo was tremendous again.

Gameday - Canucks at Rangers

The Canucks visit Madison Square Garden for the first time since 1994... er wait... it hasn't been that long, but it sure seems like it.

The Canucks will have Alex Edler (flu) back in the lineup. According to the Team 1040 Rob Davison will be out and Lawrence Nycholat will be in. After a terrible performance by the power play against the Islanders it will be interesting to see how much time Nycholat gets on the point and whether Vigneault will move away from using a forward on the point. Here's how the lines should shake down...

  • Sedin Sedin Demitra
  • Pyatt Wellwood Bernier
  • Burrows Kesler Hansen
  • Hordichuk Johnson Raymond
  • Ohlund Salo
  • Mitchell O'Brien
  • Nycholat Edler

Roberto Luongo will get the start in goal with Sanford starting tomorrow in Minnesota (although I wouldn't be surprised to see Luongo should the Canucks lose to NY).

Keys to the Game

Special Teams
On most nights special teams are the difference and with two of the best goaltenders in the world between the pipes tonight should be no different. The Rangers have the 2nd best PK in the league at an outstanding 91%. The Canucks sit 18th at 80.6%. However the both teams struggle on the PP, the Rangers at just 15.4% & the Canucks at a marginally better 16.3%.
The Canucks have been turning the puck over a lot lately, they've also had trouble getting the puck out of their own zone. Keep an eye on turnovers at the bluelines leading to scoring chances or penalties.
In tight games it's often the little things that make the difference. With two great goaltenders in the game this one will likely be close. New York has struggled this season in the faceoff department ranking 22nd in the league at 48.8%. Surprisingly the Canucks are much improved in this department ranking 8th at 51.%.

Catch the game on TSN at 4:30 pst.

Might have more leading up to game time...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Islanders 2 - Canucks 1 (SO) - Game Notes

Another wasted opportunity, the Canucks decided they could take the second period off and it cost them...

  • One of my pet peeve's has always been using a forward on the point during the power play when you are tied or leading a hockey game. I'm fine with it when you need to come from behind, but there is simply too much risk and not much upside when you have the lead.
  • Mayson Raymond had an absolutely terrible game. Absolutely brutal play leading to a penalty and the tying goal.
  • I mentioned earlier that special teams were going to decide their fate on the road and tonight the power play generated next to nothing chance wise and went 0-4. The PK was decent and finished 4-5. The special teams were a -1 on the night, you'll usually lose when that's the case.
  • Offensive zone penalties continue to be an issue... Taylor Pyatt and Daniel Sedin added to that category tonight.
  • Lawrence Nycholat received only 1:15 on the power play. I'm not sure I understand why he is in the organization (and being protected from waivers at the expense of others) if he is not going to be used in offensive situations. The guy had 49 pts in the AHL last year.
  • Definitely a sub-par night in the officiating department, there were several obvious calls missed both ways, the most glaring being Trent Hunter throwing the puck out of the zone and Rob Davison breaking the stick of an Islander with a blatant slash.
  • Mattias Ohlund had another bad night in the giveaway and blocked shots department.
  • Henrik Sedin should be embarrassed that he couldn't generate anything on a breakout where he had to pull away from Andy Sutton.
  • The Canucks have to find a way to get Kyle Wellwood on the ice, 13:25 isn't enough when you are struggling to score 2 goals a game.
  • Although they failed to generate a scoring chance, the 4th line finally offered up a good shift in the offensive zone... a rare sight this season.
  • Luongo continues to be on a roll, keeping his team in every game. The soft goals of October are long gone.
  • Shane O'Brian is looking much better than the player who joined the Canucks in October. If he gets his stick tilted just a bit Weight's shot is up over the glass instead of in the net.
  • Steve Bernier continues to be shut out on the score sheet, but he's starting to play a little more like he did in the pre-season/first week. Five shots on goal tonight and some good hits. Somethings gotta give for him eventually.
  • Henrik Sedin was a monster in the faceoff circle, 15-22 for 68%. The overall team improvement in the faceoff circle is probably one of the most encouraging signs so far this season.

The Canucks now head over to MSG to face the Rangers on Wednesday. Winning two out of the next three (for a 5 point trip) is going to be a tough challenge.

Critical Stretch Ahead

After a successful homestand the Canucks embark on a difficult road trip that will see them play 4 games in 6 days. To make matters worse the Canucks have to play the Rangers and then fly to Minnesota to play the next day, then they get to fly back east to face Pittsburgh on Sunday at noon. If that's not bad enough tonight begins a stretch of 11 out of 13 games away from home... btw those two home games are against Detroit and Calgary. Needless to say this is a critical stretch in the Canucks season.

The Canucks are currently 10-6-1 for 21 points in 17 games. If the Canucks play .500 (6-6-1) over the next 13 game stretch they would have 34 points with 50 games to go. For arguments sake, lets say that for those final 50 games the Canucks manage to continue their pace during the first 17 games in which they have averaged 1.235 points per game... 50 games X 1.235 = 61.8 or 62 points per game. So their final total would be 34 + 62 = 96 points. Since the lockout it has taken 91 to 96 points to make the playoffs.

That's not a very big margin for error. A sub .500 stretch would force the Canucks to play .580+ hockey the rest of the way.... or about a 27-19-4 record.

OK, enough with the numbers...

The Canucks start off with the Islanders today at 4:00pst. According to Tom Larchied on the Team 1040 Alex Edler (flu) will not play tonight, so you're looking at the same lineup that beat the Leafs on Saturday night.

Things to keep an eye on...

  • Without Edler and Bieksa in the lineup the Canucks struggled to get the puck up the ice against the Leafs, managing only 15 shots on goal. Even when healthy this has been the weak link of the Canuck blueline. The Canucks need to find out if Lawrence Nycholat can really contribute.
  • Mason Raymond hasn't produced with the Sedins and neither has any one else... how long till Wellwood gets a shot?
  • Demitra looked excellent in his return, showing nice chemistry with Wellwood... that will make it difficult to audition Wellwood with the Sedins.
  • The offense has dried up on the third line. These guys are going to have to start showing some offense soon.
  • The 4th line still hasn't produced in terms of "momentum changing shifts". The Canucks could really use one or two of those on this trip.
  • Special teams are likely to decide their fate on the road. The PK was great against the Leafs and Demitra should be a boost to the PP.
  • How many games will Luongo get on the road? Ideally you'd want him in each of the final 3 games, but that's a lot of games with a lot of kilometers in a short amount of time.
  • Finally, the Canucks can't afford to take the Islanders lightly... something they are often guilty of doing.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Injuries, Jerseys and More

Bieksa Out With Fractured Foot

The inevitable finally hit the Canucks blueline as both Sami Salo and Kevin Bieksa are now injured. Bieksa is out with a fractured foot which is listed as 2-4 weeks. Meanwhile Salo is out with a shoulder injury, the Canucks as usual aren't saying much about the severity. The good news is that Salo did practice today, so hopefully his shoulder injury is minor.

The loss of Bieksa, who was playing his best hockey since the '06-'07 campaign, is going to hurt. Paired with Willie Mitchell, Bieksa is tied for 3rd in team scoring with 11pts and is a plus 5 (the duo has only been on the ice for 2 even strength goals against all season!). Bieksa could miss anywhere from 7 to 13 or more games, which include a big home and home set with the Flames and two games against the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Lawrence Nycholat is back from his conditioning stint, it could be him or Rob Davison stepping in for Bieksa. Nycholat had 3 assists in his short 3 game stint with the Moose. In his 3 games with the Canucks Nycholat hasn't impressed. A minus 3 with no points, Nycholat managed only 6 minutes in 9 shifts during his last game against Columbus, clearly not earning much confidence from the coaching staff. Davison meanwhile hasn't played since October 25th and has only played twice all season, but he did look pretty solid in the pre-season. My guess is that Nycholat will draw in against the Leafs and Davison will see time against the bigger more physical teams.

Canucks New Third Jersey Unveiled

The Vancouver Canucks unveiled their new third jerseys last night.

Canucks New Third Jersey

I'll give this one a big "MEH". Safe, essentially the same as the vintage jersey, what's the point. There's nothing really wrong with the jersey (except maybe the cartoonish stick), but I see this as a wasted opportunity. There are numerous fan concepts that are much better than this jersey. Here's my favourite, a re-working of the Vancouver Millionaires concept...

Vancouver Millionaires Concept Uniform

There's also the "real Johnny Canuck" (not the cartoon lumberjack) WWI aviator concept logo...

Canucks Aviator Concept Logo

The new third jersey isn't a disaster, just a wasted opportunity.

Random Notes

  • Pavol Demitra will be back in the lineup on Saturday against the Leafs. With Demitra back in the lineup Steve Bernier has been dropped down to the 4th line in practice this week, although he is still on out on a PP unit. Demitra is skating with Wellwood and Pyatt.
  • Speaking of the 4th line, Mike Brown has been a complete waste of a roster space this season. He was terrible against the Avalanche, failing to get the puck out of the zone on numerous occasions.
  • Here's a nice article on Jannik Hansen
  • Mattias Ohlund had an awful game against the Avalanche, like Brown he also couldn't get the puck out of the zone and he took a delay of game penalty. He also had six of his shots blocked (most on the power play).
  • Taylor Pyatt continues to look much better than he did for most of October.
  • Finally, don't forget that the Saturday game starts at 4:00pm local time, because we all know the Leafs absolutely have to play during primetime on Hockey Night in Canada. At least we'll get the "A" broadcast crew in Hughson and Simpson.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Canucks Send Ouellet Back To Moose

With Jannik Hansen ready to return to the lineup tonight, the Vancouver Canucks have sent Michel Ouellet back to Manitoba.

Ouellet's short three game stint with the Canucks was pretty uneventful. After getting a chance to ride shot gun with the Sedins, Ouellet appeared to quickly fall out of favour with Vigneault. Ouellet received only 6:39 of ice time against Minnesota, none on the power play and only 2 shifts in the third period. The writing was on the wall.

With Demitra close to returning it's unlikely that we will see Ouellet anytime soon.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Around the Web (Nov 11 Ed.)

  • With three consecutive shutouts it's no surprise that Roberto Luongo has been named the NHL's First Star of the Week. Coming into November the Canucks needed Luongo to be better and he has delivered. Still, he has a long way to go to reach Brian Boucher's record.
  • Injured forwards Pavol Demitra and Jannik Hansen both took part in non-contact drills at practice yesterday. It sounds like Hansen is the closest to returning, he skated on his regular line in practice this morning. He will take over for Maxime Ouellet, who played only 6:39 on Saturday with only 2 shifts in the third period.
  • The Canucks are set to unveil yet another jersey on Saturday against the Leafs. I'll give this one a big thumbs down if it's just another re-working of the stick in rink jersey with Johnny Canuck slapped on the shoulders.
  • The Manitoba Moose finally saw their nine game winning streak come to an end over the weekend. Manitoba currently sits in first place in the North Division with a 10 - 3 record. Cory Schneider has been great: 7W - 1L, 1.25 GAA, .945 Sv%.
  • Ever wonder how closely the Canucks keep an eye on the cap status of other teams? Well that duty falls to Assistant G.M. Laurence Gilman. Keeping a close watch on other teams allows them to make educated gambles on sneaking players through waivers, as they did with Maxime Ouellet and to a lesser extent Kyle Wellwood.
  • Finally Cody Hodgson was named OHL player of the week. Hodgson has 12 goals and 10 assists for 22 points in just 12 games.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Canucks 4 - Nashville 0 - Game Notes

The Vancouver Canucks rebounded nicely from their loss against Detroit with a decisive 4-0 win over the Nashville Predators...

  • If there was any lingering doubt as to whether Kyle Wellwood had seen the last of Manitoba this season (although I'm not sure if he actually made it to Winnipeg when he was sent down) it was laid to rest on Tuesday night. With two more goals upping his total to 6, Wellwood again showed off his outstanding hands and knack around the net. We all saw his offensive abilities in the pre-season, but it's his overall hockey sense that is going to keep him with the big club. Wellwood has shown great instincts in the offensive zone, but somewhat surprisingly he is also looking pretty good defensively. At this point the only real question mark with Wellwood is whether he can minimize the effects of losing one on one physical battles in his own end. His hockey IQ isn't in doubt.
  • Taylor Pyatt appears to have gotten his game back on track after a terrible first 3 weeks. I don't know how much he was bothered by an injury or whether he simply wasn't prepared to do the things he needs to do to be successful. Whatever it was, he's received the message and is now playing with more jump and determination.
  • Michel Ouellet made his debut after clearing re-entry waivers. Ouellet played 10:26 on a line with Wellwood and Pyatt and he also received a little power play time. So far he looks to have pretty good hands and defensive awareness. It will be interesting to see how he fits in during the rest of this homestand.
  • It was nice to see a renewed focus for the defensemen to get pucks through to the net on the power play. They weren't all on the power play, but the Canucks defense managed a total of 18 shots on goal.
  • Is it a coincidence that the Canucks scored 2 power play goals on a night where they were 82% on faceoffs with the man advantage?
  • Finally it was nice to see the Canucks come out hard in the third period instead of attempting to sit on a one goal lead. Maybe their relative success coming from behind in third periods has shown them that it's hard to keep the puck out of your own net when the opposition is continually on the attack.

The Canucks host Wayne Gretzky and the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Canucks Place Michel Ouellet on Re-Entry Waivers

With Jannik Hansen out with a groin injury the Canucks are attempting to re-call Michel Ouellet from Manitoba. Ouellet has 4 goals and 6 assists in 10 games for the Moose.

It's funny, during last nights game I was thinking that if the Canucks had any intention of getting Ouellet up this season they may as well do it now. Jason Krog, who took Hansen's place on the Kesler line, was pretty much invisible for most of the night with the exception of a couple 3rd period shifts. I don't think Ouellet is going to play on that line, (it's more likely that he will get some time with the Sedins) but I think it was obvious that there was something lacking in the forward group that was dressed. Maybe Ouellet can be the missing piece.

Of course there's still a big question mark surrounding whether or not anyone will claim Ouellet. At half his $1.2m salary, the former 19 goal scorer could be enticing to some teams.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

October Report Card

Team Grades

Overall: C+ (W 6 - L 5 - OTL 0 - 12pts, GF 39 GA 35)
It's been an up and down start for the Vancouver Canucks 2008-2009 season and a tale of two teams, the one that plays in blue and the one that plays in white. After a dominating performance in the opener the Canucks embarked on a tough 6 game road trip which saw them pickup only 2 wins and also included a couple ugly losses in Washington and Buffalo, which oddly enough sandwiched arguably their best game of the season in Detroit. They returned home for two games, beating the Oilers and getting shutout by Thomas and the Bruins. They finished October with two big wins in California, managing to salvage the month. Despite the tough road trip the Canucks find themselves in pretty decent shape heading into November.
The Penalty Kill: C (PK% 79.3%, 46 for 58, SHG 2, Home 100%, Road 73.9%)
It's hard to put your finger on exactly what the problems were with the PK. A combination of luck, goaltending and defensive breakdowns resulted in a PK% under 80%. It's interesting to note that the PK is still perfect on home ice, but was abysmal on the road at 73.9%. If the Canucks are going to make the playoffs they need to improve on that number.
The Powerplay: B (PP% 20.8%, 11 for 53, Home 27.8%, Road 17.1%
Overall the Canucks power play was solid, however like the penalty kill there was a large discrepancy between home and road numbers. The road power play simply has to be better. Of note the Canucks are a Net -1 in the special teams goal department.

The Forwards

Ryan Kesler: A (GP 11, G 4 A 6 PTS 10, +3 18:10)
Kesler has started right where he left off last season. While anchoring the "checking line" he leads the team in points demonstrating that he is probably the teams most valuable forward. His strong statistics also include a 55.1% rate in the faceoff circle. The only downside to his game has been the team's slow start in the PK department.
Alex Burrows: A (GP 11, G 4 A 5 PTS 9, +6 16:09)
Along with Kesler, Burrows is off to an outstanding start. He is producing offensively, playing strong defensively all while still being his usual agitating self. Playing with a lot of confidence, especially when he has the puck. It's only one month, but it's worth noting Burrows is on pace for more than 60pts
Mason Raymond: B+ (GP 11, G 4, A 4, 8 PTS, +1 16:03)
While there may be lingering question marks surrounding Raymond's size and ability to play a full 82 game season, there are no question marks surrounding his ability to play at this level. There are still nights where he isn't very noticeable, but he is doing his job of putting up top 6 numbers.
Jannik Hansen: B (GP 11, G 3, A 4, 7 PTS, +4 13:57)
Hansen has been a great addition to the Kesler/Burrows duo, adding more speed and offensive skill to the "checking line". His point totals are great, but I would like to see him earning 15:00+ minutes a game. He can accomplish that by improving on his consistency (on the odd night he isn't very noticeable) and adding to his PK time by giving the coaches a reason to have more confidence in him.
Kyle Wellwood: B (GP 6, G 3, A 1, 4 PTS, +1 14:02)
As in the pre-season, Wellwood has managed to make the most of his (limited) opportunities. It's now up to him to see if he can earn more confidence from the coaching staff. There are still big question marks on his ability to not be a liability defensively. Currently he is averaging 10:24 at even strength. For him to add a real strong contribution to the team he needs to add another couple minutes to that total. If he does that he will put himself in a position to put up 50pts... if he doesn't he may find himself remaining at his current rate of only playing in half the team's games.
Henrik Sedin: C+ (GP 11, G 2 A 7, 9 PTS, -1 19:27)
It's funny how it seems like the Sedins are struggling yet Henrik is an assist shy of being on pace for 15 goal 60 assist season. However numbers aren't everything and the Canucks need much more consistent production from the Sedins.
Rick Rypien: C+ (GP 5, G 2 A 0, 2 PTS, -1 9:14)
Rypien was off to a great start, contributing a couple big goals and punching the crap out of opponents. Unfortunately his grade drops because of his continued inability to stay healthy. Let's hope this is the last injury for Rypien and not his last chance with the team.
Steve Bernier: C+ (GP 11, G 4 A 3, PTS 7, -2 14:58)
While his start with the Sedins has been a disappointment Bernier is still on pace for 30 goals and leads the team in hits with 27. Bernier's big body has been a nice addition to the top 6, but there is still more there. He needs to produce more consistently.
Ryan Johnson: C+ (GP 11, G 0 A 2, PTS 2, +1 11:21)
As advertised on TV... has double the blocked shots (18) as any other forward. Needs to improve in the faceoff circle (41%) and chip in the odd goal. Team PK, which he is a large part of (3:20 per game), also needs to improve.
Darcy Hordichuk: C (GP 9, G 0 A 0, PTS 0, -1 5:25)
Has done his job as team enforcer. Needs to earn some more ice-time and contribute more "momentum changing" shifts, along with the odd point. More divisional games would probably get him more involved, but there aren't many of those upcoming...
Daniel Sedin: C (GP 11, G 3 A 5, PTS 8, 0 19:04)
Three goals simply isn't good enough for Daniel. The Canucks cannot afford prolonged slumps by the Sedins, it's as simple as that.
Jason Krog: C (GP 3, G 1 A 0, PTS 1, 0 10:28)
Needs to capitalize on his limited opportunities if he wants to stay up with the Canucks. Being good on the draws isn't enough to get in the lineup consistently.
Pavol Demitra: C- (GP 6, G 2 A 1, PTS 3, -2 16:51)
Disappointing start for Demitra. After looking very good in the pre-season Demitra and his linemates were slow out of the gate and now Demitra is out of the lineup for a good chunk of games.
Mike Brown: C- (GP 4, G 0 A 0, PTS 0, -1 4:29)
Hasn't done anything but drop the gloves a few times. Gillis' decision to keep Brown over Pettinger is still very questionable.
Taylor Pyatt: D (GP 11, G 1 A 2, PTS 3, -1 15:11)
Status as the new fan whipping boy is well earned. With the exception of the last couple games Pyatt has simply been a non-factor. If the Canucks had a better alternative on the roster he would likely have found himself a healthy scratch on occasion. 7 minor penalties is a big red flag.

The Defensemen

Kevin Bieksa: B+ (GP 8, G 2 A 5, PTS 7, +2 23:47)
Bieksa has played his best hockey since signing his big contract. Frankly his play has been a big relief to Canuck fans. Still makes the odd miscue and is over aggressive at times, but overall his game is in pretty good shape. Perhaps the biggest sign of his strong play is that he has taken only 2 minor penalties.
Willie Mitchell B+ (GP 11, G 0 A 5, PTS 5, +6 22:01)
Strong defensive play has been augmented by some offensive production. Anchors the PK with nearly 5min per game shorthanded. Very solid start for Mitchell.
Sami Salo B (GP 9, G 0 A 5, PTS 5, -1 19:53)
Despite missing a couple games with a groin injury and not having scored, Salo is off to a solid start. The fact that he has only taken 1 minor penalty says a lot about how well he has played defensively. The offense should come eventually.
Mattias Ohlund: B (GP 11, G 2 A 2, PTS 4, -1 20:48)
Average start, average grade. Ohlund has been Ohlund.
Alexander Edler: B- (GP 11, G 1 A 4, PTS 5, +4 22:38)
Decent start for Edler, but he is capable of more. His game has struggled at times and he was taken off the PP by Vigneault who stated he wanted Edler to focus on the other parts of his game.
Shane O'Brien: C (GP 12, G 0 A 2, PTS 2, -1 15:03)
Has looked much better and comfortable recently, but it was a rocky start for O'Brien. Leads the team with 8 minor penalties, evidence that his mobility is a huge question mark.
Rob Davison: INCOMPLETE (GP 2, G 0 A 0, PTS 0, -1 14:41)
Missed both of his games, so no grade.
Lawrence Nycholat: INCOMPLETE (GP 3, G 0 A 0, PTS 0 -2 9:40)
Missed 2 of his games, so cannot grade fairly.

The Goalies

Roberto Luongo: C (GP 10, W 6 L 4 OTL 0, GAA 2.97, Sv% 0.901, SO 2
Rough start for the new captain. Has been outplayed by opposition goaltender too often and was not good at all on the long road trip. Five games with a save percentage under .900. Will be better in November.
Curtis Sanford: C (GP 2, W 0 L 1 OTL 0, GAA 3.75 Sv% 0.878, SO 0
Allowed 5 goals in his only start against Buffalo. Canucks need more out of Sanford if they hope to rest Luongo.