Archive for November, 2007

Just another day at the office

This is all getting a little ho-hum isn’t it? Roberto Luongo’s fine form, with three straight shutouts and almost 200 minutes of hockey without conceding a goal, almost appears an ordinary state of affairs.

In fact, Luongo’s play is so outstanding (and has been since his arrival in Vancouver) that you almost get the sense it is just business as usual for him. Get dressed. Warm up. Stymie the opposition. Tell the media the win was due to your teammates. Shower. Go home. Repeat tomorrow.

Strangely, he is so good with such regularity that it almost becomes unnecessary to say ‘great save’ or to comment on how spectacular his play is.

I mean, we don’t need to wake up every morning and extol the virtues of the sun. It’s there. It’s always been there (from a human referential perspective). And, it will always be there (or, at least, as long as ‘we’ are ‘there’). No need to wax ecstatically about it.

Likewise, Luongo.

Tale of the tape

Canucks 4 – Ducks 0

Todd Bertuzzi – Minus 2, O points. Ineffective.

Roberto Luongo – Shutout (3rd of the season), second straight; 134 minutes of hockey without conceding a goal. Stellar.

Did I mention we have Lukas Krajicek to show for that deal, as well?

Look for him in the office (i.e. the penalty box)

Tonight’s visit to GM Place by the Anaheim Ducks marks the much-heralded return of Todd Bertuzzi (a.k.a. Penaltuzzi) to Vancouver.

I am not going to say much about it, though. The boys over the Kurtenblog have already done it better. An excerpt, for your enjoyment:

The fact is, even when Bertuzzi was playing like the premier power forward in the game, he was tough to like. Mostly it was the arrogance, the kind that every bar star in the city loads up on before donning the wife beater avec chains and hitting theclubs for some vodka-Red Bulls and general douchebaggery. Bertuzzi was their hero. He was the Vin Diesel of the NHL. Let’s put it this way: the kind of guys thatwear No. 44 replicas are not the KB’s kind of guys. If you own a Bertuzzi jersey and are offended by that, we don’t apologize. However, we do think your Honda Civic has cool rims. What, no ground effects? You should ask Mr. Lube for a raise.

Pure gold.

At any rate, it also marks the return of a team that knocked the Canucks out of the playoffs in the second round last year, only to go on to win the Stanley Cup.

Oh, what could have been! I fondly recall sitting in a Montreal bar with one of my best friends (out visiting on business from Vancouver), a huge Canucks fan, watching game 4. The Canucks took a 3-0 lead at GM Place and looked poised to tie the series at two games apiece, heading back to Anaheim. Then, disaster struck: the Canucks somehow, inexplicably even to this day, pissed away what appeared to be an insurmountable lead, allowing the Ducks to tie the game and send it to OT. Of course, as you might expect, the Ducks ended up winning the game in the second OT period (incidentally, just as we had moved to another bar, hoping it might reinvigorate our good fortune). With the Ducks up three games to one, the series was all but over.

But, if the Canucks had won. Who knows? Perhaps they win the series and meet Detroit in the Conference Finals. Perhaps they win a series against a team they matched up well against. Perhaps they win the Stanley Cup…

Alas.

Anyway, here is to hoping we see Bertuzzi re-acquainted with his old office at GM Place tonight.

Ahh yes, Bert’s favourite penalty: Unsportsmanlike Conduct. Usually received for consistenly yapping, moaning, and complaining to the ref.

Notwithstanding the enjoyment of a Canucks win, I ask you: Is there anything more quotable/hilarious than a sour, angry, dejected Bert post-game in the locker room? I didn’t think so.

Spare a thought

For this man.

Tony Tanti, obtained by the Canucks in exchange for tough guy Curt Fraser during the 1982-83 season, was for many years the most consistent and prolific scorer in Canucks history.

In eight seasons with the Canucks, Tanti amassed 250 goals, including three 40-goal seasons (45 in ’83-84, 41 in ’86-87, and 40 in ’87-88).

Among his accomplishments, Tanti held the team record for hat-tricks, with ten.

That is, until Wednesday night’s game with the Minnesota Wild. Markus Naslund recorded a hat-trick, his tenth as a Canuck, moving him past Pavel Bure (nine) and into a tie with Tanti.

Tanti, for my money, was a better pure goal scorer than Naslund is. First of all, let me be emphatic in stating that Naslund is a much better hockey player, overall, than Tanti ever was. Tanti was an out-and-out goal poacher. Hence, many of his goals came on the power play, on tip-ins, in front of the net, etc.

But, it bears mention that Naslund has had the luxury of playing with a better supporting cast during his time as a Canuck than Tanti ever did.

What I am driving at is this: if Tanti were able to play with the kind of players that Naslund has, and the kind of team the Canucks have been over the course of Naslund’s career, his goal haul would be considerably larger than it is. He would certainly have a goal-scoring record that exceeds Naslund’s.

Discuss.

A point gained or lost?

Although the flavour of this game was entirely different, the result, unfortunately, was the same as the last meeting between the Canucks and the Oilers.

After losing last week in a shootout, in a game where no goals were scored, the Canucks lost again to the Oil in the Bettman tiebreaker, in a game where the teams traded four goals apiece during regulation play.

Unlike last week’s game, however, in which the Canucks completely dominated the Oilers for most of it, the Canucks can count themselves lucky that they somehow managed to escape Rexall Place with even a single point last night.

For the first two periods, the Canucks’ offence was flaccid, their play undisciplined, and their work ethic infuriatingly poor. Indeed, if it were not for Roberto Luongo, who was sensational in the second period in particular, this game would not have been close.

Though the Canucks surprisingly took the lead early in the third period on a terrific goal by Markus Naslund, a sense of foreboding remained. Sure enough, the Canucks took a penalty immediately after the goal, allowing Dustin Penner to tie the game up, 4-4.

Unfortunately, after the team’s traded chances in overtime, it was on to the shootout. For whatever reason, the Canucks have demonstrated a disturbing inability to perform even remotely well in shootouts this year (Luongo excepted).

In fact, in the two shootouts against the Oilers in the span of a week, the Canucks have scored only once (Trevor Linden, last night) on seven opportunities. Quite simply, they have not been good enough.

I suspect, however, that the Canucks will be happy to take the point on the road. They, admittedly, did not deserve to win the game, so perhaps this is a reasonable perspective. At the end of the season, it is the points gained in games where you are not at your best that might separate the playoff teams from those on the outside looking in.

I suppose, then, that this should be viewed as a point gained rather than a point lost.

Mister Sandman……Yyyyyessss?

Last Wednesday at GM Place, the Canucks were unable to score in regulation, overtime, or the shootout against the Edmonton Oilers, a team, it is worth mentioning, that is among the most scored upon in the entire league.

Needless to say, it was one of the few blemishes on the Canucks’ recent record (5-0-1 since the November 1 loss to Nashville).

Tonight, I suspect the Canucks will, again, dominate the run-of-play against the Oilers. But, this time, I think the Sedin’s actually will pad their stats and the Canucks really will win the game handily.

One thing to watch for tonight is whether AV goes with Luongo in net, rests him tomorrow night on a quick-turn around (less than 24 hours) against the Wild, and then plays him again on Friday against St. Louis. Or, does he play Curtis Sanford against one of the conference’s weakest teams tonight, start Luongo against the Northwest-leading Wild tomorrow, and then play Sanford against his old team on Friday?

There is a case to be made for the former, insofar as you save your number one goaltender the hassle of playing a game the day you arrive in Minnesota at roughly 3 or 4 am.

There is a case to be made for the latter (I think, a more compelling one), insofar as you get Sanford some action in two games (one against relatively inferior opposition and another against a team you can reasonably expect means that much more to him) that are eminently winnable without Luongo in net.

My suspicion is that AV goes with the latter strategy, though I rest this on nothing more than a hunch on my part.

One way or another, I predict the Canucks win this one 4-1. (Daniel with a pair, Naslund and Pyatt with the other two; let’s say Horcoff/Sloth scores for the Oil.)

8-0-1

After defeating the Calgary Flames 4-1 last night (for the third time already this season, no less), the Canucks now have an incredible 8-0-1 record in games against Northwest division rivals.

Say what you will about this team’s limitations and corresponding early season struggles; a record like this will stand you in good stead for the playoff chase, especially in a league where 32 of 82 games are played within your own division.

What has impressed me the most about this statistic, though, is the fact that in these games the Canucks are playing with the kind of intensity, commitment (to both each other and to the team philosophy), and focus that is the sine qua non of playoff hockey.

Intra-divisional games, if nothing else, are a cauldron of rivalry, intensity, and immense pressure, at least relative to most other games on the 82-game schedule; games that most resemble the kind of hockey that is played during the playoffs.

Ultimately, these are games where all teams involved are acutely aware that any points dropped to the opposition are perilously afforded, making them that much more difficult to win.

Now, to be sure, I am not saying that nine games against the Northwest division played up to November 19 are an accurate indicator of potnetial playoff success come spring. Rather, what I mean to suggest is that these performances demonstrate that the Canucks are proving themselves capable of consistently playing the way they will need to in order to be successful when the playoffs do begin in April, when games are that much more difficult to win.

Scratch below the surface of any of the impressive statistics I could gather and this is the most exciting element of the Canucks’ 8-0-1 Northwest division record.