Archive for October, 2008

Canucks Halloween Costumes

Vancouver Viewpoint has a sneak peak at the Canucks Halloween costumes. I have been undercover for this job, which is an explanation for my lack of postings.

Alex Burrows (just warming up here):

Cause he is a pest,(Just warming up)

Cause he is a "pest"

 Roberto Luongo:

This is cryptic costume.  He thinks he is overvalued.

This is cryptic costume. He thinks he is overvalued.

Taylor Pyatt:

 

Damn, cover his eyes

Damn, covers his eyes

Sami Salo:

Update- Sami injured himself getting into wheelchair

Update- Sami injured himself getting into wheelchair

Sedin Twins:

When you are twins you are limited to only the best costumes

When you are twins you are limited to only the best costumes

The fourth line (Hordichuk, Johnson,  Rypien):

Ace, Buddy and PJ went on to win best costume of the night

Kyle Wellwood:

He forgot his costume.
He forgot his costume.

Regicide

It’s eminently enjoyable for a hockey fan when everything goes well for your team.  Last night, everything went well for the Canucks.

The Canucks had a four-minute power play to begin the game and briefly had a 5-on-3 at the back end of it, allowing them to get on the board first.

Alexander Frolov had a penalty shot but had to overcome deteriorated ice conditions nearing the end of the first period.  Not surprisingly, the puck awkwardly bounced off of his stick when he tried to go to the backhand. 

With the game 1-0 instead of the game being 1-1, the Canucks proceeded to make it 2-0 before the expiration of the first on a fantastic shot by Mason Raymond.

The Sedins finally put up some points again. 

Kyle Wellwood continued to demonstrate why he is worth having around, if only for his appearances on the power play.

Roberto Luongo is back to his old self.

Taylor Pyatt scored.  Yes, you heard that right.

Everybody loves Raymond – except possibly the Sedins

Vancouver (4-5-0) at Los Angeles (3-4-1)

One of the more interesting things to watch for tonight when the Canucks visit the Staples Centre is the re-casting of the first line, with talented youngster Mason Raymond replacing the talented but unproductive youngster Steve Bernier alongside the Sedin twins.

It’s hard to find fault with Vigneault’s decision here. Like many Canucks fans, my appetite whetted at the prospect of a player with Bernier’s size and hands playing with the Sedins. Unfortunately, the combination has not lived up to its billing, with Bernier probably the only Canuck struggling more than the twins right now. Meanwhile, Raymond has been productive and, at least, appears to offer a potent offensive threat on most nights this season.

Raymond, who is a gifted winger blessed with excellent skating ability and speed, offers an entirely different dimension from an offensive standpoint than Bernier, who tends to look for scoring opportunities in high percentage areas in-and-around the net.

Unfortunately, this is one reason why I am sceptical of this combination. Raymond is an effective offensive player because his quickness allows him to generate quality chances off-the-rush. The Sedins rarely muster an offensive threat when not working out of the corners off of the cycle. I highly doubt whether Raymond will be able to get into the necessary areas to be an effective complement to the Sedins’ game.

I hope I’m wrong, mind you.

Bruinzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Well, I didn’t actually fall asleep, though I certainly wish I did.

The Canucks fell 1-0 to the Bruins in a game that can most optimistically be described as a veritable snooze-fest. (Two straight 1-0 wins, Boston. Congratulations!)

Boston is an egregiously boring hockey team to watch. Of that there is little doubt.

It could have been a different story, however, if the Canucks had taken their few chances better. Henrik Sedin on a 3-on-1 and Daniel Sedin on a breakaway near the end of the first period did their best to solidify the perception among Canucks fans that the twins are largely incapable of scoring unless they are bringing the puck into the slot from the corner after cycling with it for 45 seconds. (Come to think of it they aren’t doing that anymore, either.) Mason Raymond and Ryan Kesler also had a few quality chances but came up well short of beating Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, who has now shut out the Canucks in two straight games and recorded a shutout in has last two outings this season.

The most worrisome aspect of the game last night is that the Canucks looked like a bona fide sub-.500 team. In a game where they needed to execute with proficiency in order to overcome the Bruins stingy defensive tactics, they simply had inadequate resources to do so.

A familiar refrain when it comes to separating the wheat from the chaff in the NHL.

Preview: Canucks vs Bruins

Vancouver (4-4-0) vs Boston (4-2-3)

The Canucks host the Boston Bruins at GM Place tonight in a game nationally televised on TSN. The Bruins are playing their second game on the road in 24 hours, after beating the Edmonton Oilers last night, 1-0 in Overtime, whereas the Canucks have been idle since beating the Oilers at home on Saturday night.

In other words, this is a game that pundits and prognosticators alike would say a team in the Canucks’ position should, for all intents and purposes, win.

That and the fact the Canucks are 2-0 at home should stand them in good stead heading into the game tonight, at least in theory.

What we certainly can expect tonight is the way the Bruins will play. Put simply, lull-you-to-sleep-and-catch-you-napping hockey (or, as hockey analysts prefer to call it, the ‘trap’). For instance, precisely the type of game they executed to perfection last night against Edmonton.

Hopefully I don’t end up asleep half-way through the second period, beer in hand.

Thoughts from a self-loathing Canucks fan

Let me state unequivocally and for the record that Saturday’s pre-game ceremony to commemorate the ‘7th Canuck,’ i.e. the fans, amounts to precious little more than another ignominy for Canucks fans to suffer.

Something akin to the shame and embarrassment any self-respecting fan of, say, the Nashville Predators or Columbus Blue Jackets (surely they exist) must feel when the two teams’ PA announcers declare in an exceedingly shrill roar that the team “IS…on…the…POWER-PLAY!” each and every time the opposition is a man down.

Come to think of it, our recent descent into eminently worthwhile mockery probably pains a great deal more.

After all, the Vancouver Canucks have been in the NHL since 1970 (the third oldest existing Canadian franchise). Our team is one that plays in a province and country that is undeniably well-versed in knowledge about the game of hockey and its myriad traditions; that loves the game above all others. Not some city where hockey often provides something in the form of gimmick entertainment for people who repudiate college football, perhaps in order to stand out among friends and family for their ‘unique’ sports palate.

Perhaps I give our venerable old franchise too much credit though. Let us not forget that the Canucks are, in fact, the franchise of six different basic uniform schemes and effectively three different primary logos in only 38 years of existence. Or, a club that has, at times, made the word ‘organization’ appear to be tantamount to ‘Mickey Mouse Club.’ Or, the franchise whose only sweater retirement to-date (number 16 is not hanging in the rafters yet) is that of a likeable and hard-working but modestly talented winger who averaged well below a point-per-game in his career, won nothing of significance in terms of team or individual awards (save one surprise Clarence Campbell trophy, a litany of Canucks Molson Cup recognitions and a host of franchise records set largely due to the dearth of bona fide stars to have played for any length of time, if any, in Vancouver), and most enduring memory for fans of my generation is probably rushing down the wing on a breakaway in Overtime of Game 7 in the 1989 Smythe Division Semi-Finals against the Calgary Flames and putting the puck straight into Mike Vernon’s glove.

(Don’t get me wrong, I love ‘the Steamer’ as much as the next star-starved Canucks fan, but he makes Bernie Federko look like Steve Yzerman.)

I suppose that is what makes the 7th Canuck ceremony so devastatingly laughable. It is embarrassing precisely for what it is: an obviously cheap gimmick that a person with any hockey acumen to speak of would likely attribute to a new franchise in a weak hockey market looking to ‘connect’ with a fan base that has only passing interest in the game. In other words, not something one expects from an established and respectable franchise in a putative hockey hot bed.

Discerning Canucks fans know better. This is merely par for a tired old, second-rate course. A course that the fans of the other franchises in this country, much to my chagrin, do not seem to ever pay green fees for.

Awakening

Although the Canucks nearly squandered a two-goal lead in the second period against the Oilers last night, the awakening of a dormant power play provided the offence required to secure a much needed 6-3 victory over their Northwest division rivals.

Having only scored three power play goals all season, the Canucks exploded for four last night. Most importantly, Kyle Wellwood, who utterly dominated the Oilers with the man advantage throughout the game, scored the game-winner early in the third with a great shot to beat Mathieu Garon. Mason Raymond also helped himself to two goals on the power play and Jason Krog the other, late in the third.

After having been so dismal with the man advantage all season, it’s hard to argue with the impression Wellwood has made since being re-called to replace injured Pavol Demitra. Say what you want about him (the 14 year old set that frequents the CDC message boards is particularly fond of ‘fatty’ and other puerile aspersions cast about his weight), Wellwood is a wizard with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone. Certainly he is not the most fleet of foot and he isn’t one to throw the body around but Wellwood offers precisely what you need on the power play: vision, hockey sense, excellent passing ability, a keen eye for the net; and hands as soft as silk. (Last time I checked neither speed nor plumbing ability was a hallmark for power play wizards.)

Apart from the laudable performance by Wellwood and the Canucks power play, rookie Jannik Hansen continued to impress last night, scoring two goals to bring his season tally to three. One of the most illuminating bright spots for the Canucks so far has to be the third line of Burrows, Kesler and Hansen. Not only are they superb defensively and all excellent skaters (as expected), they are contributing more than their fair share of offence.

Some of the positives aside, I am still baffled by the inconsistency of Roberto Luongo. Sure, he was excellent in the first 30 minutes; and yes, he made a timely save on a Sam Gagner penalty shot late in the second to keep the game tied 3-3. The problem is, Luongo was absolutely brutal on the Oilers’ second goal, completely missing a weak shot with his glove. This goal, most importantly, let the Oilers back in the game after having gone down 3-1 in a short span earlier.

Admittedly even the best goalies let in a bad goal from time-to-time but it is worrisome that Luongo seems to be lacking the focus that has come to be a trademark of his play over the years. Now, Luongo did battle back to shut the door with the aforementioned penalty shot-save and a scoreless third period to hold the Canucks’ lead. Still, it must be said that the Canucks are simply not a good enough team to squander two-goal leads – let alone leads of any kind – frequently.

Plain and simple, the Canucks will need Luongo to be better. Fortunately, I am confident that he will be. After all, we are only eight games into the season and the Canucks’ captain has never been known as the strongest of starters.