Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Steve Nash Sells Vitamin Water on Space Ghost Coast to Coast

Dearest Canucks fans,

I hope you're finding other awesome things to do now that our beloved orcas are playing golf. Yes, I do. I hope that the devastation you suffered lingered only briefly, and that you've found replacement activities that will sustain you through another long offseason.

Yes, I know there's been some Canucks news, but I'm a married man, y'all. My wife begs me all the time to take a little break from the Canucks, and annually, I acquiesced... for a small portion of the offseason, right at the beginning of it. I figure another week and I'll be in her good books.

In the meantime, I have sunk my teeth completely into Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns. Have you? I hope so, because not only is Steve Nash a super great guy and one of the best point guards in the NBA (not to mention the best Canadian basketball player ever), but he's hilarious. Case in point, the above interview with Space Ghost.

I know how it works. A lot of Vancouverites are still choked at the NBA for the way we were treated. Don't be. In terms of ignorance and mismanagement from the top down, the NBA's head offices are not that different from the NHL's. Don't blame the players, don't blame the game. Blame the blundering, managerial consortium--a staple of both sports--that royally effs things up for fans of the sport. And while you're blaming them, look past them like you do with the NHL, and watch some incredible basketball.

The Phoenix Suns are very entertaining. Amare Stoudemire is a beast. Steve Nash breaks a piece of his face off during every game and still plays the next one without complaint. Last night, the Phoenix bench--a full, five-man unit--literally beat the Lakers starters by themselves. That's unheard of, and you missed it.

Stop missing it. Fall in love with the BC-born mega-athlete who makes seeing-eye passes and hawks Vitamin Water at every turn. And do it now, because he's playing the best basketball of his career.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Henrik Named Sporting News Player of the Year

Re-igniting the Hart Trophy debate, Henrik Sedin has been named The Sporting News Player of the Year. As Puck Daddy points out, this award has predicted the Hart trophy winner 8 out of the last 10 years. And, since it's voted on by NHL players, coaches, and executives, it almost guarantees Henrik the Ted Lindsay award, which is voted on by the NHLPA.

Over the next couple days we at Pass it To Bulis will be taking a closer look at the Hart trophy race and, specifically, why I think Henrik Sedin should win.

Monday, May 17, 2010

On Willie Mitchell, Brain Trauma, Professional Idiots, and the Trading Deadline

Above is a segment of Mike Gillis's year-end presser where he discusses Willie Mitchell's condition, a trade deadline in which he acquired no replacement for his top defensive defenseman suffering a season-ending injury, and Mitchell's comments regarding Colin Campbell's wheel of justice. It's a good watch.

Somehow, to me, it seemed like all playoffs long, I was just waiting for word that Mitchell was ready to suit up, that a concussion is a little like a numb arm after a nap, and it simply takes an unspecified amount of time to clear up. But we all know that's not what a concussion is. And furthermore, Willie Mitchell deserves our greatest sympathy for continuing to suffer brain trauma from a hit he suffered FOUR MONTHS AGO on January 16.

There are a number of issues arising from this hit. The first is the hit itself and its failure to earn supplementary discipline from Colin Campbell. Of this, Willie Mitchell was critical:

"I am disappointed in the league, disappointed in Colin Campbell," Mitchell said. "As we've seen, [he's] been very inconsistent with how he's handled himself in those situations [...] I think the league needs to, along with our players' union, take a look at how they run the discipline in the league. Colin Campbell had a lot of relationships with general managers and ownership and stuff like that. It's very tough to hand down decisions on matters like this when you are friends with people. It's something the league and players need to look at, to have an outside party handle the discipline in the league [so] it's consistent.

And just to make it clear this has nothing to do with the Canucks being eliminated from the playoffs, Mitchell explained his very personal angle.

"I want to make this very clear, too, I'm not saying this for me. What's it going to do for me? It's not going to do a thing for me. No one is going to take back the last four-and-a-half months that I've endured and my family has endured. Why I'm saying this right now is because of my friends in the league, my peers in the league. I don't want anyone to go through what I just did.''

The good news: not only is Mitchell right, but his refusal to mince words and the clarity with which he slammed the NHL brass (at one point he implied Campbell has caused "chaos") likely guarantees him a job in broadcasting if this is indeed the end of his NHL career. The bad news, of course, is that impassioned, emboldened, intellectually worded criticism of the NHL discipline is just as against the rules as whatever John Tortorella usually does, so Mitchell's likely going to get fined. But I thoroughly appreciate Mitchell speaking his mind.

And let's be clear on one thing: when the hit originally took place, the debate over whether or not Malkin should be suspended was actually not too loud. It seemed like a hit from behind, deserving of a penalty, but it didn't initially look as bad as it turned out to be. I don't think the outcry from Canuck nation was any larger than it is now, in retrospect. But, having finally heard from Mitchell, revisiting the play that may have cost us our season, I've realized that my perspective of what is and isn't a suspendable offense is completely skewed by the inconsistency and, well, chaos of NHL discipline for which Colin "Lord Chaos" Campbell (pictured, right) is directly responsible. Couple that with what's been a playoffs of unimaginable reffing incompetence and you have a sickness in the NHL head office that needs fixing right away.

The second issue, which is much smaller, is the unimaginable incompetence in the NHL media. Doofuses like Kelly Hrudey who criticize Mike Gillis's "failure" to find a replacement for Mitchell at the trading deadline. Now I may just be an amateur member of the Vancouver Canucks media, but even I am observant enough to recognize the way the deadline has changed, the lack of blockbusters, the fact that it's become little more than a chance to get depth guys and swap middling prospects. Spending big has become an unquestionably stupid move; it hasn't paid off once in the new NHL, and I would imagine that it never will. Ilya Kovalchuk is merely the latest example of what happens when you go out and get a big name to bolster your postseason lineup. It doesn't work. And we wanted Mike Gillis to replace Willie Mitchell? Did anybody consider the cost of acquiring a premier defensive defenseman? According to GM MG, It was a 1st round pick and Cody Hodgson. No dice. Did anybody consider that the chemistry might not have been there, because it rarely is when you acquire a star player, set in his ways, and then try to teach him your system and the tendencies of your players in a short time? Did anybody think at all?

Sometimes I wonder why Mike Gillis condescends to the media. Usually, I know why: they ask stupid questions and they say stupid things. Skeeter pointed out some of the asinine radical ideas that spring up in the postseason, but all of his evidence was from the Canucks forum. Incredibly, the media are just as bad. Heck, these guys have diplomas and degrees; it's more embarrassing for them.

Here's hoping Willie Mitchell recovers and we see him playing for an NHL team next season. Maybe ours, maybe not. It doesn't matter. It's not about the Canucks; it's about Mitchell lacing up the skates so that Malkin's undisciplined headshot doesn't become a career-ending one.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Because We Know So Much Better

Clearly, Hordichuk would have made all the difference...

It's become an annual tradition for Canucks fans to take stock of their team post-season and come up with a list of mistakes made by the coaches and general manager and what needs to change. Canucks fans aren't content to end the season with "Wait 'til next year!" Instead, we immediately start putting together next year's team, with radical ideas usually based on reactionary thinking.

On the radio, I heard a caller suggest that the Canucks should play the trap because, with Luongo in net they need to play a defensive game. Just last year I heard callers to the Team 1040 complain that the Canucks need to play a more open style and let Luongo clean up any defensive breakdowns that result.

AV decided not to dress Hordichuk against Chicago? Chose not to go with 7 defencemen when Salo was injured? Didn't use enough timeouts? Fire him.

Luongo not up to par in the playoffs? Statistics not as good as last year? Trade him.

Holes in the defence? Weak bottom six? Throw money at the problem until it goes away.

Let's face it, every Canucks fan does this. Maybe our ideas aren't as silly as these ones on the surface, but we each believe that we're the only ones who know what's best for the team and exactly what needs to be done. I'm no different and neither is Harrison. He insists that a trade of Mason Raymond and Steve Bernier for Nathan Horton would be ideal; I'm skeptical that Florida would accept the trade and, after seeing the flame-outs of Jokinen and Bouwmeester in Calgary, whether he would experience the same success in the Northwest that he did in the Southeast.

I have my own ideas about what needs to be done during the offseason, and I'll be sure to write it all down on this blog, but I need to make sure my conscience is clear: I could be wrong. And, what's truly important, so could everyone else. Every blog that you read, every editorial column from the mainstream media, every random opinion from a co-worker, we could all be wrong. Don't believe everything you hear from the Team 1040 and don't base your opinions on what the experts say: look at the facts and decide for yourself. But be open-minded. After all, you could be wrong. If someone disagrees with you, don't dismiss them. Listen to their argument, look at the facts, and then dismiss him.

After all, you know better than he does.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Blackhawks, May 11, 2010

So here we are, the last game of the season complete, our beloved Vancouver Canucks left exactly where they were this last year to the day. So why do I feel so much more content this time around?

I'll tell you why. Make no mistake: Chicago was the better team in these playoffs, but our potential for even an upset went out the window when Dustin Byfuglien took Alex Edler out of the game. With Edler gone, and Salo playing like a ghost of himself (just as he appears), Kevin Bieksa became our number one defenseman, playing the wrong side. Shane O'Brien became our number three.

We all saw what happened with that. Bieksa is a mistake-prone, high-risk kind of guy on any given night, but on Tuesday night, he was exhausted, overworked, taxed, and the mental errors finally began to pile up. Credit to Chicago for tightening up and pouncing on an exhausted Vancouver defense. There was nothing we could do. Imagine, momentarily, that the Blackhawks had lost Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. I submit that they would lose. Well, while Mitchell, Salo, and Edler are not those guys, they are the best defensemen on our team, and without them, we are drastically worse.

Put aside that shoddy argument about Vigneault dressing seven defensemen. It wouldn't have made a difference. What was Lawrence Nycholat going to give us? Was he going to replace Edler, Mitchell, or Salo? No. You live and die with your best players, and tonight it was fatal. It's not Luongo's fault. He wasn't the best goalie in this series, but, again, Andrew Alberts finished this series at #4 on the depth chart. Bad defense will turn even the best goalies into mediocre ones after awhile. Luongo made more amazing saves in the first period than I can remember. Consider how many great scoring chances Chicago got in the game. That Bobby Lu only let in five is--regrettably--impressive. When he said about as much, the media crucified him. Give it a break, guys. What do you want? More tears? The team had nothing left, and for once, they feel like they did all they could.

That's what I got from the aftermath of this game: a disappointed team consoling themselves with the knowledge it wouldn't have turned out any other way. As a resigned fatalist, I recognize you can't fight the present. It just is. And the Canucks seemed of a similar mind. How are you supposed to stifle the best offense in the league when your best defensive defenseman is injured and your best defensive forward is playing injured? Ryan Kesler was not even close to regular-season form for most of the playoffs. (Consolation: he still put up nearly a point a game--the kid's a player.) The shoulder injury we found out about after the loss explains the step back his play took.

I'm content because we lost, and not because we suddenly fell apart. It's because we deserved to lose. Chicago is a fantastic team (full of gutless pukes, yes, but fantastic), and we had nothing left to give them. They deserve to be the team looking ahead. We deserve to be the team looking inward. So we look to the offseason, which should be interesting. Gillis has some huge choices to make, especially regarding who comes back. He's got some young prospects who could make a difference, he got a little bit of wiggle room with the cap, and he's got a core in place that should let him focus on the potholes rather than the direction of the street.

No bullet points from me today. We all saw the same series, the same season, the same hockey team, and nothing much changed in that final game. Kyle Wellwood was frustratingly brilliant. For better or worse, Shane O'Brien has become our emotional barometer. The Sedins were neutralized.

Whatever, though. Enjoy your offseason, Canucks fans. If, like me, you find yourself a little lost, sports-wise, I highly recommend giving the Suns-Lakers series a chance. Should be good. We'll be reporting on it a little. The World Cup starts in about a month if you can sit on your hands until then. Stay away from baseball. It's worse than ever.

And what of Pass it to Bulis? Well, we've really enjoyed our first year here, and we'll be with you all season long next time around. As for the offseason, we've got a lot planned. We'll still be reporting Canucks news, large (the draft, free agency) and small (you know, piddly blog crap), and we'll be giving our measured take on GM MG's big decisions. Look for a biweekly video blog where Skeeter and I debate the issues.

So please, bookmark us, add us to readers, tell your friends about us, do whatever. Just make sure you don't forget about us, because we'll still be here and we'd hate to lose you.

Until next year.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I Didn't Watch This Game: Canucks vs. Blackhawks, May 11, 2010

It's true. I play guitar in a band and we have a show coming up, so I was busy practicing while the game was on. Harrison PVRed the game (he also had a practice with his band) and we intended to watch the game together, but the combination of exhaustion and depression kept us from doing so.

It feels like a kick in the chest right now, to have my hometeam that I care so much about out of the playoffs. I'll have more to say as a postmortem later on, but right now I'm just upset. Harrison and I will likely watch the game tonight and collect our thoughts on the season as a whole.

PiTB will continue. We're enjoying blogging and we hope you're enjoying reading. We'll hopefully be doing some video blogging to go with the writing and you might see some musical tributes to our beloved Canucks in the future. For now, let's just have a moment of silence for the '09-'10 Vancouver Canucks.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Quotes Taken Out of Context: Burish Edition

"Maybe I will rub up against him."

You Don't Know Me at All: Adam Burish Edition

If [Salo] plays, that guy is an iron man.
--Adam Burish, May 11, 2010

PiTB says: No dice. While it would be impressive if he plays tonight, at this point in his career, "Sami Salo" and "Iron Man" are antonyms.

Kyle Wellwood: Defensive Superstar?

Kyle Wellwood led the NHL in only one statistic this season.

Way back in November, Jonathan Willis over at Hockey or Die published a blog entry with the title “Kyle Wellwood: Why is He Still in the NHL?” As a dedicated Wellwood apologist, I took exception to the post, which argued that when Wellwood is not contributing offensively, he’s not contributing anything. Throughout the season, Canucks fans clamored for a replacement for Wellwood, arguing that he was not an effective third-line centre as he was not providing scoring and he wasn’t a checker. When no trade came at the deadline for a replacement, most fans resigned themselves to the fact that Wellwood was a placeholder until Cody Hodgson enters the NHL next season. The common theme in all of these arguments is that Kyle Wellwood is not an effective defensive player. I disagree.

When you look at Kyle Wellwood, he certainly doesn’t seem like the kind of two-way, defensively-responsibly centre that we’re used to. When Ryan Kesler, one of the best defensive forwards in the game, is the standard, it’s hard to compare. Wellwood is relatively short for a hockey player, only 5’10”. He’s got a round face that looks like it still carries some baby fat: in other words, soft. He uses one of the shortest sticks in the NHL, a far cry from Willie Mitchell’s league maximum. He only recorded 30 hits this season and blocked a paltry 18 shots. And he’s certainly no Pavel Datsyuk: he recorded 30 takeaways, matched by his 30 giveaways. So how can I say that he’s an effective defensive player?

Simply put, fewer goals were scored against when Kyle Wellwood was on the ice than any other player in the NHL. That statistic that he leads the NHL in? It’s the ratio of goals against to total time on ice: a goal against was recorded every 43:17 that Kyle Wellwood was on the ice to lead the entire NHL in that category*. What’s more, Wellwood was the only Canuck in the top 20 in that category. To break it down, Wellwood was on the ice for a total of 1,039:58 minutes this season. In that entire time, only 24 goals were scored against the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks had 218 goals against: only 11% of those were scored while Wellwood was on the ice. When Kyle Wellwood was on the ice, the other team simply didn’t score very often.

Let’s repeat that: his ratio of one goal against per 43:17 time on ice led the entire NHL.

How does something like this happen? As established, Wellwood doesn’t throw many checks, block many shots, or record many takeaways. He does, however, win a lot of faceoffs. Wellwood was second on the Canucks with a 53.8 winning percentage on faceoffs, good for 18th in the NHL. In the playoffs, he’s improved that percentage to 60.4%, leading the Canucks in the category and placing him at 3rd in the NHL behind Eric Belanger and Manny Malhotra.

More importantly, he is also incredibly smart. His former AHL coach, Doug Shedden, went so far as to call him a genius. Prior to joining the Canucks, he seemed to use all of his intelligence at the offensive end of the ice, recording 42 points in 48 games in 2006-2007 for the Maple Leafs. Now, asked to be more defensively responsible for the Canucks, he uses that intelligence to anticipate the play. Wellwood always seems to be in the right place at the right time to intercept a pass, or clear away a rebound. And when he gets the puck on his stick in the defensive zone? It’s almost guaranteed to get past the blueline, even if he has to carry it out himself. There’s no panic in Wellwood’s game and, though he’s small, he doesn’t get knocked off the puck easily.

Kyle Wellwood finished the year at +6; despite his relative lack of offensive production, he was not the defensive liability he was made out to be. And, in the playoffs, he’s taken his game to another level, already scoring 7 points in 11 games and has seen his time on ice steadily increase throughout the series against the Blackhawks. That’s why it was interesting, but not necessarily surprising, to see Wellwood out on the ice for the dying minutes of game 5, defending the Canucks lead. He’s certainly an unusual third-line centre (as we at PiTB always say, "Wellwood is Weird"), but he’s also an effective one. And while I, like many Canucks fans, am eager to see Cody Hodgson in a Canucks uniform, I’m hopeful that it isn’t at the expense of Wellwood.

Mike Gillis has shown that he is not averse to multiple centres on the Canucks, signing Wellwood, Sundin, Demitra, and Johnson last season with Sedin and Kesler already on the roster. His first two draft picks in the first round? Centres. Alain Vigneault has not been reluctant to play his centres out of position, notably placing Ryan Kesler on the wing with Sundin and Demitra last season. Personally, I would rather keep the underrated Kyle Wellwood as the third line centre and place Cody Hodgson, if he makes the team out of training camp, on his wing.

To answer Jonathan Willis, the reason Kyle Wellwood is still in the NHL is because he’s a defensively responsible, effective third-line centre. While it’s certainly an unexpected role, it seems to fit him perfectly.

*Source: The Hockey News, May 10, 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

History Will Be Made, Like That Time Kevin Bieksa Scored That Big Goal

For all you Eastern bias people, here's an NHL commercial featuring Kevin Bieksa as the hero. It's pretty cool, just like it was cool to see Bieksa play a dominant game last night, like he used to before he nearly cut a leg off two seasons in a row. In case you are some sort of half-hearted Luddite, and you can't be bothered to watch the video from beginning to end, the caption reads, "What if Bieksa stayed at home?" Not bad, not bad, although it seems unclear to me whether they meant played more defensively or, more literally, stayed at his house. I guess either way history wouldn't have been made. Other captions that might also have been appropriate:

  • What if Bieksa had never one-punched Fedor?
  • What if Wellwood didn't need so much help staying in shape?
  • What if the Canucks had signed Bouwmeester and traded Bieksa like everyone wanted last offseason?

But I like the one they went with.

Follow-Up: That Sami Salo Has "Guts"

This is the last time I'm going to report on this story, as I feel, like the testicle itself, it's been beaten to a pulp. But here's a photo of Sami Salo walking. More impressively, he's wearing a suit and carrying his own bags.

Let me just say, he's a better man than I. If that were me, considering all that had happened, I'd likely look more heavily drugged. Probably my skin would look more sickly and yellow. There's no way I'd wear a suit. If pressed to adhere to the team dress code, I'd wear a bowtie, but I would insist on being barefoot. For comfort and range of motion, I'd see that no other piece of fabric came anywhere near my groin and I'd be wearing a loose-fitting diaper.

Shane O'Brien: Blood Unicorn

Nam Y. Huh - AP

And the award for the most bad-ass looking moment of the playoffs goes to...Shane O'Brien. With blood spurting from his forehead like he had tried to fight The Bride, SOB left the Canucks with only four defencemen. Briefly. He returned almost immediately and played a solid game, refusing to respond to the antics of the Blackhawks' bruisers, especially Andrew Ladd, who showed his "cowardice" by targeting the injury in a scrum.

During the game, I dubbed SOB the Blood Unicorn for the horn of blood spurting from his forehead. I suppose Blood Narwhal would also have worked, but there isn't a band named "Blood Narwhal" and there is one named "Blood Unicorn." From their myspace page:

hi. we love all of you. you complete me. we ride wolves in snow. we drink ice. our cars are airplanes. we swim in oceans. we swing at playgrounds. lets build a sandcastle. unicorns bleed blue. wake up, you're not sleeping.

Profound. Does SOB also love all of us? Does SOB ride wolves in snow? Does SOB bleed blue? Oh wait, he totally doesn't.

Stop Acting So Queasy and Be Funnier: Salo Would Want it This Way

In the last twenty-four hours, Sami Salo's testicle has become a nut of legend. The story's been passed around traditional and non-traditional markets (a number of our hits from late last night came from basketball reporters comparing Salo's injury to Steve Nash's), and I'm sure you've told it to a friend or two. It's certainly nearing time to move on. But have we done enough? The opportunity to make Wiener Jokes is fading quickly, and I have a hard time believing the Vancouver media has had all the fun they can.

Let's be honest. The Vancouver media are the sort that titters at the word titter. Tommy Larscheid alone has a tendency towards a saucy double entendre, even if most are unintentional. His Larscheid-isms are classics: "I could watch Paul Kariya play with himself all day", for instance, or the infamous "I just came from the Canucks dressing room and Pavel's groin has never felt better". It's pretty funny stuff. He also once said, "Let's face facts: Jan Bulis is just a dumb hockey player." But hey now, Tommy. Play nice.

What about Willie Mitchell's long stick? Kyle Wellwood's little stick? How about the constant jokes about Roberto Luongo's knob this year alone? There have been dozens. The media loves indirectly referring to twangers. Hell, this is a chance to use words rarely used in journalism, like nutsack. Why the conservative streak all of a sudden when it comes to Sami's grapes? It's gotta be fear. Fear of karma. Fear of having their nuts crushed by a puck because they mocked someone else for the same thing.

There's no other excuse for missing joke potential so obviously. See, for example, Dan Rosen's article about the Canucks victory last night. His thesis: it was a gutsy win. His opening sentence: "The word gutsy kept coming up in the Canucks dressing room late Sunday night."

Come on, man. You know what's a synonym for guts? You know what else was probably "coming up" for other reasons? You know what's a way better word choice? Balls. Just say balls, Dan Rosen. You know you want to. The word "balls" kept coming up in the Vancouver Canucks' dressing room late Sunday night. This is a much better opener. Sami Salo's nut basically exploded last night. Is there any excuse for an article in which the only tongue-in-cheek reference about it is inadvertent? "'The boys stepped up huge,' said [Shane] O'Brien.

You've missed out on a golden opportunity, everyone.

I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Blackhawks, May 9, 2010

I Watched This Game is a recurring feature on Pass it to Bulis!, chronicling the observations and insights of two people who watched a hockey game.

My sincerest apologies for the delinquency of the previous I Watched This Game feature, which should have followed the Blackhawks 7-4 drubbing of our Vancouver Canucks. It wasn't so much that I didn't want to do it after such a sour loss; it wasn't so much that it was my anniversary this weekend and I didn't have the time; it wasn't even that the game was so similar to the one before it that the insights would have been identical; it was, well, all of those things.

But let's not dwell on the distant past, where we lost a couple of games by a wider margin than even the score would suggest. Let's dwell on the recent past, where the team gutted out an impressive road win and sent the series back to a game six:

  • First things first: Sami's testicle. I'm sure, by now, you've seen the video, tweeted about it, and cringed along with the rest of the province. Everybody has. In fact, since last night when I made the quick post about it, PiTB has received over 6000 hits, which is more than the entire blog had received up to that point. People care about Sami's gonads. I don't have an update for you, but let me point out that when men in the media talk about putting it all on the line, they usually whisper in their hearts, "except for balls." Balls are generally exempt from the line; no one expects you to put them on it.
  • My wife: Salo's got so much heart. As a ghost, he could have let the puck go right through him, but he didn't, for the good of the team. Yes, what a guy. Okay, anyway, the rest of the team.
  • How about the play of Kyle Wellwood these past few games? Wellwood's been the best player on the ice since game 2, and he earned himself a third star nomination last night for his 2 assist game. Wellwood has been bearing down (what?), winning puck battles along the boards (what?) and throwing hits (WHAT?) all series and it's paying off. Wellwood's play earned him a compliment from Hughson, who talked about the Canucks' depth at center. (An Art Ross winner, a Selke candidate, and dependable ol' Kyle Wellwood.) A month or two ago and that would have been a punchline. Good on ya, Welly.
  • I should point out that Wellwood always tends to play great when the team plays terribly, and vice versa, as though he's playing a different game entirely. As we often assert here on PiTB, Wellwood is weird. That's all the explanation I've got.
  • The difference between the last two games and this one? Roberto Luongo's rebound control. When he swallows up pucks, it slows the game down, takes away momentum, and gives the team confidence. When he spits out rebounds, well, we lose. It's that simple. He needs two more games like that one. Can he do that?
  • Shane O'Brien has sure taken his lumps over these playoffs. He's been called a clown on numerous occasions now. In the last two months, every member of the media has taken a shot at him, and every opposing player has had something to say about him. This is a bottom-pairing defenseman, you guys. Let us remember this. SOB has been a great story, and he's going to need to be even better with Salo out. He's shown flashes. We need even more.
  • Game six is at home, where the Canucks are 2-3 in this postseason. Were they not the best home team during the regular season? Let's hope that's the Canucks' team we see on Tuesday night. If it is, I've got a good feeling about the outcome of this series. If it isn't, I've got a good feeling about the Phoenix Suns.
  • The secret to the Canucks' power play? Shots from the point. Heck, the secret to everything is shots from the point. What's inside the Ark of the Covenant? Shots from the point. I especially liked Kevin Bieksa's PP goal, as it came on a one-timer. How many one-timers have the Canucks flubbed this postseason with passes that weren't crisp? One crisp d-to-d pass and it finds its way past Niema. More, please.
  • Am I the only one finding Kelly Hrudey completely intolerable? He says some of the stupidest things and then stubbornly refuses to hear the other side. I fully expect "I don't care--whales are fish" to come out of his mouth soon. Between him, Milbury and the ever-slipping Ron Maclean, it's like a black hole of good content between periods.
  • Good to see the Blackhawks taking the dumb penalties they've been deserving of. Byfuglien, Toews, Hossa, Bolland, Ladd, Eager... these guys have been slashing, running the goalie, clutching, grabbing, and hitting after the whistle without any calls coming their way. Finally, however, in game five, we got a few. Why? Composure. The Canucks kept their heads and it became apparent who was starting everything
  • Speaking of composure, there is no better example than when Andrew Ladd punched SOB right in his temporary stitches, and The Gun Show didn't go ballistic. I would have gone ballistic. I would have been suspended for the rest of the series for how I woud have reacted. That was classless and cowardly. The word in Maple Ridge is even Ladd's mother wasn't too proud of that one. Happy mother's day, Mrs. Ladd--your son's a little puke.
  • Instead of only railing on Blackhawks all day, however, I'd like to point out that Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith are incredible. The Canucks have been dumping the puck into Keith's corner and trying to get a hit in, and it hasn't happened once, because the little bugger is so shifty. That's incredible. And Toews leads the playoffs in scoring, which surprised me. I thought Crosby had about eighty-one points by now. Nope, it's Toews. These are excellent players.
  • Michael Grabner has been impressive, has he not? The guy's a player for sure, and his speed caught the Blackhawks off guard two or three times for good scoring chances. Let's hope he pots one tomorrow night. In my mind, he's due.
  • Can you believe Mats Sundin spent a season playing with Luongo and still doesn't know the proper pronunciation of his last name? Lalongo? Come on, man. Well, you know what they say: you can take the hockey player out of Toronto, but you can't take the Toronto out of the hockey player. Nah, they never say that.

Skeeter watched this game as well:
  • The Canucks put a lot of pressure on the points when Chicago was in the offensive zone, limiting the shots from the point, which is one of the reasons Luongo didn't give up as many ugly rebounds: fewer shots through traffic = fewer junky rebounds in front of the net. It's not coincidence that the 'Hawks one goal was scored from the point when Henrik and Burrows got their wires crossed and neither one pressured the shooter.
  • Yes, Kyle Wellwood played an excellent game, as Harrison pointed out, but what was especially fascinating to me is that he was on the ice for the most crucial time of the game: when the Canucks were up 3-1 at the end of the third and the 'Hawks pulled Niemi for the extra attacker. He was on the ice from 18:07 until 19:15, when Burrows scored the empty netter (from a Wellwood assist, natch). Ostensibly it was for faceoff insurance, but I think it speaks more to how much AV trusts Wellwood defensively. Look for a post later today on the burgeoning defensive abilities of Kyle Wellwood.
  • Ryan Johnson only lost one faceoff last night. He was 89% in the faceoff circle. Henrik won 63% of his faceoffs, one of which led directly to a goal. On the other hand, Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland were brutal at 36% and 15% respectively. When it's not called "hockey," possession is the name of the game.
  • Surprisingly, with Salo out after the first period due to ball-distress (now will it burn when he pees?), it wasn't Ehrhoff who was the big minute-muncher. That honor goes to Edler and Bieksa, who played 27:23 and 27:04 respectively.
  • According to the Team 1040, the story of the game was Luongo shaving his beard and refusing to talk to the media on game day. That's a pretty lame story.
  • Big credit to Shane O'Brien for not even missing a shift after he was turned into a blood unicorn by an errant high stick. He played a solid 19:29 in the absence of Salo and was a +2. If Salo is out next game, SOB will be called upon to play bigger minutes, especially with Alberts only playing 10:38 with no extra shifts after Salo left the game.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Sami Salo Leaves Game With a Ruptured Testicle

Hang in there, big guy. No pun intended.

Update: maybe he didn't after all? Considering how crazy the Internet has gone in the last four hours (Twitter feeds! Facebook pages! Youtube parodies! Puck Daddy mentions!), part of me kind of hopes that this all went down as initially reported. The sensationalist side of me. The other part of me (my nuts, y'all) just wants Salo's testicle to be okay.

More postgame coverage to come on the Canucks' win tonight, including our I Watched This Game, but I just wanted to pause and have a moment of silence for Sami Salo, who left the game at the end of the first-period after being hti with a Duncan Keith shot in the midsection. After some speculation (broken rib? collapsed organ?), TSN spilled the beans, so to speak, by letting everyone know that Sami Salo had a ruptured testicle.

The first Google return is from Kids Health. What the Hell? Anyway, here's what they had to say:

Testicular rupture [...] is a rare type of testicular trauma. This can happen when the testicle receives a forceful direct blow or when the testicle is crushed against the pubic bone (the bone that forms the front of the pelvis), causing blood to leak into the scrotum. Testicular rupture, like testicular torsion and other serious injuries to the testicles, causes extreme pain, swelling in the scrotum, nausea, and vomiting. To fix the problem, surgery is necessary to repair the ruptured testicle.
Whaaaaaaat? That sounds horrible. Now unless this has happened before, which I doubt, I do believe it's his 39th unique career injury. And it is undoubtedly the worst. Let us take a moment to mourn the loss of Sami Salo's testicle, and pray for the doctors who will try to save his nethers.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Guaranteed Win Night?

Well, it's nice to know that, now that the Blackhawks have had their fun, the NHL head office has remembered the rules again. Turns out they easily determined that the Chicago's 5th goal shouldn't have counted. Good on you, boys. Refer to my other post about ignorant reffing, please.

In case you missed it yesterday, the sky fell. I sent the entire afternoon deadling with waves upon waves of idiots telling me the Canucks suck. Period. Listen, Canucks fans, I've been trying to stand up for you for quite some time now, but you're not helping. So the Canucks are down 2-1. They were down 2-1 in their last series. Teams are down 2-1 all the time and go on to win. And even if they don't, has this season been a write-off? No. It's been a good season, so quit telling me the Canucks suck just because they lost one game.

Plus, they're going to win tonight. Here is why:

Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows have another gear. They'll hit it tonight. This is the main reason, actually. The Canucks were suckered into a chippy, cheap, net-crashing, antagonizing, pesky sort of game, and they were somewhat surprised by it. But, before Kesler and Burrows became top-six wingers in this league, they perfected this. Methinks that, after the game, this part of their brains, which had been shut off due to their increased roles, was finally awoken from dormancy. If there's one thing the Canucks have always been good at, it's being complete dicks. Last game the Blackhawks outdicked them. No more, sir. Frick and Frack are back tonight.

A lot of the Canucks play better when they're angry, Kevin Bieksa chief among them. I think we'll see an angrier, but more measured Canucks team tonight.

Also, it's guaranteed win night. Okay, maybe it's more faith than science, but relax, Canucks fans. When we win tonight, the series is tied, and somebody's going to have to reset the sky.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Blackhawks, May 5, 2010

Please Burr, may I have some more?

I Watched This Game is a recurring feature on Pass it To Bulis, chronicling the observations and insights of two people who watched a hockey game.

Another day, another Canucks loss, and what an anxiety-inducing sixty minutes this one was. The Canucks made it close a few times, but they could never tie the game back up. And let's be clear, right off the top: the Canucks lost this game. I'm going to moan about reffing later on, but this game was lost where the Canucks have earned every playoff loss: on special teams. Theirs wasn't working, the Blackhawks was. So let's get into it:

  • As I said, this game was lost on special teams. The Blachawks went 2-for-7 and we went 0-for-4. How the Blackhawks were given seven power plays to our four, I'll never know, especially considering I know that the refs and I were watching the same game.
  • Speaking of which, can you believe that goaltender interference hasn't been called even once in the losses? Not once. Two of tonight's goals were the direct result of goaltender interference. It's a great strategy, interfering with the goalie so he can't make the save... but it's against the rules, isn't it? I guess not.
  • I'm reading all over about how great Dustin Byfuglien played last night, and yes, he was very, very good, but it's also pretty good to be an excellent basketball player if you're not expected to dribble it. Byfuglien's great game was unencumbered by any rule enforcement whatsoever. His hat-trick goal was a clear-cut case of goaltender interference, and his after the whistle runs directly into Luongo need to be called. So does the stick slash, specifically, and the fact that he was the instigator for nearly every scrum. But, if he's allowed to run around and play a game outside of the rules? Then yes, he's going to have a great game.
  • How infuriating that, after all the garbage the Blackhawks were starting, Alex Burrows was the player who took a reputation call? I don't want to keep harping on refereeing, but, come on, man.
  • The Canucks lost their composure tonight. I lost my composure. Any sane man is going to lose his composure when he realizes basic rules aren't being enforced. But you're going to hear a lot of about the Canucks losing their composure, and they did. I also lost my composure that time a boss mocked my mother's cancer. A lack of decorum will typically lead to a lack of composure.
  • Enough sour grapes. The Canucks had more energy tonight, they were faster than the Blackhawks, but they seemed offensively out of sync and it cost them.
  • I thought Kevin Bieksa played another sloppy game. He needs to stop being the direct cause of goals against. That's bad defending. Let's hope he gets things sorted out for game four.
  • Roberto Luongo's rebound control has been a problem all playoffs. Before last night, he had five good games in a row, but almost every goal has been a result of him not being able to hold onto a rebound. Yes, sometimes you can't help it, but we need you to do that, big guy.
  • I thought Kyle Wellwood was fantastic tonight, but all of his stickhandling and puck control needs to result in more than a drawn penalty. I've been hot and a cold with Welly all year, because he needs to produce in order to be effective. He tends to wow us without doing much of anything.
  • Her'es hoping Alex Burrows' goal gets him going. He needs to start running Niemi the way the Blackhawks are running Luongo, but he hasn't been nearly as effective this playoffs as he was during the regular season. But how can you not be motivated after last night's trainwreck? I am confident that Burrows will show up on Friday.
  • Don't panic, Canucks fans: we were down 2-1 last series and we won in six. In fact, that series and this one have unfolded almost identically. The special teams problems, the net-crashing, the offensive defenseman playing lights out. But we all know the Canucks adjusted and sorted it out in game four. Plus! Losing last night's game means that it's not unfolding the same way as last season's Chicago-Vancouver series, so at least we won't have to hear about the "startling similarities" to last year. This one's a whole different bird. Don't panic, Canuck nation, we've been here before.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Quotes Taken Out of Context: SOB Edition Two

"They put their meat in."

Quick Hits (From Behind)

Quick Hits (From Behind) is a semi-regular feature on Pass it To Bulis, wherein two hockey fans chip in their thoughts on current hockey news and get assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct.
Wait, that should read "sexual."

Interesting read from Russell Smith of the Globe and Mail that turns the newfound obsession with the Green Men and their ilk into an article on fetishism, public exhibitionism, and social mores. I pointed out the oddity of the "green girl" on HNIC being on the receiving end of a sexual comment while the males have not a little while back, but Russell Smith has pulled the sexuality right out into the open.
You know what happens when you assume things, Tony? Assumptions. Huzzah for more pointless speculation from Tony "Debbie Downer" Gallagher.
I should hope so. But keep it between the whistles; don't respond to the garbage after the whistle, the stuff that's just meant to rile you up. But lay out some hits, get mean in front of the net, and battle hard along the boards. Both SOB and Kevin Bieksa need to step up their physical game. Bieksa is at his best when he's pissed off: hopefully the Monday night loss will be enough to get him angry.
Vancouver 24 Hours is getting some attention for their amusing front page news encouraging Vancouver residents to tip their cabbies in dimes so they'll have the correct amount in change if Patrick Kane happens along. Adam Johns calls it "outdated and unnecessary," but if that's the case, so are references to Luongo's tears and Wellwood's weight, and you don't see those stopping any time soon.
Spot on blog post from Jonathan Willis at Hockey or Die. Quite frankly, Hockey Night in Canada coverage has been slipping for years. The fact that Mike Milbury still has a job in hockey is baffling to me. The fact is, CBC lacks legitimate hockey analysts, ones that can break down a play in an informative, yet entertaining way. Hardcore hockey fans will not learn anything new from the between-period segments: Harrison and I would frequently just fast forward through them when watching a game on PVR until we started watching them more often for the blog. Things haven't changed.

Hrudey occasionally has something interesting to say, but his dalliances with the CNN-style video screen are more distracting than anything else. The iDesk is a poorly conceived attempt to incorporate new media, more frequently leading to the pointless e-mail quoting that led to Don Cherry's mini-rant. PJ Stock is sometimes entertaining, sometimes grating, but he's not being paid to be an analyst. Mike Milbury, the worst GM the NHL has ever seen, is. Hockey Night in Canada is CBC's flagship program, their big draw on Saturdays, and it doesn't reflect that fact.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Blackhawks, May 03, 2010

At least Mason Raymond showed up last night...

I Watched This Game is a recurring feature on Pass it To Bulis, chronicling the observations and insights of two people who watched a hockey game.

Harrison rarely has anything to say after a Canucks loss - he gets all despondent and mopey - so it falls to me to make the I Watched This Game post this morning.

What an incredibly frustrating game to watch. My initial reaction was that the Canucks fell into the same trap as last season, getting an early one-goal lead and then falling back into defensive mode, trying to protect that lead for 40+ minutes, but on closer inspection, that's not what happened. The Canucks didn't let up offensively; in fact, they continued to press on the forecheck, continued to direct shots towards the goal (though few made it through), and didn't sit back to defend the lead. The problem was that they tried to play Chicago's game, letting the Blackhawks dictate the pace of the game instead of setting the tempo themselves and controlling the play instead of reacting to it. They let the game become a series of end-to-end rushes and were unable to sustain any pressure in the Blackhawks' zone.

Still, there are some positives to take out of this game and plenty of reason to believe the Canucks will respond with a better effort at home in Game 3. Some quick points:
  • The Sedins and Samuelsson, other than a beautiful 5-on-3 goal, were invisible. The issue was that they were never able to set up and create good goalscoring opportunities and tried to force the puck through on low-percentage shots. Then, when they were on the powerplay they did the opposite, trying to set up the perfect play with too many passes when just getting a shot and a rebound might have been more effective. Frustrating game for the top line.
  • The second line, on the other hand, was great. Alex Burrows finally started to look effective and it was while he was doing the simple things: working hard along the boards, protecting the puck, and getting it to the front of the net. Ryan Kesler continued his strong defensive play, backchecking effectively and creating turnovers. Still, it would have been nice if he had done more with that 3-on-1...more on that later.
  • Mason Raymond was a beast. I reffed a soccer team a few days ago that had two sisters that looked almost like identical twins. I didn't realize there was two of them at first and thought it was just one girl dominating the game, appearing everywhere on the field. That's what it was like watching Mason Raymond in this game: he was everywhere, offensively and defensively. The goal he scored was an atypical Raymond goal, created by getting body position in front of the net rather than with his speed. He was easily the best Canucks player on the ice.
  • Brent Sopel looked like Brent Sopel last night. There was a lot of talk after the Nashville season about how amazing he was on the penalty kill. Didn't see it last night. That 5-on-3 goal doesn't happen if he keeps his stick on the ice. As soon as he lifted it, Henrik slid the pass through to Samuelsson.
  • There will be a lot of talk about the Canucks physical play (or lack thereof) after this game, but in one area I appreciated it: the Canucks did not respond at all to the cheap shots and smack talking after the whistle (other than one ill-advised run at Dustin "Feather-Ryfuglien'" Byfuglien by Rick "I'm Much Better at Punching" Rypien). The highlight was SOB gazing skyward as Burish tried to get in his face, as if SOB was contemplating the miracles of the universe.
  • Besides, the hits were only 38 to 31 in favor of the 'Hawks. It wasn't the physical play that did the Canucks in, it was their inability to play their game and get set up in the offensive zone.
  • According to Kelly Hrudey during the first intermission, Luongo showed a "different energy" while entering the arena for games 1 and 2 of this season. Apparently, to Hrudey, teal = energy. Also, what was with his half-assed paisley tie? If you're going to wear paisley, wear paisley. Don't wear a tie that's only a partial paisley.
  • Bieksa had an awful game. Just awful. Beyond the Henrikian pass he made to Seabrook for the Blackhawk's first goal, he was out of position all night, letting Chicago players just waltz in on Luongo like they were in Vienna. The third goal happened because Bieksa left his feet on a 3-on-2, dropping down to block a non-existent shot instead of staying up and taking the man.
  • SOB, also awful. Poor choices in defensive coverage, weak clearing attempts, and just all-around sloppy play. His worst moment was when he thought he was a winger and made a blind drop pass while entering the offensive zone, directly leading to a Ben Eager breakaway. Luongo had to make a ridiculous save to preserve the one-goal lead.
  • Does it amuse anyone else that Jim Hughson refers to Patrick Kane as "Pat Kane?" It's as if trying to make him sound more like an adult, rather than a punk kid. But we all know he's still just a punk kid.
  • Special teams? The penalty kill was good, the power play was not. That about sums it up. You can't be giving up odd-man rushes shorthanded. The Canucks were far too casual on the power play and didn't display any hunger for the net.
  • Speaking of shorthanded odd-man rushes, Kesler wasted a good 3-on-1 opportunity with an ill-advised shot. Harrison seems to think he made the right decision, but the fact is that the goalie and the defenceman were playing the shot and he had two wide open teammates to pass to. Niemi made a decent save, but he would have had no chance if Kesler had fed the puck across.
  • As an aside, who was the doorknob 'Hawks fan that threw a hat on the ice after Patrick "Pat" Kane's empty net goal? Newsflash: hats are for hattricks.
  • After all that negativity, I'm still optimistic about the Canucks through the rest of the series. It's now a best-of-5, with the Canucks having the home-ice advantage. The Canucks were dominant to start the game and could have easily been up 3-0 early if not for some unfortunate bounces. I'm enough of a believer in Kevin Bieksa and SOB that I believe they will bounce back from this game and lead the charge physically in game 3.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Kyle Wellwood is Jealous of Those Abs

From the
Kurtenblog. I know some people will say he's havin' a peek, as it were, but in truth, that's the same look I get while watching episodes of Say Yes to the Dress with my wife. It's bemusement. Frankly, I think Welly is more concerned with what sort of bronzer they're using. God knows he could use some. Even Sami Salo thinks he's pale. But seriously, folks, he's not interested. I've seen him give more ravenous looks to plates of spaghetti. Plus, I've heard he only dates lifeguards.

The Dangers of Smugness: What the Blackhawks Have in Common with the WCE-Era Canucks

Hockey players will often tell you they don't follow the media. It's bullcorn--of course they do. Remember Ed Jovanovski, calling in to the radio station every now and then, like a random listener, just to prove a point? Trust me. You can't avoid the media, and most of the time, I think it fuels the players' motivation to hear what the media are saying.

But not today. Lets hope the Canucks are as out of touch as I am when the Shaw signal drops out, because the city of Vancouver is way, way ahead of itself. The current Team 1040 poll question: If the Canucks win tonight, do they win the series?

Well, no. That's just simple math.

Overconfidence and smugness are the reason the Chicago Blackhawks gave up home ice advantage without much of a fight, and the lack thereof might be the Canucks' greatest weapon going into every single game of the playoffs.

Let's not forget that the Vancouver Canucks of the West Coast Express were known far and wide as a smug team, and it cost them. The WCE era was a great era for the Canucks for 82 games a year, but that's as far as it went. They never made it past the second round of the playoffs, they were shocked and embarrassed by a Minnesota Wild team that they underestimated (remember Bertuzzi's pompous mockery of Minnesota fans? after the collapse, he was mocked by a ten-year old kid with a sign that read, "Hey Bertuzzi, have a nice day"), and they were brought to their knees and eventually dismantled by an arrogant unwillingness to play two-way hockey. The Vancouver Canucks team of the early aughts was smug and overconfident, and while they were good enough to accrue wins aplenty in the regular season, playoff success never came, partly because they couldn't step up the work ethic.

The Chicago Blackhawks are suffering from a similar attitude, and it's not hard to see why. Their core is remarkably young, and they've seemingly all been NHL superstars since they laced up the skates. Everything's come easy to this group so far, and they've nearly admitted as much. "Maybe we thought this was going to be an easier series," Kane said after game 1. As Jason Botchford said in today's Province article, "Easier than what, we're not sure." It's a stupid thing to say.

Pat Kane has shown through his actions and his soundbytes that he's still got a lot of growing up to do. Even his playful playoff mullet betrays a character deficiency, in my opinion (it's about team unity whether or not you can personally grow a beard). Add this to the fact that the Blackhawks play a high octane offensive style, heavy on the flash and skill, and that they were joined this season by disloyal, team-hopping, Marian Hossa, and you have a recipe for a disease of arrogance. Even Quenneville's unwillingness to admit they were outplayed in game 1 by a competent team speaks to this. ("Self-inflicted wounds?" Henrik has 112 counterpoints. 113, if you count the trophy.)

The Canucks, on the other hand, have gone about everything the hard way. When Mike Gillis took over this team, he preached a desire for a roster imbued with such qualities as integrity and character. Mind you, the job was half-finished by then.

Daniel and Henrik Sedin have had to scrape and claw for every inch of respect they've ever gotten. They've been manhandled by defensemen and the media since day one (Recall, "Sedin is not Swedish for...", etc.).

Alex Burrows is the consummate story of hard work, maybe second only to Rudy in terms of storybook heart.

Ryan Kesler earned his respect as a player by playing a dedicated defensive game, confident that the offense would come if he just worked his tail off and stuck to what he was good at.

Roberto Luongo toiled on bad teams for years, desperately trying to carry them, and has been publicly questioned ever since he landed in Vancouver. He's had something to prove since 2006.

These guys knew what it took, and Gillis added skilled players with everything to prove after the bubbles of their early-career success burst. Kyle Wellwood, Steve Bernier, Shane O'Brien--each one of these guys was questioned for a lack of work ethic and refashioned as a lunchpail guy with a role expected of him. Pavol Demitra's had to work through injury troubles. Ryan Johnson was signed for his willingness to put his body on the line and really nothing else.

Then Gillis added Mats Sundin last season, perhaps more for his experience than his skill, and Mikael Samuelsson this season for the same reasons.

Even Canucks rookie Michael Grabner has been toiling away in the AHL, coldly held back until he improved his defensive deficiencies and consistency.

Maybe the Canucks don't go on to win this series, maybe they do. But one thing is for certain: They are smart enough to know not to get ahead of themselves. The Chicago Blackhawks team? The Vancouver media? The jury's still out on them.

Vancouver vs. Chicago: Playoff Fan Art, Volume 2

Let's catch you up, in case you've never been here before. A few days back, I tried to start a Henrik Sedin photoshop contest over at It didn't work, but it did manage to combine with another series of photoshop requests forum members had, and eventually turned into a big photoshop party, primarily led by excellent photoshopper and forum member egatti. His work is above, and it's the best HenKik we've seen yet. He's also the creator of a ton of images below. As with last time, click on the images for larger versions. I think this one's big enough to be a wallpaper. Let's have a look at some other stuff the CDC forum has provided us.

This one's egatti again, and is the best of a series of twin-related images. My only quibble: I refuse to give a thumbs-up to any image which could depict a paler Canuck than Sami "The Friendly Ghost" Salo. It's just not believable.

Also egatti. He's good at what he does. I especially like the "H/D Sedin touch, as well as the fact that they're wearing number 32. But let's not kid ourselves. Daniel is, for some odd reason, always the other brother. If they were indeed one person, they'd probably be known primarily as Henrik.

This is an unnecessary photoshop by MAKAVELI96. This photo will be real in about three months anyway.

This one simply settles up an issue I had originally with the photoshop job on HenKik: the greenness of Dustin Byfuglien's head. It's a simple enough fix, so it shouldn't come as any surprise that egatti got around to it.

Here's another egatti original, and I think it might be the best use of the SpearBuff image. If I'm not mistaken, the rat body is originally that of Emile from Ratatouille. Love the look on Salo's face.

Returning to the infantile "Blackhawks are gay" motif, which is all over the forum (should we be surprised? what do you think is the average age of the posters?), here's the Village People image, brought to its logical conclusion. *sigh* Let's move on. Its by posttraumatic, by the way.

This is a much better Blackhawks joke. Granted, Patrick "20 Cent" Kane jokes are getting a wee bit tiresome, but as of yet, they're not so old that I can't handle a decent photoshop like this one. I especially like the title. This one's by canuckletux.

Another egatti original, and I love it. It's fabulous. First of all, it takes about two looks to realize what's going on. Second, "Blue Steel" is about as good a nickname for Ryan Kesler as you're going to find. But let's hope that looking good with feathered hair is all these two guys have in common, because Kes is going to have to turn left a lot tonight.

Big Numbers: Playoff Stats Of Which You Might Not Be Aware

There's more game day Canucks coverage to come today on Pass it to Bulis!, but I thought I might start off your morning with some statistics that might fill you with joy, bookended with stats about our boy Ryan Kesler, who is quietly having an incredible playoffs.

1. Ryan Kesler has eight points in seven games. That's a point-a-game pace for the second line center, who leads Canucks forwards in ice time with 21.49 a game. Give Alain Vigneault credit for sticking with the same ice time model he used during the regular season: Ryan Kesler gets more ice time per game than the Sedins. It's beyond intelligent. First, Kesler is no slouch on offense, as his point a game pace suggests, so the Canucks don't lapse into a solely defensive shell when he's on the ice. Furthermore, AV's best players don't need to monopolize ice time to monopolize the box score, so he doesn't make them. It means the Sedins are far better rested than the top line defenseman defending them going into the third period. Speaking of which:

2. Daniel Sedin had six points in six third periods during the Los Angeles series. That's right. In the LAK series, he was a point a game player in third periods alone. This might explain why the Canucks have won every game in which they've been trailing after the first period. It's only happened twice, but, come on, what a confidence boost. We already discussed this stat a little during the first point, so as for an explanation, I think it's probably in the expert allocation of minutes from the coaching staff. We can also see this in defensive ice time. Take a look.

3. The Canucks are the only team without a single defenseman averaging over 25 minutes a game, and this speaks to defensive depth. (According to the stat sheet, MTL's Markov is only averaging twenty-three minutes, but his stats are heavily skewed by leaving early in the first period of the series opener with Pittsburgh. That game aside, he's averaging nearly 28.) Now, The Canucks d-core has been much-maligned since the loss of Mitchell and the acquisition of Alberts, but AV has trusted all six players to carry the weight, and the Canucks have done well. In case you're wondering, Alex Edler is leading the team, at 24.09 per game, with Christian Ehrhoff only five seconds behind. All of the Canucks' top four--Edler, Ehrhoff, Salo, Bieksa--are averaging over twenty minutes a game, but, again, none more than twenty-five. I submit that, while the Canucks lack a top-pairing defenseman of the high order some other teams have, they have among the most balanced top four in the league, which each player capable of making a strong breakout pass, playing the point on the power play and jumping into the rush. Keep in mind that, while they're not overly tough, the Canucks' coaching staff doesn't really want them to be. Hits tend to take a player out of position for a quick transition, and that seems to be the Canucks' bread and butter this year. The genius of the bottom-two (O'Brien, Alberts) is that they may not be as capable of the offensive side, but they both cover the missing aspects of the Canucks' d-core, with the potential to bruise and move bodies away from the net on the power play.

4. Each of the Canucks top three centers (Sedin, Kesler, Wellwood) is over 50% in faceoffs. Among players on teams not yet eliminated, Henrik Sedin and Kyle Wellwood are third and fourth in percentage with 58.9 and 57.1 ratings, respectively, and Sedin is second only to Sidney Crosby in faceoffs won with 96. He's taken nine less. In the absence of Ryan Johnson, Sedin and Kesler are also taking the majority of short-handed faceoffs, and they're both over 50% there as well. The stat is also a big deal for Wellwood, who has proven a lot of people wrong for doubting him as a third-line center. Gord MacIntyre agrees. He's dependable at both ends of the ice, works hard, and makes sure his line has the puck for most of their shift.

5. The Canucks are averaging 4.29 goals per game, best in the league. Pittsburgh sits second at 3.88, and the Chicago Blackhawks are the worst of the eight remaining at 2.57. This is a testament to the Canucks' offensive prowess, which is far and away the best in the league, judging by playoff stats alone. The Canucks have goals by 14 different players, the most of any team (although three other teams have 13). It gets even better if you just look at even-strength scoring.

6. The Canucks 5-on-5 goals for to goals against ratio is a 3.00, which is mind-blowing. The next closest team is Detroit at 1.33. In essence, the Canucks are the best team in the NHL playoffs five-on-five. This shouldn't come as a total surprise, mind you: they were second only to Washington in this stat during the regular season. Washington was at 1.57. The Canucks' current 3.00 is absolutely incredible, and it's probably the explanation for the next stat.

7. Of players still in the playoffs, the Canucks have four players in the top five for plus/minus. Edler, Samuelsson, Henrik and Daniel are first, second, third, and fifth, respectively, with Conn Smyth front-runner Joe Pavelski sitting in fourth. Edler and Samuelsson are tied for first at +9. If we expand the count to the top ten, Christian Ehrhoff and Ryan Kesler jump in at ninth and tenth, respectively.

8. The Canucks don't have a single player in the top thirty in hits. I'm serious. Alex Burrows leads the team in hits with 20, good for 35th. Steve Bernier, Alex Edler (seriously), and Shane O'Brien all come in around 5oth, with 17 apiece. Don't panic, however. This doesn't mean the Canucks are weak or small. They just haven't had to play tough in order to win. Yet. This trend can't possibly continue. Expect the Blackhawks to challenge them here as early as today.

9. Ryan Kesler is second in the league in takeaways, behind only Pavel Datsyuk. Kesler has one less giveaway, however. Keep in mind as well that Datsyuk has played two more games at this point, and that's a pretty big deal considering we're talking about nine games instead of seven. Its worth noting that all three Selke nominees are still playing in the playoffs (surprised? defense wins championships). It's hard to say he's been the best second-line center, considering what Joe Pavelski's done in San Jose, but, considering that Pavelski's scoring has made up for the lack of scoring from the big line, Kesler's just seems like some sort of super bonus.

Not too shabby, eh? Now let's be clear. As awesome as these stats are, it's over a six game sample. If the Canucks can keep it up, then we're really getting somewhere, but two or three bad games and it won't do us any good at all to cherry-pick stats, will it? Fingers crossed on a great game tonight.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Blackhawks, May 01, 2010

Well, that was something, wasn't it? I don't think anybody expected game 1 to go the way that it did, but let me tell you, I'll take it. Apart from the first scoreless ten minutes, it was a relatively stress-free hockey contest, as the Canucks got up in the first, and sapped any possible Blackhawk momentum with goals late in the first and early in the second. And to Patrick Kane, who said after the game he thought this would be an easier series (you idiot, you never say something like that EVER), don't act so shocked. This exact same thing happened back in January.

Yes, I watched this game. I can't say where Skeeter was all night--I called his house about fifty-six times--but I definitely watched it. And when it was over, I watched it again. It was that satisfying. Here are some observations:

  • Mason Raymond was fantastic tonight. 1 goal, 1 assist, +2, and he was using his speed all over the place. He did some remarkable backchecking, covered for defenseman when they got caught up the ice, and displayed the facet of his game he's been working on all season: strength along the boards. He earned that assist on the opening goal, making a fool of Brent Sopel like he was a cracker (double joke: Raymond's from Alberta and they're all crackers in the cowboy province), and getting the puck to Christian Ehrhoff.
  • Jim Hughson, in regards to how quiet Antii Niemi is: "He makes Kiprusoff look like a veritable Jabberwocky." That's not what a Jabberwocky is, Jim.
  • It would all turn out to be much ado about nothing, but, by the first commercial break, my palms were all sweaty. Good pace, great scoring chances, and big saves on both ends. There was more nervous action in four and a half minutes than the first night of my honeymoon. Get it?
  • Luongo was fantastic tonight, just like he's been since game 4 of the last series. His biggest save of the evening was on the Pat Kane breakaway. Sure, Kane was hooked ever so gingerly, but he still got off a quality shot, and Luongo made like Whoopi Goldberg on the box of Jumpin' Jack Flash and got his shoulder on it. He also made a bunch of other quality chances look fairly routine.
  • I wonder if the Blackhawks' problem tonight wasn't so much an underestimating of the Canucks' abilities, but a mistaken belief they knew this team from last year. This year's Canucks are faster, more skilled, and smarter. Their defense isn't as slow and it's far more dangerous. While the Blackhawks are fairly similar to last year's team, the Canucks are much improved--maybe more than Chicago realized.
  • I don't think we've said enough about Christian Ehrhoff's impact on this team. As the TSN guys said, he was all over the highlight package.
  • The Canucks did a fantastic job of taking the crowd out of it, especially with the goals to bookend the first and second periods. However, I don't know if you noticed, but they also took their sweet time on faceoffs, especially when they were waved out. The Blackhawks play at a high tempo, and Kesler and Sedin making like MLB pitchers is a brilliant way to slow down the game for the crowd. I counted a handful of faceoffs where somebody was waved out, and didn't give way to his winger for a good four or five seconds.
  • Don Cherry has been ribbing Ron Maclean about his "friendship" with Alex Burrows since the incident on HNIC earlier in the season. He keeps referring to Burrows as "your buddy". Funny stuff.
  • My wife: "Wait, Brent Sopel plays for Chicago? I thought people always said the Blackhawks' defense was so good?"
  • Kyle Wellwood played an excellent game, although perhaps not like a man possessed. He was a real warrior, though, on the fourth goal, as he took an elbow in the face from Brent Seabrook while lifting his stick in order to pot it. Typical Kyle afterward, as he looks downright uncomfortable while his teammates hug him, then completely disinterested while giving fist bumps on the bench. Then he looks downright sad, like he just thought about war babies or something. After the play is reviewed and the goal is counted, he gives a bizarre "I could take it or leave it" face. (As a reference point, It's the face you make when your wife comes out of the changeroom wearing capris and asks what you think.) The whole sequence is here, but sadly, it misses his "whatever" face.
  • As far as bad blood and hitting went, there was almost nothing, and I think that only benefits the Canucks. The Blackhawks barely responded at all, and the Canucks smartly avoided any conflict once the game was out of hand. If they're going to sleep in, let 'em.
  • Samuelsson looks like a star winger out there, does he not? He's so patient and dangerous with the puck. You'd think we were paying him more than 2.5 million.
  • Dustin Byfuglien looks about as dumb as ever. Aside from being a net presence, you wonder if he shouldn't have ice skates affixed to his knees as well, considering the way he lumbers around the ice like a quadruped.
  • Speaking of seemingly quadrupedal lumberers, Andrew "Barabbas" Alberts played well tonight. I apologize to Canucks fans everywhere, but I'm quickly becoming an Alberts fan. He's the biggest player on the ice and he plays like it in every way. He took a pretty good hit in the second period and it looked like somebody has just thrown a medicine ball, he moved so little.
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