Friday, December 31, 2010

I Watched This Game: Canucks at Stars, December 31, 2010

Canucks 4 - 1 Stars

The Canucks closed out 2010 the same way they opened it: with a win over the Dallas Stars, but don't let the 4-1 score fool you into thinking this was just another rout of a good team. Vancouver outscored Dallas, but that's about the only stat category they won. Thankfully, it's the only one that matters after sixty minutes, but they were lucky to escape Dallas with a victory. I've been skeptical of the Stars, especially after hearing about their astronomical shooting percentages and their litany of one-goal wins and overtime points. Ignore the cynics: Dallas is good.

The Stars have evolved into the prototypical Marc Crawford team. At their best: highly-skilled, offensively strong, and gritty. At their worst: unpoised, defensively suspect, and undisciplined. After living through Vancouver's ultimately failed Marc Crawford era, it was great to see his team have its weaknesses exposed by a smarter team without it meaning a Canucks loss. I watched this game, and it was cathartic:

  • There are two ways to look at the massively lopsided shot totals: You could say, with forty-five shots to Vancouver's 22, Dallas outshot the Canucks by a margin of 2 to 1. Or, you could say, with 44 saves to Kari Lehtonen's 10 or Andrew Raycroft's 8, Cory Schneider outsaved both Dallas goaltenders by a margin of 4 to 1. I choose the latter.
  • Yes, Cory Schneider was incredible tonight. He had a bit of luck and Dallas hit a couple of posts, and he got himself into a bit of trouble (including the lone goal against) with his indecision with the puck, but he was still incredible. His lateral movement was as strong as I've ever seen, he was square with the shooter every time, his rebound control was sound, and he was strong along the ice. If the Canucks are hoping to showcase this kid for an eventual trade, I'd save tape of this game. He soundly outplayed two NHL goaltenders and was rightly named the game's first star.
  • My only quibble with Schneider: his nickname. In the blogosphere, folks are calling him Ginger Jesus. I don't like it. I've been wracking my brain for a better nickname, but the only redheaded goalie I remember is Archie Andrews, who played goal for Riverdale High in many a strip. (In a classic, Betty & Veronica go to see him play, not knowing he's the goalie, and when they can't find him--due to the mask he's wearing and because they're dumb girls--they leave.) Anyway, Archie's nemesis Reggie often called him Frecklesnoot. Let's go with that.
  • As the calendar year ends, it was nice of Marc Crawford to remind us that one thing will never change: he will always, always have the worst hair in hockey. He looks like he killed a hedgehog and glued it to his scalp. Someone needs to find the stylist who keeps dying only the top and not the sides of his hair, then gingerly feathering it, then slicking it back, and convince them to pick a new career.
  • It's no surprise that Alain Vigneault's shut down pairing munched the big minutes against an offensive machine like Dallas. Bieksa and Hamhuis skated for over twenty-three minutes each. In that time, Hamhuis had 1 assist, 3 shots, 3 blocks (including one that surely saved a goal), and 2 hits; Bieksa scored a goal and added an assist to go with 2 blocks, a hit and a takeaway. The pair was shaky at times (Hamhuis had 3 giveaways), but the Canucks don't win without their contributions.
  • It was a rare rough night in the faceoff circle, as the Canucks lost 35 of 58 draws, and only Ryan Kesler finished at 50%. Henrik Sedin, who really is hot or cold in the faceoff circle, was colder than supercooled beer, at a frosty 3-for-12, including 0-for-6 in the defensive zone. If you're wondering why you hardly noticed the Sedins at even stength, it's because they spent the whole game scrambling to get the puck out of their zone after Henrik lost the draw.
  • I heard Grumpy Old Man Gallagher on the Team 1040 today complaining about the Sedins, as he often does. He grumbled that Henrik and Daniel are points machines, even when they don't play particularly well. He was probably pulling his hair out tonight when the Sedins did exactly that, by putting up a goal and an assist each while playing badly, for the most part. Somebody needs to remind him that points are awarded when your team scores goals, and the team with the most goals wins hockey games.
  • That said, the Sedins helped Vancouver put this one away early by engineering two very similar power play goals (one above, the other here). Along with Torres's solo rush, they came suddenly, and were major momentum killers. On the opening goal, Henrik whiffs on the pass, but Karlas Skrastins is so busy fighting with Ryan Kesler he doesn't even see the puck until it trickles to Daniel. Vancouver's power play went 3-for-6 tonight.
  • Poor Kesler. Though his work in front of the net on the two power play goals might have deserved an assist, he didn't get one. His streak came to an end tonight, but that's why they call it a streak: because, eventually, it stops. A streak that never stops is called a nudist colony.
  • Kesler will have to settle for the other streak of which he's a major part: Vancouver's 4-game win streak, which sees them finish 2010 with an NHL-best .708 win percentage.
  • In typical Raffi Torres fashion, he had a so-so night, but scored a goal on a sudden burst of skill against the flow of the play. He fought off a can opener from Karlas Skrastins and deked out Kari Lehtonen forty-seven seconds after the Canucks had opened the scoring.
  • Brad Richards had a message for the homers saying Kesler is the best player in the Western Conference. Something along the lines of: I am also good. He had 6 shots tonight, with another 5 missing the net and another 5 blocked. He looked dangerous every time he was on the ice, which was quite often. He played 23:41, more than any Canuck player, save Kevin Bieksa.
  • Keith Ballard had a strong game, finishing with 4 hits and 2 blocked shots. He had a respectable 16:29 of ice time, but consider the Canucks were up 4-0 going into the third. Vigneault also gave nearly ten minutes to the fourth line. Tanner Glass had 11:04.
  • Awesome Glass moment: after Jeff Woywitka horse-collared Alex Bolduc, Tanner Glass was the first man into the scrum, and can be seen quietly wailing on Woywitka before becoming lost in the mess of bodies.
  • What, exactly, was Jannik Hansen doing tonight that was making the Stars so mad? Stephane Robidas gave him two gloved punches with no regard for the penalty he was about to take. I can't imagine Hansen chirping. He's got the highest voice on the team. It's like getting chirped by Kristen Schaal.
  • And finally, PITB would like to wish every Bulie from here to Australia a happy new year.

I Find This Photo Awesome: Tanner Glass Signing A Scrabble Board

Here's your New Year Eve's dose of awesomeness. Look closely at this photo and you'll see that Canucks fan Elson (@awesomeguyelson) brought a Scrabble board--cleverly done up like the Tanner Glass: Scrabble Champ t-shirt--to a Tanner Glass signing appearance. Needless to say, I find this photo awesome.

Tanner Glass is such a cool guy. He's been such a great sport about all this, and seems as genuinely shocked by the attention and interest as we are. I don't know how many Tanner Glass jerseys sell at the Canucks team store, but I can confidently say I'll be buying one someday soon.

Tanner Glass: Scrabble Champ t-shirts will be on sale early in the new year with all proceeds going to Canucks Place Children's Hospice.

Thanks to our pal Katie Maximick (@canucksgirl44) for the tip.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 in Review: An Exhaustive Canucks Retrospective

Welcome to 2010 in review, PITB's exhaustive, retrospective compilation of all the major Canucks stories that held your attention in the year that was. Remember when the Canucks boycotted CBC after the Ron Maclean hatchet job? That's in here. Remember Michael Grabner's first career hat trick in Anaheim? That's in here. Remember when Guillaume Desbiens forgot how to make a fist? Oh, you'd better believe that's in here. It's all here (except the stuff we forgot--feel free to jog our memory in the comments). And so, without further ado, here is what made the news in 2010:

Tanner Glass Has a Very Scrabbly Christmas

The latest blog post from Tanner Glass went up today on In it he talks Christmas, roadtrips, weddings, and Dartmouth. But since we at Pass it to Bulis are incredibly self-interested, this was my favorite part:

We also snuck in a few games of scrabble thanks to my sister who got me the board game. Scrabble seemed to be the theme in my presents as Emily also bought me the book, “How to Play Scrabble Like a Champion.” I’m taking that as a hint that my family doesn’t want me to embarrass myself in the challenge I have coming up.

Tanner's sister, of course, is one of the main reasons this Scrabble challenge is happening as she got in touch with us and helped convince Tanner to accept. It's awesome how his family has gotten involved and I suspect he's been the target of plenty of good-natured jokes about the whole situation. Personally, I have to admit to being a little worried. While Harrison is a dedicated Scrabble-junkie, I am merely okay at the game. Don't get me wrong, I've beaten Harrison before...once. And now Tanner is in training. I think I'm in trouble.

I may need to go with Plan B: sell my services to the highest bidder. For a fee, I am willing to strategically open up triple-word scores or shutdown the board to prevent either Harrison or Tanner from netting big points. While it may seem that Harrison has an advantage by being my best friend, I'm pretty sure Tanner has a bigger yearly salary and could pretty easily outbid him.

Also, Tanner revealed that he and his family played some "intense games of catch phrase" over the two-day holiday break. He better be careful about mentioning board games before Nucks Misconduct or Canucks Hockey Blog starts a #CatchPhraseMeTanner hashtag on Twitter.

Accidental Discoveries: Ryker Kesler is a Party Baby

Big news, everyone: PITB has accidentally discovered something remarkable. Follow along with us. Here's what happened on March 19:

The Vancouver Canucks locked up one of their top players on Friday as Ryan Kesler agreed to terms on a six-year contract extension. The deal will keep him with the club through the 2015-16 season.

The deal will pay Kesler $5 million per season.

You probably remember this. Let's continue. Here's what happened on December 19, exactly nine months later, to the day:

The Vancouver Canucks centre not only set up a goal Saturday afternoon in a 4-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Rogers Arena, he then sped off to be with his wife, Andrea, who gave birth at 2:30 a.m. to 7 pound, 2 ounce Ryker.

I do believe we just discovered how they do celebrations in the Kesler family. It appears March 19 was an even busier day for Ryan Kesler than we realized.

Edit: here is a comment from Rachael, a Bulie who happens to be married to Daniel:

You would go there.

On the flip side, my womanly brain automatically thinks, "Oh, so he knew his wife was going to be having another baby and that made him think he should settle down for a while."

In support of this theory I submit the following: the gestation period for humans is actually 40 weeks, which is longer than 9 months, so she could have known she was pregnant just before he signed the contract.

Not that it matters a whole lot. It's still pretty funny. :)

The Top 50 Canuck Goals of 2010 (10-01)

And here we are. We've had a fun run, wouldn't you say? We've got 40 goals down and 10 to go in our list of the best Canuck goals of 2010. We're sure you know how this list ends, and we hope you've enjoyed getting there with us, but there are still some surprises in store.

If you're late to this countdown, we recommend you start at the beginning with numbers 50-31.

We at PITB are confident that some of the top ten Canuck goals of 2010 will be obvious choices, some will come as surprises, and some are likely to have been forgotten until right now. So, without further ado, we end our list. After the jump, the 10 best Canuck tallies of the year that was 2010.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Can Ryan Kesler Get Even Better?

With another 3-point night to extend his point-scoring streak to 8 games, Ryan Kesler has suddenly become the subject of speculation: is he the best player in the Western Conference? Twitter was abuzz with the question last night, it was one of the main topics of conversation on the Team 1040 morning show on my drive in to work, and Gordon McIntyre even asks if he's the best player in hockey. The sentiment is nice, but off-base. The argument could be made that he is the hottest player in the Western Conference (in terms of his play on the ice, not his physique), but one hot streak does not make him the best.

Don't get me wrong, I like Ryan Kesler and would argue that he is just as important to the team's success as Luongo and the Sedins, but in a conference with Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, and the aforementioned Sedins, it's a little early to anoint him with oil and declare him king. It's especially frustrating to see the Sedins continue to get short shrift despite making their nest among the top five in Western Conference scoring. Of note: 14 of Kesler's 34 points were on the powerplay, where he plays with the Sedins. This is not a coincidence.

He has, however, entered into the conversation, which is impressive in and of itself. And there is one statistic that leads to the question posed in the title of this post: can Ryan Kesler get even better?

The Top 50 Canuck Goals of 2010 (30-11)

The Canucks scored some dazzling goals in 2010, but it will be a brand new year in only a few short days. Who knows what the new year will hold? Now, I don't mean to hit the panic button but, as of this writing, the Canucks are scoreless in 2011. Seriously, don't panic.

While we cross our fingers and hope they can sort that out, PITB has compiled a list of the 50 best goals of the year that was, to ensure fans don't forget how this team spoiled us with their incredibly playmaking. Yesterday we gave you the back twenty of this massive list, and today we give twenty more. After the jump, numbers 30-11 on our list of the top 50 Canuck goals of 2010.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Flyers, December 28, 2010

Canucks 6 - 2 Flyers

The Flyers and Canucks were a good matchup on paper. Both teams have excellent strength down the middle and strong forward lines overall, a solid defensive corps, and comparable records. Some said, prior to tonight's contest, that we might be looking at a potential Stanley Cup Finals matchup. Roberto Luongo said it was a big measuring stick game. The Flyers hadn't lost in Vancouver since 1989. That is to say, nobody expected a retread of the Columbus Blue Jackets game. Mitigating factors: the flyers were playing without Chris Pronger, as well as, seemingly, motivation and heart. This may come as a surprise, but Chris Pronger is a good hockey player, and a team without him is lesser. How much lesser is now a valid question.

But who cares about the Flyers? The Vancouver Canucks dominated this game in every aspect, and, somewhat giddy, we watched:

  • First things first: just today, I sat down and compiled a sweet list of the best 50 goals the Canucks had scored in 2010. Then Alex Burrows went and made a fool of Kimmo Timonen (above). Next time, I would appreciate some notice, Alex. Sour grapes aside, this was one of the prettiest goals we've seen this season, and shows why Alex Burrows is not just a glorified tap-in artist. It also shows that he is a legitimate complement to the Sedins. Proof: his unwillingness to shoot the puck.
  • The Canucks riddled the Philadelphia net with shots like it was the last duck in Duck Hunt and they were afraid they'd get mocked by that stupid dog. 49 shots in total, including 22 in the first period alone, and we should note that they weren't just winging the puck, willy-nilly. They were putting up points like they were holding the NES gun up to the screen like a cheaty cheater who cheats. Brian "The Mighty Boosh" Boucher got pulled after four goals and a stinkeye (check out his glare, post-whiff, on this goal), and he didn't play too badly. The Flyers defense simply gave up more chances than a Monopoly board.
  • John Buccigross tweeted this evening that Ryan Kesler is currently the best player in the Western Conference. He's wrong, but the sentiment is touching. Kes is on fire. He scored twice tonight, and was a crossbar away from the second hat trick of his career (and this year). As well as he's playing, you could argue that he hit the crossbar on purpose to set up Jeff Tambellini. You'd be completely full of rubbish, but you could argue it. It'd be a bit of a Chewbacca Defense, but you could argue it. Kesler put up another three points tonight to extend his point streak to eight games, he had seven shots, and he showcased breakaway speed that would make Gob Bluth look like he was never a member of the Hot Cops. These days, Kesler is playing like the Canucks are the United States of America. You could say everything he touches turns to gold right now, except his silver medal.
  • Jeff Tambellini is similarly aflame. No longer aflame? Darryl Sutter.
  • But seriously, Tambellini is quietly riding a six-game point streak of his own, and he's been a solid linewife for Kesler in the absence of Mason Raymond. Do you think, when Raymond gets back, things will be awkward? I've been raising your kids, Mason!
  • Tambellini had a game-high nine shots, by the way. Toss in Jannik Hansen's 1 shot (which scored, despite clearly being a pass), and the second line combined for 18 shots on goal, 4 of which rippled the mesh. While we're on the subject, let's establish that I find "rippled the mesh" kind of a gross thing to say, because I wear nothing under my swim trunks.
  • Forgotten stat: Jannik Hansen continues to lead Canucks forwards in hits. He had 6 tonight, for a total of 70 on the season, just 5 short of Andrew Alberts for the team lead.
  • Speaking of Alberts, word is he left Rogers Arena with a bit of a shiner after Jody Shelley sucker-punched him. We at PITB do not endorse the sucker punch, but we do endorse classic ska band Five Iron Frenzy's catchy ditty, Sucker Punch. We also endorse punching suckas. The jury is still out on Zack Snyder's upcoming film, Sucker Punch.
  • The Canucks won the faceoff circle yet again, coming out of 66% of draws with the puck. The big three won their draws with typical regularity, but it's worth noting that Alex Bolduc also won 6 of 11, and wingers Samuelsson, Torres, and Tambellini all won a draw as well. I have a theory that the Canucks are grooming Tanner Glass for the 4th-line center job (evidenced, perhaps, by footage of Manny Malhotra showing him faceoff techniques), but Alex Bolduc is quietly winning his coach's trust in the circle, and giving the top faceoff team in the NHL (by a wide margin) yet another option. Bolduc had 3 defensive zone faceoffs, and you can expect that number to increase if he gets a reputation for winning them.
  • We haven't talked about the Sedins yet at all, but they were fantastic tonight. They put up 5 points between them--1 goal and 1 assist for Daniel, and 3 assists for Henrik--and they buzzed around the offensive zone like twin bees. (Sidenote: holy crap do you remember TWIN BEE?!) Henrik now leads the NHL with 39 assists, and he's on pace for 91. We all know he's gunning for 100 assists. He hates when he scores, because it's not an assist. Goals are secondary to him. They're even more secondary than secondary assists.
  • The Sedins have put together a string of fabulous games, and I can't help but think that the improvement in Alex Burrows' play has given their line a cohesion they had previously been playing without. Until recently, they'd been putting up points, but they hadn't been dictating pace with their typical cycle game and strong possession. They're doing that now, and when people are claiming a teammate of theirs is the best player in their Conference, you know the Canucks are strong.
  • The Sedins are so good that fans cheer like it's an odd-man rush when they come across the blue line 2-on-2. Have you noticed? We noticed. It's funny. Laugh at it.
  • Aaron Volpatti finally had his first NHL fight, and we found it adorable. It was nice of Sean O'Donnell to indulge him, as well as re-engage him after their first attempt ended in minor penalties. He held his own. Whatever.
  • The Canucks' defense was so good we didn't notice them whatsoever. Like Abed delivering a baby in the background of Community, they quietly made a major impact on tonight's episode. We often question the way Alain Vigneault metes out minutes, but when your top four defenders are playing exactly the way you want them to, you don't keep them from the ice.
  • And finally, a word about Ryan Kesler's second goal, which looked a little like he and Henrik were playing skee-ball, not hockey. Unfortunately, Brian Boucher did not dispense tickets. Instead, he was dispensed from the game.

The Top 50 Canuck Goals of 2010 (50-31)

As another year of hockey draws to a close, we at PITB thought this might be a good time to reflect on the wicked wristers, sizzling slapshots, pretty passes, and wizardous sedinerie we've seen from Canucks in the past calendar year. The 2009-10 season, the playoffs, the preseason, and the current season were all full of fabulous plays from former and current Canucks, and we'd be remiss if they were forgotten with little fanfare. Thanks to the remarkable contributions of CanucksHD, however, every one of these plays is sitting on the Youtubes, just waiting for somebody to compile them into a list.

This is that list. Over the next few days, we'll count down the 50 best goals from Canucks in 2010, from Aaron Volpatti's first NHL goal to a number one choice so obvious I'm tempted to end the list at number two. All Youtube videos are embedded so as to localize your time-wasting to this very blog. After the jump, goals 50 -31 of the best of 2010.

"Shocking" News: Darryl Sutter Steps Down

Okay, fine, it's not the least bit shocking. It was just a matter of time before the baffling moves Sutter's made over the past couple season would get him ousted from Calgary. Puck Daddy has a solid summary of the situation, Matchsticks & Gasoline will have the fan reaction, and has the official word.

After squandering the best years of Kiprusoff and Iginla, getting a random assortment of Maple Leafs' castoffs for former wunderkind Dion Phaneuf, and bringing back Olli Jokinen in free agency, it's a wonder Sutter lasted as long as he did. His main issue, it seems, is that he never quite figured out that the Flames needed to rebuild. Instead of picking up prospects and draft picks for Phaneuf, he got a couple impending free agents. Instead of moving salary in trades to create flexibility under the cap, he bafflingly traded for Ales Kotalik and his terrible contract and handed out No Movement Clauses like they were Chick tracts. Combine that with a terrible prospect pool and the future is bleak for the Flames organization.

Jay Feaster will move offices as he drops the "Assistant" from his title and takes over for Darryl Sutter. Feaster has a Stanley Cup on his resumé after his Tampa Bay Lightning won in 2004, but he's stepping into a brutal situation. The Flames have most of the salary cap already tied up for next season and Feaster will have to be clever with trades in order to free up the capspace and prepare the team for rebuilding. The Iginla trade rumours have already been flying and this won't quiet them down any time soon.

Quite frankly, I welcome a return to respectability from the Flames. They have been the Canucks' primary antagonist over the years with many epic playoff battles and bad blood. As much as the Blackhawks have been labeled the Canucks' main rival, it's not a true rivalry until victories have gone both ways and, thus far, the Blackhawks don't have any reason to see the Canucks as a rival. For me, the Flames will always be that team, that hated team that I want the Canucks to beat. If the Flames aren't a legitimate threat, there's no drama in their match-ups. If the Flames sit at the bottom of the Northwest Division, then who cares if the Canucks beat them?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Jeff Tambellini Is Pretty Accurate From There

Sometimes, Jeff Tambellini gets the puck in his Magic Shooty Spot, an hypermagical vortex of wonder just above the dot by the right side boards, wherefrom a Tambellini shot equals instant goalification. No one knows why he possesses a connection to this glorious patch of universe, but legend has it, one night, Tambellini dreamt of a darkened arena, and there encountered a hockey demon. Legend further tells of a fight to the death with that same unspeakable hockey evil, won by Tambellini. He won, so says the myth, on that very spot, collapsing the cretinous hockey demon's face with a blow so true his fist went through the walls of three separate planes of existence. The being became a limpid pool of forgotten glory on that very spot, forever imbuing it with a dark imp magic only he who vanquished could know. Anyway, that's just what I've heard. The results speak for themselves:

Exhibit A: Tambellini versus Oilers

Exhibit B: Tambellini versus Red Wings

Exhibit C: Tambellini versus Sharks (preseason)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Oilers, December 26, 2010

Canucks 3 - 2 Oilers

A couple days ago on Puck Daddy, Justine Bourne wrote about the dreaded post-Christmas game, and suggested that hockey fans "be sure to set [the] DVR for 'anything but NHL hockey' on Dec. 26 and 27" as players work off their Christmas hams and turkeys with lethargic play. Instead, both the Canucks and Oilers came out flying in a fairly wide-open hockey game. The Canucks carried the bulk of the play, out-shooting the Oilers 33-21, but Khabibulin put up a wall, the Oilers were opportunistic with their chances, and the Canucks had to come from behind to win this one.

I wasn't worried for an instant: as everyone knows, the two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey. As soon as the Oilers went up 2-0, I knew the Canucks had this game in the bag. Despite such foreknowledge, I watched this entire game:

  • Last Boxing Day, Jeff Tambellini sat in the press box at Madison Square Garden, a healthy scratch while his New York Islanders eked out an overtime victory against the Rangers. Three nights later, he would get 12:27 of icetime in his first game in three weeks before heading right back in the press box for the next game. In the new year, he would play one game in January, two more in February, and finish the season in and out of the press box, without a goal since November 23rd in Toronto. That offseason, the worst team in the NHL let him walk without much consideration, and they're probably the only ones who are even remotely sore about it. Tamby got picked up by his hometown team, and his luck changed dramatically. Tonight, he scored a vital goal on his patented high wrister, had another waved off, and buzzed around the offensive and defensive zones making big plays (including a huge backcheck on a 2-on-1). Give the kid credit for an incredible turnaround.
  • The Biggest Idiot Ever award goes to the two fans sitting behind the Oilers' net in the 1st and 3rd period who couldn't seem to refrain from banging their hands on the glass ALL. NIGHT. LONG. Pro Tip: when you do that, your team does not get a brief turbo boost.
  • The First Law of Sedinery: if a game is tied late in the third period, and the Sedins have not yet factored into a goal, they'll soon factor into the game-winner. Both Sedins had strong games, creating multiple scoring chances, including a perfect setup for Andrew Alberts in the slot. Unfortunately, it was a perfect setup for Andrew Alberts in the slot.
  • The fourth line had only one shift after the complete collapse that led to the Oilers' first goal, leaving both Aaron Volpatti and Alexandre Bolduc with under 5 minutes in total time-on-ice. The only reason Tanner Glass had more is because he was used once in a penalty killing role in the third period. Most, if not all, of the blame has to be given to Volpatti, who completely mishandled a pass from Glass, giving it away to O'Marra at the blueline, then failing to follow O'Marra to the net to prevent him from putting the puck in the open net. We're only a few games removed from Volpatti scoring his first NHL goal and the fourth line being praised for finally existing, but that is the kind of play that could see Volpatti on a plane to Manitoba.
  • Cory Schneider only made 19 saves tonight, but made several tough stops off of odd-man rushes. It's dangerous to give a young, hungry team like the Oilers so many odd-man rushes. It's also dangerous to give slightly older, well-fed players like Ryan Whitney an odd-man rush: Schneider had less of a chance on his goal than Brian Herzlinger with Drew Barrymore.
  • Manny Malhotra had his usual strong defensive game, going an astonishing 83% in the faceoff circle and logging almost 2 minutes of time on the penalty kill, but he also showed some offensive flourish, with 3 shots and an assist. His most impressive moment came towards the end of the second period, just before Tambellini scored, as he split the defense and forced Khabibulin to make a solid save. He just needs a browncoat, pistol, and a more accurate shot to upgrade from Alternate Captain Mal to Captain Mal.
  • With an assist on Tambellini's goal, Kesler extended his point streak to 7 games. He has 11 points in that span. Only 17 more games and 35 more points to catch Crosby!
  • That said, did Kesler forget how to turn right on the Tambellini goal? After cutting across the blue line to drop the puck, he does a full spin to get back into position for a return feed. A simple right turn would have sufficed. Does he think he's Derek Zoolander? Perhaps.
  • Speaking of Kesler, both he and Henrik were terrible on faceoffs tonight at 33% and 32% respectively. Against a better team, that could have been disastrous. Meanwhile, Alexandre Bolduc was 100% on draws; too bad he only took 3 of them. Still, Ducer (pronounced "dük-er" and yes, that's apparently what his teammates call him) is a solid 55.9% for the season.
  • Remember when it was safe to go to the outside on a Canucks defenseman? Remember that? It's no longer the case. I am happy about that.
  • I'm often hard on Raffi Torres for his poor puck decisions and bizarre pass attempts, but his assist on Samuelsson's goal was pretty fantastic. Also pretty fantastic? Dr. Doom riding a unicorn. Missing from that replay is Keith Ballard's excellent work at gaining the blue line and going hard to the net. After getting the puck to the corner, he rotates back to the point, where Mikael Samuelsson was covering him. Samuelsson stealthily glides into the slot and no one thinks to pick him up because of the rotation between he and Ballard. Shorty even yells "There's Samuelsson!" as if he had no idea where he was either. He was probably hiding under an invisibility cloak.
  • Speaking of Ballard, it's tempting to yet again question AV's decisions with time-on-ice as Ballard yet again played under 14 minutes. But when Edler, Ehrhoff, Hamhuis, and Bieksa are playing so well ahead of him and eating up big minutes...well, there's only so much time to go around. Bieksa-haters may want to argue that Ballard should get his minutes; this wasn't the game to make that argument.
  • Bieksa's game-winning goal, seen above, comes unsurprisingly off some fantastic work below the goal-line by Henrik Sedin. Despite being "hauled down" by Taylor Hall, he manages to hook the puck behind the net to Alex Burrows from his back. Burrows smartly waits for Daniel to crash the net before feeding the puck to Bieksa at the point. Bieksa does not have the heavy shot of Edler or Ehrhoff, but he consistently gets his shots on net and manages to thread the needle through the haystack of bodies in front of Khabibulin. It's a perfect shot: about a foot and a half above the ice, just off the inside post.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas from Pass it to Bulis

It's Christmas Eve and I'm with my wife's family in Redmond, WA. "Die Hard 2" has been watched, stockings have been stuffed, and the cinnamon rolls for tomorrow morning's breakfast are in progress right now. As for me, I'm left to ponder the Canucks Christmas gift to their fans, a marvelous 7-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets that featured arguably the first example of true Sedin dominance this season. What is truly astonishing is that it came in a game where they played just over 15 minutes each.

With that performance, the Sedins put themselves fourth in the league with 43 points each. Henrik is first in the league in assists with 35 and Daniel is fourth in the league in goals with 18. Against all odds, the Sedins have been able to continue the elite level of play they established last season.

On top of that, Ryan Kesler is immediately behind Daniel in goals, with 17. Kesler is playing some of the best hockey of his life going into the Christmas break with 13 points in his last 8 games and is seventh in the league in faceoff percentage at 59 percent. The only Canuck ahead of Kesler in faceoff percentage is Manny Malhotra, who sits at second in the league at 62.8%. Even Henrik Sedin is in the top 30 at 53.9%.

As a team, the Canucks are leading the NHL in faceoff percentage by a wide margin. They're at 57.2%, with the second-place Sharks at 53.6%. Sometimes those percentages don't always illustrate the Canucks' dominance effectively. To put it another way, the Canucks have won 1141 faceoffs and lost 854. On a game-to-game basis, that comes out to 35 wins to 26 losses, 9 more faceoff wins per game. That's huge.

The Canucks have lost only one game in regulation out of the last 13, with a record of 10-1-2. They lead the Western Conference in goal differential at +26. A big reason for that is their special teams: the powerplay is back to first in the league at 24.4% and the penalty kill is fifth at 85.5%. And after a rough start this season at even-strength, the Canucks are tied for 6th with Detroit for team +/-. Every single aspect of the Canucks' game is clicking and the Canucks have firmly established themselves as one of the elite teams in the NHL, with a 20-8-5 record. They lead the Western Conference in point percentage, getting 45 points out of a possible 66.

Basically, it's a good time to be a Canucks fan. Merry Christmas, Canucks fans. And while all the wonderful statistics above are surely present enough for our wonderful Bulies, make sure to read these two Christmas-themed posts if you missed them:

Holiday Gift Ideas for the Vancouver Canucks on Your List

Daniel's Worst Christmas - An Original Holiday Tale

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I Watched This Game: Canucks at Blue Jackets, December 23, 2010

Canucks 7 - Blue Jackets 3

Less than twenty-four hours after a high-octane skillfest with one of the NHL's elite teams in one of the NHL's elite hockey markets, the Canucks were sentenced to an evening in Columbus. There was concern that this game could be something of a trap game, as Vancouver realistically couldn't have much left to give after yesterday's tilt, and also because it's literally impossible to be excited about a trip to Ohio. Yet somehow, the Canucks came out like gangbusters, making crisp passes and scoring seemingly at will; they had this one sewn up before the end of the first period. It was refreshing to see the Vancouver crush an opponent, especially after we saw what they were capable of a day earlier in Detroit--and Columbus ain't Detroit. The Canucks put on a clinic last night and, much like the Blue Jackets, I watched this game:

  • We've talked about the Sedins' frustrating ability to put up 4 points between them without controlling the game, so it's always nice to see them decimate and demoralize an opponent with their Wizardous Sedinerie. They were unrelenting last night, and the Blue Jackets looked downright hapless defending them. The opening goal was an excellent example, as Henrik Sedin lost the draw, but still managed to poke it to Daniel in front of the net. The Blue Jackets never got organized, and while Daniel's shot didn't go in, the line was already onto Plan B. This is something I love about the Sedins: once they have a team on their heels, they just push and push until the puck's in the net.
  • I love Shorty's call on the second goal: "Somebody start singing Sweet Georgia Brown, it's 2-0!" If you're wondering, Sweet Georgia Brown is the Harlem Globetrotters theme, but it was first recorded in 1925 by bandleader Ben Bernie. Somedays, I wonder how Bernie would feel knowing his tune had been adopted as the theme song of a swarm of emasculating, glory-hogging showboaters. I tell you, if my music ever becomes synonymous with bad sportsmanship, let me die.
  • Raffi Torres is an enigmatic dude. He's talented enough to score 20 goals in a season, despite being not smart with the puck. Raffi got halfway to 20 on Thursday night with a two-goal performance, both on fabulous tip plays, and I've said it before: Torres tips like the waitress is pregnant. He tips like he's the star of It Could Happen to You with Nic Cage and Bridget Fonda. Raffi's the best tipper on the team--maybe one of the best in the league--and if you give him a waist-level puck, he'll prove it in a hurry. Because of his goofy puck decisions, Torres lost his spot on the second unit powerplay to Jeff Tambellini awhile back, but he'll win it back every time he reminds the coaching staff how good at redirecting pucks he is. I suspect, after Christmas, he'll be back on the unit.
  • While we're talking about the second Torres goal, let's take a moment to realize how little Columbus cares at this point. When it lands in the back of the net, it's like one of those improv flash mobs that freezes at a train station. Nobody moves, and nobody seems to care. Mason's a butterfly goaltender and he's standing straight up like Kirk McLean. Marc Methot looks like he's still waiting for the referee to drop the puck. Did someone slip these guys a roofie? If someone's sitting on a stash of Rohypnol, now might be a good time to give one to every fan still in the stadium.
  • Before I forget, the Henrik and Daniel combined for two more goals, (this one and the crazy one above) finishing with 4 and 3 points, respectively. What's incredible to me is that they only played 15 minutes of the game. Even more interesting, though, is that their icetime wasn't severely reduced in the third. They played about five minutes of every period, meaning Vigneault was already resting them by the first.
  • If I have one gripe, it's Shorty and Garret's broken promise: on the third goal, Garrett begs Shorty to use the Sweet Georgia Brown line again, and Shorty says he'll use it later. Then, later, the Sedins give him the perfect opportunity with their fourth display of wizardous sedinerie. Instead of doing what he said, Shorty just laughs incredulously. You promised.
  • Even despite the gimme game, Vigneault found a way to make some curious decisions with his icetime. As a result of the game's lopsidedness, Keith Ballard played eighteen minutes, but before you applaud the extra minutes, realize Andrew Alberts played over twenty. Vigneault's just rubbing his nose in it! Now, some of this had to do with resting his top players, as Christian Ehrhoff and Alex Edler were the game's low-minute pairing, finishing with eighteen minutes and seventeen minutes, respectively. But nothing makes sense when realize Kevin Bieksa still skated for a team-high 22:05. If somebody can tell me why Vigneault hates Keith Ballard and loves Kevin Bieksa so much, I'd like to know, so I can emulate it. Perhaps it's a fragrance? Were often very unaware of the ramifications of our odours. Someone tell Keith Ballard he smells.
  • Maybe Vigneault was just showcasing Bieksa for those people in the crowd who looked identical to him. The one guy looked like he could be Kevin's twin brother. He must have been a scout.
  • Quietly forgotten is that this was the last game of a 3-game road trip against 3 very difficult opponents, and the Canucks came out of it with 5 out of a possible 6 points. Their road record is now a very respectable 9-5-3. Here's a positive stat: no team in the Western Conference has more wins or points on the road.
  • Dan Hamhuis had four shots in the first period, and holy cow, has this guy suddenly come alive. Hammy was flying in the opening frame, pinching like a madman, keeping the puck in the offensive zone, and stepping in off the blueline to wire shots. Every time Columbus thought they were about to alleviate the pressure, Hamhuis sent them wheeling back into their zone. He finished the night with one assist, but if he plays like that, he's got a pretty good chance to get two assists.
  • Ryan Kesler's point streak is now at 6 games, and he's got 10 points in that span, and 15 points in the month of December. He's scoring like every night is prom night. Kesler had 1 goal, 2 shots, a game-high 5 hits, and 2 takeaways (i.e, an awesome stat line), and if we're being realistic, he's the reason this team has the best win percentage in the Western Conference. The Sedins are so good that any opponent's game plan is to stop them (hence, when the team gives up, the Sedins score a billion points). But if you do stop Daniel and Henrik, you've got a point-a-game center coming on the ice afterwards. That's tough to stop, and it's a luxury fans should celebrate. Vancouver has two of the best centers in the NHL; the best center in Toronto, on the other hand, is the YMCA.
  • Let's give credit to Jannik Hansen, who appears to have stolen somebody else's hands. I saw this episode of Futurama. More than likely, somebody took Daniel's advice and gave him some lotion for Christmas, which he used to soften up his hands. Impressive; that's not what I would have done with it.
  • Corey Schneider played well, but who cares? Chris Levesque could have won this game. Hey, has anybody ever seen that movie The Big Green? Doesn't Schneider kind of look like the goalie in that?
  • And finally, Bulie @beninvictoria pointed this out: Jeff tambellini needs 3 more points to break his career season high. it took him 65 games last year, 18 so far this year. Not since the Micro Machines guy have I seen a man burn through points at such an accelerated rate.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I Watched This Game: Canucks at Red Wings, December 22, 2010

Canucks 4 - Red Wings 5 (OT)

The Canucks and Red Wings have met twice this season, and both games have been among the most entertaining of the year. We at PITB often talk about the way Canucks fans view their team's games through a vaccuum; we disregard the play of the other team and blame everything, positive and negative, on Vancouver. But that's impossible to do when the Canucks play the Red Wings because it's so unmistakably clear you're watching an elite team. No hockey club in the NHL moves the puck like the Red Wings and few forecheck like they do. Each moment a red jersey isn't within two feet of the puck, it's a minor miracle. When they play the way they did last night, frankly, it's a wonder they ever lose.

That said, the Canucks had a chance to take this one. They led by a goal going into the third period, but unfortunately, a couple bad goals by Roberto Luongo took victory from their hands. It was frustrating. I watched this game:

  • Roberto Luongo is being ripped apart by the fans and media, especially by his diehard haters, but let's try to remember something else: Detroit had 45 shots. Luongo was actually excellent most of the game; unfortunately, Henrik Zetterberg beat him on two goals that looked like they should never have gone in. And, when one was the game-tying goal and the other the game-winner, it's probably fair to pile on the flack (even if the second doesn't happen if Ehrhoff just gets the freaking puck out). Still, realize that the Red Wings' shots were typically of a higher quality than Vancouver's (including the game-winner, which was, contrary to popular opinion, a great shot), and Luongo should be credited for keeping his team in it. So, while Lou's gaffes may have cost us the two points, his overall play earned us one.
  • The Canucks' power play broke out of its slump in a big way, going 2-for-3 and drastically changing momentum each time it hit the ice. For the first two periods, the Red Wings were controlling the run of the play the majority of the time, but when they took a penalty, Vancouver made them pay, got back into the game, and slowed their dominance for a stretch. The puck movement on the power play was brilliant, as was the down low-work by Ryan Kesler, who got two power play assists on nearly identical plays. Kesler also had a game-high 6 hits to go with his 3 assists.
  • Jeff Tambellini's goal came on a seeing-eye wrist shot (above) that, upon review, defies physical laws. What a laser. Tamby had a game-high six shots to go with three hits and two blocked shots, and his defensive prowess continues to impress. He's become a very complete player in a very short period of time. Not since we discovered my younger brother's prodigous Ikea-building ability have I seen someone put it all together so quickly.
  • I thought Brian Rafalski, Todd Bertuzzi, and Dan Cleary were phenomenal. Unfortunately, they play for the Red Wings.
  • In the faceoff circle, Kesler and Malhotra continued their dominance, with 14-for-21 and 12-for-20 showings, respectively. Henrik Sedin had a rough night, however, going 8-for-21, including a brutal 3-for-10 in the offensive zone. Personally, I thought the Sedins only had an iffy game, and I'll tell you that a couple more offensive zone possessions wouldn't have hurt. Alex Burrows was lifted from their line from Mikael Samuelsson for a handful of shifts in the third period, but he wasn't the problem; it was that the line was consistently starting without the puck on offensive zone starts.
  • It was nice to see Mikael Samuelsson score, if for no other reason that it will remind fans that he can. His seventh goal of the season was a big-time go-ahead goal on one of his patented wrist shots while Raffi Torres streaked to the net as a screen. While it broke a 9-game goalless drought, Samuelsson's stats haven't actually been too bad this season. He's fourth on the team in scoring with 22 points. I keep hearing about Sammy's disappointing season, but the numbers indicate something else. And numbers don't lie.
  • Sometimes, when Samuelsson plays against the Red Wings, you can see how he used to be a part of this remarkable puck moving machine. Like Seven of Nine in Star Trek: Voyager, he retains many traits of the Borg.
  • As frustrated as you are, keep in mind that the Canucks really elevated their level of play to stay in this game. Detroit allows an average of 29 shots per game, and the Canucks put 39 on Jimmy Howard. That's a lot of shots. Add that to the Red Wings' 45 shots and both goaltenders must have known exactly how Sonny Corleone felt in the Godfather.
  • I'm wondering if Aaron Volpatti's quiet play is the result of the game being too fast for him. He's supposedly a big hitter, but we haven't seen it, and while I'm fairly certain the Canucks have asked him to pick his spots, you think he'd have picked one by now.
  • And finally, Dan Hamhuis was the big minute guy tonight, finishing with a game-high 25:23. I thought he played a fabulous game, keeping forwards to the outside, moving the puck out of the zone quickly, and making big hits along the boards. Clearly, Vigneault thought similarly, as Hammy had a whole three minutes more ice time than Alex Edler. The guy who really saw his minutes reduced, however, was Keith Ballard. He's been knocked back down to 14 and a half minutes.

PITB Talks Prop Comedy, Crashing Weddings With the Green Men

By now, you've probably heard about the Green Men, the two guys in bright green bodysuits that sit near the penalty box in Rogers Arena. They've been pressing their junk up against the things for well over a year now, and they've achieved national recognition for their efforts, especially after an inspired showing during last Saturday's Hockey Night in Canada telecast. Recently, PITB sat down with the Green Men to find out how they can possibly have girlfriends, what they say to the haters, and their opinions about prop comedy, Vince Vaughn, and taking their act on the road.


PITB: After last season, there were some people who seemed to believe that the Green Man "schtick" was played out. Did you ever think of retiring the act?

GM: We "Brett Favre'd" several times throughout the summer, but after a couple of days we would talk and agree we had another year left. We wanted to go out on top. This year, after the Canucks win the cup, we will hang up the suits for good.

What have you done to keep things fresh and interesting? Have you ever considered working with a choreographer?

We just try and go with what's topical (Hence the waffles) and be as creative as we can. We haven't worked the a choreographer, but we probably should as the phrase "Green Men can't dance" is as true as "white men can't jump."

Saturday's game against Toronto featured some of your most creative efforts: did the larger stage of HNIC play into that? Did you feel like you needed to step up your game?

We didn't actually decide to go to the game until four hours before puck drop. Many of our fans had been encouraging us to go, so we knew we couldn't miss it. The opportunity to harass Toronto was too tempting. It's not like the Leafs needed help embarrassing themselves, but we figured we could give them a gentle push. As for the game being on HNIC, we did feel the need to step up our game... It was our one chance to have the craziest suit on CBC. Suck on that, Don Cherry!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winning the Games They're Supposed to Win

Tony Gallagher wrote an article after the Canucks downed the Maple Leafs 4-1 on Saturday criticizing the effort from the Canucks and wondering how much longer they could play lackadaisical hockey and expect to win. He came just short of accusing the Canucks of playing with the Maple Leafs like a cat with a mouse. There's an inherent expectation in Gallagher's article that the Canucks need to build proper habits now in the regular season so that the habits are properly ingrained come playoff time. Never mind that it's only December, the Canucks should be playing with playoff intensity now.

I'm used to hearing the opposite from Canucks fans and media. I'm used to hearing after every loss to a supposed "inferior" team, The Canucks should be able to beat these guys! or These are the games you have to win! and my favorite Good teams don't lose to bad teams!

The fact is that good teams do lose to bad teams: even the worst team in the league wins a few games and by definition that means they beat "superior" teams. But the complaint has been especially acute amongst Canucks fans. The theory is that the Canucks continually play down to their opponent's level and lose games they should win. Witness the 2005-06 Canucks, who lost all 4 of their meetings with the last-place St. Louis Blues, finishing 3 points out of a playoff spot. Their inability to beat the worst team in the league became the story of that season.

I've even heard the complaint in reference to last season, as some of my more cynical friends pointed to 2 losses against the Edmonton Oilers, the team that finished 12 points behind Toronto for last in the NHL. So is this the case? Did the Canucks play worse against lesser opponents, squandering points that might have put them in a better position in the playoffs?

This Year's Canucks are Very Zen

In the aftermath of Vancouver's last regulation defeat, a 3-2 home loss at the hands of the St. Louis Blues, Province writer Jason Botchford questioned questioned the Canucks' grit. "The Blues forwards were rarely touched," Botchford wrote, "Even after they shoved around Luongo. In one incident, BJ Crombeen took a shot at the Canucks goalie without even getting a passing glance from the rest of the Canucks." But it's not as if they didn't see it. You know if Botchford saw it, the Canuck players did too; they simply chose not to respond.

This is uncharacteristic for the Vancouver team fans have come to know. In fact, Vancouver has long held a reputation for employing spirited chirpers and pests who can't help but get involved in scrums around the net, especially in the Alain Vigneault era. Canuck games, especially against past postseason opponents, are always full of spirit and high in penalty minutes. In the past, reactionary chirping would have been automatic, but that appears to have changed. Rather than engage teams who take cheap shots, this year's Canucks simply ignore it, put their heads down, and make their line change. It isn't that the Canucks are missing that gritty element, they've merely decided to opt out.

A Quick Note on Waffles

Sorry Jack, but there is only one Waffle Man and you are not him. Back to the costume shop, bud.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Green Men Talk Vince Vaughn, Prop Comedy on Puck Daddy Radio

In case you missed it, the world-famous Green Men stopped by Puck Daddy radio this afternoon for an interview with the Puck Daddy himself, Greg Wyshynski. Its definitely worth checking out, especially for the story of Vince Vaughn's reaction to a lifesize cardboard cutout that Force and Sully used in last year's playoffs. You might recall that Vaughn had been photoshopped into a Canucks Jersey.

According to the Green Men, Vaughn found it unfunny. So unfunny, in fact, that--in order to destroy it--he bought it, not unlike Charles Wang and the New York Islanders.

Look for a full PITB interview with our favourite two men in Spandex since the Ambiguously Gay Duo later this week.

Thanks to Wysh for the tip.

I Watched This Game: Canucks at Blues, December 20, 2010

Canucks 3 - 1 Blues

This was one of those games the Canucks had to win. No, it wasn't a must-win (I hardly believe in them), but it was a road game against a beleaguered and bruised Blues team, for whom three of their top three offensive weapons weren't playing. And, sadly for St. Louis fans, the injuries to David Perron, TJ Oshie, and Andy Macdonald have made the St. Louis offense about as threatening as the Disney Channel. It was apparent early in tonight's game that the only Blues to watch out for were Alex Steen and Blu Cantrell (who is totally due for a comeback).
    Even motivation wasn't a factor, as the same basic Blues team had come to GM Place two weeks ago and handed the Canucks their only regulation loss in December--a game Vancouver probably had no business losing. These are the games you should win, and thankfully, the Canucks did win. And, just like the time my friend was getting picked on by bullies, and I probably should have stepped in except that I'm a coward, I watched:

    • Congratulations to Aaron Volpatti on his first NHL goal (above). You know he's stoked about it, primarily because of the high-pitched squeal he emits after potting it. Listen for it at the 0:07 mark--Whitney Houston wishes she could still hit that note.
    • The Canucks are now 6-1-1 since the blessing of Head Poke Kid. This is an unprecedented display of supernatural power. Despite being blessed by a superior deity, even Adam and Eve couldn't stay good for this long.
    • I thought the fourth line played a solid game tonight. Tanner Glass is always solid (except in Scrabble, where he will soon be soundly trounced), but Alex Bolduc and Aaron Volpatti were on their game as well. The line generated a goal, a couple other scoring chances, and played defensively solid enough that Alain Vigneault was comfortable giving them icetime while protecting a one-goal lead in the third period. In fact, no member of the trio had less than eight minutes. I've been especially impressed with Volpatti's restraint in his two games. You know he's licking his chops for his first big NHL hit and/or fight, but the Canucks have been playing with leads since he got here. Good on him for knowing when isn't the right time. I have a theory that it's a constant message from the bench, but you still need mature players to buy into a message of composure, and the Canucks appear to have a roomful of such players.
    • While you would be correct for attributing much of the opening goal to the thunderous hit of Tanner Glass, let's be sure to give full credit to Alex Pietrangelo for confusing himself with the Venus De Milo. Had he remembered that, unlike the Venus De Milo, he is neither protected by a velvet rope, nor without arms, I imagine he would have moved the puck a little faster. Unfortunately for him he didn't, and like the Gummi Venus De Milo, he was an irresistible target.
    • Blues fans might be forgiven for being a bit upset with the referees. The fans were on the zebras all night for missed calls, especially after St. Louis was hit with a steady stream of penalties in the first. Then, on two separate occasions, referees ran beautiful pick plays for Vancouver--one leading to a scoring chance for the Canucks, and other negating one for the Blues. I predict lingering animosity towards anybody in refereeing stripes. If I lived in Missouri and worked at a Foot Locker, I'd call in sick tomorrow.
    • Ryan Kesler, whose wife gave birth to a baby boy just the other night, claimed he'd be playing on adrenaline and Red Bull. Well, nuts to any theory of exhaustion: he scored the game-winner on a wrist shot so quick Jaro Halak didn't even have time to fan on it, and he had a game-high seven shots on net. Kes, how many Red Bulls did you drink? Don't be surprise if his post-game interview is reminiscent of a Corky Romano press conference.
    • I love Jannik Hansen. He can play on any line, and his forechecking is more Crazy/Beautiful than the Kirsten Dunst movie of the same name. I'm always amazed at the way he fools opposing puckhandlers into thinking he's coming on the wrong side. He's constantly knocking pucks off sticks. On one penalty-kill, he ate up valuable time poking the puck away from multiple Blues, then when they finally got away from him, he turned on the jets and was there to break up their entry into the offensive zone. Hansen is so hot right now.
    • If you're wondering why Henrik and Daniel Sedin went pointless tonight, I'd take a look at the faceoff numbers. Henrik had a mediocre 6-for-13 night, but he went 2-for-8 in the offensive zone. On the plus side, Manny Malhotra had another strong night, winning 13-of-20. Alternate Captain Mal is now the NHL's top faceoff guy, one-tenth of a percentage point better than Washington's David Steckel. By the by, Alexandre Bolduc went 3-for-3 in the faceoff circle for the second game in a row. Well, there you go. He may have found a way to earn more icetime.
    • It's time we gave some credit to the second power play unit. The Canucks have scored 10 power play goals in the month of December, and four of them have come from the second five. Considering how heavily the Canucks lean on the first unit, those are pretty decent numbers. Their goal tonight was a nice piece of insurance, as Jeff Tambellini broke his minor slump on a nice feed from Mikael Samuelsson. Also a nice piece of insurance? J-Lo's 27 million dollar policy on her own butt.
    • Speaking of the second power play unit, Keith Ballard is no longer on it. In fact, the return of Christian Ehrhoff has spelled a major reduction in minutes for Hips. He played only 14:47 tonight, but don't feel bad for him: considering what he gets paid for under fifteen minutes of work, his hourly salary should make you feel bad about yourself.
    • Shifting our focus to the enemy, let's give some credit to Eric Brewer, who had seven blocked shots tonight. Those are Manute Bol numbers. The way he was amassing blocks, you'd have thought he was going for a Tetris.
    • And finally, did anyone else catch the furious lasagna eater right behind Alain Vigneault at the beginning of the second? Obviously, nobody looks particularly classy when they're eating, especially as captured by Sportsnet's HD camera, but this guy was going to town on his stadium meal. Clearly, he was confused about which Italian staple food he was eating, because he was devouring his lasagna like a slice of deep-dish pizza. I've seen less voracious eating from the extras in zombie movies.

    Jonathan Iilahti Cut from Finnish World Junior Team

    The World Junior Hockey Championship (beginning Boxing Day), has become an annual post-Christmas tradition for many Canadian hockey fans. One of the main sources of excitement is watching your team's young prospects go up against their peers, and for many NHL fans, it's the only time we get a chance to watch the kids play. In the last couple years, Canucks fans have been treated to fine performances by Cody Hodgson, Jordan Schroeder, and Anton Rodin, but unfortunately this year, we won't get the chance to cheer on any future Canucks (barring future trades of which only Marty McFly would have knowledge).

    The only prospect who was even considered for his country's team was goaltender Jonathan Iilahti, who was selected in the 6th round of the 2010 NHL entry draft. Iilahti performed well last year for Finland in the U-18 tournament, helping Finland to a bronze medal, and was considered by some to be a lock for the second or third goaltending position on the U-20 team this year. Unfortunately, he was cut from the team on Thursday and will not be representing his country at the tournament this year.

    Judging by when he was cut, Iilahti can be considered Finland's fourth-best goaltender under 20 years old. He's still only 18, so he would be eligible for next year's WJC, but this result must be considered something of a disappointment. Without a single Canucks prospect in the tournament and the Canucks unlikely to have a high first-round draft pick to select one of the interesting draft-eligible players, my interest in the World Juniors has dropped significantly. I'll still be watching and cheering for Canada, but it's disappointing not to have a Canuck-connection in the mix.

    Canada's tournament starts at 1:00 pm Pacific on TSN against Russia.

    Sunday, December 19, 2010

    Ryan Kesler Is a Gold Medal Baby Maker

    If winning NHL hockey games wasn't enough excitement for one weekend, Ryan Kesler went out last night and had a child. According to Ben Kuzma (as well as hospital records and eyewitness accounts, I would imagine), Kes's wife Andrea gave birth to a bouncing baby boy at 2:30am this morning. That's right. While you were dreaming about falling, the Keslers were producing miracles at BC Women's Hospital. Kind of makes you realize what a waste of time sleep is, huh?

    And, of course, because athletes have it exceptionally easy and there are no inherent difficulties whatsoever in their lifestyle, Kesler got to spend a whole eight hours with his wife and newborn son before hopping on a plane to St. Louis. Congratulations on your kid, Ryan. Now go get slashed repeatedly in the calves by David Backes.

    Ryker immediately becomes my second favourite Ryker, after this one, and since I ain't no Trekkie, he could be my favourite when all is said and done. Ryker is the Keslers' second child, after daughter Makayla (pictured above), and I'm beginning to see a Kardashian-like trend emerging with the K-based naming practices. I would imagine there are few other things the Keslers want their children to have in common with the Kardashian women, save fabulous wealth and muscular thighs.

    Kesler's production is at an all-time high. In the last eight days, he's got 3 goals, 2 assists, and 1 baby. We at PITB send our congratulations to Ryan and his family, and officially welcome Ryker Kesler to the world.

    I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Maple Leafs, December 18, 2010

    Canucks 4 - 1 Leafs

    Leading up to this game, the 4pm start time was a bone of contention among Canucks fans. Ever afraid of The Eastern Bias, an elusive swamp monster (pictured) that feeds on national inequality, many claimed the afternoon puck drop gave the Maple Leafs an unfair advantage. But thankfully, the Canucks reasserted their own advantage: having better players. I'd rather that.

    It's always a chippy game when the Leafs come to town, perhaps because Burke's boys are armed with truculence in place of hockey ability. Unfortunately, the Canucks played down to the Maple Leafs at times, and the game stayed closer a little longer than it should have. But, when the final whistle blew, all was right with the world, as Vancouver skated away with yet another decisive victory the hapless Leafs. And I watched this game:

    • Lost in a very physical contest was the fact that it didn't have a single fight, and very little in the way of post-whistle pugilism. In fact, despite all the slashing and chirping during play, it never even looked like the rough stuff was on the horizon. Considering that Aaron Volpatti was in the lineup (and you know he was looking to make an impression), I'm going to go out on a limb and surmise the team asked him and everyone else not to drop the gloves. Why? The Canucks had no reason to fight; most of the night, they played with the momentum. The Leafs are a team built on toughness and they were playing in front of an away crowd littered with supporters. A fight would have given them life. Instead, the Canucks saw that their opponents were playing frustrated (Kris Versteeg, especially), and instead of supplying an outlet for that frustration, they simply let the Leafs come apart. If someone ever complains the Canucks don't fight enough, point to this game as an example of why they might refrain.
    • Speaking of Aaron Volpatti and Toronto fans, I found it a little classless for the jackanape sitting next to his parents to be shouting "Go Leafs Go" while Elliotte Friedman tried to interview his proud parents, down from Revelstoke to attend their son's first ever NHL game. But, for a fanbase known for booing the home team, I guess I shouldn't be surprised by new evidence that they're dumber than the saliva on a postage stamp.
    • On the empty-net goal: I recognize that Alain Vigneault put Henrik out for the last shift as faceoff insurance, what with Kesler taking the shift before, but part of me wonders if his experience as a parent coloured his decision. Daniel had already gotten a point--Henrik hadn't, and it's important to have equality between siblings. The last thing you want is Daniel teasing Henrik on the plane. I find it adorable that Henrik wanted to pass this puck and the Maple Leafs forced him to score. If you wonder why Toronto's fans are so grumpy all the time, it's because these are their minor victories.
    • Big props to the Green Men for their props, the waffle-throwing especially. It was a thrilling return to form for them after some concerns that their time in the very lime limelight was nearly over. That said, I have to wonder what happens when these guys go through security. You could see them finding their seats early in the telecast, carrying a backpack. Now I'm not allowed to keep the lid from my water bottle, but the masked vigilantes can carry a sack full of projectiles? I have questions.
    • If we were ever unclear what makes Christian Ehrhoff invaluable to this team, his return to the lineup tonight was a pretty indicative of his regular contributions. In twenty minutes of icetime, Ehrhoff scored the crucial insurance goal, added a threat to the powerplay, (although it still went 0-for-5), and directed 10 shots on goal. He's got this hockey thing down cold.
    • You've gotta feel for Luke Schenn on the second goal (above). First, Jeff Tambellini gets around him. Then, he overplays Tambellini and uselessly puts himself behind the trapezoid for when the puck hits Kesler, the trailer. You could hear him calling for the puck before he even came into the frame. At this point, Francois Beauchemin's been hung out to dry. He knows Kesler's a shooter, so he leaves his man (Hansen) and goes down to block the shot. Kesler steps around him and finds Hansen instead. It's a brilliant bit of playmaking from a guy who might have earned the label "superstar veteran," but ladies and gentlemen: Luke Schenn is your goat.
    • We watched last night's game with a Maple Leafs fan. He began the night hurling expletives at John Mitchell. By the evening's end, he had cried himself to sleep.
    • While I agree our star pests have indeed matured somewhat, I like that Alex Burrows, like the OMG Cat, remains incapable of keeping his mouth shut. He's the Joe Biden of the Canucks--prone to nonsense, but always smiling. I hope he never changes. I also like the way he crashes a crease.
    • Some other guys who played well: Tanner Glass and Jannik Hansen, who have become fantastic defensive players. Hansen is most definitely the team's best forechecker, and Glass has become an expert shot-blocker and penalty-killer. For obvious reasons, I think my next purchase will be a Tanner Glass jersey. Kevin Bieksa also had another great night, finishing with two assists, a game-high plus-3 rating, and third star honours. Secret shame: I've come around completely. I like Kevin Bieksa.
    • And finally: In Edmonton, Roberto Luongo was robbed of a much-deserved shutout because the guys in front of him quit playing ten seconds early. Last night, the goal that broke the goose egg was his fault. When shots come up at him, Luongo can get a little overeager, and when he does, he gets stabby, like Norman Bates or Patrick Bateman. He stabs at the puck when he doesn't need to. The Blackhawks have exploited this flaw in the past, putting shots glove side and then attacking the crease if Luongo knocks it down instead of making a clean catch. Against Grabovski, he should have been able to catch the puck, but an impatient jab puts his glove out of position and it finds a way past him. Like a stray dog, this is something that needs to be caught and fixed.
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