The prevailing sports talk around Vancouver today is, “The Canucks are first in the NHL; who’da thunk it?”
And I’ll admit, I’ve been pleasantly surprised thus far myself, but not for their perfect record against Alberta teams, or how they ground out a 2-1 shootout win in Anaheim. Rather, I’m impressed with the way this year’s Canucks are playing an entertaining game, and finding different ways to win. Interestingly, they’ve only found one way to lose — badly, as they did in 7-3, 6-3 and 5-1 lopsided losses as well as ones where 3-1 and 4-2 scorelines flattered the boys in blue quite dramatically — but hey, there are 12 Ws and only 5 Ls so far this year, so we’ll surely see some variation in this category soon enough.
Two of this year’s pleasant surprises in the NHL have been the Nashville Predators and the Vancouver Canucks. Both are playing entertaining, offensive hockey — yeah, I know, Nashville?!?!?!? and they’ve both gotten far more out of the first ten to fifteen games of the season than most prognosticated. But to be honest it’s not as shocking as you might think. Canucks and Preds rosters are trying to impress new regimes behind their respective bench, and any player with the slightest bit of a nose for the net has to prefer Willie Desjardins and Peter Laviolette to John “No Plan” Tortorella and Barry “No Neck” Trotz.
Note: I know I’m a few games behind. So what. It’s fun to look at all the scorin’ and goalin’ and such.
Kevin Bieksa admitted it right there in Saturday’s post-game interview with Cassie Campbell-Pascall: the Canucks pretty much played a single period of decent hockey against the Edmonton Oilers. They stunk the place out in the first period, played below expectations in the second, but were the better team in the final 20 minutes. It was enough to win the game.
Past editions of the Canucks could play keepaway for 55 minutes and change, generate chance after chance down low, and give up a late snack goal before losing in a shootout. So far this year, they’re managing games more effectively and finding ways to win.
Canucks 0, Oilers 1. Jordan Eberle from Taylor Hall and Martin Marincin, 12:39 of the first period.
Taylor Hall loses a stride in the neutral zone, and that half-second hesitation is enough to freeze — wait for it — Luca Sbisa. #5 moves slightly into the middle, opening up a lane for Jordan Eberle cruising in on the right boards, and he flips a cutesy little backhand over Ryan Miller’s pad. Yannick Weber did the right thing, taking Nugent-Hopkins on the far side, so he has none of the blame on this one.
Canucks 1, Oilers 1: Luca Sbisa from Chris Higgins and Nick Bonino, 19:13 of the first period.
Thank heavens for the Oilers d-zone coverage. Remember all the running around the Canucks did in their own end last year? If not, just watch the boys in blue on this replay. The Oilers act as if the ’76 Habs are swarming their net, but this isn’t Lafleur, Shutt and Lemaire with Big Bird Robinson on the point — instead, the dreaded Sbisa-Higgins-Bonino connect to send it into the dressing room tied at one.
Canucks 2, Oilers 1: Linden Vey from Derek Dorsett and Tom Sestito, 16:37 of the second period.
If that last scoring combo wasn’t embarrassing enough, the Oilers manage to let Derek Dorsett and Tom Sestito collect apples on the same goal. Want a trifecta? Alex Edler gets a mark in the plus column on this one as well. Ben Scrivens delivers a gift-wrapped rebound to ol’ Dorsett and follows it up with a massive five hole for him to shoot at.
Canucks 2, Oilers 2: David Perron from Leon Draisaitl and Andrew Ference, 17:41 of the third period.
Ah, the short-lived lead. That’s the Canuck hockey we’ve grown to groan at over the past couple of seasons. Also in the not unexpected category: Alex Edler with a minus. Give the goat horns to Chris Tanev, who bobbles the puck behind his own net to create the open ice. Should Ryan Miller have this one? Probably, but give Perron credit, it’s a hell of a wrist shot.
Canucks 3, Oilers 2 (SH): Derek Dorsett from Ben Scrivens, 4:05 of the third period.
Give credit to ol’ Double D on this one, he hustled in on a shorthanded forecheck, and took full advantage of the worst goalie mistake since Marc-Andre Fleury was a junior. Like the Canucks second goal, Scrivens screws up twice on the same play: here he’s so flustered by his giveaway that he forgets to square himself to the shooter. Dorsett should never have the short side to shoot at on that play.
Here’s Fleury’s gold-medal losing gaffe from 2004, in case you’ve forgotten:
The Whitecaps handed out their club-sanctioned end of season awards on October 22, and it was pretty much what you’d expect. The suspense of just who exactly would go home with the Domenic Mobilio Golden Boot award (presented to the club’s leading goal-scorer) was undoubtedly the highlight of the afternoon. The anticipation was palpable until everyone realized that numerous stats pages across the internet had been keeping track of that information all season long. Buncha wet blankets.
Anyways, as I’m sure you have heard, we here at Pucked in the Head have our own end of season awards. Many deem these to in fact be the most prestigious of all awards available to professional soccer players annually based in Vancouver, BC from March until November.
Now that you’re all on the edge of your seats, I present to you the 2014 Whitecaps End of Season Awards Presented By A Blog With a Hockey-centric Title Yet Unabashedly Contains Content On a Wide Variety Of Sporting Endeavours. We’re still working on the name and hoping to have a slightly less verbose title for 2015.
Hands up everyone who predicted the Canucks would have seven wins after ten games.
That’s what I thought.
The Canucks had the Montreal Canadiens number through the Naslund and early Sedin years, but surely this visit would be different — this year’s Habs are a sexy pick to take the East this year, what with their gold medallist Carey Prices and their swashbuckling, fancy dressing, bazillion-dollar PK Subbans and such.
As pundits are fond of telling us — and by pundits I mean me and Harrison Mooney — the Vancouver Canucks have a history of helping opponents break out of a slump. So it was with trepidation that fans approached last night’s visit from the league’s doormat Carolina Hurricanes.
That’s right: the Canes are worse than the perennially disappointing Edmonton Oilers, the comically atrocious Buffalo Sabres and the junior-hockey-teams-have-more-fans-than-we-do Florida Panthers. Carolina has exactly zero wins on the season, to match the zero fucks given by most people in Raleigh about the sport of ice hockey — meaning they had the Canucks exactly where they wanted them.
Would the Canucks respond, or would they snooze with les Habitants on the horizon? You’re darn tootin’ they’d respond. It was viewers of Sportsnet that snoozed, but I digress. On with the goals…
You’re sitting back in your moderately comfy computer chair right now, smug as can be. You think you’ve been let off the hook. Everything is good in your world – the Whitecaps are in the playoffs. The B.C. Lions also clinched a berth in the postseason over the weekend. The Canucks have won their last two contests. Your significant other made you dinner last night and Halloween is fast approaching. And let’s be honest, only the curmudgeoniest of the curmudgeons dislike Halloween. So you’ve got that going for you as well.
Most importantly, however, is that an entire MLS season has passed without a sniff of poetry on Pucked in the Head.
“Thank goodness,” all four of you proclaim, “another week down without being subjected to that amateur writer’s boorish attempt at creating literary culture!”
But be warned: it’s all about to come crashing down. The Whitecaps are heading to Dallas (or Frisco, if you want to be argumentative), playing for the MLS Cup. And there are a couple of things that are fantastic about the scenario.
Let’s start with a moment of silence for Eddie Lack’s GAA and SV%, shall we?
Lack’s save percentage, a dismal .862, is 59th in the NHL after three appearances. His 4.62 goals against average is 61st overall. Keep in mind there are only 30 teams in the NHL. Sixty-two goalies have seen ice time this season, and the only guy with a GAA south of our boy Eddie’s is Viktor Fasth of the Edmonton Oilers, whose two-game, 5.19 goals against average would lose him the backup spot on most junior benches.
The Avs started the season with the punch of a newborn koala. Despite adding proven snipers like Jarome Iginla and Danny Briere in the off-season, Colorado’s first goal of the season came at 3:08 of the second period — of their third game. They had won just one game in their first seven before meeting the Canucks. As we all know, Vancouver is a polite town, and that Eddie Lack is a pretty affable guy. If someone needs off the schneid, the Canucks are the ones to help them out.
Until tonight, this year’s Vancouver Canucks have been fairly predictable. They won three straight against the barrels of tar sands waste that are the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers, then lost in dramatic fashion to legitimate NHL franchises from Tampa Bay and Dallas.
So what could we expect in St Louis against a Blues franchise many are picking to challenge for the Central Division this year? Could the Canucks, unanimously christened a one-line team by pundits and fans alike, leapfrog the Blues stifling defense to take two points out of Mound City?
It turns out that the Canucks have a surprisingly good record against the Blues over the past couple of seasons. Last year, in a schedule full of lowlights and reddened bottoms, Vancouver somehow swept the season series against St Louis — this despite the Blues garnering 111 points, a full 28 more than the Canucks. Given those three wins last year, Thursday’s 4-1 win under the Arch perhaps shouldn’t come as the biggest surprise of the night. (That honour I’d give to the Flames racking up their fifth win already.)
We at Pucked in the Head go through all five goals in game six of this young season.
We at Pucked in the Head are fortunate enough to run into thoughtful, passionate sports fans the world over. Case in point: the always-entertaining fanatical hockey/soccer/football border-crosser, Richard Davalos. He maintains a bizarre Tumblr feed, equal parts random gifs, assorted pop culture surfage and kickass Wolverine sideburns.
Richard’s @QuakesFan84 Twitter feed has purposes twofold: 1) plying the Twitterverse with as many clever hockey tweets as any one man has a right to disseminate, and 2) suggesting that there are nearly 100 San Jose Earthquakes fans on this planet. It is in this latter function that he offers his preview of this weekend’s clash between the Vancouver Whitecaps FC and those same woeful Quakes.
Time for four straight
by Richard Davalos
As noted in Jason’s last Whitecaps entry, Vancouver has never earned 12 points in four games in their MLS history. In fact, they haven’t strung together four consecutive wins as a franchise at any level since May of the 2008 USL-1 season. Along comes San Jose, fresh off their first win in more than two months — a midweek friendly against Honduran first division side CDS Vida.