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.
After an interminably long summer of house cleaning, the Vancouver Canucks start the 2014-15 NHL season tonight against the woeful Abbotsford Heat Calgary Flames. While this particular foe still makes the Canucks look like world-beaters, there isn’t a pundit in the land who thinks Vancouver has a legitimate shot at winning the Pacific Division. So just how fair and middling will this year’s edition of the Vancouver Canucks be? I’m glad you asked. Here are seven questions we’re slobbering over ourselves in anticipation and excitement:
Whatever playoff aspirations still existed in the Vancouver Canucks dressing room — misguided, maybe, but they were there — must have taken a serious thumping during the third period of last night’s 7-4 loss to the lowly, John Tavares-less New York Islanders.
Up 3-0 going into the final 20 minutes of the game, the Canucks managed to give up a converted touchdown in a single period for the first time since a kid named Wayne Gretzky swaggered into Vancouver with the dynastic Edmonton Oilers. And, as Ryan Kesler said of the present-day Islanders after the game, “let’s face it, [New York] is not one of the top teams in the NHL. We had a three-nothing lead to start the third. This just can’t happen.”
Sadly, not only can it go down, Mr Kesler, but it did happen. On home ice. During the stretch run. Less than a week after the GM traded away a future Hall of Fame goaltender.
In the first two periods, the Isles had just nine shots on goal. Fast forward twenty minutes, and they had nearly that many goals.
Sure, there were positives. Henrik Sedin got a lucky bounce off an Islander defenceman — lucky bounces have been few and far between for the Canucks of late, but it marked the first goal in 23 games for the captain. Alex Burrows didn’t get off the gorilla-choking, gut-twisting schneid he’s been riding all season, but he did get awarded an apple on Ryan Kesler’s 22nd goal of the year. Replays show Burrows gave a swing and a miss when Kevin Bieksa’s shot from the slot pinged off the post, but when Kesler put it home, the scorekeepers gave Burr the phantom assist for his 300th career NHL point.
But let’s not kid anyone. There are no moral victories in a game that goes that far south that quickly. Less than five minutes of gutless, idiot play in the third period undid 40 minutes of solid two-way hockey. Dumb penalties from Jensen, Bieksa and Sestito translated into a tie game within minutes of the third period puck drop. Add a couple that Lack would like to have back, and the Isles put a pick-six on the board before the third was halfway done.
The Canucks collapse, though, wasn’t half as scary as what awaited Eddie Lack in the dressing room.
If you’re a regular visitor to Pucked in the Head, you know I’ve been pumping Roberto Luongo’s tires since day one. The very day the Canucks acquired him from the Florida Panthers, the first words out of my mouth were, “Oh my god. We’re going to win a Cup.”
Nearly a decade later, Bobby Lu owns nearly every franchise record a Canucks goaltender can own. He’s second to only Martin Brodeur among active goalies for most career wins (367), shutouts (65) and shots against (>23K), and third in games played (789). Sadly, that Stanley Cup didn’t quite happen, but he did win a gold medal on Rogers Arena ice. That counts, right? RIGHT?!?!
Mike Gillis had me in his corner through the start of his tenure. I thought he was a masterful tinkerer, bringing in just the right bits and pieces to win consecutive Presidents Trophies, Art Ross Trophies and outstanding hockey. It was a stellar ride, even if the very pinnacle of achievement also included consecutive bed-poopings with that Cup just a win away. But MG has screwed up one time too many for my liking.
After Ryan Kesler & Co. played the United States out of medal contention this weekend, Torts publicly cheered for Team Sweden. He said he “doesn’t give a shit about Team Canada” because Mike Babcock benched Roberto Luongo and sat Dan Hamhuis for all but token minutes through the knockout games. He hoped Daniel Sedin would score a brace, Alex Edler would gather three assists, and the two of them would come back to Rogers Arena with gold around their necks and fire in their bellies.
Of course, it’s Hammer and @strombone1 bringing home the shiniest of shiny baubles, as the Swedes went without two of their three important Henriks — they even went without the equally viktig Nicklas Backstrom, as his migraine medication was found to be in violation of the IOC anti-doping policies. Even with those three in the lineup, they likely wouldn’t have touched this particular iteration of Team Canada, which was built not for sexy offensive flair, but rather for defensive tautness. But I digress. These are problems for Peter Forsberg and Tre Kronar, not for Torts.
The Utica Comets took consecutive overtime wins off the Abbotsford Heat this past weekend. Sadly I don’t have time to write anything pithy about the Heat’s current scoring woes (16 goals during three wins and seven losses in 2014), or Utica’s recent dominance in head-to-head matchups (six losses in a row and counting).
If there were time, it would be easy to point to Heat goaltender Joey MacDonald’s comical giveaway behind his own net on the tying goal late in the game, or to defenseman Chris Breen’s stick snapping in half at the opposition blueline, directly leading to Benn Ferriero’s game-winning goal.
But there isn’t. So after the jump, I’ll just share my Heat – Comets photo gallery.
Gone are the days these Canucks could bank on a post-season berth for steamrolling their sadsack Northwest Division brothers. Sure, the Oilers and Flames still stink like day-old skunk sandwiches, but in the realigned NHL, the Canucks have to catch one of Anaheim, LA or San Jose for a legitimate Pacific Division playoff spot.
The win was no easy feat. Sure, Vancouver has spanked the Avs over the past few years — losing just once in ten tries, and that was in extra time. But this year’s Avalanche look very different under head coach Patrick Roy. Ignoring that 8–2 loss to Edmonton the other night, Colorado has been one of the league’s eye openers this year. They’ve got ten road wins already, more than twice what they picked up last year and three more Ws than the Canucks have earned at home so far this year.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Canucks managed to hold the fort. When they took a 1–0 lead into the third period, those who had managed to stay awake through forty were pleasantly surprised. First Ryan Kesler donned the cape to double the lead, setting up a scoring chance from behind the net before shovelling in a rebound from the blue paint. Then Mike Santorelli sniped his second of the night, a gorgeous shot top cheese on a 2-on-1. (This shouldn’t shock anyone, as ‘Santorelli’ is of course Italian for ‘roof daddy’.)
The Abbotsford Heat find themselves worrying about the Vancouver Canucks affiliate Utica Comets.
They don’t need to concern themselves with a 3–2 decision to the lowly Comets on Friday night. Even after the loss, the Heat have won eight of their last ten games and sit in first overall in the AHL standings. The Comets, for their part, picked up just their fifth win of the year, and would not have done so without some serious heroics on the part of their goaltender. Under siege most of the night — including a third period that saw the Heat outshoot the Comets 13–2 — Joe Cannata made 35 saves for unanimous first star honours.
No, the Heat this season haven’t had to wring hands as they’ve done in the past about the number of pucks hitting the backs of the net. What they have worried about, though, is the ever-dwindling number of bums in seats at the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre.
We at Pucked in the Head encourage you to play the Mötley Crüe’s Girls Girls Girls at full volume during this post. We would have recorded a hockey version, but Harrison Mooney was busy mixing his Christmas album.
Vancouver was awash in red lights Saturday as the Giants and Canucks collectively exploded for a dozen goals in a single night. These are teams that have moved in opposite directions in the standings of late. The Canucks had lost five straight, scoring just six goals in that span. The Giants, on the other hand, had picked up points in six consecutive games. (In fact, since a disastrous 1-9 start to the season, the Giants have gone 10–4–3.) Their 6–3 win over the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds, coming on the strength of a four-goal second period, was their fourth home win in a row, and brought them to a .500 record for the first time in recent memory.
Jared Rathjen earned his third win of the season, stopping 24 of 27 shots; at the other end, Danny Mumaugh allowed five goals on 31 shots and was chased after forty minutes. Trace Elson scored his first career WHL goal, and completed the Gordie Howe hat trick with a first period fight and an assist in the third.
1) The Vancouver Canucks have started their season with a loss. Please refer to the last three years’ opening week articles about how this team will be just fine, and that we shouldn’t judge them based on the first ten games of the season.
2) Inside info from someone in the Abbotsford Heat organization (someone who doesn’t blow smoke unnecessarily): “This team has more talent, more passion and more speed than last year’s team. It’s going to be an exciting year in Abbotsford.” Listen to Heat games live on CIVL Radio or at 101.7 when you’re out in the valley. Schedule here.