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:
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’.)
Props to rookie goaltender Reto Berra, who picked up a win in his very first NHL start, in overtime over the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks no less. He made 42 saves on 44 shots — that’s a .955 save percentage, earned against the likes of Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews.
Not too shabby, Mr Berra. Keep that up, and something tells me this Abbotsford Heat paint job might need a flaming C or two thereupon.
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.
This month has been a remarkable one round these parts — after a couple of years of poor-to-middling weather, we’ve quite literally basked in a glorious summer so far this year. YVR didn’t have a single drop of rain in the month of July, which made the trek to Rogers Arena for the 2013 Canucks Prospects Scrimmage a particularly odd way to spend a Thursday afternoon. Still, thousands upon thousands of people did it, including Samira Noor (@ChaoticAppeal on the mighty Twitter), who filed this piece with Pucked in the Head. Be kind, folks. Jordan Subban broke her heart, dammit.
Prospector Samira Noor, reporting for duty
Without hesitation I willingly gave up the sunshine to sit in that cold, familiar arena for a small dose of summer hockey. Prospects — young players drafted and/or signed by the Vancouver Canucks — hit the ice to a hesitant cheer from a crowd, and immediately the whispers began.
“Who is [insert player number]?”
“His name is what? Why have I never heard of him before?”
“Where is Bo Horvat? I’m only here to see him.”
The state of confusion was shortlived, as everyone (including myself) trundled out their phones to pull up a roster list. Even then, a sense of familiarity sunk in with only a handful of players. Nicklas Jensen, 2011 Canucks draft pick and mini Great Dane, was the easiest to spot. His competitive glare made the scrimmage feel like a regular season game, and his ability to shuffle the puck through defensemen woke up the overly polite crowd.
Frankie Corrado quickly became another favourite, spending every free moment he had near the boards interacting with folks looking his way. A wink or two, a few cheeky grins, a couple of pucks flipped over the glass. Soon enough, he had people making signs for him on their iPads and pressing them against the glass competing for even a second of his attention. It wasn’t difficult. This guy was drinking it up.
Here’s episode 53 of the Pucked in the Head podcast, in which Chris admits to having “pale delicate skin that blisters easily” but makes up for it by calling Jason out on several vocabulary errors. Oh, and we also talk hockey.
As many of you have observed, Chris and I don’t have much of a track record when it comes to laying down podcast tracks. Thus, when we do manage to throw one together it’s a bloody miracle of the first order. We hope you enjoy!
• Sofa Surfer Girl by the Orchid Highway
• WTF is a ‘Metropolitan Division’?
• Do you know Conn Smythe’s full name?
• Wherefore art thou Ilya?
• Time to wrap it up
• Time for a Change by the Orchid Highway
• Thanks for Listening
Twitter servers took a severe beating Sunday afternoon, as Mike Gillis moved fan favourite goaltender Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils for the ninth overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
As a bazillion people who have never watched a single junior game vented their anger in 140 characters or less, the Canucks marched onstage to selected Bo Horvat. The London Knights forward inevitably known as BoHo by Vancouver fans is probably best known as the guy who tapped home an outlandish between-the-legs pass from Max Domi at this year’s Memorial Cup. If you haven’t seen it yet, shame on you. Watch it below.
Because it’s the Cup, I will watch Glen Healy and PJ Stock make unmitigated fools of themselves using only their words.
Because it’s the Cup, I will watch countless people scream blue murder about whatever comes out of Don Cherry’s mouth.
Because it’s the Cup, I will watch Tukka Rask continue his impressive climb out of Tim Thomas’ borderline racist, definitely bizarre shadow.
Because it’s the Cup, I will watch Corey Crawford continue his impressive climb out of Antti Niemi’s I-can’t-make-an-adjectival-joke-here-because-I-still-feel-like-“Antti-who?” shadow.
Because it’s the Cup, I will watch Marian Hossa play like a frickin’ beast.
Because it’s the Cup, I will watch Zdeno Chara play as a frickin’ beast.
Because it’s the Cup, I will watch Jaromir Jagr make his first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 21 years.
Because it’s the Cup, I will watch Dave Bolland — oh wait, no I won’t, because he pulled a disappearing act this post-season.
Because it’s the Cup, I will watch Jonathan Toews attempt to become just the second player, after Wayne Gretzky, to captain two championship teams before turning 25. Yes, Captain Serious was less than four years old the last time Jagr hit the NHL final round.
Because it’s the Cup, I will applaud these two teams even though they are roundly despised by pretty much every hockey fan in Vancouver.
Because it’s the Cup, I will hope and pray that the Hawks manage to score it up against the Bruins, because we as fans desperately need fast, creative hockey — not plodding, grind-it-out 1-0 yawnfests.
Because it’s the Cup, I will predict that the series winner will be scored by Brian Bickell in game 7 at the United Center.
Hear the gnashing of teeth. See the flailing of arms. Feel the tension and taste the tears, because playoff hockey is here.
Mere days into the NHL’s first round, and we’ve already seen blowouts — the Sidless Penguins handed John Tavares every ass on the New York Islander roster in game one. We’ve been treated to overtime gaffes — I’m looking at you, Jonathan Quick, you bizarre, talented bastard, you. Controversy: Eric Gryba got an unwarranted two-game suspension after Lars Eller’s nose hit the ice. Sadly, Brendan Shanahan’s ruling — see the video below — was only half as atrocious as the Ottawa Sun’s front page coverage of the incident. (Even Sun sports journalist Bruce Garrioch was embarrassed, going to lengths to explain that editors, not writers, choose the pictures and headlines.) And out west, Roberto Luongo played his face off in a surprise start for the listless Vancouver Canucks. No one seems to know what ails the goaltender regent, Corey Schneider, but who mans the crease will only be a talking point if Vancouver manages more than a goal a game against the Sharks.
Perhaps the most impressive story so far this playoff actually stretches beyond the boundaries of the NHL. On the very day that the Toronto Maple Leafs played their first playoff game in nearly a decade, the Leafs, Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto FC were collectively outscored 20-2 by the Boston Bruins, Boston Red Sox and Montreal Impact respectively. It seems nothing can go right in Hogtown these days — Rob Ford is still the mayor, for goodness’ sake.
Okay, okay: politics notwithstanding, in a city that proclaims itself the Centre of the Universe, they sure as shootin’ aren’t doing much to impress in the world of sports. Until the Argonauts take the field to defend their Grey Cup title later this summer, the only thing T-dot has to cheer for is the Marlies. The Baby Leafs swept the Rochester Americans in the AHL Calder Cup playoffs, and await the winners of the other three Western Conference quarterfinals before second round reseeding. Go (baby) Leafs go, I suppose.
Here’s ol’ Shanny’s ruling, in which he mysteriously states that Gryba made Eller’s head the principal point of contact. (Compare with PK Subban’s hit on Chris Neil earlier in the game — in which red-jerseyed shoulder indeed smucks upon white-helmeted head — as giffed by @Eyeonhockey.)
Ever wanted the ear of an NHL bench staffer? This lucky fan got the next best thing, as Boston Bruins assistant coach Geoff Ward emptied his ear canal into his beer glass. The only consolation is that it was just shitty arena beer, anyway.