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.
The Abbotsford Heat took three of a possible four points in their home opening weekend, splitting extra time results with the Milwaukee Admirals on Friday and Saturday nights.
Six-foot four goaltender Reto Berra backed the Heat to a 3–2 decision on Friday, thanking Corban Knight for ending things 1:58 into overtime. In turn, the Admirals rode 6’5″ netminder Magnus Hellberg to a 2–1 shootout win on Saturday.
It was a familiar refrain of sorts of the Heat, who spent much of last season splitting double headers they probably should have taken outright. The Heat came out of the second intermission on a mission, breaking the zero-zero tie just 41 seconds into the third on Roman Horak’s first of the season. They carried the play for most of the period, but squandered consecutive power plays before giving up a late tying goal against the flow of play. It marked the second game in a row the Heat led going into the final six minutes of play but were unable to hold on for a regulation win.
Hockey Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur was in attendance Friday, shaking hands and signing hundreds of autographs; he is the latest in the Heat’s lineup of Hockey Legends to visit the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre. The Man Who Scored The Goal That Sank Don Cherry’s Coaching Career looked great, and was great with the adoring fans who lined the stairwells for a moment with monsieur Lafleur and his blue Sharpie.
Unfortunately the Flower wasn’t enough to bring more people through the turnstyles. More than half the rink was empty for opening night, and game #2? Well, you can see for yourself:
More pictures and game highlights after the jump.
EA Predicts a 3-0 week for the Vancouver Canucks
By Jake Hall
It’s been a tough few weeks for Canucks fans. Injuries to stud Ryan Kesler and stalwart Kevin Bieksa, coupled with lacklustre play from the rest of the boys, have helped the Canucks plummet from the league stratosphere they’ve enjoyed for a couple of seasons now. They’ve won just three games in their last 12, and more often than not are fighting to tie games up in the last few minutes just to gain a measly Bettman point.
It’s OKy, though, because the next game is an easy matchup against Columbus…. Wait they’ve won five straight, including one against Vancouver? A world where the Canucks arenʼt leading the Northwest Division and the Blue Jackets beat Detroit twice in three tries is a world I donʼt want to live in.
Well, it is safe to say that it won’t be an easy week for the struggling Canucks. After Nationwide Arena tonight, the boys head home to Rogers Arena to host Shea Weber and the Nashville Predators, followed by the always-dangerous and eternally deep Red Wings.
Which Canucks team will show up? Luckily, you don’t have to guess which half of the Vancouver Jeckyll-and-Hyde Show will strap on skates for these three games. We at Pucked in the Head have enlisted EA Sports to prognosticate for us. I’ll attempt to make the roster as authentic as possible (i.e Kesler hurt, Ebbett back, Schroeder sent to minors, Luongo starting against Columbus). Also included are my predictions for this week’s lines (Burrows centering the 2nd, Kassian with the Twins, etc.)
I have a great deal of respect for NHL officials. Of all the major professional sports, hockey is surely one of the toughest to call. The rules are replete with grey areas, the standards they’re expected to apply change depending quite literally on which day it is, and the skill and conditioning necessary to keep up with NHL pace make the officials legitimate athletes in their own right. I’d like to see the league give them some tools to do their job more effectively. Continue reading
Before I say anything else, the pic of the Flyers bench below was stolen unceremoniously from the Puck Doctors. You oughtta surf their site, yo.
All right. The Pittsburgh Penguins have dodged two bullets now, coming back from a 3-0 deficit in the first round to force a game six. Game four was a laugher – Philly wasn’t even in the building, and the Pens had something to prove. They scored at will, putting five pucks past each of the Flyer goalies for a 10-3 win.
The 2012 playoffs are under way, and I’d like to congratulate officiating crews on and off the ice for kicking things off with a bang. Zebras in all three games on day one were awful, and Brendan Shanahan made complete his cold-water shrinkage from pre-season promises to trade in the NHL Wheel of Justice for consistent punishment across the league.
Before you think this is a partisan rant about the Vancouver Canucks getting jobbed of game one against the Los Angeles Kings, I’d like to proffer this: the Kings were by far the better team Wednesday night, and if not for the early heroics of Roberto Luongo, would have been in a 3-0 or 4-0 position long before calls became an issue. Also, the royal men from SoCal were flogged by a couple of questionable whistles too – I am under no delusions that Vancouver deserved that first game. Refs in Vancouver, Nashville and Pittsburgh were way too visible on the first night. Even the affable Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock commented on it during an in-game interview with Brian Engblom:
By Jim Chliboyko, Pucked in the Head’s official Winnipeg correspondent. Yes, he actually lives there. And yes, for our American readers, they have indoor plumbing and central heating. No, they don’t live in igloos. Well, not all of them anyway. Consider this a companion piece to our first round picks, posted yesterday.
I’m especially well-positioned to pre-judge the 16 teams geared up for the 2011-12 Stanley Cup Playoffs. I only really paid attention to the Winnipeg Jets this year, and all the live games I managed to see this season were with teams that, consequently, missed the playoffs. Which is sort of like cheering for all the red-headed and albino kids in The Hunger Games.
Finally. After 301 days, 1230 games and eleventy billion unfunny Vancouver riot jokes, Wednesday will bring the return of NHL playoff hockey. Having learned absolutely nothing from the annual debacle of our regular season predictions — Leafs sneaking in, bah. Sabres winning the East, HA! — Pucked in the Head presents 2012 NHL Playoff Predictions… because dammit, that’s what loudmouthed fans with self-published blogs do.
Seven Things – 7 May 2011
1 – The Canucks had a chance to close out the Nashville Predators this evening at home. They failed. For the second time in these playoffs, Vancouver has put themselves in a position to close out a series early and then failed to get the job done. The Canucks are now a woeful 1-4 in games where they can send their opponent packing. For a team that’s shown an exquisite ability to get the key goal and the key win all season, that simply won’t cut the mustard. Continue reading