7 Games Played, 75 more to go…

Seven games in and we have seen a little bit of everything from the 2014-2015 Vancouver Canucks from the fantastically wizardous sedinery to an improved power play to badly timed penalties to defensive slips to a soft goal and to some great saves. Through those seven games, the Canucks have amassed a 4-3-0 record and with it the question of whether or not this team has improved upon last season? Seven games in and you can feel the tensions starting to rise in the city as expectations begin to be adjusted.

May I remind everyone that we are only SEVEN games into the regular season. You have 75 more games to watch before all is said and done. Everything that happens in the first seven games in no way indicates HOW a team will finish when the final buzzer rings in game 82.

Let’s take a closer look at the first seven games of THIS season, the first seven games of the last few seasons and the team’s final results after game 82.

First seven games record in 2014-2015: (4-3-0). We have seen a little bit of everything in these first seven games, some great moments, some not so great moments and glimpses of what is to still come as the season progresses. The Sedins look to be near their 2010-2011 game form having combined for 19 points (5 goals, 14 assists) giving the Canucks some very much needed offense.

Result after game 82: Still to be determined in the remaining 75 games.

First seven games record in 2013-2014: (4-3-0). If someone had told me after seven games last season that the Canucks would not be playoff bound or that the Sedins would have their worst season since the 2004-2005 lockout…I may have called them crazy.

Result after game 82: The team missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Torts was relieved of his coaching duties after one season at the helm. Jim Benning was hired as the new GM by newly minted President Trevor Linden. Ryan Kesler said adios Vancouver and hello Anaheim. Willie Desjardins was hired as the new head coach and began developing a relationship with his players immediately.

First seven games record in 2012-2013: (3-2-2). Coming off back to back President’s Trophies expectations were once again high and with a shortened season anything was possible.

Result after game 48: The Canucks were swept in the opening round of the playoffs by the San Jose Sharks. Alain Vigneault was relieved of his coaching duties. Questions were asked about what changes needed to be made. John Tortorella was hired as the new head coach.

First seven games record in 2011-2012: (3-3-1). Was this the same team that just took the city on an epic four round playoff run? Could they repeat their success or would they suffer from shortened off-season? Looking at those first seven games it’s hard to imagine that they could were able to nearly duplicate their regular season success from the year before.

Result after game 82: After going to game SEVEN of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, the Canucks followed that up by once again being the best regular season team winning their second consecutive President’s Trophy. The team was eliminated in five games by the eventual cup winner, LA Kings in the opening round of the 2012 playoffs.

First seven games record in 2010-2011: (2-3-2). The first seven games showed the team was capable of greatness but also that they had some areas that needed a lot of work. No one could be sure that their season would turn out as epic as it did when all 82 games were over and the Canucks stood atop the league standings.

Result after game 82: The Canucks lead the league with 117 points as the top team heading into the post season. The Canucks began a playoff run that will long remain one of their best moments in franchise history.

Year in and year out, media and fans alike make endless predictions about all the ins and outs of the regular season. Sometimes we get those predictions right and sometimes they end up being far from what we could have possibly imagined.

So… will the Canucks be able to find their way back to the playoffs? With only seven games played, THAT is yet to be seen, but they have 75 games left to make their case as to why and if they should be in that sweet sixteen equation come April. Time will tell and I look forward to being there supporting them every step of the way whatever the journey may entail.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

Canucks Re-ignited?

Yes, it’s only been two games out of eighty-two, but in these first two games, I have seen something that I never once saw last year, an absolute determination to keep pushing back when the going gets tough. Could the Sedins find their way back to a point-per-game status? So far, in two games they have combined for 8 points, add in Vrbata and that total goes up to 11 points for their line. The twins making and completing plays in a way that makes them successful instead of focusing on how to change their game is a completely refreshing concept after last year’s debacle of a season.

Game ONE saw the team open the season on the road against divisional rivals the Calgary Flames. The Canucks opened the scoring in the first period with a POWER-PLAY goal, yes one of those ever so elusive man-advantage goals that were near impossible last season from the one and only Alex Burrows. It sure was nice to see Burrows get rewarded for his hard work after being bit by the bad luck bug all last season! The question of whether or not the Sedins could find their offensive prowess was answered with the game winning goal on which vintage sedinery was on full display as they set up their newest partner in crime, Radim Vrbata. The most entertaining moment however was saved for the final minute of the game when Henrik scored an empty net goal….that was pure skill and individual effort and perhaps the best empty net goal scored that I have ever seen:

Game TWO saw the team play their first home game of the year and with it, came great expectations as the fans and players alike had anticipated all summer what could be. Would the fans support the team after the train wreck that was last season?

The anthem was sung, the puck dropped and the building was buzzing from the first minute to the last. It was a game that perhaps from the outset, no one expected it to be particularly high scoring and certainly no one saw the Canucks falling to THREE separate 2-goal deficits before coming all the way back to force overtime AND a shoot out? Let’s be honest, last year a situation that saw the team fall behind would NOT have resulted in the resilience that was shown in this game. Every time the Oilers re-gained their 2-goal lead, while there may have been panic in the eyes of the fans remembering the ghosts of last season, there was ZERO panic in the eyes of the players.

You know what they say, 2-goal leads are never safe and that rang true for Edmonton who had three 2-goal leads but could find a way to stop the resilience that Vancouver was determined to put on display led by the Sedins starting with the first Canucks goal of the night and ending with the game tying goal….and included this beauty they set up for Vrbata:

Let’s be honest, last year had the Canucks been in the situation of being in a two-goal deficit three times, let alone ONCE in one game, they would not have found a way to come back. This time, they not only came back to force a tie, they came ALL the way back to steal two points in the shootout. Ryan Miller, after a shaky start to the came closed out the game with some big saves including stopping ALL three shoot out attempts to preserve his first home ice victory in a Canucks uniform. Seems nearly divine that in the days leading up to this back and forth game that the team was practicing shoot outs right?

It may not have been the ideal game plan that the team envisioned but this game with its back and forth pace had more of a playoff feel to it than simply the second regular season game. Both teams battled for every inch of the ice and kept the fans on their toes as the ending was yet to be determined. It was nice to see the Canucks re-ignite some excitement into their on ice game and in stands.

Oh and hey remember that oh so awful power play from last season? I know it’s early to say that it’s any different…but just two games in and we have been given a glimpse of hope with the team going 3/10 on the man advantage. The passes seem crisper, the shots have increased and momentum seems to actually be gained rather than be detracted. As I said, it is no guarantee of what will be, but it gives fans something that did not exist last year; hope.

Yes, it has only been two games into the 82-game journey that make up the madness that is the NHL’s regular season, but in these two games the team has shown that they won’t go down without a fight. There is a new fire within this team and more smiles in these two games than all of last season. Will they make the post-season? It’s far too soon to tell, but whether they do or not, is up to them and how they play the remaining 80 games. The rest of the story has yet to be written.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

Here We Go Again…(October 2014)

IMG_0080In less than 24 hours, all across North America, the madness known as the 2014-2015 NHL season will begin again as pucks drop, goals are scored and saves are made. One side will be celebrating the sweet taste of victory to start their season and the other side will already deciding how they can improve moving forward. Fans hopes will be higher than ever before as every team has a clean slate and an opportunity to be better than they were last year.

Inevitably every team faces endless questions heading into the new year…here are just a few facing EACH team this season:

Questions Facing the WESTERN CONFERENCE – ?

PACIFIC DIVISION: aka a very intensely competitive division with very LITTLE room for error.

Vancouver Canucks: Can the team find a way to recover from a year when nearly EVERYTHING went wrong? Will this be the year that Zack Kassian has a break out season? Will someone step up to the opportunity that is the gap left behind by Ryan Kesler? Will the Sedins return to the elite level that everyone has come to expect from them? With new players, a new GM, a new coach and new President, will the team find a way to be playoff bound come April?

Edmonton Oilers: Will the Hall and company find a way to channel all of their youth into experience and success? Will the Oilers end their playoff drought and make Oil Country a city of Champions once more?

Calgary Flames: Are the Flames in full-on rebuild with a youth movement OR ready to contend in a very heavily loaded division? Will Giordano lead this team back to the post-season?

Arizona Coyotes: Will their name change help the Coyotes to find success in the desert? Will Shane Doan help the Coyotes re-discover the success that they had in 2012?

San Jose Sharks: What will the team do to address their collapse against the Kings in the 2014 post-season? Will Joe Thornton find a way to rediscover the part of his game that has always made him successful? Will Marleau, Pavelski and Couture find a way to find their way back to the contending team that everyone knows they can be?

LA Kings: How will LA rebound from their second Stanley Cup victory in three years? Will they be the first repeat champions since the Detroit Red Wings (1997, 1998)? Will a short summer have an impact on their upcoming season or will it propel them even further in NHL history?

Anaheim Ducks: Will the Ryan Kesler trade translate into instant success for both #17 and the Ducks? Will Anaheim once again dominate the Pacific Division? Will Anderson and Gibson work in tandem stopping pucks OR will one of them have a stand out year?

CENTRAL DIVISION:

Chicago Blackhawks: What more can Toews, Kane and company do for the Blackhawks? Will they go deep into the playoffs yet again or will some unknown factor get in their way?

St. Louis Blues: Following a very successful season, how will the Blues respond when the puck drops this month? Will they continue their climb to the top or will they stumble to the finish line?

Colorado Avalanche: Will Patrick Roy find a way to duplicate the success he had in his rookie season as an NHL head coach? Will Duchene and Co. find success playing with new Avalanche player, Iglina?

Minnesota Wild: Will the Wild settle on a number one goalie or will injuries once again keep them rotating a goal-tending carousel? Will they find a way to duplicate their 2014 playoff success?

Dallas Stars: Will they continue forward with the chemistry that developed under Coach Ruff and the leadership of Captain Jamie Benn? Will Rich Peverley be able to play hockey again? Will Seguin continue to grow into the player that the Bruins always thought he could be?

Nashville Predators: Can things really be as bad as they were last season? Will Shea Weber and new coach Laviolette be able to right the ship back to playoff contention?

Winnipeg Jets: Will THIS be the year that the Jets skate their way to the playoffs? Will Evander Kane still be a Jet by season’s end? Will they finally solidify their goal-tending scenario?

Questions Facing the EASTERN CONFERENCE – ?

ATLANTIC DIVISION:

Boston Bruins: Two Stanley Cup appearances in four years, will the Bruins go for a third appearance this season? Will Tuuka Rask continue his rise in the crease? Will Chara find himself in Norris contention?

Tampa Bay Lightning: Now that Steven Stamkos is 100% healthy (after breaking his leg last season), will he find a way to lead the Bolts deep into June? How will the team respond in the first FULL season without Martin St.Louis? Will Ben Bishop build upon the success he had last season?

Montreal Canadiens: It’s no secret that Carey Price had a year to remember in 2014, will he be able to duplicate his success? Will PK Subban continue to frustrate the opposition and have another Norris year? Will they go all the way to bring Stanley Cup number 25 to Montreal?

Detroit Red Wings: Will the Red Wings find a way YET again to prove that age does NOT matter? With Pavel Datsyuk sidelined indefinitely, who will step up to provide some much needed clutch goals? Will Jimmy Howard prove himself yet again that he can be an elite goal-tender?

Ottawa Senators: Will Erik Karlsson as captain win the hearts of the city and rise to occasion or will he be run out of town? Newly signed Bobby Ryan has a lot to prove, can he find the game that made him successful in Anaheim and help Ottawa go deep?

Toronto Maple Leafs: Following a disappointing season in more ways than one, will THIS be the year that the Leafs FIND their x-factor? Will Dion Phaneuf find a way to lead his team back to playoff contention? Will Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul be able to re-capture their chemistry and stay HEALTHY all year?

Florida Panthers: With LOTS of moves in the off-season, including the signing of newly minted Captain Willie Mitchell, Florida is determined to become a contender. Will all of their moves help them to the playoffs OR backfire? Can Florida find that ingredient that they helped them get into the 2012 playoffs?

Buffalo Sabres: Will Buffalo become a contender once more after struggling in nearly every area the last few seasons? Will Cody Hodgson and Co. be able to turn the tables back to success? Will it be a veteran or a young gun that steps up surprising everyone?

METROPOLITAN DIVISION:

Pittsburgh Penguins: Can Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin find that magic ingredient once more pushing them all the way to June? Will a new coach and GM make a lasting impression on the roster? How will they fill the James Neal hole? 

New York Rangers: After an extensive playoff run all the way to the Finals, will the Rangers find their way back in contention this season? Will Rick Nash be a difference maker? Will Henrik Lundqvist be in Vezina finalist form?

Philadelphia Flyers: Will the Flyers struggle out of the gate like they did last year? Will they make a playoff push or be contenders all year long? Will Claude Giroux be a standout? Will Chris Pronger ever officially announce his retirement or is there still a flicker of hope to be held onto?

Columbus Blue Jackets: Can Bobrovsky continue to play as hard as he did last year? Will Scott Hartnell steal the hearts of fans and irritate the opposition like he did in Philly? Will there be back to back playoff appearances?

Washington Capitals: Can Ovechkin recapture the success he’s become accustomed to in this league AND help the Captials back into playoff contention?

New Jersey Devils: No Martin Brodeur and all the pressure in Jersey is now on the shoulders of Cory Schneider, will he rise to the occasion? Will the Devils find themselves being a contender? Will Mike Cammalleri find his niche once more and help spark the Devils lineup?

Carolina Hurricanes: Bad news bears in the injury department following their pre-season, who will step up with Jordan Staal(broken leg) and Jeff Skinner(concussion)? Can Carolina find a way to end their playoff drought? Will Cam Ward have a rebound year? 

New York Islanders: After having his season halted to a leg injury and now 100% healthy, will John Tavares find his way to the top of the leader board? Will the additions of Boychuk and Leddy be enough to solidify the Islanders blue line? Will Okposo have a break out season? Can the Islanders be a playoff contender?

Endless questions with answers still to be determined as the a new season is just beyond the bend. Inevitably, there are many more question that could be on this list and some of these questions will change as the season progresses. Every team has a clean slate and whatever follows the puck drop is up to them. In less than 24 hours, all across North America, the journey begins as the puck drops, goals are scored and saves are made.

Happy Hockey Season’s Eve!

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.