2013-2014 Season Debrief

It has been a few weeks since my last post but I’m back with a glimpse of what this last year held for the Vancouver Canucks. The 2013-2014 season is now wrapped for the Canucks and it featured a little of bit of everything from the good

to the bad. It will be an off-season full of questions, answers, changes and preparations for the new season around the corner. Today, we will debrief by taking a closer look at the bad and the good that made up the Canucks 2013-2014 season.

First let’s look at the not so good and follow it up with all of the good that did happen despite the final outcome.

The BAD:

November saw inconsistency that was not solved until December only to be broken apart by January with an unnatural influx of injuries.

The Canucks iron man, Henrik Sedin was injured not once BUT twice which delayed his 1000th game from being played prior to the Olympics in early February to March 12th vs Winnipeg. Have I mentioned that out of the probable injuries….NO ONE expected Henrik to be on that miss extended time list once let alone twice.

Andrew Alberts suffered a concussion late December in a game vs. Calgary where he was hit from behind into the boards. He never returned to the lineup and as of the end of the season was still suffering concussion symptoms. The league NEVER reviewed the hit or awarded any discipline for the hit that sideline Alberts for the season and the foreseeable future.

Mike Santorelli suffered a season ending should injury that took him out of the line up in January ending his Cinderella heroics for the home team.

Daniel Sedin was sidelined due to injuries more than once this year which only added to the team’s scoring woes in the second half of the year.

Alex Burrows suffered from multiple injuries(a broken foot, broken jaw, the list goes on!) that were only added to the frustration of not scoring goals.

Torts stormed the Calgary Flames dressing room following a first period brawl between the two teams. While I loved his intent to defend his players, he should not have gone anywhere near the visitor’s dressing room. The result was Torts being suspended for 6 games.

Zack Kassian struggled early in the year which was not helped by an 8-game suspension.

The Canucks lost the Heritage Classic. As a result of the controversial choice to start Eddie Lack over the Canucks franchise leading goalie Roberto Luongo were forced to hear the fans chant WE WANT LU! for a good 2-3 solid minutes midway through the game.

Following yet another season where things started off well but evolved to Luongo being relegated to the role of back up….finally saw the Canucks make the deal that could never be made. March 4, 2014 Roberto Luongo was traded to the Florida Panthers. Best of luck in Florida LU!

The panic that ensued on social media when a VANCOUVER reporter sent out a tweet that the Canucks had traded Ryan Kesler….(which thank goodness was shortly proven as false!)

Missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Following a disappointing year, Mike Gillis was relieved of both his General Manager and President duties. (Gillis worked with the Canucks since the end of the 2007-2008 season & NOT everything he did was terrible.)

In their final game of the season on home ice Daniel Sedin was hit from behind into the end boards by the Calgary Flames forward Paul Byron. Daniel Sedin collapsed, laid very still and was unable get up off the ice…cuing medical trainers and paramedics to bring a stretcher. Daniel was taken off the ice on a stretcher and straight to the hospital. Byron received a 5 minute penalty on the play which was deemed as ENOUGH discipline by the league. A very scary moment for Daniel, the team, and the fans and while it was later revealed that he would be okay…I’m sorry BUT ANY hit that SENDS A PLAYER off the ice on a stretcher and to the hospital SHOULD deem more than a quick review with NO supplemental discipline. Perhaps if it had been Crosby or Toews that had been taken off the ice on a stretcher, the league would have taken the incident more seriously. The NAME of a player and the LOGO of the team they play for SHOULD NOT matter when it comes to moments like that one…EVERY player should be held accountable. (*I apologize for the mild rant…but that HIT & its zero concern by the NHL really severely bothered me…)

The GOOD:

The Canucks had their best October in years including a 7-game road trip that saw them post a 5-1-1 record.

The announcement of the the Sedins re-signing with the Canucks for 4 more years. SO GLAD that the Sedins will be back in blue and green for four more years! No one set of brothers has quite displayed their quiet yet commanding professionalism both on and off the ice.

Pavel Bure’s #10 was FINALLY lifted to the rafters as his jersey was officially retired by the Vancouver Canucks on November 2, 2013. The team also beat the Maple Leafs 4-0 on home ice on the banner night, making the evening a WIN-WIN.

BC born and raised Mike Santorelli became an unexpected hero for the home fans as he seemed to always find a way to make the play that made a difference. Santo showed versatility by being useful no matter where he played in the line up and scoring many a clutch goal. Santo was on a roll as the NHL’s best steal prior to his injury with his low cap hit & absolute limitless work ethic.

December was a month when the team could do almost no wrong. They picked up points in all but one game. My FAVOURITE moment during December was the game versus the Bruins…the team was absolutely determined and took over the game after a timely time out by Torts early in the game.

Daniel Sedin and Alex Edler brought home silver medals from the Sochi 2014 Olympic games. Dan Hamhuis and Roberto Luongo brought home gold medals from the Sochi 2014 Olympic games.

The Canucks participated in their very first outdoor game experience when they hosted the Ottawa Senators at BC Place as part of the Stadium Series in the 2014 Tim Horton’s Heritage Classic.

Henrik Sedin played in his 1000th game both of his career and in a Canuck uniform. (March 12, 2014)

The 2014 Canucks for Kids Fund Telethon held on March 19th, raised over $500,000 to help kids in BC!

Shawn Matthias was acquired in the Roberto Luongo deal with the Florida Panthers. He showed some amazing skill and potential in the final stretch. He will be one to watch if he stays with the team next season!

Alex Burrows may not have found the back of the net as much as he would have liked (he did eventually break through with a few beauties!) but his game still had a lot of positives…he was purposeful in most areas of the ice and a large part of the team’s first half amazing PK unit!

Ryan Kesler score 20+ goals for the 6th time in his career.

Ryan Kesler setting the record straight that he didn’t ask for a trade and that he hopes to stay with the Canucks for the entirety of this career.

Zack Kassian became a beast hitting his groove in final part of the season despite the final outcome. He will be fun to watch next season!

Following the news of Mike Gillis being let go, the rumor mills were spinning that Trevor Linden was returning to the Canucks. Rumor became FACT on April 9, 2014. Trevor Linden returned to the team that drafted him and where he played 16 of 19 seasons when the Canucks named him, the new President of Hockey Operations.

The Canucks are not partaking in the post season but hey there is a silver lining in getting a top 10 draft pick! The Canucks will draft 6th overall in the 2014 NHL draft in June.

In CONCLUSION: So ends the tale that was the 2013-2014 Vancouver Canucks season. Yes, it was not perfect in any way shape or form and yes the end was disappointing but there is plenty to be excited about for the team’s future despite what most of the local media might say. The Canucks prospect pool with the likes of Frankie Corrado, Brendan Gaunce, Hunter Shinkaruk, Bo Horvat, Dane Fox, etc. is a very exciting group of players nearly ready to make their mark on the NHL.

The first half of the season expectations were very high and then came the injury brigade that took the team by storm. I cannot recall ANY season where a team was so overtaken by injuries throughout the year…it felt absolutely absurd at times. Sure nearly everything that could go wrong did and everyday felt like there was yet another injury or incident that affected the roster…but sometimes that is just how it goes. There will be bad seasons for every team just like every team will have great seasons, but not one season will ever be exactly the same.

Every season is an 82-game journey full of ups and downs, twists and bends…and sometimes if you’re lucky that journey extends into the post season but if it does not extend that does not change the thrill of the journey…it may be disappointing but it does not change my loyalty.

I would have loved to see my Canucks in the madness that is 2014 playoffs but I understand why that did not happen and I know that there is work to be done before the puck drops on the 2014-2015 season. Still even so I am optimistic for the off-season and upcoming season and mark my words they will make the post-season next year! (I know not everyone will agree that statement…but hey that’s okay, we don’t have to always agree. Let’s wait and see what happens come next April!)

OH and ONE LAST note before moving on…Eddie Lack never asked for the cards he was dealt. He never came in with the intent to steal Luongo’s spot and send him packing. Roberto Luongo was and is a player that Lack idolizes and was an incredible example of what being a professional both on and off the ice should look like. Goalies never get the credit or the respect they deserve in the NHL, particularly from the fans…especially when a season does not go according to plan. Vancouver fans have been very hard on their goalies…LOVING them when all goes well and absolutely tearing them down when things are wrong. Let me remind you, that while goalies will steal games for their teams…they do need a little help in the scoring department to win games as well. Lack had the weight of an entire city thrust upon his shoulders when Luongo was traded. It could not have been easy to see his mentor leave and suddenly all the pressure was on him. I remind that you LU advised us(the city) to take care of Eddie during his tenure! He deserves a chance to prove himself and wouldn’t it be something to see this city show their support for their goalie from the very beginning? Eddie Lack is a star in the making and will make his mark yet on this team…all we need to do moving forward is support him and allow him the chance.

Looking ahead there will be questions that will need addressing during the off-season and come October.

QUESTIONS:

Who will be the Canucks select with their 6th overall draft pick? Draisaitl? Ehlers? Nylander? Virtanen? Ritchie?

Will the team be able find a way to come together as a cohesive unit for the 2014-2015 season?

Will Torts return as coach for a second season or will he be let go as the team brings in a new voice? (Honestly I don’t quite think it fair to judge Torts one year where nearly everything that could go wrong did….I’d like to see him have a second chance to prove what he can do when he has a nearly 100% healthy roster!)

Will Trevor Linden be able to find a way to bring the team together with the right combination of current players, new players, coaching staff? Can he complete the puzzle?

Who will be named as the Canucks new General Manager? (Lots of names being thrown around from current assistant GM Gilman, to Benning to former players. Linden said there WILL be a GM in place prior to the draft at the end of June.)

What moves will be made in the 2014 off-season that will impact the team in the new season?

What will the final roster look like at the start of the 2014-2015 NHL season?

The above questions are merely just a few of MANY questions that I have seen and heard since the season came to a close. It will be a long off-season for the team, but it will also be an opportunity for them to comeback EVEN stronger and MORE determined come September. None of them were happy with the ending and all of them expressed a desire to come back and prove that sentiment when they return for the new season.

Are you ready for a wild ride Canuck nation? It is not going to be a quiet summer by any means as the team looks to find the missing piece(s) of the puzzle prior to the puck drop on the 2014-2015 season..

In the mean time are you all enjoying the madness that has been the 2014 NHL playoffs so far?

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

 

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Surprise, surprise…

Today I share with you my loyal readers, a hockey experience that took me completely by surprise in the best possible way.

I never win contests…ever. I have entered many contests for the chance to win hockey tickets. Did I mention I NEVER win contests [especially never when it comes to contests that involve social media]? Have you ever entered a contest through social media (Facebook/Twitter) where the winner is randomly selected? I am never so lucky to be that randomly selected person…Ever. Surprise, surprise. That is until Monday March 17, 2014 when I received a notification on my twitter account announcing that I had won the Canucks for Kids Telethon panel contest. Winning the contest meant I would be allowed the privilege of participating on the telethon panel pre-game and two tickets to watch the game from the press box on Wednesday March 19! Great news to receive on a Monday afternoon, I’d say wouldn’t you?

Every year the Vancouver Canucks host the Canucks for Kids Fund Telethon. The money raised through the Canucks for Kids Fund goes to helping many BC children’s lives better every day:

“The Canucks for Kids Fund dedicates resources to assist charities which support children’s health and wellness, foster the development of grassroots hockey, and facilitate and encourage education in British Columbia. Thanks to the generosity of our fans, donors, players, employees and sponsor partners, the Canucks for Kids Fund (CFKF) has granted more than $41 million to charities in British Columbia over the last 27 years. The Canucks for Kids Fund raises awareness and funds through several charitable initiatives including: Canucks for Kids Fund 50/50, Canucks for Kids Fund Dice & Ice Benefit presented by HSBC, Canucks for Kids Fund Superskills powered by Rogers and the Canucks for Kids Fund Telethon presented by Chevrolet. The Canucks for Kids Fund also raises funds through partnerships with Special Olympics BC’s Sports Celebrities Festival and the Vancouver Sun’s Raise a Reader Day. Our core beneficiaries, Canucks Autism Network (CAN), Canuck Place Children’s Hospice and BC Children’s Hospital Foundation are providing vital resources and life-saving care to families all across this province.” [The Official Canucks For Kids Fund description from the Vancouver Canucks website].

Every year the #CFKFtelethon is usually around my birthday-(March 14) and every year I make a donation and this year was no different in that regard. The only difference this year was thanks to the aforementioned contest, I got to be a part of the telethon panel prior to the game.

First things first…I had to choose someone to take with me to the game. Let me tell you, there are A LOT of contenders for such a moment. In the end it became a simple task…bring the one person who loves hockey and the Canucks as much as or possibly even more than I do….my mom. No one quite understands how much I love this crazy game of hockey or how this game can completely captivate a person quite like my mother.

Hockey is more than just game, it is a bonding experience between: fathers and sons, mothers and daughters & everyone in between.

Hockey is more than just game, it is a bonding experience between: fathers and sons, mothers and daughters & everyone in between. This particular evening would be a mother/daughter experience.

First things first we had to enter through Gate 9 (which is more tricky than it sounds with all of the construction around the arena!) to pick up our VIP passes that would give us access to level 500. Next up we made our way to the Telethon set so I could get my final instructions as to what being a part of the panel meant.

Welcome to the 2014 Canucks For Kids Fund Telethon!

Welcome to the 2014 Canucks For Kids Fund Telethon!

Walking onto the set was a very wow moment, the experience was suddenly very real. The set was just outside of section 121 on the 100 level concourse of Rogers Arena. Fans were coming and going all taking in the set and those who were on the set as they made their way to their respective seats. The phones, surveys, and donation forms were all lined up along the table with each volunteer’s name card in place. All panelists were to be there seats by 6:40 PM (PT) as the Telethon was set to go live at 6:45 PM (PT). Let me just say it was quite something to see the all-star line-up for the Telethon take their places on the set. Canucks from the past, present and future all took their places…and then there was me somehow also a part of the mix!

All I could think of as I took my seat on set was, how did I get so lucky as to get to be a part of this amazing moment?!

Look at that...my very own SPOT on the panel! Right between #Captain Kirk & Victor De Bonis!

Look at that…my very own SPOT on the panel! Right between #Captain Kirk & Victor De Bonis. No words.

Forever a Canuck himself, Trevor Linden was our host. Notable Canuck names on the panel included: Kirk McLean, Daniel Sedin and his wife Marinette, Hunter Shinkaruk, Sarah Hamhuis, Stan Smyl and more. Did I mention I had the privilege of sitting NEXT to Kirk McLean?! How often can one Canuck fan say they are in the presence of so many Canuck personnel?! To say I was slightly star struck and completely in awe of everyone and the scope of the moment, is more than fair. There I was suddenly surrounded by so many amazing people gathered together for an amazing cause.

Deep breaths, this was real. This was happening and this was my reality during the telethon. Star power everywhere you turned. The countdown began and suddenly we were live, phones started ringing, calls and pledges were made. Donors around the globe made a difference for BC kids. My shift on the panel went by both very quickly and slowly. There were moments when it felt like it was speeding by and others when it felt like each moment was slowed frame by frame. Did I mention how amazingly welcoming and kind Kirk McLean [and everyone else] was?! I am still taking in the fact that all of these moments from being part of the panel to meeting Kirk McLean really happened. It was a pretty big deal for this Canucklehead! As much I wish I had the time to take a picture or two to capture the reality that I met all of these people…once the Telethon went LIVE, there was ZERO time to stop for picture taking.

Following a moment that I will never forget...I tweeted my thanks to those involved & received this more than kind response from #CaptainKirk himself!

Following an experience on the panel that I will never forget…I tweeted my thanks to those involved & received this more than kind response from #CaptainKirk himself!

Calls were made and pledges recorded, and suddenly before I knew it, my shift on the panel was over. I was ushered with my mom from the elevator to the 500 level to our box seats to watch our Canucks take on the Nashville Predators. The very idea of sitting in box seats was an absolute treat and delight for these two Canuck fans who on a regular day would never be able to afford such a luxury. A view from the top that will forever be appreciated and will make going back to regular viewing only ever so slightly difficult.

    Two of the biggest #canuckleheads there are & we were more than ready for this game! #MotherDaughter

Two of the biggest #canuckleheads there are settled in with an incredible view & we were more than ready for this game! #MotherDaughter

The view from the box was beyond amazing. It felt like we were living the luxurious life for the evening. My mom and I are not used to seeing the game with a completed unobstructed view when watching the game live from the arena because inevitably when sitting in the lower or even the upper bowl someone taller sits right in front of us. This amazing view and experience will not long be forgotten.

Just to the left of our box was this #Canuck banner

Just to the right of our box was this #Canuck banner

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The on-ice pre-game intro was incredible to full-lentgh view from so high up!

Rink wide view of some early first period action!

Rink wide view of some early first period action!

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A quick snapshot of a 2nd period faceoff. The middle frame saw some of the game’s best chances by the home team.

The Canucks had SO many chances in the 2nd period and it seemed as though all puck luck was against them…and a late penalty in the middle frame seemed to confirm that bad luck. Cue a must win third period….and some heroics by rookie Jensen and a certain defense-man.

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After feeling like a goal wouldn’t come until overtime FINALLY a goal after 46 minutes!! That Niklas Jensen has been a force since joining the team! (3 goals in 4 games!)

Before the announcer could even finish announcing the Nashville penalty he interrupted his own announcement with SCORES!!!!!!!!!!!!! as Edler scored the insurance goal needed in this game.

Before the announcer could even finish announcing the Nashville penalty he interrupted his own announcement with SCORES!!!!!!!!!!!!! as Edler scored the insurance goal needed in this game.

The Canucks and 2-0 leads have not fared well as of late as we are all to well aware and the question many were asking is: would they be able to hold onto the lead in regulation? Nashville had plenty of opportunity late in 3rd period with back to back power-plays in the final 5 minutes to comeback and force extra time. The good news is that Eddie Lack stood tall and the defense held the fort not allowing even one puck to cross Lack’s goal line. While the clock ticked away, the arena erupted in an EDDIE, EDDIE, EDDIE chant! Canucks won 2-0 in front of a delighted home crowd. Lack picked up his 4th career shutout and stole a very important 2 points for the Canucks as they finished the night perfect in the special teams department killing their 4 penalties and scoring 4 seconds into their single power-play opportunity.

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It was a WIN, WIN, WIN!

It was a victory for the home team on the ice as well a winning effort with the telethon. The #CFKFtelethon raised over $500,000 during the live telethon and are still taking donations online if you missed out, just click the link below(any amount WILL help to change the lives of kids in need):

[Canucks for Kids Fund online donation form]

The whole experience felt completely surreal. From literally being a part of the panel with some of the best of the past, present and future Canucks to having the press box view; it most definitely was an evening that I will never forget. I cannot thank the Canucks for Kids Fund and the Vancouver Canucks enough for this amazing experience and allowing me a glimpse behind the scenes. Thank-you does not seem enough for an organization that does so much for this province, but a most sincere thank-you I extend all the same. Thank-you for an incredible experience from start to finish and an evening that I will never forget.

Bonus stat of the night: It was an evening that I didn’t think could be improved upon in any possible way…that is until I looked closer at the #GameDay program that was handed out to all the fans attending the game. Under the section where they made note of Henrik’s 1000th game being celebrated and asked for fans to submit their favourite #33 memories for the chance to be included in the program…there were two featured fan tweets and one of them was MINE!:

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Yep…that is ME(@nucksaid) in the #GameDay program! What are the odds that the same game I was lucky enough to attend in style would also be the game that featured ME in the #gameday program!

I will leave you with one last picture from the game’s finish:

I present to you the #LACKstrom dance!

I present to you the #LACKstrom dance – featuring the star of the game Eddie Lack and his trusty back up Jacob Markstrom.

It was truly an experience that any Canucks fan would have been lucky to have and I will never forget a minute of it. Every moment is forever etched in my memory. Thank-you again to all who were a part of giving my mom and I an evening that we will never forget (a home win from the Canucks was just icing on the cake!).

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

Roberto Luongo Deserves Better (Part TWO)

In the summer of 2012 I was forced to confront the idea that my favourite Canuck, Roberto Luongo would be traded as all of the drama with Schneider had evolved and it led to this writing this post that August:

https://nucksaid.wordpress.com/2012/08/19/roberto-deserves-better-from-you-vancouver-you-should-give-him-the-respect-hes-earned/

Today I am forced to confront the reality that Roberto Luongo has indeed been traded and being led to write yet another post about the respect that he deserved and still deserves.

THANK-YOU LU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

THANK-YOU LU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The writing has been on the wall but that does not mean I am not sad about the outcome. My heart slightly broke when the news was revealed but I am glad for Luongo that he gets a fresh start. Vancouver did not appreciate what they had in Luongo or respect him particularly well in the last three years. From many of the fans to the local media, it somehow became lost just how much Luongo has done for the Canucks franchise and somewhere along the way this city decided that they no longer supported LU.

How could everyone forget what Luongo did for this team? Shall I remind you? 6 division championships(6 playoff berths), 2 President trophies, 1 Western Conference Championship, 1 Stanley Cup Final appearance (all the way to game 7!), oh and did I mention his 2 Olympic GOLD medals?! In 439 regular season games with the Canucks Luongo posted a 252-137-50 record while posting 38 shut outs. He is the franchise leading goal-tender in wins and shutouts and will go down in history as one of the BEST Canucks players of all time.

No matter what the media would write or dictate the fans to think, Roberto always found a way to put his best game on the ice. When he was winning this city loved him and erupted in endless LUUUUUU cheers…but if he lost or let in a bad goal the love turned to taunting and saying things like he was not dependable. His ability to win big games came into question until the 2010 Olympics came calling in his very own Canuck rink. Think back to overtime in the gold medal game…LU makes a big save, Sid scores the BIGGEST goal of the tournament and the LU and Crosby cheers that erupted in the arena were deafening.

CROSBY SCORES!!!!!!!!!!!!! CANADA WINS GOLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

CROSBY SCORES!!!!!!!!!!!!! CANADA WINS GOLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The season that followed the gold medal season…the 2010-2011 season was magical and nearly perfection with the exception of the final game of the Stanley Cup final. It was the most thrilling ride that any Canucks team has taken the city on since the spring of 1994 and Roberto Luongo was at the center of it all. It was incredible to watch as it happened…but in the aftermath of game 7,  all eyes of the media placed the blame not so much on the team as a whole but on one individual…Luongo took it all. Hate to break to everyone but as much as you need saves from your goalie which they did get…you also need goals from the team in front of you which they did not get in that last game.

It was not the perfect storybook ending that we had all hoped for…but it was an incredible run. The following season Luongo and the team repeated as President Trophy winners BUT instead of an incredible run were met with an upset from the LA Kings in the first round. It was the end of that series when the team chose to start Cory Schneider for the final three games that the writing seemed to be on the wall that the end was not only near but was here for Luongo. The hints had started to come earlier than the playoffs when the crowd jeered Luongo more than once at home in favour of Schneider.

The summer began with Luongo being willing to waive his no-trade-clause and Schneider being re-signed to a 3-year contract. It seemed very clear the direction that was going to be taken…and then the 2012 lockout happened putting everything on hold. No one knew if there would even be a season. The powers that be between the NHL and the NHLPA finally came to an agreement that saw a shortened 48-game regular season begin in late January 2013. The season started with the rotation of Schneider and Luongo and AV’s infamous coin…but eventually it became the Schneider team and Luongo seemed once again to be on his way out. The trade deadline came and went…the season once again ended with an early exit and no change had come.

Luongo expected that he would not be returning to the Canucks and a trade seemed inevitable with Scheider in prime position again. The draft came and a trade finally happened…but it was not Luongo that was traded…Schneider was sent to the New Jersey Devils. The end of the saga seemed to have arrived. Fast forward to this season…Lack signed on to backup Luongo. Both goalies had some great moments…and all seemed fine…until Luongo was injured not once but twice and Lack was put in the spotlight. That spotlight around Lack started to get bigger (not of his own choosing) and Luongo unbeknownst to himself was slowly being forced back into the corner he previously shared with Schneider.

That corner became ever more evident when it was revealed that Lack would be starting in the Heritage Classic game over the franchise goalie Luongo. Fans while they support Lack, were disappointed in the mistreatment of Luongo who more than deserved to play in that game. I love Eddie Lack and his playing style and he has been the absolute epitome of support and class to the team, fans and Luongo. He did not ask for the game…all he did was play when told and was forced to face the fans first dislike of him in the net…during the Heritage Classic as the entire arena chanted WE WANT LU. That was the end of the line. Fast forward to two days later and the trade that everyone had expected for nearly three years finally happened. Roberto Luongo was traded to the Florida Panthers in exchange for goalie Jacob Markstrom & forward Shawn Matthias.

Yes it was a trade that we all expected to happen at some point but that does not mean it does not make me sad. It is the end of an era. Luongo did a lot  of good for this franchise but was never properly appreciated by this city or the fans. Luongo deserved better and I hope that in Florida, he gets the respect that he has always deserved. All the good things he did, seemed to have been forgotten by many in all the drama that unfolded in the last few years. Roberto Luongo deserved better in Vancouver and he definitely still deserves better from this city. He has more than earned the respect of his peers and fans for everything he did for the Canucks franchise. All I can say is thank-you, to Roberto Luongo for an incredible 8 seasons and being the epitome of class through the good times and the bad. Thank-you also for helping me love this crazy game called hockey even more than I already did. I will still cheer LUUUUUUUU every single time Florida plays and #1 is between the pipes. You will be missed in Vancouver, but you deserve a fresh start. All the best to #1 as he begins a new chapter with the Panthers.

THANK-YOU LU for 8 amazing years and giving this city 8 years of incredible memories.  #LUUUUUUUUUUUU

THANK-YOU LU for 8 amazing years and giving this city 8 seasons of incredible memories. #LUUUUUUUUUUUU

Here’s a few tributes to my favourite former Canuck:

I will also miss Lu’s hilarious sense of humour:

One last note. In his leave, Luongo advised to Vancouver to take care of Eddie Lack and I hope that this city actually listens. Lack like Luongo, deserves respect. Lack had the utmost respect for Luongo. It has not been an easy few days for Eddie as he never expected this moment and it must have been one heck of a shock to see his mentor sent to Florida. The weight of an entire city is now on Lack’s shoulders…that is an insane amount of pressure in his rookie season. I suggest, that we take Luongo’s advice from the very beginning of Eddie’s tenure by supporting our goalie in way that this city never has before. It sounds like a refreshing approach no?

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

Sochi Chronicles: Part ONE

The 22nd Winter Games: SOCHI 2014

The SOCHI Chronicles 2014

Some people love events like the Olympics and others don’t care…I love the the Winter Olympics. Those of us who love the games have favourite events. My favourite events are: HOCKEY[big shocker there right?], the moguls event in skiing, ice dance and the half-pipe snow-boarding event. As we all know the NHL is on a break for the next few weeks and during that time my blog will be taking a closer look at the Olympics. Worry not, we shall return to the regularly scheduled NHL posts when the Olympics come to an end BUT in the meantime its going to be Olympic focus.

First impressions change the way we perceive people and events. There has been a lot of drama surrounding the 2014 Olympics from the terrorist threats, to interesting hotel accommodations that suggested that perhaps Sochi was not yet ready for the Winter games. Throw all the drama out the window…the torch was lit and the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter games have begun!

As is the case with all of the Olympics the world was treated to an opening ceremony which paid tribute to the host country. In true Olympic fashion it was quite a spectacle showcasing Russia’s history. When Vancouver hosted the games in 2010, it was absolute magic took over the city and the same seems to have happened to Sochi. The opening ceremony was just the beginning of the adventure that will be the 22nd Winter Games. Athletes from all over the world have arrived and are prepared compete for the gold, silver and bronze medals.

Let the GAMES BEGIN! In 2010, it took a few days for Canada to get on the podium but they finished by picking up 26 medals including 14 GOLD medals. How would that total compare to their 2014 endeavor?

It didn’t take very long this time around for Canada to set its mark on the Sochi podium. The first day finished with Mark McMorris picking up Canada’s FIRST medal of the games in the SLOPE-STYLE SNOWBOARDING event DESPITE having a broken rib.

After his triumph, McMorris had this to say: “To get on the podium is just a dream come true. I can’t explain this. I’ve just been through a roller coaster over these last few weeks.”

Mark McMorris celebrating his BRONZE medal performance in the Slope Style event.

Mark McMorris celebrating his BRONZE medal performance in the Slope Style event.

Congratulations to #McRIB for owning the podium!

Make room on that Podium McMorris, you’ve got company!

The Women’s Moguls event was the very event that started the medal magic in Vancouver. This year 2 Canadians made it into the final 6 to contend for the medals…the Dufour-Lapointe sisters Chloe and Justine along with the heavily favoured USA’s Hannah Kearney. The Dufour-Lapointe sisters had been consistent all day long on the moguls and gave their VERY best in their final run of the day.

Justine said that she was going to roar and roar she did with her performance that gave her the number one ranking and her sister was not far behind as Chloe earned the number two spot.

1-2 punch or the double double effect! Chloe & Justine moments after they solidified their SILVER & GOLD moments.

1-2 punch or the double double effect! Chloe & Justine moments after they solidified their SILVER & GOLD performances.

Dufour-LapointeMedals

Celebrating their GOLD & SILVER Mogul Magic with their OLYMPIC MEDALS!

“I had this fighter inside of me, and I thought, ‘You’re a fighter, you’re a tiger.… This is my moment. This is my day. And I will own that moment for myself and I will ski for myself.’ This is what I said going down.” -Olympic Moguls GOLD Medalist, Justine Dufour-Lapointe

Congratulations Justine & Chloe on your incredible feat!

For the first time the Olympics have implemented a TEAM figure skating event. Each country would have ONE competitor in each discipline of the sport. Representing Canada in the TEAM event included: Patrick Chan, Kevin Reynolds, Kaetlyn Osmond, Meagan Duhamel, Eric Radford, Kirsten Moore-Tower, Dylan Moscovitch, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

Canada earned the SILVER medal in the inaugural Olympic team Figure Skating event.

Canada earned the SILVER medal in the inaugural Olympic team Figure Skating event.

Congratulations to all the skaters and best of luck to all of them as they look for success in their individual disciplines.

Charles Hamelin won two golds in the 2010 games but his start in Vancouver was not what he hoped for and he looked to improve upon that in Sochi. Improve he did in his opening event of the games: the short track 1500m speed skating event. In 2010 he finished 7th overall in the 1500m BUT this time he made his mark with a FIRST place finish!

Charles Hamelin started in the lead and finished in the LEAD to win GOLD.

Charles Hamelin started in the lead and finished in the LEAD to win GOLD in the short track 1500m speed skating event.

Congratulations Charles on your first medal of the games and best of luck in your final three events!

The Men’s Moguls event came with high expectations: Alexandre Bilodeau came into the 2014 Olympic games ready to defend his 2010 title…would he be the FIRST male to WIN back to back titles? Would there be more than ONE Canadian to land on the podium? 3 Canadians made it into the final 6 to compete for the medals. Alex Bilodeau had struggled in one of the earlier rounds BUT his FINAL run was absolute PERFECTION:

Would that perfect run BE enough to secure his 2nd GOLD medal in the moguls? His teammates both had individually great final runs as well BUT neither were able to catch Alex. Mikael Kingsbury secured the SILVER medal while Marc-Antoine Gagnon finished in 4th [nearly had the 3rd spot].

For the second time at the 2014 Olympic Games, Canada finished in the top two spots in the MOGULS competition.

Ki

Kingsbury & Bilodeau celebrating their SILVER & GOLD medal victories in the MOGULS! #MogulsMoguls #OneTwoPunch #DoubleDouble

After Bilodeau completed the feat of winning back to back GOLD medals in the MOGULS, he had nothing but praise for his competitor, Kingsbury. -“It’s a great feeling, but I need to first of all thank all my colleagues, I was the third to go, there were two other Canadians after me, every day they push me in training and that’s why I got my best skiing tonight. That’s why I’m the best skier I have ever been right now and the guy that finished second, he is going to win everything after I have gone.”

Alex Bilodeau celebrating his GOLD medal performance with his biggest hero & supporter, his brother Frederic.

Alex Bilodeau celebrating his GOLD medal performance with his biggest hero & supporter, his brother Frederic.

His brother Frederic means everything to him. “It was amazing. My brother is my everyday inspiration. Like I say all the time, if he had the life that I have lived he would be a three-time Olympic champion.” -TWO TIME MOGULS GOLD Medalist, Alex Bilodeau

Canada’s Medal Count [As of February 10th, 2014]- 7 MEDALS: 3 GOLD, 3 SILVER, and 1 BRONZE.

The Women’s Hockey Team is undefeated in their first two preliminary games and will take on the USA team in their third game of the preliminary round robin. As it always is between these two, it’s going to be one heck of a match up and both teams will put their best game on the ice. This game will act as a potential preview of a gold medal show down and BOTH will want the final score to be their own victory. Look out for Finland and Russia, though as BOTH are playing some great hockey and look to challenge the juggernauts of Canada and the USA teams.

The Men’s Hockey preliminary games will begin later this week giving everyone a better idea of how each team stacks up against each other and how the NHL players will impact their respective teams.

Look out folks because we are in for TWO great hockey tournaments featuring some of the best players (men & women) to ever play the game.

The games have JUST begun and there is a lot of joy and heartbreak yet to come as the games continue to unfold. History will be made with each feat that is accomplished by each nation.

As always until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

OLYMPIC DREAMING…

The Olympics are drawing ever closer every day as athletes are announced for their respective teams and sports…BUT none cause the endless debates like that of the hockey rosters.

Will they or won’t they announce the players who SHOULD be locks or who we deem has earned a spot? Will the rosters reflect the best players in the NHL given that the players were officially given permission to partake in the games if they were called upon by their countries? Will there be standout players from other leagues? Will some players that “should have been” named to the Olympic rosters be left off?

In answer to all of the above questions: YES, YES, YES and YES. The NHL is full of talent from all around the globe AND every roster has been debated ad nauseum from the moment the 2014 Olympics were on the horizon, and will continued to be debated until the final buzzer of the gold medal game [and probably beyond as the 2018 games sneak up on us and everyone will have opinion how to improve the rosters that were named for the impending games in February].

The Canucks will be sending 7 regulars from their lineup to the Sochi 2014 Winter Games in February. For these 7 Canucks [& many other players league wide], the Olympic dream is becoming a reality when they put their country pride on the line.

ROBERTO LUONGO & DAN HAMHUIS will both be sporting the maple leaf in red & white when they represent CANADA at the 2014 SOCHI games in February.

ROBERTO LUONGO & DAN HAMHUIS will both be sporting the maple leaf in red & white when they represent CANADA at the 2014 SOCHI games in February.

Roberto Luongo being named to Team Canada should come as no surprise to anyone, he has international experience AND he was after all a BIG part of 2010 GOLD MEDAL team. For all the critics out there, let’s take a closer look at Roberto’s resume in the last four years.

Going back to the start of the 2010-2011 season Roberto Luongo has posted a very respectable 94-45-24 overall record and 14 shutouts in 163 games played.

2010-2011: 38-15-7. *4 shutouts. *0.928 SV %. *2.11 GAA. [Career best numbers]

2011-2012: 31-14-8. *5 shutouts. *0.919 SV%. *2.41 GAA.

2012-2013:    9-6-3.  *2 shutouts. *0.907 SV%. *2.56 GAA.

2013-2014: 16-10-6. *3 shutouts. *0.922 SV%  *2.22 GAA. ***We’ve only just passed the 1/2 mark & Luongo could still catch his career best numbers in SV% & GAA that he posted in the 2010-2011 season! 

It’s hard to believe that despite all the drama that Luongo has endured, his consistency has hardly wavered in his on ice play. People didn’t think that he’d be a game changer in the 2010 games but I remind you of his SAVE on Demitra in the last minute of the Slovakia game that secured Canada’s place in the GOLD medal game…that my friends was a game changer…that stop was the difference between bronze and gold qualification. Playing in the Olympics will only serve to raise Luongo’s game to another level.

Dan Hamhuis will be representing Canada and perhaps that surprise a lot of people yes? True Hamhuis struggled to start the season and it wasn’t always pretty to watch BUT in the last 6 weeks with the injuries piling up on the back end, Hamhuis has been called upon to help solidify the blueline [he leads the team in the +/- category with +12! That’s impressive considering that Edler who has only played 27 games mind you, is at -12].

Most people tend to forget that he represented Canada in the 2013 World Championship and played impeccably well defensively on the same BIG ice that will be required in the SOCHI games. His experience on the big ice will only serve to help Hamhuis thrive on the Olympic stage. The Olympics are going to be a great experience for Hamhuis to learn from moving forward.

Ryan Kesler will represent the USA in the 2014 SOCHI Winter Games in February!

Ryan Kesler will represent the USA in the 2014 SOCHI Winter Games in February!

Ryan Kesler has had an interesting 4 years since his 2010 silver medal performance to say the least! He started on a high posting career highs and winning the 2011 Selke trophy before being dogged by injuries 2 years in a row before finally being able to play 100% healthy as this current season began. In the last 4 years, Kesler has accumulated 164 points [84 goals, 86 assists] in 221 games played.

He seems to have rediscovered his determination that he lost when he was overcome with the injury bug.Torts has a lot to do with Kesler finding his game again. When Ryan Kesler in 100% healthy he is almost always a game changer on your roster. He will be an asset to team USA.

Alexander Edler, Henrik and Daniel Sedin will represent Sweden at the 2014 SOCHI Winter Games in February.

Alexander Edler, Henrik and Daniel Sedin will represent Sweden at the 2014 SOCHI Winter Games in February.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin will be representing Sweden at the Olympics for the 3rd time when they go Sochi. They come to the team with an incredible amount of experience both in the NHL and on the international stage. In the spring of 2013 they won the GOLD medal at the World Championship. In the last 4 years the Sedins have combined for 508 points [149 goals, 359 assists], back to back Art Ross Trophies, 1 Ted Lindsay award, 1 Hart trophy and mesmerizing the league with their ridiculous chemistry that Canucks fans are lucky to watch every night. The Sedins will be able to utilize their sedinery ways with the assistance of the likes of Zetterberg and Kronwall!

Alexander Edler will also be representing Sweden as he makes his Olympic debut [Edler was also a part of the 2013 GOLD medal World Championship team]. Edler when 100% healthy which he will be prior to the Olympics, is an asset to the blueline from his shot blocking, big hits, defensive play and timely scoring [& oh yes he can score in the shootout!].

All three of these players will be an asset to team Sweden in Sochi as they look to find the formula that made the team successful in Turin.

Yannick Weber will  represent Switzerland at the 2014 SOCHI Winter Games in February.

Yannick Weber will represent Switzerland at the 2014 SOCHI Winter Games in February.

Yannick Weber perhaps does not have the most NHL experience BUT he will be representing Switzerland for the SECOND time as he debuted with his home country in the 2010 Olympics. Weber has been very solid for the Canucks since being recalled from the farm team [due to the injury bug that hit the defense!]. His shot from the point can be lethal when unleashed.

Olympic dreaming…will soon be reality for Roberto Luongo, Dan Hamhuis, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Alexander Edler and Yannick Weber. The 2014 Sochi Winter Games are drawing near and will draw the attention of the world as we all hold our collective breath waiting for the puck to drop. Every country will be vying for gold BUT only ONE can walk away with coveted prize of hockey gold.

Are you ready?

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

December 2 Remember

Happy New Year hockey fans!

While we will all be keeping our eyes on the 2014 Winter Classic and the announcement of the USA Olympic hockey roster[Congratulations Ryan Kesler!], I will be taking a closer look at the December that was for the Canucks. Spoiler alert: it was fantastic!

November was NOT a good month for the Canucks as they could not solve the riddle of how to win back to back games no matter how good they played. November was the month they survived and December was the month they thrived.

In December the team posted an impressive 10-1-2 record picking up 22/26 points.December wasn’t exactly easy either as the team lost Burrows, Sestito, Edler, Stanton, Luongo and Alberts to various injuries throughout the month. Sestito is the only one to return to the line up so far.

Coming into December the Canucks had not posted back to back wins since October…which sounds pretty unbelievable YET it is very true. They knew they had to be better from top to bottom and it would require everyone to step up. Points are vital to divisional standings and the wildcard spots…and while they have not yet caught the leading Anaheim Ducks, they have closed the gap between themselves and LA and San Jose as they have stacked up some points.

Step up indeed they did. They opened December with 7 straight, yes you read that right…7 straight WINS including 5 straight at home and points in 8 straight over all.

During that 7-game win streak there were some stand out performances from a few players in particular. The line of Higgins-Kesler-Santorelli showcased some fantastic chemistry while the goal-tenders each posted shutouts.

The month opened with Ryan Kesler leading the charge with back to back 2-goal game performances against Carolina and Nashville.

The Canucks saw their 2-goal lead disappear very quickly when Carolina scored twice in 10 seconds early in the middle frame to tie the game. The team could have easily buckled in that moment BUT instead Ryan Kesler was quick to take back the lead for the Canucks.

Kesler put on a show in the third period against Nashville and made absolutely certain the team took two points home.

Phoenix came calling and the Canucks were trying to catch them in the division standings as the gap between the two was closing.

Now this game would end up going to overtime before the Canucks eventually won BUT this goal from Henrik is just ridiculous:

After Phoenix came the young Colorado Avalanche who have been aptly coached by the ever colorful Patrick Roy. The Canucks were in complete control of this game from the puck drop however as the Higgins-Kesler-Santorelli line took care of the offense while Luongo stood on his head to lead the team to a 3-1 victory.

The stand out in this game aside from Luongo’s stellar goal-tending was Mike Santorelli who has quickly become a fan favourite as he has been easily one of the most consistent players all season long.

Did I mention the BIG wins against Boston and Chicago? The atmosphere in Rogers Arena during the Boston game was electric, as loud as a playoff game. It was the first time the Bruins have played in Vancouver since June 15, 2011 and the while the stakes were not high, both teams wanted this victory. Both the Canucks and the fans were ready for this game…and the fans made sure to be heard all game long. Did I mention the unconventional time out called by Torts early in the 2nd period that turned the tide back to the Canucks and they never looked back.

Canucks went into the madhouse following a disappointing game in Dallas [their ONLY regulation loss in the month] and did not have the start they hoped for as the Blackhawks took a 2-0 lead. Cue the comeback kids…Daniel Sedin tied the game midway through the third period forcing this game to go to extra time. Over time did not solve the game although Santorelli came awfully close to tying the game with the clock winding down. Eddie Lack took part in his first NHL shootout…an 8 round shoot out in the mad house…and came out on the winning side stopping the likes of Kane, Toews & Hossa!

Have I mentioned the injury bug that bit the team in the very first game by taking away Burrows with a broken jaw. Alex Edler and Ryan Stanton were soon to follow…and left our defense seriously drained. Luongo’s injury came in late in the month against Winnipeg and was determined to be day-to-day and left Eddie Lack with the reigns to manage until such time that Luongo returns to the lineup. Lack has been more than capable in helping this team close out the month 2-0-1 picking up 5/6 points including posting his 2nd NHL shutout in his career and in the month. The latest injury came as the month drew to a close to Andrew Alberts, who suffered a concussion after taking a hit from Brian McGrattan early in the game against Calgary.

The injury bug hits every team (just look at Pittsburgh!) and if they want to have success they have to find ways to win despite missing key pieces. Injuries while frustrating, allow an opportunity for other players to step into a bigger role and bigger minutes as they help the team move forward. December is a month in which not every win was pretty but the team has had to redefine the ways in which they have won while different role players have stepped up as hero.

Torts has made it clear since day one that shot blocking and special teams would be vital to his team’s success. Special teams will be key as they always are moving forward and the Canucks will look to keep improving their power play and penalty kill teams. Shot blocking is expected of each and every player in every situation [5-on-5, 5-on-4 or 5-on-3]. If I have mentioned their power play once, I’ve mentioned it 100 times…it is no secret they struggled with the man advantage early but it has most definitely improved as of late [6 power play goals in their first 20 games, 13 PPG in their last 21 games]. Special teams may not win you every game BUT success long term is much easier attained when your special teams are successful. The Canucks have relied heavily on their strong penalty kill and slowly their power play is catching up as December closed and the season progresses. **Did I mention they have the league’s number ONE ranked penalty kill?

It truly was a December to remember,

As 2014 begins, January will see the return of Luongo, Burrows and potentially Edler. There is no sense in rushing Luongo with Lack’s steady play, but the belief is that Luongo will be back in the lineup by the weekend road trip in California. Alex Burrows will be a spark plug as he always is when he is in the lineup when he makes his comeback. Burrows does more than just score goals, he does all the little things and is a huge asset to our penalty kill unit. Alex Edler will be a welcome addition back to the backend as the defense has taken a few hits thanks to various injuries. Lucky for the Canucks, they have been able to rely on Hamhuis and some unexpected depth but they will gladly welcome back some regulars as the season moves forward. A healthy line up will be key to having success down the stretch and into the playoffs.

41 games in, we are officially at the halfway point in the season, can you believe it? 41 more games remain during which we will see an Olympic break as the Sochi games take the world captive. 41 more games before the playoff madness of a new playoff format will unfold and the wildcards are determined. 41 games before the real work begins for all the playoff contenders.

The Canucks closed 2013 with an impeccable 10-1-2 December and an overall 23-11-7 record in the first half of the season. Here’s to a great 2014 for the Canucks and all the teams in the NHL. It’s going to be a wild ride to the finish and we are lucky to be able to watch as it unfolds.

December to remember indeed as the Vancouver Canucks posted a 10-1-2 record. (Eerily similar to their December 2010 when they posted a 11-1-2 record)

Here’s December 2013 at glance! December to remember indeed as the Vancouver Canucks posted a 10-1-2 record. (Eerily similar to their December 2010 when they posted a 11-1-2 record)

October was the month that the Canucks surprised a lot people as they adjusted to Torts’ style. November was the month that the Canucks survived. December was the month that the Canucks thrived and will be looking to build upon that success as they open 2014 with a New Year’s Day game against Tampa Bay [yes I know, not quite as big as the Winter Classic BUT the 2 points that come with it are vital with the ever tight in the Pacific Division].

***The Team Canada Men’s hockey team Olympic roster will be announced January 7, 2014. [& I expect one or two Canucks to be named to that roster..see what I did there?].

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

A tale of 39 games…

We are nearly halfway through the season! Can you believe it? Last year at this point it still was not clear if there would even be a season!

39 games in & Tortorella’s influence on the team is becoming clearer with each game played.

What exactly would the Canucks look like as team coached by John Tortorella after being coached by Alain Vigneault for 7 years?Would Torts be able to light a fire under this team that they had been missing for almost two years? Would he have the same ever interesting relationship with the Vancouver media that he had with the New York Media? How would the players react to Torts? Would there be communication between the coach and his players and would it translate onto the ice?

Torts is never afraid to show his passion for the game with the players or the refs.

Torts is never afraid to show his passion for the game with the players or the refs.

OVERVIEW:

October was an incredible surprise as many did not expect the Canucks to have any real success in the early goings of learning an entirely new coaching system. Octobers prior to Torts time have not been kind to the Canucks, but this season they surprised nearly everyone posting an impressive 9-5-1 record. Perhaps the most impressive part of October was a season long 7-game road trip on which the team finished 5-1-1 picking up 11 of a possible 14 points. Remember it was trip that most did not have any expectations for the team do well.

November opened with a bang on Pavel BURE night as the Canucks opened the month with a BIG win against Toronto. The games that followed were back and forth contests and despite playing many of the games very well they could get win back to back games for the entire month. The most frustrating stretch for the team and fans alike was perhaps the 5-game losing streak that included 4 straight home game losses. They finished what felt like a very long November with a 4-5-4 record to bring their season record to 13-10-5. The Canucks would have a long climb ahead of themselves as a member the Pacific division that you cannot afford to lose points in and 4 other rivals playing well.

December where to begin? The team knew they had find a way to get better results and end up on the winning side more often than not. Cue two back to back two-goal games from Ryan Kesler to lead to the team to back to back wins for the first time since OCTOBER. The question remained could they make it three in a row when they returned home for a 5-game home stand? They opened with an overtime win against Phoenix and thanks to Luongo and Santorelli they also beat Patrick Roy’s Avalanche to stretch their success to a 4-game win streak. Could they continue their success? YES..they posted back to back shutouts [ONE each by Lack and Luongo] to stretch the streak to 6 games!
Boston came knocking in the next game and the atmosphere in the arena was electric like that of a playoff game…the fans were LOUD. It was a tight game until early in the second just after Boston tied the game at one and Torts called for T/O to get the team back on track..they never looked back winning to game 6-2 and a season best 7-game win streak. [Did I mention that was 5 straight wins at home?!]
The team struggled a little in their next few games BUT they found their way back to win column against the Blackhawks and the Jets. In 11 games in December they have posted a very impressive 9-1-1 record with 3 games left to play before the new year.

FINER DETAILS:

SPECIAL TEAMS: Everyone knows that you need to have success not just 5-on-5 but also on the special teams [power play & penalty kill] to have success in this league.

POWER PLAY: It is no secret that the team struggled on the power play to start the year. It was highlighted by every media outlet and fans alike. Why couldn’t they have the success they used to? Through the first 20 games of the season, the team only managed to score just 6 power play goals; whereas in the last 19 games they have scored 13 power play goals, including a stretch where they scored a PPG in 7 straight games! It’s been fun to watch the team’s success in an area that they struggled with early on.

PENALTY KILL: Success on the power play is important BUT it is also vital that a team kill penalties they take rather than allow their opponents to score on the man advantage. Shot blocking is KEY to a successful penalty kill. This team has had some great shot blockers in the past BUT Torts made it clear that EVERYONE would need to pitch in the shot-blocking department. The entire team has pitched in with the shot blocks but the defense has stepped up the biggest this year with Tanev leading the way with 73, Bieksa with 70, *Edler with 67, Hamhuis with 61, Garrison with 54 and Stanton with 47. All those shot blocks and some great goal-tending have allowed the Canucks to have the league’s best penalty kill success rate of 89.4% while allowing a league low 13 power play goals against.

Like I said, special teams are vital to a team having success in this league and incredibly vital to success in the post-season.

SURPRISE, SURPRISE:

Roberto Luongo with his position on the team CLEAR, he has been able to let his game on the ice do the talking for him. Despite the outcome some nights, he always gives the team a chance to win games and has been the most consistent Canuck, including having his BEST Canuck October!  Luongo’s December in particular [minus that Dallas game] has been sparkling and has played himself into Olympic contention. The only question that remains with Bobby Lu is when he will return from his recent injury? If there ever was a good time to have an injury occur, it was right before a 6-day break like it happened. Here’s hoping that Luongo returns to the line-up sooner rather than later! No matter the length of his time out if any games are actually missed, the Canucks are in good hands with Eddie Lack to man the crease.

Ryan Kesler leads the team in goals with 15 and has been playing his best season in 2 years. May I just say that it is incredibly refreshing to see a 100% healthy Ryan Kesler back to his heart and soul play making ways?! He will be a force for the USA during the Sochi games.

Everyone was so focused on the big trades and big signings that Mike Gillis DIDN’T make that they didn’t consider how big or important a small signing could turn out to be.

Mike Santorelli has more than exceeded the expectations that people considered him to be worth. Santorelli has been a perfect fit with Torts and the players…and his versatility enables him to play anywhere in the line up. Recently he has found a permanent line spot with Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins as they have formed a line with some fantastic chemistry that is fun to watch. Santorelli quietly gave this team some depth that a lot of people did not expect the team to have this season. Santorelli has been one of the most consistent players in the line up this season going back to training camp. With 26 points in 39 games and 550k cap hit he IS without a doubt one of the league’s best steals.

How about rookie defense-man Ryan Stanton who Mike Gillis picked up off the waivers from Chicago? Stanton until a recent injury has been one of a few very dependable defensive players including a respectable 47 shot blocks and 11 points. He has been a great find this season!

It’s true that Gillis didn’t make the big trade that people expected or sign any big names this summer that people wanted BUT he did find some great signings that have more than exceeded any expectations that people had. Perhaps we shouldn’t focus on the things that did not happen but on the ones that did and have had an impact on this team.

It has been quite a ride through 39 games as the team has adapted to the Tortorella system and surprised a lot of people in the process. Torts has been everything that he said he would be in his first press conference, and only had ONE note worthy bench rant during the Boston game. He has brought a determination back to this team and even in their losses they have a compete in their game that had been missing for the last two years. The team needed a change of voice and Torts has been up to the task in helping this team find their way again. As he said from the start, he hates losing, he’s a bad loser and to be a good loser, you are a loser.

DIVISIONAL CONUNDRUM:

43 games remain to be played before the new playoff format madness begins. A lot will occur between now and then BUT one thing remains true; the Pacific Division will be a battle all the way to the final buzzer of the regular season. 9 points separate the top 4 teams…just 4 points separate the Canucks from 2nd and 2 points separate them from 3rd. It’s going to be a wild finish, are you ready for all the will occur between now and then?

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.