Thank-You.

Dear Vancouver Canucks,

I would like to take this opportunity to say THANK-YOU for the season that was the 2014-15 season. I am sad to see the season end BUT I am in NO way disappointed with the team or what you gave THIS city. You gave us an incredible season from start to finish. You allowed us to move on from the shadows of last season and build hope for the future of this franchise. You showed this city and the entire league that you could compete with the elite teams despite what the odds said. You allowed this city to dream of what could be and what one day WILL be.

This season had many ups, downs and twists along the way that led the team to a bounce back season. You brought back Captain Canuck when you named, Trevor Linden as the new president of hockey operations. The Sedins proved all the naysayers wrong YET again as they always do. Your off-season signings of Radim Vrbata and Ryan Miller proved to be exactly what the doctor ordered despite what the critics presumed prior to the season’s start. Perhaps neither of those signings seemed too massive to the outsiders looking in, but each player found a way to make their indelible mark on the team in their first season as Canucks.

You found a coach that believed not only in each individual player but in the team as a whole when you named, Willie Desjardins as coach. Players that struggled last year rediscovered what they lost last season…confidence that made the game fun. You showed this city that a little belief from the coach and in each other can go a long way towards having success.

You may not have had a perfect season but you gave this city many incredible memories from Daniel’s 1000th game, to Henrik’s 900th point to Millsy’s back to back shutouts on the road, to a massively improved shootout record to the farm team becoming an integral part of the franchise…there are ENDLESS things to be proud of from this season.

Perhaps though my most favourite memories from this season are my own personal memories. From meeting Trevor Linden, Kevin Bieksa, Kirk McLean to being invited to taking part in the Canucks #SocialSuite night or that time I punched Johnny Canuck to attending a MASSIVE birthday win versus the Maple Leafs to getting be one of the lucky fans that got to have even for one round a post-season dream.

2014-15SeasonSo do I wish that the Canucks were still in the hunt for the Stanley Cup? Absolutely, but as I previously stated, I am in NO way disappointed in the season they gave this city. There is only an incredibly grateful heart over here for the season that was. I loved every up, every down and every twist in between this season. It may not have been a perfect season from start to finish but no season ever is completely perfect.I will take a perfectly imperfect season because in each imperfection grows even stronger the dream of what one day WILL be.

Yes, this year the dream fell short but it did not dimmer the hope for the future. So thank-you for this season in which you re-engaged this city and re-ignited the dream. Your future still burns bright and I look forward whatever that holds moving forward.

I was yesterday, am now and always will be a Vancouver Canucks fan.

Sincerely,

Sarah Laug (a canucklehead for life)

CLINCHED! PLAYOFFS, BABY!

2015CLINCHEDPlayoff fever, is that YOU calling my name? YES, it is! The Vancouver Canucks have officially punched their 2015 playoff ticket! There were many who said after the torpedo that was last season, that were beyond skeptical that the Canucks could return to the post-season THIS year. What a difference, a year can make!

Last year when Trevor Linden said that THIS team was going to make it to the playoffs, there were A LOT of doubters. How could anyone blame them after what was the Torts era? Many “experts” were certain that the Canucks would not be playoff bound THIS season and would stuck in rebuild mode for some time. Linden never said it was going to be easy for them to get there, but he did say they would try to make the team remember why they love the game and get a little tenacity back in their game. He has done just that.

Was the season perfect from start to finish? No, not at all but it sure was refreshing to watch this team come together rather than fall apart at the seams. This year was supposed to be about rebuilding rather than exceeding expectations. This year, the Sedins were supposed to be washed up, secondary scoring was a pipe dream and goal-tending was a question mark at best. This year the Canucks were supposed to be part of the Connor McDavid sweepstakes. This year in the hands of a newly minted team president, newly minted GM and newly minted head coach was a gamble. Well long story short, the Canucks took that gamble on that newly minted trio and they surprised a lot of people around the league with their success.

Now for the LONG story:

Trevor Linden wanted to bring back excitement to the Canucks on ice product and he has done just that and more this season. He brought in a scouting and development expert in GM Jim Benning and a coach who brings out the best in his players in Willie Desjardins. All three of them have been invested from the start in not only working with the current roster but also with their players on their AHL roster in Utica and their younger prospects still playing junior. From top to bottom of this organization, this management group has been involved to turn things around and continue building for the future.

The players came in knowing that last year was disastrous and determined to prove everyone wrong who said they were going to be bottom feeders and more than that they could still be competitive with the league’s top teams. More than that, the dynamic in the room had changed not only with new management but also with new players on the roster. Change was needed not just internally but also in the game that they played as a team EACH game. Consistency and cohesiveness was needed. Time would tell just serious this team was about moving forward from last season’s tornado.

The Sedins may not be on a point-per-game pace this season, but they are back to playing the way that proves they are still exciting to watch making dazzling plays on a nightly basis. They have both surpassed their point totals of last season and lately have been absolutely clutch when called upon (ahem, that TYING goal vs. LA anyone?). Henrik and Daniel have flourished under Desjardins in a way that did not happen with Torts. Last year between Torts and injuries, they seemed to lose their confidence, whereas this year they seem to have found that spark again. It never ceases to amaze me, the way those two work together with seamless no look passes and impossible angle goals.

It’s no secret that Alex Burrows struggled under Torts and was also low in the confidence department. This year, he made it clear that he did not care which line he played on as long he as he got to play, he would do whatever coach asked of him. Desjardins has played Burrows on nearly every line and in every situation (5-on-5, 5-on-4, 4-on-4 and 5-on-3) and he has been reliable adapting to each situation. He may not be breaking any records, but he is finding a way to contribute no matter which line or situation he’s asked to play. It sure is amazing what a little belief and confidence from the coach can make in the way a player plays from start to finish in a season.

Radim Vrbata easily became one of the best 2014 off-season signings! He is everything that Jim Benning expected and more! His 31 goals and counting is a team high and he is money in the bank when it comes to the not-so-dreaded shootout. It does not matter which line he plays on, he adds an offensive spark nearly every game. His consistency on the scoreboard has helped to take the pressure off of the Sedins and provide much needed secondary scoring.

And yes goal-tending was a fiasco after the Luongo and Schneider trades leaving people to wonder if Lack could carry the load or if a veteran would need to come in to solidify the crease. The truth is BOTH of those things happened. In the summer Linden and Benning signed veteran goalie, Ryan Miller to solidify the crease and be a mentor to Eddie Lack. Miller has been everything as advertised, having a stellar season posting six shutouts while maintaining a Canucks playoff position prior to his injury. Miller’s injury forced Eddie Lack into the reigns down the stretch and he stood up to the challenge helping to keep the Canucks in their season-long playoff position. Together these two have done exactly what they were asked to do from the start despite the doubts that outsiders projected at them.  For the playoffs, no matter which one is in the crease, they BOTH deserve credit for helping get the Canucks this far.

It was NO easy task for Trevor Linden to come in and turn this team around in a year since taking over as President of Hockey operations. He did what seemed to many impossible: made the Vancouver Canucks believe that they were competitive and translated that to them BEING competitive more nights than not. He found the right GM and the right coach to help the team forward and change the mindset from last season’s disaster to this year’s success. Trevor Linden said that change was coming and that the team would be playoff bound come April. Change came and the team IS playoff bound. Linden and company delivered on their promises and never wavered from their desire to see the team succeed. Eighty games down, two remain with an opportunity to clinch home ice in the opening round of the 2015 NHL playoffs.

Are you ready, Vancouver? That noise you hear is PLAYOFF FEVER calling your name! Get those jerseys, white towels, flags and playoff gear ready for April 15th! The best part of the NHL season is nearly upon us!

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

Playoff Dreaming…

IMG_0781Change is coming, change IS here. Did you believe that statement would be true prior to the start of the season? It truly is incredible to witness what the Vancouver Canucks have accomplished this season. Yes, it is true, that it is not a record breaking year and from the outside looking in, it might seem hardly remarkable. This season was supposed to be a season focused on rebuilding following the disaster that was the 2013-14 regular season or at least that’s what the media told us. And after the season that was last year, who could blame them for thinking that is what comes next?

Just who are these Vancouver Canucks?! These are the Canucks brought to you by, former captain Trevor Linden. Along with Linden for the ride is GM Jim Benning and newly minted head coach, Willie Desjardins. The trio was determined to turn things around THIS season while at the same time building for the future. They may not be winning every game or necessarily the games that people would expect them to, but they are finding ways to be competitive more nights than not. They have maintained a playoff position for most of the season and continue to be in a competitive race for a second place finish in the Pacific Division with 90 points and eight games remaining still to be played. Through 74 games, Desjardins has coached the team to a 43-27-4 record. The odds unlike last season, are actually in their favour heading down the stretch drive to the post season.

There have been a lot of surprises this season. Who knew that when GM Benning signed Radim Vrbata that he would become such an integral piece of the Canucks puzzle? He leads the team in goals with 29 and has proven to be valuable on ANY line he is playing on in every situation. He is consistently consistent every game. He scores goals with finesse, like THIS one:

And then there is the curious case of Alex Burrows who notoriously struggled on the Torts regime due to multiple injuries and a lack of understanding between player and coach. THIS year he has once again proven to be reliable in all areas of the ice and at times has been rewarded by reuniting with the Sedin twins for goals like THESE:

“Reunited and it feels SO good…”!

The Sedins may not be quite a point-per-game pace but they certainly are looking more and more like the dependable players that they were before the 2013-14 NHL season. In true twin fashion, they are tied for the team lead in points each with 66, the only difference being that HENRIK has one more goal and DANIEL has one more assist.

Goal-tending was also an area that team WilLindEnning addressed this summer with the signing of veteran goalie, Ryan Miller. Many questioned whether he would fit with the Canucks and what this would mean for Eddie Lack. Millsy had a resilient season picking up 28 wins that included 6 shutouts prior to an injury in late February. He’s a massive reason as to why the Canucks have been able to maintain their playoff position all season long. Since the injury to Miller, Eddie Lack has stepped up to fill in and raised his level of play and helped the Canucks stay in the playoff hunt.

Does this mean Lack is the number one now or that Millsy gets back the net come playoff time? To be honest, I do not care WHO is in the net, just that they play to the best of their abilities when they are in the crease. Do we need another goal-tender controversy in Vancouver? Say it with me, NO! We do not need to create another controversy among the goalies and this city. It would simply be incredible if down this stretch and however far this team goes into the playoffs that THIS city would SUPPORT whichever goalie is in the net.

Jim Benning also did the seemingly impossible by locking down Christopher Tanev for five more seasons much to the delight of Canucks fans. Tanev has proven to be an integral part of the defensive core with ever growing potential. He’s often a goalie’s best friend on the blue line making crucial blocks and the odd game-saving goal-line save. It was paramount to get his deal done before season’s end or the free agency frenzy. Well done, Jim, well done.

Most surprising of all this season is that despite a depleted lineup during January and February, the team was still finding ways to be competitive and win games. 74 games down, 8 to go. 15 spots remain to be claimed in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Will the Canucks clinch a spot down the stretch? That remains to be seen, but unlike last season, the odds are not down to a long shot but simply solid play in the games that remain. Are you ready for what these last 8 games will reveal? Regardless of how it ends, it sure has been exhilarating to witness this team find a little bit of its tenacity once more. This team is playoff dreaming once again. Slowly but surely, Trevor Linden has this team turning this city into BO-lievers and despite the odds on paper at the start, anything is possible.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

March Madness Activated…

IMG_0080MARCH MADNESS is in full swing around the NHL from intense playoff drives, to playing with jobs on the line for next season, to playing spoiler, there is no shortage of dramatics around the league. Expectations will be met and not met as teams keep battling for divisional positioning all in the hopes of holding onto or grabbing onto a playoff qualifying position. Who will be left standing when all is said and done? Will any teams manage to pull off a last minute upset to steal playoff berths? Who will miss the playoffs in shocking fashion and who makes their playoff comeback? Time will tell who will be left standing when the dust settles before the storm that is the NHL playoffs begins.

As for the Vancouver Canucks, despite an insane injury bug that came calling in early 2015, they are once again playing meaningful games in March.  Meaningful games being played by the Vancouver Canucks in March! That feels good to write…who would have thought after the torpedo that was their 2013-2014 season under Torts, that they could be capable of a quick turnaround?! Or perhaps when the injuries began to pile up between January and February, any hopes that were once sparked have turned into doubts? Or perhaps you were of the cautiously optimistic variety? This season could not be more different from last season despite a massive injury pile up. For much of January and February the Canucks had a myriad of different players being asked to step up game after game due to the ever growing list of injuries. Somehow they found ways to win games despite a depleted lineup giving themselves an opportunity to go on a stretch drive run for March madness and an April tuneup.

March madness indeed! 21 games in March and early April with a near healthy lineup for the first time since the start of the season. Divisional rivals and wildcard holders trying to keep pace with the Canucks or even potentially pass them in the standings. Every game has playoff implications. Every game will dictate where the team stands when all is said and done after 82 games. As they have done all year, they have won games they should, they won games that were considered impossible and lost games they presumably should have won. Through 11 games in March, they have amassed a 7-3-1 record (15 points) to help them maintain second place in the tight Pacific Division. These final ten games will set the tone for the post-season should the Canucks earn a playoff berth.

One thing is certain, that no matter what situation the Canucks find themselves in after the final buzzer on April 11th, this team is slowly beginning to turn THIS city into BO-lievers once more! 72 games down, 10 games to go. Playoffs looming and anticipation of what could be grows with each victory. March Madness will soon be followed by the April rush that sets up the ever exciting race for Stanley.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

February Round up

I don’t know about you but I for one am glad that February is OVER. The injury bug came calling slowly and then all at once to the Canucks as the month progressed taking nine regulars out of the lineup. The February schedule quickly became increasingly daunting with each new injury but somehow, with a mixed lineup of veterans and rookies, the Canucks found ways to not only compete but ways to win. Yes, I am aware that there was that forgettable game against Buffalo but all that proves is that you cannot take ANY opponent for granted no matter their current standings.

The odds seemed stacked against them most nights with a depleted blue line, multiple forwards missing, and one veteran goalie on the mend. Yep, I am definitely glad that February is over BUT I am also incredibly amazed by the things that DID go right despite the injury infestation.

An overall 8-6-0 record for February 2015 does not leap off the page as stellar but it certainly is much better than many expected with the Canucks checkered lineup. February brought out some of the best compete level from the Vancouver Canucks since their days before Torts. Zack Kassian re-emerged into the lineup finally playing to the potential that all Canucks fans knew he possessed, even earning playing time with the Sedins. Bo Horvat and Ronalds Kenins developed an instant chemistry as they solidified the Canucks so-called “4th line”. The Sedins found their play-making prowess piling up points throughout the month further proving that last season was an anomaly. Players, young and old were finding ways to contribute on a nightly basis.

Their 8 wins came against: Winnipeg, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Boston x2, Minnesota, the NY Rangers and the NY Islanders. Those eight wins were hard fought wins earned from an undeniable compete level regardless of who was in the lineup THAT night. The win against Winnipeg had an undeniable playoff atmosphere with both teams battling end to end in an overtime thriller. In the game against Pittsburgh, for the second time THIS season, the Canucks shutout the Penguins all-star roster.

Games against the Chicago Blackhawks NEVER disappoint, EVER. Yes, the roster has undergone many changes over the years but the in-game intensity always remains. A battle end to end from start to finish ending with a perfectly aligned SEDINERY overtime game winning goal.

Beating the Minnesota Wild has proven to be a difficult task of late and this season has been no different. The first two meetings ended win the favour of Minnesota. Vancouver had their work cut out for them in their final meeting of the season. The Wild kept it close but Eddie Lack stood tall to the test as the Canucks held on for a regulation win.

Two games against Boston in 11 days was most definitely NOT an easy task by any means but this team was more than ready for the challenge. In the first of two meetings, Shawn Matthias broke out with his first career hat trick on home ice. In their second meeting, this time in Boston, the Canucks had to find a way to win without Ryan Miller. The Bruins scored a quick goal but Eddie Lack shut the door the rest of the way making 40 stops while an on fire Zack Kassian scored the game winner for a regulation WIN.

Since Coach AV left Vancouver beating the New York Rangers had become an impossible task. The Canucks came back from THREE deficits in this game to earn a 5-4 shootout victory. Henrik Sedin was a man on a mission scoring twice including the game tying goal that lead to over time with just two minutes left in regulation. Every time the Canucks were down a goal or two, they never panicked, they simply kept pushing back and forcing themselves to be noticed. This game was the definition of a character win.

Speaking of New York, the Islanders are on the rise and make each game tough on their opponents.The Canucks played a complete 60 minutes despite losing Ryan Miller to injury early in the middle frame. Eddie Lack came into the game preserving the shutout with 27 saves of his own.

Yes, the final game in February against Buffalo that once again proved teams cannot overlook ANY opponent despite their respective standings. February may not have been stellar but was certainly not their worst. They had many stand out moments that very well may help them down the stretch. The Canucks will have keep that fight they found in February and bring it with them down the stretch as they continue to fight for a playoff berth.

The final countdown begins! March 2nd is the NHL trade deadline and so begins MARCH MADNESS, the NHL addition. Trades, trades and more trades will happen as teams look to find the missing puzzle piece that will lead them to playoff glory. Will your team make a trade deadline dash or will they stand pat with their current rosters? The dust will settle, moves will be made or not made and the race to the playoffs will begin!

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

This Year IS NOT Last Year

From having a new head coach, another new system to learn, injuries piling up on the blueline and a tough schedule down the stretch, the comparisons to last year have NOT stopped. In case you missed it, THIS YEAR IS NOT LAST YEAR. Much like last season there are a lot of expectations for THIS team. Last season started with a lot of potential but somewhere around a mid January hallway tirade everything changed.

LAST SEASON: The Canucks were under the leadership of head coach John Tortorella and GM/President Mike Gillis.

THIS SEASON: The Canucks are under the leadership of rookie head coach Willie Desjardins, newly minted GM Jim Benning and President Trevor Linden.

LAST SEASON: After 56 games played the Canucks had amassed 63 points with a 27-20-9 record. They did NOT register their 30th win of the season until March 12th, and their 32nd did not come until March 19th.

THIS SEASON: After  56 games played the Canucks have amassed 67 points with a 32-21-3 record. They registered their 30th win of the season on February 11th, and their 32nd on February 16th.

LAST SEASON: The Sedins under Tortorella were not as predictable as everyone has come to expect over the years and BOTH missed extended periods due to injuries. Henrik amassed 50 points (11 goals, 39 assists) in 70 games played. Daniel amassed just 47 points (16 goals, 31 assists) in 73 games played. Questions were raised if they would be able to find their way back to playing the way they did before or if their best days were behind them.

THIS SEASON: The Sedins under Desjardins have shown us that they are not done yet making many mind dazzling SEDINERY plays whether playing with Radim Vrbata or yes that ever familiar winger, Alex Burrows. Through 56 games, they have nearly matched their points totals from last year; Henrik has amassed 48 points (10 goals, 38 assists) points and counting while Daniel has amassed 47 points (13 goals, 34 assists). Yes they are not quite on a point-per-game pace BUT they are beginning to resemble their steady reliable play that Canucks fans have been lucky enough to watch develop over the last 15 years.

LAST SEASON: The injury bug came in waves for Alex Burrows and limited his playing to just 49 games and 15 points(5 goals, 10 assists). The ever tenacious player was unable to gain ANY sort of rhythm between injuries and Torts never understanding his role.

THIS SEASON: Alex Burrows told Desjardins before the season even began that as long he was able to play, he did not care which line he was used on but that he would play wherever called upon. Burrows has been successful in each situation that Desjardins has used him from the first line to the fourth line, to the penalty kill to the power-play. Through 51 games Burrows has amassed 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists). Burrows is having fun again playing the game he loves while consistently contributing, a trend that he will look to continue down the stretch as the Canucks make a playoff push.

LAST SEASON: Not ONE player registered a hat trick.

THIS SEASON: Two players have registered a hat trick through 56 games. Jannik Hansen scored his first career NHL hat trick on November 23, 2014 versus the Chicago Blackhawks. Shawn Matthias scored his first career NHL hat trick on February 13, 2015 versus the Boston Bruins. Both hat tricks were scored in front of the home crowd making hats rain down on the ice of Rogers Arena.

LAST SEASON: The goalie drama of will they or won’t they trade Roberto Luongo came to an end. Luongo was eventually traded back to Florida leaving the Canucks with no veteran presence in net. Eddie Lack was forced to take on the veteran load the rest of the way. It was hardly an ideal situation but in typical Eddie Lack fashion, he was the epitome of professional all the way to the end.

THIS SEASON: Ryan Miller was brought it in as veteran presence and surprised more than a few people with his solid play in net while registering 6 shutouts through 42 starts (26-15-1). Millsy has brought in some much needed stability for the Canucks on the back end and been a pillar for Eddie Lack as they share the load this season. Lack and Miller have formed a great repertoire so far this season and hopefully they can continue to build on that down the stretch.

And yes it is true that there are  a few echoes that sound nearly identical from last season:

LAST SEASON: The injury bug followed that hallway tirade took endless casualties until the final game of the season.

THIS SEASON: The injury bug has come to the blueline once more this year, but unlike LAST season, the team IS finding ways to play as a TEAM despite the injuries. The multiple injuries to the defensive core has forced the Canucks to rely upon younger players and prospects stepping up to fill in. (Ronalds Kenins anyone?!)

#17 once again LEADS the team in goals scored.                                                       LAST SEASON: Ryan Kesler (25 goals in 77 games played).                                    THIS SEASON: Radim Vrbata (21 goals and counting in 53 games played).

LAST SEASON: Henrik Sedin played his 1000th game (March 12, 2014).                THIS SEASON: Daniel Sedin played his 1000th game (November 23, 2014).

And yes much like last year, there are many questions still remaining:

Will the Canucks find a second gear in the final 26 games? Will the Canucks have more than one 20+ goal scorer by season’s end? Will the Canucks stand pat at the trade deadline or will they be deal makers to find that last puzzle piece to help them down the stretch? Will the Canucks make the playoffs?

No, THIS year is NOT LAST year but the questions will continue to be debated as the season winds down but until all is said and done, we will not have a definitive answer. There is still a lot of hockey left to be played between now and April, but how the Canucks play between now and then is up to them. Will they make the playoffs? They certainly have the potential to do so but it won’t be an easy task as the Western Conference playoff race is a tight one and will probably go down to the wire.

The Canucks have 26 games left to prove just how far they have come from last year beginning with their 5-game Eastern Conference road trip (New York, New Jersey, Long Island, Boston and Buffalo) that will be a great challenge as they look to pick some important points.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E. L.

 

A tale of 33 games…

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted a blog, but I promise, I did not disappear. A heavy work schedule and a few days off for Christmas kept me away. I’m back and ready, so let’s get back to work, shall we? Talk hockey to me!

HockeyISLast season the Canucks had a December to remember posting a 10-1-2 record and the month that followed was when everything began to unravel. This season, December has not exactly been THAT memorable save a 5-game losing streak but perhaps that could be a good thing. Last year in December, it seemed like THIS team was capable of greatness and then the chain of everything that could go wrong, did go wrong when the new year began.

Yes, the Canucks have had their struggles THIS December…but they also have something that they did not before last year’s 33 game mark: 20 wins and instead of focusing on their individual bests, they are working together as a TEAM. Scoring on any given night is being done by committee. Can you recall a time in recent Canucks history when scoring was somewhat balanced? It feels like it has been a long while. They are not solely relying on the Sedins every single night but rather EACH line is contributing.

33 games in and as has been said many times this season, we have seen a little bit of everything from the good, to the bad and everything in between. First goals, milestones reached, back to back shutouts, games won, games lost, overtime glee and overtime heartbreak. Lots of little and big moments that have yet to be seen as the team has 49 more games to leave their mark on the season at hand. As they return from holidays, the Canucks will have to be ready to play their best with a trio of games versus the Californias. It will not be an easy task for the team but they are proving to be competitive within their division with an impressive 9-2-1 record through 12 games.

33 games in and despite a few lopsided losses, THIS team has evoked hope in a way that never seemed to happen last season even when they were playing well. This team still has work to do in the remaining 49 games to prove that they are in fact playoff contenders but they are off to a good start in working towards that aim.

33 games down, 49 more to go before all is said and done and it all begins tomorrow when the puck drops in Anaheim. The Canucks will look to build upon the momentum of their two-game win streak they took into the holiday break. Keep your eyes on these next few games, Canucks fans- Henrik Sedin’s next goal will be his 200th career goal.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.