CLINCHED, 46 down & 2 to go!

Well its official: the Vancouver Canucks have officially clinched a playoff berth. To be honest, the Canucks did not play well against Detroit when they earned the clinching point, but they will take the two points and use these next three games to prepare for the playoffs. They will play a much better game against the Blackhawks.

First order of business, the Canucks will take on the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at home. A single point would clinch the North West Division title [5th in a row & 6th in 7 years], but two points would be so much more satisfactory to take from Chicago [the Blackhawks do not need more points]. No matter what happens in tonight’s game, you can expect that sparks will fly as they always do when these two teams meet each other. It will be high entertainment value as always. Perhaps THIS will be the game that Daniel Sedin surpasses Markus Naslund’s record [as we know it did not happen on the road trip, but it DID tonight!!!!!!!!!!!!!! His assist on Kassian’s goal gives him point #757 & counting as there is still 20 minutes left to play!]

#22!!!!!!!!!!!!CONGRATULATIONS DANIEL!!!!!!!!!!! Now you just have to catch your brother!!! HUGE career moment  for Daniel as he has once again followed his brother’s foot steps! The Canucks are extremely lucky to have these two playing on the team.***UPDATE: 2 points so far makes it 758 & counting heading into the third!!!!]

Other notable moments from tonight so far: Canucks prospect, Frankie Corrado made his NHL debut wearing #26 tonight against the Blackhawks. He is paired with Alex Edler & playing very well! Keep up the strong effort tonight & let’s get those 2 points!!!

The Toronto Maple Leafs also clinched a playoff berth yesterday…for the first time since 2004. Welcome back to the post-season Toronto! In other surprising playoff contending news, the Columbus Blue Jackets are on the cusp of qualifying for the playoffs for just the second time in their franchise history. Columbus sits just one point ahead of Detroit for the 8th spot and has just three games left compared to Detroit’s 4 games to secure their position. In the Eastern Conference, the New York Islanders are being led by John Tavares into the playoffs for the first time in 6 years and the New Jersey Devils will not be able to return to the finals as they have been eliminated from playoff contention. Oh and has anyone been paying attention that guy named Ovechkin? He seems to have regained his form….he has been a fun player to watch in this second half as he has taken over the lead for the Rocket!

As of today’s standings the Canucks would play St.Louis in round one, however as we all know that could all change come Sunday. There is just one week left in the regular season and the only thing set in stone is the top two seeds in the league [Chicago & Pittsburgh].

Speaking of playoffs….has anyone seen Chris Higgins and his beard? I think he got started a few weeks early….if the Canucks go into June that beard will have a mind of its own. Now that the playoff positions are being locked down, are there any special playoff traditions you take part in when your team qualifies and has a run of any kind in the post-season?

Back to reality that is the remainder of the regular season, there is still a third period to be played against the Blackhawks[currently the blue & green lead 3-0!!!]. Nothing like a game against the enemy to get the Canucks pumped and primed for the playoffs.

After tonight, the Canucks will take on the Anaheim Ducks and the Edmonton Oilers in their final two regular season games. TWO games is all that remains before the playoff madness begins, ARE YOU READY?

Playoffs, here we come!!!!!!!!!!!! Go Canucks Go!!! My favourite time of year is nearly here!

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

Here’s looking to #LOUKID

Have the Canucks been struggling as of late? Yes, but that does not mean you immediately fire the coach and make rash trade decisions! A four game skid is hardly the time to panic. Now, that everyone has started to relax due to the Canucks much needed victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Let’s look at it like this: last night marked Game 25 for the Canucks, their official start to the 2nd half of their season, and 1-0-0 to start.

The win in Columbus finally put the Canucks over the 30 point mark. Did anyone think that the talk heading into last night’s game would be about the Columbus Blue Jackets being the hottest team in the NHL over the last 7 games? No, because hot streaks just do not encompass the Blue Jackets of old. Beating Columbus is not as easy people seem to think it used to be or should be. Despite them being 13th in the conference, they have just had 8 straight games with a point [5-0-3].  And even though the Blue Jackets are slightly under the .500 level of wins, in 5 games vs. Detroit this year they have gone 4-0-1, pretty impressive for a team everyone expects to beat. Not too mention their goal-tending from Bobrovsky has been incredible as of late. Enough about Columbus. Did you hear Chicago lost 2 in regulation in a row? [yes I know, no big deal for a team that already has 45 points!] Or how about the fact that Sidney Crosby is leading the scoring race with 45 points & counting?[he seems to picking up right where he left off before his concussion]. Or how about Steven Stamkos yet again being the first forward to surpass the 20 goal mark?

Rumors are getting louder in regards to the Flames, Iginla and Kiprusoff. Rumor has it is not whether Iginla will be moved but a matter of WHEN he will be moved. Buzz is also surrounding Kiprusoff’s long-term status with the team. The problem with the these rumors are that if the Flames ever moved Iginla, not only would their fans want to riot, but it would extremely disrespectful to the face of their franchise. Iginla has been with the organization for his entire career [nearly 18 years!]. The other major issue with moving either of these players is the question of their asking price and what other teams would be willing to give up in exchange for Iginla or Kipper.

BACK to BUSINESS:  Last night also marked just the 2nd start for Roberto Luongo in two weeks. Yes that Detroit game was a debacle and the Calgary game was anything but pretty. Luongo was the first one in both of those games to admit he was not at his best in either game, but then again where was the rest of the team in BOTH of those games? It was not just that Luongo was shaky in those games, it was the fact that the ENTIRE team seemed to disappear in both. It made sense that Cory Schneider would get a chance to build off his victory against LA following those games, but instead of rising to occasion what followed was 3 straight losses which exposed some major inconsistencies to Schneider’s game. Yes I know shocking to think that the ever praised Cory should struggle when called upon, but true. The thing is all those fans who demanded for Luongo to be sent packing[and are now begging him to stay!] were so certain that Schneider would be the answer. I admit the guy is a great athlete, but he has not played anywhere near the level he was at last year. This season has been a constant ‘be kind, rewind’ year for Schneids as his play has been consistently inconsistent much to the chagrin of his fans. There seems to have been this false belief that he could and would never fail built up, so when his struggles began it was hard for his major fans to understand. Relax, the guy is human, and humans much to our chagrin are prone to making a few mistakes.

No one is perfect, but alas that is problem yes? That is the same thing that has been plaguing Luongo since he started playing for the Canucks…every time he plays brilliantly EVERYONE loves the guy, but heck a few bad games and the ENTIRE city turns on the guy!  The city has not completely turned on Schneids, but more and more cries for Luongo to stay[for atleast this year] are getting louder. I still cannot understand the rush to send the guy away. Do Canucks fans remember the last time we had a goal-tender of Luongo’s caliber? It was back in 1994. Since Luongo began his tenure in 2006, the Canucks have only missed the playoffs once[2008], won 5 division titles, 2 presidents trophies, 1 Western Conference Final, and took the home team to game 7 of the Final. Not to mention him winning an Olympic Gold Medal in 2010 in front of the home fans. When Luongo arrived, he brought with him a winning attitude and the drive to push himself and his team mates to be better. Coming into this season, even though the media decided that he was now the backup net minder that did not deter his work ethic, he spent 7 weeks in Florida training with all-star goalie coach Francois Allaire. With all the attention thrown at Schneider, Luongo has been very patient and never uttered one negative word towards his friend, simply being supportive. Both Luongo and Schneider have dealt with this media perpetrated controversy with a high level of maturity. Schneider has not had to deal with any real negative press until his inconsistent play this season. It is easy to talk to the media when you are playing well, but extremely difficult when you are struggling. Last year Schneider was not the starter and always coming in to play hero as the back up, so there was no pressure whereas this year he was supposed to be the undisputed starter. That is not what happened as his season began with less than stellar play. Luongo knows the pressure that comes with playing in the hockey crazed Vancouver spotlight and all the ups and downs that come with it. When you’re on a roll, the whole city is behind you but start to go on a skid and suddenly the whole city is calling for your head. Maybe its the pressure, maybe its something else that is responsible for Cory’s struggle for consistency this year, but now is not the time to go for the gamble, it is time to go for consistency on a nightly basis. Cory has been given many many chances to secure himself as the number one, but thus far has been unable to do so, which has paved the way for Luongo to provide the consistency the Canucks are in need of. I don’t know about you, but I am glad that the Canucks were not in hurry to  give Luongo away with the way the season has gone [not too mention just about every team in the league this season has depended on the play of BOTH their goalies]. Here’s to an intriguing second half!

A closer look at Cory & Lu’s stats thus far:

In 14 starts Cory Schneider is 6-5-3 [15 points earned]. In that span he has earned 1 shutout, sports a 2.63 GAA and 0.910 SV %. in 14 starts, 7 times Cory has allowed 3 or more goals.

In 11 starts Luongo is 6-2-3 [15 points earned, earning points in all but 2 starts]. In that span he has earned 2 shutouts, and sports a 2.08 GAA[yes even with that debacle in Detoit!] and a 0.917 SV %.  If you take away the Detroit game, his numbers improve to somewhere near the neighborhood of 1.63 GAA and a  0.943 SV%.

Tomorrow is #gameDAY!  Cannot wait to see my #Canucks take on the red hot #Predators live at Rogers Arena tomorrow for my birthday! My birthday wish for tomorrow is for Luongo to get the start, Bieksa to return & the Canucks to get a HUGE win at home! We will have to wait and see what AV’s coin reveals tomorrow, but for now: #GoCanucksGo!

25 games down, 23 to go.

Here’s looking to #LOUKID!

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

Western Conference Quarter Season Facts

The 2012-2013 NHL season was shortened [due to Bettman’s 3rd lockout] to 48 games.  12 games in marks the quarter mark of the season [All teams have played 11-14 games].

Here’s an overview of the Western Conference thus far into the 2013 season[with a slightly more extensive look at my #Canucks]:

1. Chicago Blackhawks [10-0-3 –23 points] As much as it pains me to say this….they are playing some incredible hockey so far. They remain the only team to be undefeated in regulation this year. Their offense is firing on all cylinders and Corey Crawford has been lights out in the net. It pains me even more to type this next sentence….the Chicago Blackhawks are being led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane & company towards a possibly lengthly playoff run. It’s not easy to play so many early games on the road, but the Blackhawks are finding the answers, picking up points in every single game they have played in. They are playing some unbelievable hockey.

2. Anaheim Ducks [9-2-1 –19 points] The Ducks ruined the Canucks home opener and the Canucks ruined their home opener. While Jonas Hiller has struggled in the net, his team has helped with offense to help win games. It doesn’t hurt that his backup Victor Fasth is undefeated in his NHL experience! Has anyone mentioned the age of Teemu Selanne affecting his play? No they have not because this guy is still putting up points and making ridiculously awesome plays despite his age.

3. Vancouver Canucks [8-2-2 –18 points] After 12 games the Canucks who are perennially slow starters are off to a 8-2-2 start. The Canucks were without Ryan Kesler and David Booth to start the season, but have found a way to win games. Zack Kassian has been a pleasant surprise to Canuck fans this season finding an offensive spark, even earning playing time with the twins. Mason Raymond looks like he has finally found his speedy stride again posting 8 points[4 goals, 4 assists] in 12 games. The Canucks are getting secondary scoring from their defense, 2nd, and 3rd lines which is extremely important in a shortened season and building towards a playoff run. A closer look at the defense reveals the Canuck defense has contributed 27 points [9 goals, 18 assists] through 12 games, that is comparable to the triplets [the Sedins & Burrows] posting 24 points[6 goals, 18 assists]. Did I mention Alex Edler is leading the rear guard with 9 points? Henrik Sedin may not have a goal [yet, its coming, SOON!] but he is just ONE point behind Markus Naslund on the all-time points leader of the franchise{fun fact:Daniel is just 27 points behind Hank and looks to be passing Nazzy soon as well}.The Canucks are currently on a six-game WIN streak. Rumors are swirling that Ryan Kesler and David Booth are nearing their return to the lineup within the next games. The question remains with both presumably back sooner rather than later what will become of rookie Jordan Schroeder? The kid has been incredibly solid and scored his 1st two NHL goals in one game in front of a crazed home crowd….not too mention a shootout winner against Chicago!!! Speaking of rumors…can we let the goalie controversy crap end please? Relax. In a shortened season such as the current one have TWO incredibly goalies is an incredible gift and fans should appreciate this luxury. It’s funny that all those fans who said they wanted Luongo gone are suddenly singing his praises. The guy never stopped being a #1…he simply has stepped his game up to a new level….and his numbers have him sitting #2 behind Ottawa’s Anderson. Luongo has posted a 1.45 GAA and 0.943 save percentage. Luongo is undefeated in regulation yet thus far….his current run is reminding me of a 16-0-5 run he helped lead the team on back in the 2010-2011 season. Cory Schneider has been solid in his recent games…bringing his numbers to a respectable 2.36 GAA and 0.921 save %. With so many teams having lost their #1 goalies to injuries, the Canucks are extremely lucky to have not just one #1 but two goalies capable of giving the team a chance to win every game. Every game and every point matters in a shortened season.

4. San Jose Sharks [7-3-3 –17 points] The San Jose Sharks were off to an incredible start this season…a franchise best even going 7-0-0. January was incredible for their big name players, particularly for Patrick Marleau. February has been a much different story as they have yet to register one win, the Sharks are 0-3-3 in 6 games. They will to need to go back to finding the offense[hello Thornton, Marleau, Pavelski, Couture…where did you go?] that won them all their January games before they find themselves in an irreversible rut.

5. Detroit Red Wings [7-4-2 –16 points] Following a disappointing 6-0 opening loss to the St.Louis Blues, the Red Wing have been extremely solid. Henrik Zetterberg was name captain following the retirement of Niklas Lidstrom and is off to a great start…including a hat trick! The Red Wings have been a cornerstone of the West for the last two decades, and all signs point to them continuing their dominance as they find their stride. Detroit has a great history of developing amazing players through their organization and this year is not different with the emergence of rookie Damien Brunner.

6. Nashville Predators [6-3-4 –16 points] The Predators lost Ryan Suter to the Minnesota Wild in the off-season to the tune of a $98 million contract and followed up that loss by locking Shea Weber into their own ridiculous long-term deal. Weber has yet to register a goal, however the Predators have been able to rely on the consistent play of goalie Pekka Rinne to keep them in reach of the division lead.

7. St.Louis Blues [7-5-1 –15 points] The St.Louis Blue opened the season by beating the Detroit 6-0, picking up right where they left off last season. Since that game however, they have not been able to find that same consistency. Brian Elliot is still searching for his form from last year while his goalie partner Jaroslav Halak is out injured. Last year the Blues led the league with fewest allowed goals. The brightest spot on the Blues this season is their rookie Tarasenko who has made a name for himself in St.Louis just 13 games into his career.

8. Dallas Stars [7-6-1 –15 points] The Dallas Stars have been up and down. Jaromir Jagr has found his offensive spark once more despite his age. Offense has been good despite the delay in the re-signing of Jamie Benn who has helped lift this team over .500 level hockey and start a 5 game win streak that came to a halt in Calgary.

9. Phoenix Coyotes [6-5-2- 14 points] Shane Doan played coy during the off-season until re-signing with the team he has ever played for. They have had some good moments giving fans a glimpse of the team that went to the conference finals last season. The Coyotes have considerably well despite the continued issue of uncertainty regarding their ownership.

10. Minnesota Wild [6-6-1 –13 points] This is the team that spent nearly $200 million signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in the off-season. Those two signings were supposed to catapult the Wild into a high scoring team, but it just has not happened yet. Parise has found some offense, the same cannot be said of Ryan Suter who has yet find the back of the net. The Wild are barely above 0.500 and are beginning to look the way they did the in second half of last season when everything fell apart for them. They need to find their balance offensively and play the way they did at the beginning of last season….and get their two newest Wild members to play the way they have been known to in the past. Rumor has it that the head coach Mike Yeo is on the chopping block.

11. Edmonton Oilers [5-5-3 –13 points] The Edmonton Oilers won the Justin Schultz lottery and he has been a major asset to them on the blue line 13 games in. The Oilers are stacked with young talent, but have faced the trouble of inconsistent play and injuries costing them important points. If they tighten up defensively and add some consistency to their game, they will turn it around. Their young core definitely has a bright future.

12. Calgary Flames [4-4-3 –11points] The Calgary Flames have picked up right where they left off the last few seasons…in a disappointing fashion. They have yet to find their scoring niche. They say as Iginla goes so do the Flames….and he is not yet at the top of his game. Iginla and the Flames are typically slow starters but in a short season the entire team needs to pick up their game with more efforts like the game against the Stars.

13. LA Kings [4-5-2 –10 points] The LA Kings have hardly looked like the dominant team that won last year’s championship. They are without Mitchell and Greene to help solidify their defensive play. Jonathan Quick has also not played to his full capacity just yet, but he definitely is more than qualified. The Kings still have most of their championship core in place, but they need to find that drive that catapulted them to the Stanley Cup last season if they are looking to repeat.

14. Columbus Blue Jackets [4-7-2 –10 points] The Columbus Blue Jackets were faced with beginning the year without the former face of the franchise Rick Nash[he is now a New York Ranger]. They have begun slowly losing some important games while showing some great moments in their few wins. They need to find secondary scoring as they can no longer depend on Rick Nash scoring their goals. In the latest news the Blue Jackets fired GM Howson following their 13th game.

15. Colorado Avalanche [4-6-1 –9 points] The Colorado Avalanche are just in a string of bad luck…with injuries to everyone from their Captain Gabriel Ladeskog and Eric Jonhson and losing games they need to win. Not too mention all the drama with last year’s scoring leader Ryan O’Reilly still unsigned. Initially the Avs said they were working to re-sign the forward…and than talks broke off and rumors have begun to swirl that he will either be traded or sit out for the entire season before being signed. The Avs could really use a player like O’Reilly to help them get back their scoring touch. Head Coach Joe Sacco will have to find a new approach to snap Colorado out of their skid.

The post lockout issue between the NHL and NHLPA is the ‘Re-Alignment’. Have you heard about the re-alignment? Do you even care? The details at this point are limited as it is still in the discussion process. Here are the basics: The NHL wants to realign the league to 4 conferences [instead of the current two conference and 6 division split]. The league was looking to pass the realignment last season but it fell flat when the NHLPA voted against the notion in December 2011. The two sides are in renewed talks about this proposal and the owners are expected to vote on it, if approved by them, the vote would then go to the players. If this newest proposal gets approved by all parties the realignment would go into effect next season. One of the issues with this 4 conference format was the fact that there were no clear lines regarding playoff qualification as the West would have had two 8 team conferences whereas the East would have had two 7 team conferences. We shall see what the two sides come up with should they address all the issues.

It is only the quarter mark of the season and already so many stand out moments have occurred [From Chicago’s ridiculous point streak, teams winning/losing streaks, to goalie controversies and media speculated rumors]. Streaks good and bad have begun and will continue to occur throughout the remainder of the season. Players will be injured forcing teams to respond and others will return from injury giving teams a boost. We will have to wait and see what both the conference and the league look like at the halfway mark.

As always until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

Columbus Captain is now –>Ranger NASH

Wow…its official. The Columbus Captain(former face of the franchise) is now RANGER NASH! The New York Rangers acquired Rick Nash today from Columbus in exchange for Erixon(defenseman), Dubinsky(centre) & Anisimov(centre) & a 2013 first round draft pick. A lot of teams have been rumored to have been in the hunt for Nash(since last year’s trade deadline) & it has been known that Nash has wanted out of Columbus. The Rangers have acquired a great forward in Nash, and when he is surrounded by players that are also capable of being play makers & goal scorers creating a lethal combination. In Columbus, Nash was depended on to score as often as possible in order to win games with hardly any support from his team mates, but in New York he has the support of players like Callahan, Gaborik, & Brad Richards. It is Columbus that will be hurting in the loss of Nash’s offensive prowess. Columbus acquired some great hard working players who hopefully can help to bring back some excitement in hockey to Columbus(that has been missing since their playoff appearance in 2009). The Rangers with this trade have become one of the big players in the off-season, along with Minnesota(Suter & Parise), & the Weber drama still to unfold. Congratulations to the New York Rangers & to Rick Nash who finally got his wish to leave Columbus.

Its still quiet on the Nashville front regarding Weber with time quickly dwindling down & no decision has yet to be made. There is no winning this battle for Nashville either they say good-bye to the 2nd 1/2 of their defensive pair having already lost Suter, leaving no certainty on the defensive core. OR they keep Weber by matching Philly’s offer but as I mentioned before that doing so would cripple them financially & prevent them from being able to afford the pieces to build a quality team around him. Ultimately by Weber signing this offer sheet, it states pretty blatantly that he DOES NOT want to be in Nashville any longer now that Suter is gone.

Rumor has it that Ryan Kesler could be ready for the Vancouver Canucks 2012-2013  season opener October 11th. That could be amazing if it is true. As he had surgery much earlier this year(end of April rather than June), returning in time for the season opener is certainly plausible(*4-6 months recovery). However I would like to state that should he not be 100% for the opener then I would rather he waits & comes back when he is 100% & able to fully activate beast mode.If Kesler is 100 % & beast mode ready that would be AWESOME but that day comes in later October or early November that will just make his debut more exciting.

That is all for now as the NHL still awaits the final word from Nashville and any other off-season drama to unfold. October 11th cannot come fast enough for me:)!!! Until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.