From the Brink to SERIES ON!

2015Game51As quickly as the Vancouver Canucks found themselves on the brink of elimination on home ice, they found their way back into their first round series. Ryan Miller earned his first playoff victory as a Canuck. Yes, I know that THIS win does not mean the Canucks will come all the way back to win the series, but it certainly was encouraging to see them battle back with a massive team effort for 60 minutes that forced a sixth game.The pressure is mounting on both sides, both want that next win and no one wants their season to end. Bring on game six! There is no guarantee that the series will or will not end in Calgary on Saturday night. That’s the best part of the playoffs, the unpredictability on any given night. Game five was a keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish and I have no doubts that game six will be the same.

Would I love to see the Canucks come ALL the way back in this series? Absolutely. Will I be disappointed should the series end before game seven? Selfishly I would absolutely LOVE a chance to see the Canucks play Anaheim in round 2 but I will not in ANY way be disappointed in the team. How can I be disappointed with the bounce back season that the team has had? I am beyond proud of the team’s comeback season after the tornado that was last season. Who would have predicted a season that saw them finish SECOND in the division with a 101 points while San Jose and LA were on the outside looking in? They found their way back to the post-season while their core all had bounce back seasons and their goal-tending was solid. Not many would have picked the Canucks OR the Flames to have season’s to remember rather focused on rebuilding. It has been fantastic to see both of these teams have success this season.

Now I ask you…are you ready for a wild finish over the next game or two? Do you believe? The Canucks believe as they have all year that they have a chance, perhaps it’s time that we do the same prior to puck drop in game six. One thing is certain, NO MATTER WHAT happens in game six, I will be cheering for the Canucks from puck drop to final buzzer. No matter what the result after the final buzzer of game six, I will remain as always a proud Vancouver Canucks fan.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

 

Advertisements

Round ONE, Here We Go!

2015towelPOWERIt is official, towel power will be back when the Vancouver Canucks open the first round of the 2015 NHL playoffs on home ice against the Calgary Flames. Both teams were on the outside looking in last year during the post-season. Both teams exceeded the expectations. Both teams have fought hard all season long to prove that they BOTH deserve to be playoff bound. Both teams are looking to extend their post-season beyond the opening round. Both teams are poised for an entertaining series from start to finish. Vancouver facing Calgary, is no easy task for either side. This match up is not about the past or even the regular season series. It all comes down to THIS series and who steps up each AND every game. There will be moments of absolute glee as heroes emerge and absolute heartbreak all within the span of ONE game! It’s a whole new season in which ANYTHING and EVERYTHING is possible for both sides.

Are you ready? The battle has already begun! Here’s to a great series!

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

P.S. I’m calling Canucks in six games. What are your predictions? Leave yours in the comments!

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.

Out of Odds & Down to a Long Shot?

From game 1 to game 82 every season, I will always be a Canuck.

From game 1 to game 82 every season, I will always be a Canuck to the core.

It’s incredibly easy to cheer for and support a team when everything is going well but can be incredibly difficult for some to do the same when things are not going well with a team. Like my Vancouver Canucks for example, has this season been picture perfect for them? Not even close. So many things that seemed like absolute impossibilities did in fact occur this year. Rumors of rebuilding and throwing Torts under the bus have become a part of the everyday vernacular with the local media.

I cannot recall there EVER being a season in which nearly every big name player has been injured at some point of the season and often more than one of them at the same time. It has been an extremely rare occurrence to have a complete roster in the second half of the season. The impossible has hit the team in the most ridiculous ways: injuries galore, a suspension to Torts, a trade that couldn’t be done felt like it was done over night, iron man Henrik Sedin who has almost never missed a game was forced to sit out not once but twice this season due to injury.

To be completely honest, I do not think it fair to judge John Tortorella on a season in which he never had a complete roster at any point of the season for a long stretch to the absurd injury massacre that hit the team this season. Torts not returning to the Canucks come September would BE a mistake in my books. Why not see what actually happens when he has a FULL roster and the odds are not stacked against him? Torts has proven in his past coaching experiences that he improves over time getting BETTER once he’s past the first year. I’d like to see what will happen in year two and potentially a healthy roster before we send him packing. I think it would better to have Gillis step down from his GM duties and bring in a new voice as General Mangager…perhaps someone like Markus Naslund(*familiar with the organization, players, fans & media as well brings his experience with MODO in the Swedish Elite League).

Am I an optimist? Probably but I am also realistic and I am well aware that the odds are stacked against the Canucks making it to the playoffs this season BUT whether they make the playoffs or not does not make or break my support for the team. I am now and have always been and always will be a fan and supporter of the Vancouver Canucks. Bad seasons will and do occur for every team in the NHL. Is it easy to watch when the bad seasons happen? No, but bad seasons are not why you chose to support a team and bad seasons are not a reason to stop supporting a team. If anything, that is when you should support them even more.

It is down to long shot and getting a lot of help from other teams while winning. The odds may not be in their favour according the near impossible to overcome stats or the every day doomsday media opinion, but that doesn’t mean I will cheer any less or quieter when the Canucks hit the ice. Five games remain on their regular season schedule to be played out and no matter what the end result I will still be a Canucks fan to the end.

Did I mention that playoff hockey is nearly here? (yes I know that may not include my Canucks BUT no matter who the final 16 teams are…ALL hockey fans are in for some great playoff hockey where ANYTHING can and will happen!)

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.