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.

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October Blues…says WHO?!

The month of October and the Canucks usually do not go together or at least that’s story for the last 7 seasons or so. Octobers have statistically not been kind to the Canucks.

Cue the hiring of head coach John Tortorella and everyone arriving at their own ideas of how this will go[many thought automatic disaster]. The schedule was released and featured a league high 9 games on the road including a LONG 7-game road trip in the middle of the month. It seemed that the month was doomed before the first puck dropped.

Based on history being against the Canucks, the injury bug and the road heavy schedule, most people did not have high expectations for the start of the season and many stated that they would be happy to just survive October with a 0.500 level.

Torts made it clear from Day ONE that he hates losing and wanted to instill the will to win to all of the players. Torts changed the mindset that a lousy October is acceptable or expected but rather that you should put your best effort forward and not listen to the naysayers.

Torts asked for the star players to step up and step up they did. Here;s a list of accomplishments that do not usually come in October but this team accumulated this year:

-The Sedins combined for 33 points: Henrik amassed 18 points [3 goals, 15 assists] + Daniel with 15 points [6 goals, 9 assists]

-The 7-game road trip that scared fans saw the team pick up 11/14 points and post a 5-1-1 record.

-The road trip saw the re-emergence of  Ryan Kesler’s #beastmode who picked up 9 points on the road (he now has 11 points [8 goals, 3 assists]).

-Luongo posted his FIRST shutout of the season (63rd of his NHL career)

-Torts plays everyone on the PK and expects everyone to block shots. Did I also mention that Torts has split the Sedins up more than once and nearly every time it yields results.

– #BeastMododo was formed: Kesler + the Sedins

-The unexpected signings of Mike “SANTA” Santorelli and Brad Richardson have looked very good representing the Canucks scoring some clutch goals.

-Kesler was shifted from his usual position at centre to wing & has thrived.

Here’s a glance at October 2013 where your Vancouver Canucks posted an impressive 9-5-1 record:

What month is that you say? Yes it's true, October came & went with NO October blues.

What month is that you say? Yes it’s true, October came & went with NO October blues.

Was it perfect? No…but it was a much better October than everybody predicted them to be. Here’s to the Canucks having a November to remember as we shift to the second month of the season. An area that needs massive improvement as the calendar flips to November is the power play. Perhaps when the power plays starts clicking we will get to see more goals like this one:

The game-winning goal from Daniel Sedin vs. the Capitals was a product of some incredible #sedinery cycling. [*the video hardly does justice to this beauty of a goal]:

ONE LAST THOUGHT: 33 combined points in 15 games…CAN we re-sign the SEDINS already?!

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

We [the FANS] miss the game even more as October nears…

It is nearly October. My jersey is itching to come off the hanger as the calendars nears what is supposed to be the 1st game of the year. I do still have hope [yes you may think I’m naive but I choose to be optimistic despite all the naysayers!] that the season can be salvaged. It has only been 11 days since the lockout was officially enacted…but each day that passes as more players sign abroad and as players that are exceeding abroad is only making me miss the game even more. Yes there are other leagues…but none have quite the hold on me that the NHL or my Canucks do. There is a flickering of hope [yes hope…don’t call me naive, I’m only choosing to be optimistic rather than pessimistic!] as CBA talks are set to resume Friday between the NHL and the PA. It is time to just simply get a deal done. Will everyone be happy with the results when that day comes? Probably not…but someone is eventually going to have to cave before any progress can made.

The word lockout is not a welcome one in my vocabulary. Yet it has forced its way into it…and refuses to leave as long as this war of words continues between the NHL and the PA. The puck is not going to slap itself…let’s get a deal done so WE can ALL watch the game WE ALL love!!

Check out the link below for an awesome video montage that perfectly captures the game we all love:). All credit goes to ‘allisonwearsorange’ for creating this collection of great hockey moments:). The players may be locked out, but we the fans simply miss the game and moments we love like the ones in this video. Plus who doesn’t love the Springsteen vocals backing the video? Warning…this video may make you miss the game even more!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGDwr_TNqeQ

The players may be locked out but that doesn’t mean we stop being fans of the game and all the great moments that it has brought. The players may be locked out but that does not stop me loving the game. I may not be a fan of the politics that are responsible for delaying the game, but I am a fan of the game. When the game returns I will still be a fan. I look forward to all the moments that a new season brings….moments that some may predict and others that will completely take us by surprise. I look forward to the season that still yet to come [albeit a shortened one] and all the moments that will make us gasp and say “Did that just happen?” or make an entire arena stand on their feet in a state of absolute joy as their team has just scored the winning goal in sudden death overtime! Does it really matter who is right any more in this war of words between the two sides? [maybe that Detroit exec is regretting his comparison of the players to cattle after his $250,000 fine? Seriously? the players are cattle and the owners are ranch owners? That was definitely an unnecessary low blow.] Stop throwing insults at one another and realize that the fans simply miss the game not your money squabbles. Just because we are stuck in lockout mode, does not mean that fans have forgotten just how awesome hockey is….just click to link above for a reminder! The season from the moment it begins is unpredictable, each team will have its own ups and downs, each will have a stretch drive to the playoffs, and 16 teams will fight tooth and nail to make it to the final before ONE team wins it all. Do not rob the fans who have ALWAYS been loyal to the game. Get a deal done so we can all once again race to the arenas or race to watch the games with friends and family. Once again we can all go crazy together as we always do when the game is on and our team or favourite players are scoring goals and winning games. Bring back the game. Bring back the unpredictability. Bring back the ups and downs. Bring back the season. Bring back the simplicity that was the game. Bring back a deal that will unite the owners and the players. Bring back the 2012-2013 season so we can ALL celebrate a great season into June.

October is around the corner and usually that means the city is taken over by blue and green everywhere you look. Game days bring out everyone in their game day attire and all the transit buses sport ‘Go Canucks Go’ alternating with their route number. With no games yet to be officially announced or canceled, my jersey is itching to come off the hanger and be worn. I’m ready for my October traditions to come into full force. Like any hockey fan, I just want to watch hockey again [not espn or tsn classics but new games]. I am not going to join those who have jumped onto the NFL wagon, each game is brutal with their replacement refs [their usual refs are in their own CBA turmoil] determining questionable plays that determine the outcomes of games. Just let me watch hockey again, please. I remain hopeful that a deal can be reached to salvage the season. The way I see it…a new deal must be reached before the Winter Classic[but hopefully sooner] in order for there to still be a season this year.

#11daysandcounting #thelockoutcontinues

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

P.S. Did you watch that video yet?!! seriously check it out..it captures many great hockey moments!!

How did I get here?!+ ALFIE’s back for more!!

Yesterday I came across a great blog post by a girl from Pittsburgh about how she became a sports fan, specifically obsessed with hockey.How did she become one of those people who swore they would never be one of those who yell at the television?! here’s the link to her post:

http://paperballpotluck.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/when-did-i-become-a-sports-fan/

It really struck a cord with me because that was and is me. I always said I wouldn’t be one of those crazy people who yelled at people running around on skates on the television(when the refs make a bad call or the players are playing poorly)…but that is exactly who I have become…just ask my father or anyone who watches the games with me. I started watching the games more regularly and quietly this game called hockey drew me in…and once in, there was no going back. I mean if I’m going to get into to a sport…then its all in…no halfway business. What fun is it to cheer for a sport if you don’t really know what’s going on? None…so once I became entranced…there was only one thing to do…learn everything. I can quote my teams stats backwards & forwards, understanding the rules for the game is a must, of course like any fan despise when the refs make bogus calls, I look forward to every October when hockey returns and going to #VancouverCanucks games have become fall & springtime musts & a birthday tradition. Game days require jerseys or some kind of Canuck color co-ordination and during playoffs…like any sports fan, I have my rituals! I never miss a game and keep up off opposition scoreboards(I find its best to know everything there is know about one opponent or another before each game). And how about that 2010 Olympic GOLD medal earned by Crosby, Luongo & company?!!(My favourite part about that medal…it was WON on #Canuck ice by LOUIE!!!). The summer Olympics while incredible athletic performances, do not the hold the same draw for me that hockey does. Its something almost magical when at the arena, the lights go down, the players line-up, the arena goes silent, and then the anthems begin, and 18000+ all their game apparel, join in…and then just as the puck drops the entire arena cheers in unison for the home team! There is nothing like it.  Other sports have caught my eye, football (BC Lions, NY Giants), basketball(LA Lakers, Dallas Mavericks), but none hold the excitement or the draw that hockey has for me. The game is fast paced and you never know what might happen…just because it team is down by 1 with less than a minute left doesn’t mean its over…until that final buzzer goes…its anyone’s game(Remember that game against Detroit in February #Canucks fans? that epic comeback & shootout victory to end that 23 home-game win streak?)! Like I said…I wasn’t always this way knowing every fact I can know…but its who I am. What’s the fun in not committing completely? It’s way more fun to know and understand the sport that I love to watch. Some games completely frustrate me…and others are so inspiring when an entire team plays so seamlessly. I bleed blue & green. Every October is a new opportunity for every team.

Did you hear Ottawa?! ALFIE’s back for one more! I think it would be extremely odd if Daniel Alfredsson was not in the Senator line-up in October..one of the best team Captains in the NHL today. His leadership will be long remembered in the Ottawa franchise(captain since 1999!). Welcome back ALFIE!! The NHL wouldn’t have been the same without you! And once again we are STILL waiting on that official announcement from Doan…many sources are saying with the ever increasing unstable Phoenix franchise that is more likely he will sign elsewhere this season. He may still stay in Phoenix…but wouldn’t it be something to have a guy like that on your team?

#71moredays! Never say never, because anything is possible once that whistle blows & the puck drops onto the ice in the opening face-off. Until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

Slowly still the off-season continues…73 more days!

This off-season seems to be dragging on by…ever more slowly as the days go by. Doan has yet to sign ink to paper officially…but with his ‘suggested’ payday it seems more and more likely that he will remain with Phoenix, at least if things with the Coyotes ownership are resolved. It will come down to who can afford to pay Doan the desired contract. His agent has been quoted saying that a decision could come as ‘early’ as sometime this week(funny I recall that a decision was going to be made by July 9! and yet here we all are still waiting 3 weeks later)

Many questions about the uncertain new CBA & remaining UFA’s are still in limbo. Cross your fingers that the NHLPA & Bettman & company can reach a new CBA agreement before mid-September…or else we’re looking at a delayed season or a lockout year…yuck! As for the remaining UFA’s, it is still to be determined as to where they will be playing next season. There are also questions surrounding each team as they continue to build and prepare for the upcoming season: Toronto’s goal-tending situation, the Suter/Parise affect in Minnesota, Nash’s chemistry in the Big Apple, Thomas taking a ‘one-year’ absence while constantly making controversial statements through his social media causing headaches for the Bruins who were hoping to trade him(but that’s looking unlikely with his constant commentary), D-day eventually arriving…as in the day Doan picks a team, the reunited Staals playing together, Nashville attempting to build around Weber while paying him nearly $26 million in bonuses next year, and the list goes on! Nothing will be resolved completely until the season begins & 2 teams battle it out next June.

Each new season brings new possibilities, you just never know what may happen. I do know that we will once again see some #sedinery & #17 in beastmode & #BURR creating magic #isitOCTOBERyet???!! first comes a CBA agreement, training camp, pre-season & the OCTOBER 11th!!! #73moredays!!

That’s all for now, until the next dramatic domino falls into place, nuck said!

Sarah E.L.

hoping to see many more goal celebrating moments  like this one starting in October! #BURROWS!!!