Road Trip #2: Part ONE

Game 17: Canuck vs. Coyotes.

Game 17: Canuck vs. Coyotes.

Stop #1: The Desert otherwise known as Phoenix. In past years playing against Phoenix nearly always meant a close defensive game. In a surprise twist that no one expected, the Coyotes have turned their game into an offensive roulette, heading into this game Phoenix had scored 4 or more goals in their previous 7 games. So which team would face off against Vancouver?

As has happened more often than not this season, the opposition opened up the scoring. Despite the one goal it was a pretty even first road period and it stayed a one goal game after 20 minutes. Cue the comeback kids [aka the Canucks] who wasted no time getting on the board at the start of the second period to tie the game 1-1. The goal came just 25 seconds into the middle frame from a point shot by Dan Hamhuis.

The Canucks did something in this game they haven’t done very often this season by scoring a power play goal in back to back games to take a 2-1 lead. The Canucks were in control of the play until late in the second period when the Coyotes came back to tie the game 2-2.

The third period was a goal-tender’s duel as neither team wanted to give in. Overtime would be needed but yielded no results and you know what that means…a shoot out. Yes a shoot out, everyone’s favourite tradition or most hated depending on how you look at it. Phoenix struck first in the shoot out and BURROWS tied it to keep Vancouver in it. 6 rounds were needed to solve this one in which Phoenix got the go ahead goal to take the two points.

The Canucks may not have won the game but they manage to steal a road point and did some good things: the power play stole a goal, Luongo was rock solid, the second line solidified itself as a game changer [Burrows, Higgins & Santorelli] and Henrik stretched his points streak to 12 straight games!

The Canucks may not have won the game after that 6-round shootout BUT Ryan Kesler did score this beauty on the power play!

Next mission to achieve a feat they have not managed in 9 straight games against San Jose going back to January 2012.

Game 18: Canucks vs. Sharks

Game 18: Canucks vs. Sharks

Stop #2: The Shark Tank. Playing the Sharks has not been an easy task in the last 9 games or so for Vancouver and the media has made sure to remind them of that fact every time they have faced off against San Jose. This year the Sharks have been dominant and in the previous two games versus San Jose this year, the Sharks have outscored the Canucks 8-2.

This time going into the Shark Tank, the Canucks would bring with them a very different lineup than had previously faced off with the Sharks…aka more than one line.

The start of this game was a strange bounce that found its way in the back of the net to give the Sharks the quick 1-0 lead and make Canucks fans hope that it wasn’t a sign of things to come.

The concern did not last long as the unsung hero Brad Richardson scored on the Canucks first shot of the game to tie the game 1-1. The pace seemed to pick up and quickly we again saw an exchange of goals from the teams [Santorelli for the Canucks and Brown for the Sharks] just ten minutes into the game. Offense anyone? The pace slowed down until late in the period when Burrows set Higgins up for the go ahead goal to put to the Canucks up 3-2.

The Canucks dominated the second period outshooting the Sharks 17-5 and chasing Niemi from the net when they went up 4-2 [credit goes to Bieksa who took the initial shot from the point & Kassian who tapped it in front]. Remember when the second period was one to be dreaded? This year it has been one of their strongest periods.

The Sharks picked up the pace in the third period out shooting the Canucks 13-8, but Luongo closed the door for Vancouver helping to the team steal 2 points in regulation. Henrik’s point streak came to an end [worry not, a new points streak will begin] BUT more importantly the team ended their 9 game skid in San Jose.

Yes, it really did happen, the Canucks finally earned a victory in the Shark tank! The Canucks got goals from 4 different players and none of them were named Sedin or Kesler. Secondary scoring…yes please! It sure is nice to see the line up taking shape! Three stand outs this year have been the unexpected trio or Richardson, Santorelli & Stanton. Gillis has taken a lot of heat in the last two year but 18 games into this season and the signings of Brad Richardson and Mike Santorelli and the acquiring of Ryan Stanton have been absolute steals. All three of them have been integral to the team’s success this season.

Canucks players and fans alike are buying into the Torts systems.

Next up: The Canucks will face off 7:00 TONIGHT [Nov.9] against the never to be taken for granted LA Kings on hockey night in Canada. The Canucks will close out the 4-game road trip TOMORROW [Nov.10] against the league leading Anaheim Ducks. #goCanucksgo #roadwarriors

As always until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

Preseason Dramatics

Just when everyone thought the preseason was boring…the players decided to make this a very interesting one. There is still a week before the NHL season officially opens YET as the preseason has progressed, we have already seen a ridiculous amount of drama.

Dramatic Incidents & the suspensions handed out through September 23rd:

Sept.15th. LA Kings vs. Phoenix Coyotes.

Incident: LA rookie Jordan Nolan hit Phoenix defenceman Rostislav Klesla with an open ice hit which resulted in Klesla being knocked unconscious. Klesla was taken off the ice on a stretcher and taken to hospital.

Result: Jordan Nolan was assessed 4 minutes of penalties immediately following the hit. As soon as he returned to the ice he was a target of all the Coyotes. Bissonnette left the bench in order to fight Nolan resulting in an automatic 10-game suspension. He will be eligible to return to the Coyotes lineup October 24th. As a result of his fight with Bissonnette, Nolan was given a 2-minute minor for embellishment and a 10-minute misconduct. Even though Nolan’s hit on Klesla resulted in a dangerous injury, according to Shannahan he did not break any NHL rules and would not be suspended. Best of luck to Klesla as he recovers!

September 21st Vancouver Canucks vs. Edmonton Oilers

Incident: Dale Weise guilty as charged with making an illegal check to the head of Taylor Hall. Hall was not injured on the play BUT it is an extremely dangerous play to make in ANY game. An collision between Zack Kassian and Sam Gagner resulted in an accidental high stick to the face of Gagner. Not only did it result in the loss of a few teeth but also a broken jaw. I do not think Kassian had any intention to hurt Gagner but that doesn’t change the fact that it resulted in an injury. Best of luck to Gagner on a speedy recovery!(I may not be a fan of the Oilers, but you never want to see a player injured.)

Result: Dale Weise suspended the remainder of the preseason. Zack Kassian received a 4-minute double minor penalty on the play and suspended the remainder of the preseason and the first 5 games of the regular season. They will serve their respective suspensions and move on.

September 22nd Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Buffalo Sabres

Incident: Where to begin with the melee that ensued in this game?! A fight broke out between Toronto’s Jamie Devane and Buffalo’s Corey Tropp broke out that was quickly followed the incident between Buffalo’s John Scott and Toronto’s Phil Kessel. Rather than fight with Scott, Kessel took two chops at Scott with his stick and soon there was an all out brawl between the two teams. Even the goalies joined in the punching.

Result: David Clarkson was handed the automatic 10-game suspension for leaving the team bench on an illegal line change and joining the on-ice brawl. Kessel received a 3 game suspension through the rest of the preseason, and will eligible to play again opening night. Buffalo’s head coach Ron Rolston was fined for player selection and team conduct as result of the events that transpired in the third period. A total of 211 penalty minutes were divided between all the players involved.

I reiterate that it is PRESEASON and seems ridiculous to have had so many incidents take place BEFORE the regular season begins. That being said, the incidents have taken place and the punishments have been given whether fans agree with the decisions made by the league or vehemently disagree with the decisions that were made. It is safe to say that once again the NHL will once again be consistently inconsistent with suspensions handed out. It is also safe to say that whatever decisions are made throughout the year that not everyone will agree when suspensions are handed out. There will always be those who ask for harsher punishment and those who think the punishment given was too harsh. At the end of the day, whether we as fans agree with the decisions made doesn’t matter, what matters is how each team responds to that decision.

There are still a few days of preseason left, and with the way this preseason is going, anything could happen between now and next week’s regular season puck drop! We will have to wait see how these incidents affect these teams when they meet again in the regular season.

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.

Players plan ahead +CBA talks continue + Hockey is more than a game

The ever pressing possibility of a lockout has many NHL players looking to ‘back-up plans’. Rumor has it that Evgeni Malkin is in talks with various KHL clubs looking into playing in a ‘week-by-week’ set up in the case of a lockout which would allow him to return to the NHL should the lockout be short-term. Steven Stamkos and teammate Martin St.Louis have reportedly considered playing in Europe in the event of a lockout and they believe that should the lockout be an extended one that other NHL players will also look to Europe. The players do want to lose a year of playing hockey due to being locked out. No one wants the lockout to happen but in the event of one, most would like to keep themselves and their skills viable while the CBA situation gets sorted out.

CBA talks ended between the NHL and the NHLPA after 45 minutes with Fehr and Bettman simply stating that both sides would most likely meet again this afternoon. Fehr was going to update the players both in NYC and those who could not be there on the outcome of this morning’s meeting. Bettman and the NHL made a counter-proposal that they feel is significantly different then before…but the question remains how will the players see this new offer? Will they see it as a resolution or distrust the league once again? It reportedly is only for 6 years which means that in 6 years they will be right back in this square debating the same issues all over again. Mind you if both sides can finally find some common ground before the 15th, it wouldn’t matter the term of the agreement but rather it would just be nice to watch hockey once more.

Imagine hockey was never to be played again anywhere…in any league….can you picture it? I cannot picture it…now that I’ve fully embrace hockey and all its personality it is impossible to think it being never more. It will return whether it is on time, delayed for short-term or delayed in October 2013…but it will return eventually.

Rumor has it that the city of Glendale in Phoenix is pushing to extend their arena deal with the NHL for another month which would give Jamison the extra time he needs to get the final investors he needs in buying the Coyotes.

Rumor also has it the Detroit Red Wings are looking in to more than one defenseman to help fill the void left behind in Lidstrom’s retiring. They reportedly made a 2-year offer to Carlo Colaiacovo and expressed an interest in Michal Rozsival, Brett Clark and Mark Eaton. Lidstrom retiring has left a void in the strong Red Wing defence but it also presents the opportunity for someone to step up and do the unexpected.

The great thing about hockey is that every game allows a different player to showcase their unique ability and presents each player or team, the chance to rise above the expected. The under dogs take on the ‘supposed’ best and beat them soundly or a player that was never drafted becomes an all-out superstar. Each game[and each season] presents a new slate and you never know what might happen. You might have expectations for a game or series but somehow those always change with each game. A game might look like its finished and then suddenly in the final minute or final seconds your team TIES it…and then OT/and a shootout later determines that your team won a game that looked like a sure defeat. Or a player returns from an extended injury recovery…and plays like they never missed a game. Or the game that clinches a team’s playoff berth…the arena gets extremely animated. You see, there are so many great moments not just throughout the entire season, but within ONE game. It is about more than the x’s and o’s, it’s about how one single moment can change the way you view the entire game or how the game can unite fans around the world. PLEASE…let us have the WHOLE season Bettman, Fehr, Executives & Players. Get a deal done on time. The fans deserve the season not another lockout.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.