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.

 

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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.

Janu-OVER & HELLO FEBRUARY

From a December to remember to a January that was definitely a struggle to survive as the injury bug hit the Canucks with full steam. 2014 did not get off the the best start and that has caused many fans and the media alike to jump on the panic button as the stretch drive for the playoffs is just around the corner.

January was NOT the team’s best month by any means….the injury bug attacked the team with a vengeance [Luongo{who returned in the Calgary game},Henrik, Santorelli, Bieksa, Tanev, Weber and Alberts {Dec.29} have still not returned]. It has not been easy to watch the team struggle as the injuries seemed to happen in nearly every game…it seemed their mission most games was to escape the game with minimal injuries rather than focusing on winning. It has been a difficult few weeks to watch the Canuck in part because of the injuries and the mentality of which they let their opponents get in their heads but also because January saw Torts suspended for the final six games of the month.

Yes we are over halfway through the season and yes the team needs to be better. The good news is January is OVER and February a month in which they have had a lot of recent success[Since 2011 the Canucks are 24-9-6] is HERE. There may not be a lot of games this month due to the Olympic break BUT with the return of head coach John Tortorella and the expected return of captain Henrik Sedin things are beginning to look a lot brighter for the Canucks.

True, the Canucks have put themselves into a more difficult position with their play in the last few weeks BUT they also have a lot left to fight for in next 2 1/2 months yet. These games in February and March are ever more so important to their playoff fate. There a 4 games left before 8 Canucks [newly acquired Diaz brings the Canucks total to 8 Olympians!] are sent to Sochi to vie an Olympic hockey gold medal and the rest of the team will be treated to an Olympic break. The Canucks would like to go into the break on a high note with a few wins starting in Detroit.

Good-bye January and HELLO FEBRUARY!! The real madness is set to begin as the Olympics close and the trade deadline approaches…

Trades are one of the difficult parts of a being a fan because you are torn between being upset that a player is leaving the team while being excited for their new opportunity and optimistic about what the new player will bring to your team. In the morning of February 3rd, the Canucks announced a trade with the Montreal Canadiens: in exchange for Dale Weise, the Canucks have acquired defense-man Raphael Diaz. All the best to Dale Weise as he begins a new chapter with the Montreal Canadiens. Raphael Diaz brings a right-handed shot that has been missing on the Canucks combined with all of the injuries on the blue-line will be a great addition to the team. Down the stretch after the Olympics and come playoff time, you can NEVER have too much defense.

Did I mention that TORTS is back? It has been a very long quiet 15 days in his absence…but here is a collection of some AWESOME Torts moments from this season [Spoiler alert…its awesome!]:

HERE'S......JOHNNY!!!!

HERE’S……JOHNNY!!!!

“I apologize first and foremost to the players, to the organization and to the league. It hasn’t been a great two weeks. I didn’t help matters for this team and we’re in a tough spot right now. It’s up to me to do my job and get this team back. We had meetings this morning, we have a long list of things we need to improve at. We need to start over on the mental side” – Tortorella [February 3, 2014]

Look out NHL, you’ve released a DETERMINED John Tortorella -and it looks like just as Torts has always stood by his team, his players will continue to stand by him:

“He’s our coach, he’s our leader and we’re excited he’s back. This will be a process, starts with the right mindset” – Kesler [February 3, 2014]

That mindset is where it will begin and they hope to put it into motion starting with their final 4 games before the Olympic break vs. Detroit, Boston, Montreal and Toronto and continuing for the rest of the season.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

Hockey is…

Ryan Kesler and Ryker Kesler (little Kes!)

Ryan Kesler and Ryker Kesler (little Kes!) perfectly displaying the adage “Like Father, Like Son”.

Somewhere in North America there was a hockey game last night. Anthems were sung relatively in tune. The whistle blew. The puck was dropped. The players raced down the ice from end to end. The game was tied and overtime was forced. The clock was winding down and with one last rush down the ice the home team scored a goal to end the game. The crowd went wild.

Hockey is more than just a game, it is a way of life to those who play the game. Hockey is an unbreakable bond between players, their parents, coaches and the ice rink which is a second home. The players on one team form a bond that will never be broken save for when they play on opposite sides of the ice. Some play at the professional level and others play just for fun.

To be successful in this sport EVERY player on the roster needs to put their best game on the ice every game. “Hockey is a unique sport in the sense that you need each and every guy helping each other and pulling in the same direction to be successful.” -Wayne Gretzky

Hockey is a unique sport in the sense that you need each and every guy helping each other and pulling in the same direction to be successful.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/waynegretz454033.html#pXQdKQcejWd2dRgA.99
Hockey is a unique sport in the sense that you need each and every guy helping each other and pulling in the same direction to be successful.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/waynegretz454033.html#pXQdKQcejWd2dRgA.99
Hockey is a unique sport in the sense that you need each and every guy helping each other and pulling in the same direction to be successful.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/waynegretz454033.html#pXQdKQcejWd2dRgA.99

Hockey brings fans from all over the world together. We may not always cheer for the same team and be from different cities BUT we are all enraptured by the game that is hockey. Sometimes there are incidents that will cause fans and media alike to be divided once more. Some nights the game will appear more like fight night or so it seemed when my Vancouver Canucks faced off against the Calgary Flames on January 18th.

Hockey Night or Fight Night?!

Hockey Night or Fight Night?!

The Flames head coach started his 4th line heavy weights and Torts countered with his 4th line. TWO seconds into the game [yes, you read that correct, TWO seconds] 5 fights broke out at centre ice as the teams had amassed 142 minutes and 8 players ejected from the game. Was it a premeditated incident or a spontaneous reaction just after puck drop? There was the animated less than thrilled reaction from Torts on the bench as all the majors were announced, Burrows got hit from behind by the Flames captain Giordano, at one point it looked like there would be no players left on either bench and then there was the first intermission when Torts attempted to enter the Flames locker room to confront the Flames coach Hartley. Torts is NOT the only one with blame in this game, as Hartley knew what he was doing in putting enforcer Kevin Westgarth as his opening center. Was it the best idea to storm to the opponent’s dressing room? Definitely not BUT Torts wanting to stand up for his players is something that the team will hold on to LONG after this game.

As result of said events Torts had a hearing in New York. Hartley did not have a hearing BUT was fined $25,000 for his actions. A 15 day, 6-game suspension with NO team contact was assessed to Torts. Long story short, in the next 6 games the team will have to play their best for their coach who stood up for them as he is forced to watch from the sidelines away from the team. One thing is absolutely certain, press conferences will NOT be the same while Torts is suspended. Torts will be eligible to return to his spot behind the bench February 3rd when his team is in Detroit.

Somewhere where in North America a hockey game was played. One team won and one team lost. One game over and another is on the horizon as the journey is not yet over as more games remain. Some players will reach new heights, some will disappoint, some will take us all by surprise and SOME are still dreaming of what playing the NHL will look like:

For some the dream will come true and this crazy thing called hockey will become so much more than a game. No one game is ever exactly the same and within one game the momentum can swing ever so swiftly. Opinions will vary for fans of every team in regards to every game that is played but on ONE thing do we all agree: we love the game that is HOCKEY and all that comes with it.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

Singing the BLUES away…

Like Torts, I am a terrible loser and like Torts, I support this team through thick and thin. Losing streaks come and go but when they come, they ALWAYS brings the doom and gloom from social media.

Sure the team has let some leads slip away, missed a few empty nets and perhaps lost points they should have had during their recent losing streak BUT when a team struggles, it is just that a TEAM struggle. Teams win as a team and lose as a team [seems obvious, yes?]. Teams when struggling often meet a team that is at the top of their game and bring with them a win streak. Leading up to the game in question, the struggling team has no business winning the game.

Enter the St.Louis Blues who are one of the top teams in the NHL this season. The Canucks were that struggling team January 10th and had no business winning against a team that brought with them a 7-game win streak. Does this sound familiar?

The Blues had played the night before and should have been tired…BUT they did not look overly road weary in the first 20 minutes and while the Canucks did not look their best, LACK stood tall making 12 stops. Trouble seemed inevitable if the Canucks could not change their playing style moving into the final 40 minutes.

Would Torts call a timeout to get the team into this game or would his intermission pep talk say everything they needed to turn the tide? Who was a difference maker in this game aside from Eddie Lack? Why, it was the unusual suspect of Zac Dalpe with the Sedins [yes, you read that right…Zac Dalpe played with the Sedins in a game in which nearly all the lines were re-worked!]

One goal leads (& two goal leads) are almost never safe…especially against the firepower of a team like the St.Louis Blues. The Blues tied the game with a laser shot that evaded Eddie Lack as he was screened with traffic in front. The Canucks needed a hero to step up for the go-ahead goal. They have spent TOO many games relying on their goalies…and needed to reward Lack with at least some offense.

Mike Santorelli to the rescue with the go ahead goal!

The Canucks found a way to get the lead in the third period and the only question that remained was could they close this game out in a way that they hadn’t been able to do the previous 5 games? Could they hold the lead? The clock was winding down when the Blues pulled their goalie for an extra attacker which has been the Canucks kryptonite as of late and it became fire drill front of Lack as the Blues threw everything they could at him. Full credit to the Blues in this game as they never stopped pushing back. The Canucks were hemmed in their zone unable to clear the puck to the empty net BUT Lack stood tall preserving the victory to end the skid.

It was game Vancouver had no business winning BUT they did just that as the Canucks snapped their 5-game losing streak and stopped the Blues from winning 8 straight. Has the team solved all of their issues? No, but they’ve taking a stepping stone into the right direction and can build upon this game as they prepare for a 3-game Pacific road trip stopping in LA, Anaheim & Phoenix. A regulation win in LA on Monday [Jan.13th] would tie the Canucks with the Kings for third spot in the Pacific division and be a HUGE confidence booster.

This week we will see the return of Roberto Luongo and by weeks end the return of Alex Burrows to the line up [and it is also possible that Alex Edler could return to the blue-line]! The Canucks have a long way to go yet, it’s true but with the return of Luongo, Burrows and Edler can only help to serve their line up down the stretch before the Olympic break. It all starts when the puck drops in LA on Monday night and the Canucks take on a talented Kings team. The Kings have had the Canucks number as of late which is something the Canucks will look to change as they desire to gain 2 points in regulation.

It is not an easy path to the playoffs, but a few wins against division rivals will go a long way to helping secure a playoff berth. Every point in the standings[yes even the loser points in the SO/OT] makes a difference between finishing 3rd or earning a potential wildcard spot. It will be a tough trip BUT it is a great opportunity for the Canucks to pick up some very important divisional points.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

December 2 Remember

Happy New Year hockey fans!

While we will all be keeping our eyes on the 2014 Winter Classic and the announcement of the USA Olympic hockey roster[Congratulations Ryan Kesler!], I will be taking a closer look at the December that was for the Canucks. Spoiler alert: it was fantastic!

November was NOT a good month for the Canucks as they could not solve the riddle of how to win back to back games no matter how good they played. November was the month they survived and December was the month they thrived.

In December the team posted an impressive 10-1-2 record picking up 22/26 points.December wasn’t exactly easy either as the team lost Burrows, Sestito, Edler, Stanton, Luongo and Alberts to various injuries throughout the month. Sestito is the only one to return to the line up so far.

Coming into December the Canucks had not posted back to back wins since October…which sounds pretty unbelievable YET it is very true. They knew they had to be better from top to bottom and it would require everyone to step up. Points are vital to divisional standings and the wildcard spots…and while they have not yet caught the leading Anaheim Ducks, they have closed the gap between themselves and LA and San Jose as they have stacked up some points.

Step up indeed they did. They opened December with 7 straight, yes you read that right…7 straight WINS including 5 straight at home and points in 8 straight over all.

During that 7-game win streak there were some stand out performances from a few players in particular. The line of Higgins-Kesler-Santorelli showcased some fantastic chemistry while the goal-tenders each posted shutouts.

The month opened with Ryan Kesler leading the charge with back to back 2-goal game performances against Carolina and Nashville.

The Canucks saw their 2-goal lead disappear very quickly when Carolina scored twice in 10 seconds early in the middle frame to tie the game. The team could have easily buckled in that moment BUT instead Ryan Kesler was quick to take back the lead for the Canucks.

Kesler put on a show in the third period against Nashville and made absolutely certain the team took two points home.

Phoenix came calling and the Canucks were trying to catch them in the division standings as the gap between the two was closing.

Now this game would end up going to overtime before the Canucks eventually won BUT this goal from Henrik is just ridiculous:

After Phoenix came the young Colorado Avalanche who have been aptly coached by the ever colorful Patrick Roy. The Canucks were in complete control of this game from the puck drop however as the Higgins-Kesler-Santorelli line took care of the offense while Luongo stood on his head to lead the team to a 3-1 victory.

The stand out in this game aside from Luongo’s stellar goal-tending was Mike Santorelli who has quickly become a fan favourite as he has been easily one of the most consistent players all season long.

Did I mention the BIG wins against Boston and Chicago? The atmosphere in Rogers Arena during the Boston game was electric, as loud as a playoff game. It was the first time the Bruins have played in Vancouver since June 15, 2011 and the while the stakes were not high, both teams wanted this victory. Both the Canucks and the fans were ready for this game…and the fans made sure to be heard all game long. Did I mention the unconventional time out called by Torts early in the 2nd period that turned the tide back to the Canucks and they never looked back.

Canucks went into the madhouse following a disappointing game in Dallas [their ONLY regulation loss in the month] and did not have the start they hoped for as the Blackhawks took a 2-0 lead. Cue the comeback kids…Daniel Sedin tied the game midway through the third period forcing this game to go to extra time. Over time did not solve the game although Santorelli came awfully close to tying the game with the clock winding down. Eddie Lack took part in his first NHL shootout…an 8 round shoot out in the mad house…and came out on the winning side stopping the likes of Kane, Toews & Hossa!

Have I mentioned the injury bug that bit the team in the very first game by taking away Burrows with a broken jaw. Alex Edler and Ryan Stanton were soon to follow…and left our defense seriously drained. Luongo’s injury came in late in the month against Winnipeg and was determined to be day-to-day and left Eddie Lack with the reigns to manage until such time that Luongo returns to the lineup. Lack has been more than capable in helping this team close out the month 2-0-1 picking up 5/6 points including posting his 2nd NHL shutout in his career and in the month. The latest injury came as the month drew to a close to Andrew Alberts, who suffered a concussion after taking a hit from Brian McGrattan early in the game against Calgary.

The injury bug hits every team (just look at Pittsburgh!) and if they want to have success they have to find ways to win despite missing key pieces. Injuries while frustrating, allow an opportunity for other players to step into a bigger role and bigger minutes as they help the team move forward. December is a month in which not every win was pretty but the team has had to redefine the ways in which they have won while different role players have stepped up as hero.

Torts has made it clear since day one that shot blocking and special teams would be vital to his team’s success. Special teams will be key as they always are moving forward and the Canucks will look to keep improving their power play and penalty kill teams. Shot blocking is expected of each and every player in every situation [5-on-5, 5-on-4 or 5-on-3]. If I have mentioned their power play once, I’ve mentioned it 100 times…it is no secret they struggled with the man advantage early but it has most definitely improved as of late [6 power play goals in their first 20 games, 13 PPG in their last 21 games]. Special teams may not win you every game BUT success long term is much easier attained when your special teams are successful. The Canucks have relied heavily on their strong penalty kill and slowly their power play is catching up as December closed and the season progresses. **Did I mention they have the league’s number ONE ranked penalty kill?

It truly was a December to remember,

As 2014 begins, January will see the return of Luongo, Burrows and potentially Edler. There is no sense in rushing Luongo with Lack’s steady play, but the belief is that Luongo will be back in the lineup by the weekend road trip in California. Alex Burrows will be a spark plug as he always is when he is in the lineup when he makes his comeback. Burrows does more than just score goals, he does all the little things and is a huge asset to our penalty kill unit. Alex Edler will be a welcome addition back to the backend as the defense has taken a few hits thanks to various injuries. Lucky for the Canucks, they have been able to rely on Hamhuis and some unexpected depth but they will gladly welcome back some regulars as the season moves forward. A healthy line up will be key to having success down the stretch and into the playoffs.

41 games in, we are officially at the halfway point in the season, can you believe it? 41 more games remain during which we will see an Olympic break as the Sochi games take the world captive. 41 more games before the playoff madness of a new playoff format will unfold and the wildcards are determined. 41 games before the real work begins for all the playoff contenders.

The Canucks closed 2013 with an impeccable 10-1-2 December and an overall 23-11-7 record in the first half of the season. Here’s to a great 2014 for the Canucks and all the teams in the NHL. It’s going to be a wild ride to the finish and we are lucky to be able to watch as it unfolds.

December to remember indeed as the Vancouver Canucks posted a 10-1-2 record. (Eerily similar to their December 2010 when they posted a 11-1-2 record)

Here’s December 2013 at glance! December to remember indeed as the Vancouver Canucks posted a 10-1-2 record. (Eerily similar to their December 2010 when they posted a 11-1-2 record)

October was the month that the Canucks surprised a lot people as they adjusted to Torts’ style. November was the month that the Canucks survived. December was the month that the Canucks thrived and will be looking to build upon that success as they open 2014 with a New Year’s Day game against Tampa Bay [yes I know, not quite as big as the Winter Classic BUT the 2 points that come with it are vital with the ever tight in the Pacific Division].

***The Team Canada Men’s hockey team Olympic roster will be announced January 7, 2014. [& I expect one or two Canucks to be named to that roster..see what I did there?].

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

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.