Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Road Ahead – 26-Feb-06

Here is the end game for the Vancouver Canucks.

When NHL play resumes on 28-Feb-2006 the Canucks will have 23 games remaining. Those 23 games represent 66 potential points. In the 59 games played to this point 71 points have been secured. That translates to 1.203 points per game. If the trend were to continue 23 games represent 28 points or a season total of 99.

Of the 23 games remaining, 8 are against teams currently with higher point totals. This leaves 15 games or 30 points against ‘weaker’ opponents. A total of 101 points would result from only beating the weaker teams.

Of the 23 games remaining, there are 13 at home and 10 on the road. Those 13 home games represent 26 points or a season total of 97 points.

In ’03-04 Detroit scored 109 points to be first seed. The Canucks scored 101 points to be third seed. Nashville was the eighth seed with 91 points. Of course in ’03-04 there wasn’t this three points to kiss your sister scenario. Back then Minny had the most ties with 20 and Calgary had the least with 7. The average was 12.2 ties per team. Or you could say 12 new points per team.

Of the 23 games remaining, 8 are divisional match ups. The Canucks have two with the Flames, three with the Oilers, two with the Wild and one with the Avalanche. These are the proverbial four pointers. There is a collective 32 points of available ‘space’ to be gained or lost on divisional rivals.

Finally, there are eleven days and five games until the NHL Trading Deadline. Telephone for Mr. Nonis, Mr. Dave Nonis. Call from St Louis. On hold Phoenix, Chicago, Washington DC, Tampa Bay or Uniondale for Mr. Nonis.


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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Canada's Olympic Women

This is a fast count without too much science put into it. But did you know that Canada's Women's Team leads all countries in metal winnings at the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics?

As of Saturday night:

4USA 9

Well done ladies.


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Playoff Hunt #3B

This report for the Western Conference discusses the games between Feb 28 to March 4th.

Period of Analysis 28-Feb-06 to 04-Mar-06

SeedTeamCurrent PointsLast 10 PointsPredicted Points
Detroit spends the week out west with games in San Jose, Anaheim, and Phoenix. The big red machine will have four players who played Sunday in the gold metal game in Turin. Five others made the trip to Italy. I’ll suggest that Detroit is going to stumble a little this week. Certainly they’ll pick up points in Phoenix. But maybe the Sharks and Ducks will be able to catch the Wings on the road and tired. Six points wouldn’t surprise me but let’s give them only two this week.

Dallas has a light schedule with their first game not until Thursday when they pull into Scottsdale to take on the Desert Dogs. Saturday they host the Av’s at home. Turco made the trip to Italy but never played. Modano seems to be over his hissy fit. I give Dallas four points this week. They remain two back of the Wings.

With the Kipper passing on an opportunity to play in Turin, the Flames can be nothing but stronger. They host three home games with Vancouver, St Louis and San Jose providing the opposition. Iggy might have something to prove. Phaneuf as well. I’d think it is going to be hard for Edmonton and Vancouver to keep pace with the Flames down the stretch. Give Calgary six points this week.

Nashville has an easy week. They travel to pick up a couple points from the hapless Blackhawks then return home to host the Canuck’s the next night. Vokoun, Erat and Zidlicky will be slightly high bringing home their Bronze metals. The Pred’s are going to pick up two wins this week.

The Canucks’ post Olympic break slogan must be “Woe is us!” Their top two defensemen went down with injuries in Turin. Bertuzzi came far closer to being the goat than having a momentum changing experience with the Team Canada lads. With likely names like Prestin Ryan being pressed into service on the depleted Vancouver blue line no matter how healthy and rested Naslund is this team is going south for the near future. The Canucks have three road games with visits to Calgary, Nashville and Chicago. Let’s be charitable and give them two points in Chitown. BTW – congratulations to the Twins, and Ruutu for your metals. I don’t know who gets the gold and the silver until tomorrow afternoon. Ohlund and Salo will also have hardware to show for their efforts. One of them will be gold. An interesting question will be to ask the two D-men if they’d rather have a healthy shot the Holly Grail or the Olympic honour and a broken wing. Personally – regardless of the injuries, the Stanley Cup is a bigger asset on my balance sheet. But I’m Canadian; they’re not.

Colorado opens up at home against Minny then the CBJ’s. They end the week on the road in Dallas. Burnaby Joe and Blake will be coming home from the Olympic debacle. I don’t see the Wild or the Blue Jackets giving up much trouble. I figure Colorado for four points this week. This should put them one up on Vancouver.

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LA has a easy week with games at home to Minny and the CBJ’s. With no King having gone to the Olympics they should be rested and ready to go. LA will pick up four points this week to be in a tie with Vancouver.

Here’s a strange one. The Oil went into the break with their last game at home to the St Louis Blues. The Blues provide the opposition when they start up again on Wednesday. The Oilers lost back on Feb 12th. Look for them to win the delayed rematch. The Sharks come to town a few nights later. Hard to say where that contest will fall so let’s hedge and say three points for the Oilers this week.

Outside looking in.

Burke’s Ducks are at 65 points three back of Edmonton. I predict Anaheim to win at home against Detroit (I know I know) and then again against Minny. If the Ducks pick up four points and Edmonton comes up flat there is a chance they could move into a playoff spot this week. Will it happen? Likely not. But will the Ducks put pressure on Edmonton, LA and Vancouver? Definitely yes. Do I sound like John Garrett answering my own questions? Oh God NO!

The remainder of the west with a chance of making it to the Stanley Cup Tournament are, maybe, Minnesota and San Jose. The Sharks still have four games in hand on LA, three on Vancouver and two on Edmonton. Potentially the Sharks can still take a bite out of someone.

Current Dance Partners.

If the playoff were to start on March 5th my predictions for match ups are as follows:

Detroit – Edmonton
Dallas – Los Angles
Calgary – Vancouver
Nashville – Colorado


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Thursday, February 23, 2006

New Look Defense

Canuck defenseman Mattias Ohlund is out of Olympic tournament with what doctors suspect are broken ribs.

The good news for Nucks fans is that Matty is expected to be out of action between seven and 10 days.

"It's not a serious injury," said team doctor Lannert Hovelius. "But he can't play in the next few days so we had to replace him. "There was nothing on the x-ray, but clinically, it's a fracture."

The injury occurred when Ohlund was checked from behind by Swiss forward Patric Della Rossa, lost his balance and slid into the boards in the second period on Wednesday.

There are reports within the TV and Radio coverage are Canuck defenseman Sami Salo was injured in the second period of a game with the USA. The reported injury is a separated shoulder. I must caution that I didn’t see the game and I have yet to find this injury reported in the print media.

Canuck defenseman Nolan Baumgartner reports this morning on the local radio shows that he is unsure if the foot he injured back on February 3rd in Calgary will be ready to go again when the Nucks resume play in Cowtown next Tuesday.

These reports on top of the known situation with Canuck top four defenseman Ed Jovanoski being out a minimum of six weeks after abdominal surgery in early February.

The Canuck blue line may look like this on Februray 28th when the Nucks return to NHL action against the Calgary Flames: Bryan Allen, Steve MacCarthy, Kevin Bieksa, Sven Butenschon, Tomas Mojzis and Prestin Ryan.

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Ruutu Hit on Jagr

Video of Ruutu’s Hit on Jagr

Jagr left the game at the seven-minute mark of the second period after being slammed into the boards by Finland's Jarkko Ruutu, sustaining a cut to his forehead.

The NHL's leading scorer this season, Jagr laid face down in a pool of blood before he was helped off the ice.

After the game, Czech coach Alois Hadamczik ruled out a concussion and said it's possible Jagr could play Sunday against Italy.

The Czech team's medical staff was unavailable to comment on the winger's condition.

Ruutu won't face any further disciplinary action, according to the International Ice Hockey Federation, and is expected to play Sunday versus Canada.

Above lifted from the CBC - here

  • It wasn’t a dirty hit. Later Martin Straka would go after Ruutu. So maybe it is an all done deal now.
  • Glen Sather must be livid. All NHL GM’s with star players in the Olympics must have collectively winced.
  • Bert, this afternoon, keep your head up when #37 of Finland is on the ice.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

So what’s been happening?


The Swedish Women beat the USA Women’s team in Turin. Significance? For the first time in the history of Women’s Hockey at that the Olympic level Canada will play someone other than the USA in the Gold Metal game.

Men’s Hockey Group B – Latvia tied the USA 3-3. Men’s Hockey Group A – Swiss beat Czech’s 3 – 2 then backed it up with a 2 – 0 result against Canada. Significance? The playing field is levelling between nations that participate in ice hockey at the international level. Switzerland, Latvia, Germany and the split into Czech and Slovakia teams has produced an excellent cadre of competitive national teams.

Of course this is a result of the opening of the NHL to European players. As European players realized success in the NHL, younger players from Europe, and the USA for that matter, began to find their way onto Canadian major junior league teams. Young players with the opportunity to play the game at that level only served to further the international advancement of the game. For Canadians the holly grail still is, and will always remain, the Stanley Cup. More international players find themselves in the Canadian major junior leagues, graduating to the NNL and competing for Lord Stanley’s mug. This in turn leads to better development programs in the nations supplying players to the North American professional league.

Events like the Olympics and Summit Series such as the Canada Cup or World Cup are hard to judge in terms of how great is the hockey. Certainly, it would be easy to make a case for the Canada 1972, Canada Cup 1987 or Salt Lake Olympics as being some of the greatest hockey every played. I expect though that, for example, in February 2006 the NHL league leading Detroit Red Wings as a team would beat the current Canadian Olympic Team as a pickup squad in a seven game series. Of course with longer series and more familiar opponents it seems pickup team of stars do tend to come together and show greatness.

As fans of the game we all benefit when the potential source of greatness expands to come from more areas than just North America. So good for the Swedish Women. Good on you for the Swiss and Latvian teams. I look forward to seeing more Swiss, Latvian, German, Kazastanian ad Italian born players in major junior hockey and the NHL. It can only serve to make the greatest game on ice even greater.


Playoff Hunt #3

This report for the Western Conference only discusses the games from Feb 6 to Feb 12. I’ll get to projecting the results for the week starting Feb 28 after next weekend when we know how things have gone in Turin.

Period of Analysis 06-Feb-06 to 12-Feb-06 - Olympic Break

SeedTeamCurrent PointsLast 10 PointsPredicted Points
Detroit continues to beat everyone in sight. They’ve picked up all six points that were available this past week. I’ve heard the argument “are Detroit that good or is the Central Division that bad?” Given this week’s six points came off wins over Nashville ( 6-0 at home and 3-2 on the road) and Colorado (6-3), I’ve have to suggest “yup the Wings are that good!”

Dallas played 500 hockey this week. They were not as good as I had expected. They won two games early then lost in the Shark Tank and LA. They gave up four goals in the third period to LA to lose 6-5. I thought they’d lose one game on their western tour. They lost two.

I predicted the Flames were going to be hungry. Sure enough they picked up all six points including an OT win over St Louis. Their results coupled with the Nucks' poor Lotus Land homestand resulted in the Flames and Canucks swapping seeds this week

Nashville had a tough week. They did manage a win against CBJ but lost twice to Detroit and once to Dallas.

There was no reason why the Nucks shouldn’t have sweep into the break with four home ice wins against four weaker opponents. But as the Canucks tend to do they under achieved. Embarrassing no shows with St Louis and Anaheim were bookended by less than convincing wins over Columbus and Minny. Injuries have been hurting the Canucks core players. This Olympic break may be just what the Doctor ordered.

Colorado beat Edmonton, Minny, and Columbus to leapfrog over both Edmonton and LA into sixth seed. At one point the Av’s were 5th seed also ahead of Vancouver.

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As expected LA picked up points from Columbus and Minny. They continue to struggle with only three wins in their last ten games. I expect Anaheim who are just four points back to start to put some more pressure on LA.

The Oil did not fair too well this week. The managed to beat Anaheim and got a OTL point from St Louis for a total of only three for the week. A lost to Minnesota and a single point from St Louis is unacceptable. However, I do not foresee any problems for the Oilers to remain around as the seventh seed.

Outside looking in.

The remainder of the west with a chance of making it to the Stanley Cup Tournament are Anaheim, Minnesota and Phoenix. Anaheim is still the best of the bunch and is showing some pluck. Ducks started and ended the week four points out of a playoff spot. The mix changed slightly in that the target is now LA or Edmonton. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bruke’s Ducks better LA in the coming month. The Sharks also still have four games in hand on LA. Potentially eight points available that would certainly draw the Wilson’s (Coach Ron n GM Doug) into the playoff picture.

The antics in Scottsdale with Mr. Tochett and the fall out for Mr. and Mrs. Gretzki has likely, and sadly, placed the playoff picture on hold for the team from the valley of the sun.

Current Dance Partners.

If the playoff were to start today the match ups are as follows:

Detroit – Edmonton
Dallas – Los Angles
Calgary – Colorado
Nashville – Vancouver


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Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Puzzle Continues

Ducks 3 at Canucks 1 – 10-Feb-06

Brian Burke and his Mighty Ducks arrived in Vancouver on Friday for a contest with the Vancouver Canucks. Unfortunately the Canucks never showed up and the Ducks headed home for a Sunday date with the Chicago Blackhawks with an easy two points in pocket. Anaheim is now only two points out of the playoffs. Just behind Los Angeles with a couple games in hand. Burke has to like what he sees. Nonis on the other hand…

As is a reoccurring theme with this ‘05-06 version of the home team two points were gift wrapped for a weaker opponent. The game was lost in the first 11:00 minutes with the shots ten to two and the Ducks having all the scoring they needed. By the end of the first the teams had traded one more goal, Auld was on the bench and perhaps the boys were starting to think about how to escape the bag skate that they had just brought upon themselves.

The Ducks were full value for their win. They out worked the Canucks in all aspects of the game. As Crawford said after the game, "too many passengers." I have no inside knowledge of how this team ticks but having both played and coached I do know something is amiss in the Canucks' roster. The team is not being prepared for lesser opponents. Where this is happening is unknown: the pops at the pizza joint the night before; the pre-game soccer high jinx; the pre-game skate; the dressing room motivational efforts of the coaches or Captain; or the first shift? But by time that early first goal is given up it is plain to see we are in for the treat of another sub par performance.

Some suggestions:

Matt Cooke – welcome back! Matt a big hit behind the opponents net means so much more two minutes into a scoreless game than one with two minutes left in a lost game.

Jarrko Ruutu – temper yourself man! It is great to be the needle under the skin of the opposition. However, it works even better when you take one of the stars from their team off with you. FYI - the stars were Andy McDonald, Teemu Selannie or a Niedermayer – not heavy weight Todd Fedoruk.

Vancouver Centers – Kelser 11 of 18 for 61% on face offs - good. Henrik 4 of 17, Morrison 5 of 11 and Linden 3 of 6 is not good enough. Get some pucks. Get out on the ice before practice and work at this guys.

Markus Naslund – keep your head up man! It had Moore written all over it. Luckily Nassy sided stepped a hit by Pahlsson under much the same conditions as when Steve Moore caught him with his head down at the Colorado blue line. Nassy tackled Pahlsson thirty seconds later in his own zone. It was a very Swedish response. Markus you have two options: 1) raise your eyebrows and wryly smile at the resident tough guy knowing the matter will be handled in due course; or 2) hit him. Hit him hard with your shoulder in the center of his chest and your elbow in his nose. Hit him like you want to put him into the first row of seats. As I'm not sure we have a resident tough guy, I recommend option 2. For those who suggest Europeans do not respond in such manner: queue the video of Bure’s hit on Shane Churla.

Maxime Ouellet – ‘the Omelette’ played well in relief of Auld. Perhaps Crawford will see opportunity to let him give Auld a bit more rest down the stretch.

Finally the night can be summed up in two quotes:

Andy McDonald - "It's playoff hockey for us," McDonald said. "We can't take any night off, it's such a tight race."

Markus Naslund – “I don't have the answers," Naslund said. "It has to do with individual focus that we're not ready.”

On a night where Calgary went four points ahead in first and Colorado leapfrogged into second place the Canucks can ill afford to take too many more nights off. Yes Andy it is a tight race.

Next up is those pesky Minnesota Wild. The game is Sunday night on SportsNet. All hopes are the team can reach 500 hockey on this home stand.

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Dismal - Home Stand Now 1 and 1

Blues 4 at Canucks 2 – 8-Feb-06

The game was on PPV and I listened to portions of it on CKNW. It was hard game to get into. JJ at Canucks Hockey Blog has a good summary - Click Here

All I can say is the Blues certainly have the Nucks number. Mark March 5th on your calendar - will the last place Blues be 4 - 0 for the season series?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Hockey Analysts

There has been some commentary in the other Nuck’s blogs about how much Greg Millen sucks. I’ve made some comments with Jeff and Alanah. Or with Tom B Here. In adding my own two cents here: I have a fool proof plan to ensure I see a lot more hockey games and do the general public a service at the same time. I propose to the CBC and HNIC gang, hire me with the job description of monitoring Greg Millen’s colour commentary. Perhaps we could set up some sort of buzzer system where every time he says something stupid, I get to ring the buzzer, cut off his mike and explain to him why what he just said is wrong, stupid, or irrelevant. This will give Jim Hughson much more freedom to call the game for the rest of HNIC’s audience. Sounds reasonable to me.

Mrs. Hughson should consider only buying the smaller bottles of Tylenol and throw out any old razor blades that may be hanging around Jim’s medicine cabinet. Jim’s tolerance for Colour men seems to be dwindling. I picture Jim at home after the Saturday night HNIC games starring in the mirror and sobbing “why me, why me.” Early in the third period of Vancouver vs. Columbus there was a couple of new NHL calls – McCarthy for Holding and Foote for Interference. John Garrett started down the snivelling route about weak calls. Hughson curtly cut him off with “Oh for heavens sakes. I’m not going to have to argue this with another colour man, am I?”* Give Garrett credit he interpreted Hughson’s tone and had likely listened to the exchange between Hughson and Millen on the same subject at the same point in a Vancouver Edmonton game two nights earlier. Garrett responded “no you don’t” and shut up.

To be honest I can believe Jim n John call a game and then from time to time enjoy a beverage together. Whereas, at the HNIC broadcasts, I can see Jim beating an as fast possible exit from Millen’s presence.

* or words to that effect.

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One Down – Three to Go

Blue Jackets 4 at Canucks 7 – 06-Feb-06

After what seemed like an eon on the road, the Vancouver Canucks returned to GM Place to host the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first game of a four game home stand. There was plenty to note in the game that featured eleven goals, seven power play goals, an unsuccessful penalty shot, two fights and eighty-six minutes in penalties.

Vancouver fans are noted for their agility in being able to jump on and off the Nucks' bandwagon with every win or loss. Certainly this morning's chat around the water cooler will be more up beat than not. In an attempt to maintain a more even keel to game reviews I’d suggest for the result last night the glass is half full.

The Good

Even before the puck dropped the Nucks received good news on a couple fronts. Henrik Sedin was named NHL Offensive Player of the Week. Daniel received honourable mention. League recognition of the Twins' success was nice to see. Also available for the media was Ed Jovanovski, looking mobile, happy and on the mend from his abdominal surgery. All expectations are six to eight weeks before Jovo will be back in the lineup. In contrast to Cloutier, it was nice to see Eddy around and about.

The Nucks stepped out to a quick first period 4 – 0 lead on goals by Carter (21), Green (4), Bertuzzi (19) and Ohlund (9). Carter was set up by the twins for the opening goal. Moments later Green when to the net without the puck and good things happened. Green finished off the work of Bouck and Allen. Just less than thirteen minutes in the WCE combined on the power play to make it three zip. Three minutes later, on another powerplay, Matty Ohlund retrieved the puck from Auld behind his own net – 140 feet later with the BJ Defense backing away Ohlund fired off a blast to the top right corner of the net. I’d like to say it was a coast to coast effort and certainly a rocket of a shot. The first period ended with Vancouver up 4 – 0 and visions of nursing one home like the 6- 2 Montreal game were acceptable.

This Columbus team is far better than their record. With players like Nash, Fedorov, Zherdev and Foote the CBJ’s reminded me a little of Colorado in their skill and effort. Starting goalie Denis gave way to Pascal Leclaire, Rick Nash (15) scored, Rick Nash was thwarted on a Penalty Shot and the third period started with the score 4 – 1.

Leclaire tweaked his back somewhere in the second and Denis returned to the cage to start the third. Zherdev (18) scored when McCarthy took and early holding penalty. The next shift Vancouver continued the let down with Klesla scoring on one Auld, the Brotha line and Allen/Ohlund would like to have back. All of a sudden with 17:34 to go in regulation the Canucks have played themselves into a hockey game.

Fortunately, a combination of penalties and power play success resulted in three more goals for the home team and only one for the visitors. Daniel (15) got the momentum changing, eventual game winner shortly after Klesla’s goal. Naslund (25) and Linden (6) got the insurance markers before Nash (16) got his second of the game. Daniel snapped one past Denis on a set up from Carter and his other brother Henrik. Nassy slid a backhand through from the slot on a nice three way passing play from Bieksa and Bert. Finally with the game over for everyone but Rick Nash and Gerard Gallant, Crawford rewarded the effort of Linden, Kesler and Burrows with some PP time. Bieksa took a good shot from the high slot and rebound went to Linden just inside the left circle. Linden made no mistake on the yawning cage with Denis beached.

The Bad

There were a number of concerning points in the game. Of these the most concern was the play of the defence and the own zone play of the Brotha line. Ohlund scored but was a minus two for the night. The defence is looking thin. Mojzis is doing ok for his second game but at times he was a step too slow. McCarthy is playing better as is Bieksa. Baumgartner should return soon. The Brotha’s scored twice, tallied six points but were a collective minus 3 on the night. In fact the trio surrendered all but one of Columbus’ goals. Salo and McCarthy joined Linden, Bouck and Green in plus territory. The rest of the team was even or lower. Hard to imagine in a game where three lines combined for seven goals.

For the first time in recent memory the Kesler line didn’t play a role in the outcome of the game. The extended power play times influenced this. Late in the third when Columbus resorted to brawn over skill, Burrows and Kesler looked to be seriously in need of enforcer help. Zebra Bill McCreary clearly let CBJ coach Gallant off easy when he sent Jody Shelley out with the express intent of evening some perceived score with Alex Burrows at 18:38 of the third. The resulting face washing and chirping netted Shelley double cross checking and a roughing minor. It could have gone the other way instigator and fighting majors along with the associated fines and suspensions. Given Gallant’s antics on the night, maybe, this is for the better as the ten grand might have popped his aorta. With Brookbank and Jovovski out, the tough stuff is left to Brian Allen and Tyler Bouck. We’ve seen Bieksa contribute and I’m sure Linden and Bertuzzi are willing but I’m concerned about the play offs when we run into a Laraque or a McCarty/Donovan.

The team was 39% in the face off circle. This has been a trend all year long. Morrison and Henrik had been improving but this stat seems to have fallen off again. Edmonton has four players (Stoll, Peca, Horcoff, Brodziak) all above 50%. The Canucks’ best is Henrik at an even 50%. Face off prowess is a measure of eye hand (or stick) coordination and hand speed. Good face off teams are good just because they do have several guys who are successful. The ability for Edmonton’s quartette to practice against each other keeps them honed. Vancouver’s centers need to work hard on drills and practice to gain improved face off success. These face off wins can be so critical late in close games and on the power play.

The St Louis Blues are next to visit the garage on Wednesday night. This version of the Blues will be with Tkachuk and without Sillinger and Weight. The Blues are coming off a OT win over Dallas. The game will be on PPV and CKNW Radio.

Calgary and Edmonton held there ground last night. Both came up with wins. Vancouver and Calgary are tied with 69 points. Edmonton is two points back. Cowtown has played one fewer game. Vancouver’s 69 points and one more win are good enough for 3rd seed in the west. If the playoffs were to start tomorrow Vancouver would draw Edmonton with home ice advantage.

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Playoff Hunt #2

This report for the Western Conference covers the period from Feb 6 to the Olympic Break.

Period of Analysis 06-Feb-06 to Olympic Break

SeedTeamCurrent PointsLast 10 PointsPredicted Points
Detroit continues to roll with only one regulation loss in their last ten games. They’ve picked up all six points that were available this past week. Mid week they face a pair of games with Nashville and a match up with Colorado next Sunday. As the games with Nashville are a home and home affair let’s suggest home ice prevails. I’ll estimate 4 points for Detroit this week.

Dallas picked up 5 points this week with wins against San Jose and Nashville. St Louis surprised the Stars however it was an OT loss good for one point. Dallas has a busy week ahead with Nashville at home followed by Phoenix, San Jose and Los Angeles on the road. I’ll predict 7 points for the week with one point dropped on the road out west.

Vancouver did carry over their win in Colorado to a win in Phoenix. The battles in Alberta saw a win and a loss. Coming up are four home games with CBJ, St Louis, Anaheim and Minny. There is no reason why the Sedins and support cast shouldn’t sweep into the break with all 8 points to remain in first two points up on Calgary.

Nashville’s week went exactly as predicted. Dallas won, Colorado lost and Chicago got blown out. Next week is a little harder. Dallas, home n home with Detroit and then Columbus who always plays them hard. Let’s suggest the Predator’s will pick up 4 points in these 4 games. Losses in Dallas/Detroit and Wins at home against Detroit and the CBJ.

Calgary didn’t win all week but did pick up two points for two Shoot Out losses to St Louis and CBJ. This week SHOULD be an easier ride for Iggy and crew as they travel to the Shark Tank then host Anaheim and again St Louis. With three losses in a row, I’d think the Flames are going to be hungry. Give them 6 points this week.

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I figured LA for two points last week. No idea that the two would be as a result of Shoot Out losses. The Kings have a busy week ahead with four games. They continue to slump with a 2-5-3 record in their last ten. They get Minny, CBJ, Chicago and Dallas in the last game of a three city tour of the South West. I’ll suggest LA could pick up 5 points this week. The wins will come at the expense of Chicago and Minny. They will OTL to one of CBJ or Dallas.

The Oil and CBJ exchanged third period goals before going on to lose in the Shoot Out. A tired Vancouver gave them an easy additional 2 points for a total of 3 for the week. This was good enough to draw them even in points with LA. This week they host Anaheim then directly head out to Denver to face the Av’s. Some days off on the return home gives them time to prepare for Minny then St Louis. I think they'll drop the game to the Avalanche. Otherwise give Edmonton 6 points this week. By the Olympic break Edmonton should be able to swap seeds with LA.

Colorado beat Minny and got a bonus point for an OTL in Nashville. Edmonton comes to town on Tuesday then the Av’s go out on the road for games in Minny, Columbus and Detroit. I think they’ll pick up six points this week with the only loss being on the road in Detroit. Unfortunately this will leave them still one back of Edmonton and tied with LA for the final payoff spot.

Outside looking in.

The remainder of the west with a chance of making it to the Stanley Cup Tournament are Anaheim, Minnesota and Phoenix. Anaheim is still the best of the bunch. Anaheim remains four points in back of Colorado. I do not see any of this trio braking into the top eight seeds over the coming week.

Key Games for the Canucks.

On paper there is not much for the Nucks to worry about in the coming week. And perhaps that is just what they should be worried about. St Louis has embarrassed them twice this year. They are 3-2 against the Wild, 2-1 against the Ducklings and 1-1 against the CBJ’s. If the team plays like it did in Colorado on the 28th and Calgary on the 3rd there will be no problem.

Predicted Dance Partners.

If the playoff were to start on February 12th my predictions for match ups are as follows:

Detroit – Colorado
Dallas – Los Angles
Vancouver – Edmonton
Nashville – Calgary


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Running on Empty – 4-Feb-06

Canucks 1 at Oilers 3

The first place Vancouver Canucks made there way up Highway 2 from Calgary to Edmonton for the second game of two nights in Alberta. Unfortunately, in the last game of the season’s longest road trip (7 games) and having to play the two Alberta teams back to back the Canuck’s gas tank was on empty and Edmonton came away with a far more convincing win than the 3 – 1 score would indicate.

While the schedule is an acceptable excuses for the situation the reoccurring theme of lazy penalties and low shot counts are not acceptable. The Oil was 2-9 on the power play and the Nuck’s were 0-4. Every one of Vancouvers trips to the bin were of the type you label ‘lazy penalties.’ Ruutu Interference (ok Undisciplined), Naslund Tripping, Mojzis Slashing, Bertuzzi Holding, Ohlund Hooking, Green Cross check, Bertuzzi again Tripping, Naslund again Holding, and Carter Hooking. Pair this with Edmonton having shots totals of 13, 13 and 14 for a total of 40 compared with 7, 9, and 1 (yes ONE) for a total of 17 for the Nucks. You know, until 8:17 of the third period it was a one goal game. At any moment a lucky bounce could have turned the game in a completely different direction. Alas good effort usually beats lucky bounces.

Again the Sedins (Daniel (14) from Henrik, Mojzis) provide the offence with the only goal.

Kesler had a strong night again. Linden’s line put in moments of good effort particularity right after Daniel’s goal with some good chances of their own. The WCE showed up for one shift when they had five shots including some from the defence.

I write a Playoff forecast on Monday’s. Last week I was concerned for the workload that Auld is facing. So far my concerns have been unfounded. Auld would like to have the second period Stoll goal back but was full value in keeping the Canuck’s in the game with 37 saves on 40 shots. The other two goals, Smyth in the first and Torres it the third, were both power play markers. Auld now has 23 wins in 42 games played which is 7th best in the NHL. His 2.78 GAA and 0.911 Save % are very respectable.

Next up for the Nucks are those CBJ’s from Carolina? Cleveland? Oh yeah Columbus. The game is in GM Place on Monday night. With Columbus at 22-30-2 for only 46 points one would predict an easy night for Vancouver. It seems these weaker teams give the Nuck’s all sorts of grief coupled with CBJ being on a five game winning streak having just posted Shoot Out wins over Calgary and Edmonton.

Vancouver’s 67 points and 31 wins are still enough for first place in the North West and 3rd* seed in the West. If the playoffs were to start tomorrow we’d draw Los Angeles with home ice advantage in the first round.

* The NHL site shows Calgary in first. The ESPN site shows Vancouver in first. My understanding of the tie break goes 1) wins, 2) head to head record, 3) better GF – GA differential. Vancouver is third seed based on the extra win.

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The Return to First Place – 3-Feb-06

Canucks 3 at Flames 1

The Vancouver Canucks traveled to Calgary to take on the Flames on Friday night. With first place in the North West Division on the line the Nucks kept pace with the Flames early and then put the Flames away with a solid second and third period efforts. The two points left Vancouver and Calgary tied with 67 points. Vancouver is awarded first place by virtue of one additional win.

It is hard to decide if the game was an all Kesler affair or an all Sedins affair with both contingents having excellent nights on the ice. Kesler served notice to the Canucks bench that this was a game they were not going to lose by taking on a Jarome Iginla in what had to be one of the longest fights in recent memory. Kesler held his own and was seen later with the ice bag on his knuckles as a result of a shot to Iggy’s visor early in the bout. Iggy was un-phased by the proceedings and returned from five minutes of penalty box rest to score the opening goal late in the first period.

The second period started out with Alex Burrows making a sprint in on Kiprusoff and having his feet punched out from under him resulting in award of a penalty shot. Burrows crashed awkwardly into the port post. He still had a slightly dazed look in his eye as he deked right and put Kiprusoff down but was unable to control the puck and lift it over Kippers left pad at the starboard post. The puck slid harmlessly to the end boards and Calgary seems to be lifted by the event. As the game wore on the workman like effort of the Canucks began to play off. With Leopold off for hooking, Carter (20) scored a power play goal from Henrik and his other brother Daniel. Then with 46 seconds left in the Second period Ryan Kesler (6) potted the game winner from Daniel and Salo. With the late goal the Nucks carried the momentum mostly on the strong play of the Kesler line and some key moment saves by Auld. Henrik (14) scored the insurance marker with seven minutes and change left in the game. This time brothers Daniel and Carter added the assists. The goal was a rare unload of a blistering slot slap shot by Henrik. I’ve seen both twins shoot the puck like this and wonder why they don’t do it more often.

At the final whistle the Brotha line had seven points with Carter and Henrik a goal and an assist each and Daniel three assists in the contest. The second most effective unit for the Nucks was Kesler’s line followed by Linden’s line. While Crawford did a lot of mixing and matching throughout the night, the WCE trio failed to show up again. Bertuzzi was the largest liability taking a lazy Interference call shortly after the Sedin insurance goal.

Dust Ups

The game featured one other fight between Donovan and Bouck in the first period. This one was more wrestling than boxing with Bouck scoring the take down.

Kesler’s fight for the second time in three games was one short of the hat trick as he paired both with a goals. Ryan keeps battling as he is he proves himself increasingly more valuable to the team. Kesler was full credit in being awarded the first star for the night. Keep at it Ryan, the assist will come.

Daniel was the games second star and I guess the deciding factor could have been his three points as opposed to the Brotha’s only getting two each. Any one of the three could have been named a game star. Carter’s 20th goal marks his 5th campaign with 20 or more goals. Of note is this is his first trip to 20 since he played with the Oilers back in 02-03 season. Then he was a -11. With the twins he is a +9. Those same Oilers are on the dance card tomorrow night in Edmonton.

Vancouver’s 67 points and first place positioning gives them third seed in the west. If the playoffs were to start tomorrow the Nucks would get home ice advantage and draw (I think) Edmonton.

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Naslund Chooses Rest Over Trip to Olympics

The AP is reporting today that Vancouver Canucks Captain Markus Naslund will not join Team Sweden for the Turin Olympics. Naslund has sat out one game with a ongoing nagging goin injury. The Olympic break will hopefully give the injury time to clear up.

By Associated Press

February 2, 2006, 12:57 PM EST
STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- Vancouver Canucks captain Markus Naslund will miss the Olympics because of a lingering groin injury, dealing a blow to Sweden's chances for a gold medal.

Naslund, one of the leading goal scorers in the NHL during the last few seasons, will be replaced by Detroit Red Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom, Sweden's ice hockey federation said Thursday.

Naslund's injury forced him to sit out a game against Colorado on Saturday, but he returned to score a goal when the Canucks beat the Phoenix Coyotes 7-4 Tuesday. However, he informed Sweden coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson on Thursday that his groin was still hurting, federation spokesman Mats Olsson said.

"It's not good for us at all," said top Swedish goalie Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers. "He's a great player and a good scorer, so of course we needed him. But if he can't go for 100 percent then I think it's nice to let someone else take his spot."

Naslund had been expected to form a top line with childhood friend Peter Forsberg, the former NHL MVP who has led the Philadelphia Flyers to one of the league's best records so far this season.

Forsberg also has a sore groin, but has said he is likely to be fit for the Turin Games.

"It's never good to have those players injured, the top players on the team," Lundqvist said. "I hope that Peter is well when the tournament starts and he will be very excited about playing."

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Desert Swedes

Canucks 7 Coyotes 4 – 31-Jan-06

The Vancouver Canucks improved their current road trip results with a timely 7 – 4 win over the Phoenix Coyotes at Glendale Arena on Tuesday night. The Nuck’s have back to back wins in games four and five of a seven game road trip. The team’s longest road trip of the season started back on 23-Jan with a loss to St Louis. The next two stops in Columbus and Detroit were also losses followed by a Shoot Out Win in Denver. The ‘Nucks will jet home to Vancouver after tonight’s game for some home cooking and clean socks before heading off to play Calgary and Edmonton on Friday and Saturday respectively. Should the Canucks go on to have a good showing in Alberta one could look back to the Detroit game as a turning point of this lengthy road trip. While they were badly out shot and took far too many lazy penalties the 2-1 score was indicative of the improved effort expended. This improved play has carried over to the games in Colorado and again tonight in Phoenix.

This game was far closer than the 7 – 4 score would indicate. Throughout the night Vancouver would take the lead only to let the Coyotes back into the game. Once again the team was badly out shot and as a result of far too much time on the PK. Whereas we often see the Canucks taking lazy penalties this was not as obvious tonight. The Zebras played their role in the parade to the sin bin with several calls, going both ways, which left commentators, knowledgeable fans and players alike shaking their heads. Sportsnet colour man John Garret was even reduced to proudly predicting the calls before they were made. From the score sheet the totals were Canucks 11 penalties for 25 minutes and Coyotes 9 for 21 minutes with the Coyotes scoring twice and Vancouver going 1 for 7 on the power play. Vancouver took seven penalties in the second period alone.

Phoenix starter Curtis Joseph had a rough night with three of the Canuck tallies scored by Coyote team mates. Gretzky opted for Boucher in the third period with Canucks having lit the red lamp 5 times though the first two stanzas. At the other end Alex Auld faced a lot of rubber and played well enough to secure the win. Auldy made several big saves at key moments in the third period. The shot totals were Phoenix 46 Vancouver 26 with one half of the ‘Nucks shots in the first period. The lopsided shot counts are going to have to improve in Alberta.

Marcus Naslund returned to the line up and Crawford mixed up the lines as he had intended to do a couple nights earlier in Colorado. Burrows played a majority of shifts with Morrison and Bert. Nassy played with Kesler and Ruutu. This line looks promising and picked up the 6 – 3 goal (Naslund (24)( from Ruutu and Kesler) early in the third period. Tervor Linden, Josh Green and Tyler Bouck were a strong unit with clearly their best outing in recent memory. They were rewarded on the score sheet with four points. Green (3) and Bouck (1) both scored and Linden added two helpers. The remainder of the offence had one or more Swede in mix. The Scandinavian contingent tallied up eight points (4 goals and 4 assists) in the desert. Leading the team the Triplets were once again clearly Vancouver’s top line. Daniel (13) opened the scoring from Henrik and my other brother Anson. Henrik (13) opened the second period with an unassisted effort which was initially awarded to Daniel. The video review showed Henrik’s face off pass to the Daniel at the far post actually went in the net off Denny Gauthier’s glove. Ohlund (8) closed the second period and restored Vancouver’s two goal lead with a late power play marker where Henrik picked up the second assist. With Bertuzzi in the bin on a questionable call Gretzky pulled his tender for a six on four advantage. Being on the PK, Vancouver took a couple of pot shots at the empty Phoenix net and when Bert (18) returned he was set free to the empty net from Daniel and Henrik to close the night’s scoring at 18:33.


There were the usual number of scrums as is expected in a spirited and close game. McCarthy and Nash were sent off in the first period for roughing. Gauthier and Bouck attempted a fight in the third after Gauthier put a big hit on Linden but something happened to Gauthier’s shoulder in the early wrestling. Gauthier wanted out and Bouck respectfully let him. As with Kesler the game before Bouck was one stat short of the Gordie Howe hat trick with a goal and a fight but no assist.

On Deck

The ‘Nucks are reported to be going to have a light skate in Vancouver on Thursday followed by a early evening flight to Calgary. The puck drops next at the Saddle Dome on Friday 3-Feb-06. Sportsnet will have the TV coverage.

Vancouver Canucks are currently fifth in the Western Conference and would draw Nashville without home ice advantage if the playoffs were start today. Vancouver’s 65 points is one behind Division leading Calgary, three behind Nashville and one up on Los Angeles.


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