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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