Canucks and Beyond
Vancouver Canucks vs Phoenix Coyotes -- 2pm PT Sportsnet The Northwest Division Champion Vancouver Canucks (I'm going to say it like that a lot today) take to the ice in another mid-day road game, ending their 82-game season in Phoenix. So now The Northwest Division Champion Vancouver Canucks are about to play one of the most meaningless games possible. But I don't care because... The Northwest Division Champion Vancouver Canucks are heading to the playoffs. Okay, now onto things that are sorta pissing me off. Angry Because I Don't Know: First, does anyone know about Kevin Bieksa and the "wearing a cast" comment from CBC last night? I don't. Nothing, in fact, so perhaps we'll all find out at the same time when Beesak does or does not skate onto the ice for warmup in about three hours. (Ron MacLean's comment about Beesak's cast can be seen near the end of this video segment from Satellite Hotstove last night.) Angry Because I Think I Know: Joe Thornton is the Devil. Don't tell me this didn't occur to anyone else yesterday. (Well, I know it occurred to The Yankee because we were chatting at one point and every time he tried to say "Thornton" he started twitching and reeling off the F-word.) Personally, it took a while to really get pissed about Bruiser's performance yesterday, but now I'm wondering about his wicked hit on Bieksa (not saying it was dirty, but did it cause some kind of fracture?) and then particularly watching his hit on Matt Cooke. Yes, I also heard the commentators insist "clean hit, blah blah blah," but it sure looked like 'intent to injure' to me. (I've gotta try and find a video clip...) Meanwhile, let me put it this way... if Cooke throws that hit on Thornton (impossible, given that Cooke is smaller than Thornton's f*&king skates, but whatever...) is there any chance in hell that the NHL's mainstream media and San Jose's fans aren't screaming about how the "NHL must protect the Superstars!"? Coach Alain Vigneault's comment in response to the hit rings dead-on to me: "Thornton is an all-star player, and obviously he gets a lot of leeway, and he gets a lot of decisions going his way." And if the situation were reversed, Cooke would be under review right now, possibly even suspended. I'll admit to being pretty biased here -- and I've defended Todd Bertuzzi from criticism plenty of times when he made similarly-borderline hits -- but I still say that Thornton's hit was dirty. Feel free to argue. ______________________________ Note: Despite my criticism, I'm really glad the Canucks don't see the Sharks in the first round of the Playoffs. Win or lose, that team would've left us looking like a pile of bleeding corpses.
Just at the end of the intermission in the Toronto-Montreal game (fun watching Toronto collapse, by the way) Ron MacLean just said something about Canucks' defenseman Kevin Bieksa leaving the arena (in San Jose) "wearing a cast." NOW DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHY I DRINK? (For happier times, go here. A mere two hours ago, when the world was a good and happy place...)
Vancouver Canucks vs San Jose Sharks -- 1pm PT -- CBC I'm not going to write much about this... I'm woefully unprepared for a game on this bloody early. Regardless, as with every game lately, as soon as the Canucks win ONE game -- today would be nice, gentlemen! -- they get the Northwest Division title and home ice advantage for the playoffs. Before I leave you to your excellent excuse for mid-day drinking, I would also like to point out one more very important fact: it was the San Jose Sharks, evil bastard sea creatures that they are, that mathematically eliminated the Canucks from playoff contention last year, on April 13th. If Vancouver can win today, it's a two-fer... ending the Minnesota Wild's pesky pursuit of the #3 seed AND payback to the Sharks. I have enough beer on hand to deal with joy or sorrow, as needed. I hope you're all just as prepared. Update 3:50pm PT: 1) Canucks win the Northwest Division. 2) Sharks may just lose the Pacific title? 3) Canucks play Dallas in the first round. (Scary, and yet... I have some VERY obnoxious ideas about anti-Texas hockey coverage. Awesome.) Playoffs!! Update 4:15pm PT: Reasons to trash Texas... the FUN BEGINS!
but whenever I think of the Colorado Avalanche, I think of this man. (Note: sorry about posting such a photo so early in the morning...) Every bad memory, in fact every memory period that I have of Colorado, is linked to this guy. There's the playoff games (broke the door to the dining room, slamming it so hard one game), the Bertuzzi incident (managed to make actual blogger enemies over this one; good God), and various other losses and humiliations they've caused randomly through the years. (The Avs sneaking in and stealing the Northwest Division title, while we collapsed a couple seasons ago? God, I start to twitch when I even think about it...) But evil has been vanquished. Perhaps firing Crow had something to do with it. Tonight's game will be a barn-burner. The Avalanche have to win, or have no chance of making the playoffs. And Vancouver desperately wants to win, and secure their division and home ice advantage. But I'd say that makes this Advantage: Colorado. They're playing brilliantly and likely to be a lot more tuned up for this game than Vancouver. 'Have to' beats 'wants to'. BUT... if the Canucks can pull this game out and win it, I will feel such a deep level of gratitude for this Universal Payback that I'll actually extend an olive branch of love to Colorado fans: no more traumatic photoshops of your team till next season. Then again, why would I bother? You lose tonight, the Avs are GONE! (Wow, such a fun thought. Makes me giddy.) ___________________________ *photo credit to Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images
Vancouver's playoff spot is assured, so now it's just a matter of positioning... specifically, whether can they win the Northwest Division title. Tonight's game against LA can guarantee them that title, if they win and Minnesota loses to Edmonton tonight, outright. (Though really, WHO ever loses outright to Edmonton anymore? The Wild may just stay in this race for another game...) But the title crown isn't the only thing at stake in the Western Conference today. Calgary has a chance to secure it's playoff spot with a win against its rival for the spot, the Colorado Avalanche. My dislike for both teams is intense and I honestly don't care which one dies a horrible death -- as long as both suffer as much as possible in the interim. Other News:
The Sedins are ready for the playoffs, even if I'm not. From CanWest News Service, Iain MacIntyre looks at how the Sedins have evolved from being considered "soft" to being eager to get into the battle. A quote from Willie Mitchell points out that things weren't always this way:
"I remember playing against them in Minnesota and they'd probably tell you they were a little soft out there. They've changed. They relish these games. I think it brings out the best in them. "When you're being physical, you need to be aggressive. And when you're aggressive, you're leaning into them and they're strong enough on their feet to spin off and create chances. We've seen that all year -- teams that play aggressive against them with their defence, Daniel and Henrik really have some good success. They've changed a lot."I've never bought into the idea that the Sedins were "soft", actually. They bounced off people and landed on their asses a lot, but always seemed to get up, ready for more. The difference this season -- as Mitchell says -- is that they're stronger on their feet, able to move through the violence coming their way rather than having to get back up off the ice. And as MacIntyre says, now they're using the aggression of opposing teams to their advantage. Rather than just surviving it, they're thriving on it.
Clearly, they are not backing down from opponents, but winding up. Not long ago considered passive, the Sedins recently incited Anaheim Ducks defenceman Scott Niedermayer, which is like getting Mister Rogers to go postal. "Guys are trying to get us off our game, going for the big hit," Henrik said. "But if you're feeling good and see them coming, you can spin off checks and make those five-foot passes to create chances. [Aggression] is something we like, something we look for."So they're ready for violence... but are they rested enough? Apparently. Henrik's per-game ice time is only 18:23 and Daniel's is 18:02 -- 75th and 89th respectively, among all NHL forwards. And as MacIntyre points out, that's a good thing,
Vigneault has superbly defined roles and made most Canucks feel valued, which undoubtedly has contributed to their chemistry and success. But by using the Sedins about two-minutes-per-game less than the average first-line NHL player -- Tampa's Martin St. Louis leads all forwards with 24:14 of nightly ice time -- Vigneault has also helped keep his best players energized and positioned to handle more work at playoff time. And, god knows, the Sedins want to. "Not getting those 20 minutes a night and getting rest, we feel really good right now," Daniel said. "Usually, in March, you're a little tired. But we feel really good. It's going to help in the playoffs for sure."Post-Script: In no way related, but amusing, I see that THN's NHL Players Poll voted Sean Avery the most hated player... and the most overrated:
“I’m shocked,” says the New York Rangers celebrated shift disturber upon discovering other players in the league nominated him as the NHL’s most hated player in a league-wide player poll conducted by The Hockey News. “I would have been disappointed if it wasn’t me.” But elation soon turns to disbelief when Avery finds out he was also voted the most overrated player, too. “What?” he says. “You’ve got to be kidding me. I’ve never really heard anybody say I was good. Did you put candidates on the ballot?” No, we did not. “Then how come Shane Doan wasn’t named most overrated,” Avery continues. “Hey, if I’m going to take shots, I’m going to dish them out, too.”Geez, sometimes Mondays are fun.
Jason Botchford, The Province Published: Sunday, April 01, 2007
The Sedin twins have decided to end their short-lived retirement from dancing. They have already begun training for the World Cup of Dance, the most renowned dancing competition in Europe which will take place in Spain this summer. Buoyed by their performance of the Cabbage Patch dance on a recent NHL commercial, Daniel and Henrik decided to take a run at the world championship. "When I saw how quickly it took me to get the Cabbage Patch and the Running Man down, I said 'Bring on the Viennese Waltz,' " Henrik said. The dancing marks a major turnaround for the twins who, much to the chagrin of their fans two months ago, famously declared: "We will never dance again." "Sometimes things are said in haste," Daniel observed. "At the time we felt we had done all we could do in the dance world. But then Henrik came over for Friday dinner showing off his foxtrot and I said 'Let's waltz.' "A reminder:
CKNW in Vancouver is reporting that the Canucks made a two-year, $2.4 million offer to Pyatt, and were subsequently told it would not be enough to retain the services of the 21-goal scorer. The Pyatt camp is apparently looking for a deal in the Matt Cooke range. Cooke, who has just eight goals, makes $1.5 million per season. According to reports, Pyatt is also looking for a three-year deal.I've got no issue with MySpace driving a hard bargain; he's having a good season and perhaps he deserves a few more bucks. But what line has he been scoring on again? Oh right, with the Sedins. Maybe he's looking for an Anson Carter -inspired price war for his services, and he can try but it might not get him too far with the Canucks. GM Dave Nonis seems to have the attitude that virtually anyone can pick up points on his Sedin-enhanced top line. And it's getting tought to argue with that, frankly. Then again, there's always the Ryan Kesler Story. If only Bobby Clarke was still negotiating contracts for the Flyers... Good luck, Pyatt. All things considered, I do hope you stick around.
From my trusty little TSN text alert I was informed that Sami Salo has signed a 4 year contract with the Canucks. Looking at TSN online, I see the story is true.
The Vancouver Canucks have signed defenceman Sami Salo to a four-year contract extension. In keeping with club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed. ''We are pleased to have agreed to a long-term extension with Sami today,'' said Canucks Senior Vice-President and General Manager Dave Nonis. ''Sami is an elite defenceman who compliments our group very well. We are confident that he will continue to perform at the high level he has established for himself over the next four seasons.''Fantastic. I'm almost giddy with this one... very pleased. See here for the Canucks Press Release. We'll find out terms of the deal shortly. Details like that should be leaking like broken dam in a couple hours, I figure... Update 6:00 pm PT: The Vancouver Sun speculates the same thing that Trini mentions in the comments - that it's likely to be worth $3.5 million a year, the same amount as Willie Mitchell's current contract. Now if we can just sign Brent Sopel...
...and other reasons why Edmonton, Calgary -- and Mark Messier -- just suck. To start, here's a fun piece on Edmonton's fine accomplishments of the past month. A review, if you will. From David Young at Vue Weekly, it seems that even the bible is against them:
"Here’s the fun-fest the Oilers have provided fans recently. Since a shootout win against Detroit on Feb 23 the Oilers have only had a lead for exactly 18 minutes and 28 seconds. That’s out of 900 minutes of regulation game time. That’s 2% of the time. The team scored three shorthanded goals but only three powerplay goals. The Oilers only won once in 15 games. And the team was outscored during this stretch of futility 55-17. Interestingly, Psalm 55:17 (known as the Prayer for the Destruction of the Treacherous—perfect, huh?) reads “Evening and morning and at noonday, will I complain and moan; And He will hear my voice.” And so concludes our bible study with a verse that pretty much sums things up."A tragic comedy if ever there was one. Then there's the apparent evidence that both the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames nearly devastated hockey broadcasting in this country earlier this season. William Houston at the Globe & Mail takes a look at the audience numbers for HNIC games:
"The CBC's first-game audiences on Saturdays are down 1 per cent (1.381 million). Second-game audiences have dropped 20 per cent (748,000), a steep decrease that's partly attributable to a small number of Vancouver Canucks games aired early in the season. The decrease has narrowed since November, when the gap was 40 per cent."Ha! Show too many Flames and Oilers games without the Canucks being involved, and the decrease in viewers was 40% early in the season. But give people what they want -- Canucks games -- and the world starts to right itself again. Nice. Finally, there's Mark Messier. Does this man ever STOP annoying Canucks fans? It seems not. And now from the news wires today, I learn that he's trying to find your house and upset you in person:
"The Bring Home the Cup contest is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the passion of the playoffs with the Stanley Cup and Mark Messier as the guests of honour in the home of one lucky hockey fan," said Dale Hooper, Vice President Marketing, Frito Lay Canada.Ugh. Though in all honesty -- setting aside my antipathy for Messier for a moment -- this is a pretty cool contest. Read more about it. Invite me to your house if you win. (Unless you're a Flames or Oilers fan, in which case I won't hold my breath...)
About Canucks and Beyond
Alanah McGinley has been blogging hockey since 2003 (with a notable gap in time through 2010, kicking it with new baby Lucy while living knee-deep in chaos while reading "parenting for complete idiots" during every spare minute) sharing opinions, rants and not-so-deep thoughts with anyone who will listen.
In addition to writing Canucks & Beyond and helping manage Kukla's Korner, Alanah was one of the founders and co-hosts of The Crazy Canucks Podcast. She has contributed pieces to FoxSports.com and the New York Times Slapshot blog, as well as other stray destinations in cyberspace.
So that's me. Who the hell are you?
Alanah's Twitter: [@alanah1]