Canucks and Beyond
I'll admit it: I am REALLY enjoying the Western Conference standings right now. While I've heard other more gracious and gentle-spirited hockey fans speak of the "sad" downfall of the Oilers and their suffering fans -- a plummet from grace that has taken them from the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals to the ignominy of losing 10 straight games and likely missing the post-season this year -- I simply giggle a lot. And not very discreetly. (Last season is WAY to freakin' burned into my brain for me not to enjoy the hell out of this, thank you very much.)
This piece is written by Canucks fan and season ticket holder, Trini Day. At my request, Trini was nice enough to offer some words about her recent road trip to San Jose where she got to enjoy the Canucks beating the Sharks in overtime, all while surrounded by 17,000 unhappy Shark fans. She also includes a pile of great photos (just click on images to enlarge) and 6 handy "rules" at the end for all fans lucky enough to experience a game in enemy territory. Enjoy!
I'm a big fan of the rising animosity between teams and fans this time of year. My own acrimonious and obnoxious statements about Kirk Maltby and Chris Chelios, for example -- no explanation required -- always get my Wings friends in a flutter. And commentary about the Colorado Avalanche (which commands rather a lot of my all-over-all-encompassing hockey hatred time) is also good for personal amusement. But how about the Minnesota Wild? On one of our podcast episodes a couple weeks ago, John (of RadioZoom) made mention of his impression -- from listening to rival podcasts -- that Wild fans believe Canucks fans refuse to genuinely reciprocate their dislike of us. Not enough respect, generally. Well, I wasn't sure what to think other than, "I'm trying to hate them. Really!" Then today, courtesy of NHL Digest, I came across this fantastic quote at Wild Puck Banter:
"Speaking of the Canucks, I just wanted to let you all know that I'm working on a list of my Top 5 Most Hated Canucks of all time. Narrowing down to five is proving to be a difficult task, but it should be done by tomorrow night. Suggestions are welcome in the comment box."That's awesome. But since I can't really offer up 5 Wild players I particularly hate in return (frankly, I'd rather kidnap and keep Pavol Demitra and Brian Rolston; and maybe Marian Gaborik during the 3 weeks a year that he's healthy) I'll try and make an effort in the future. The image accompanying this post (originally posted a few weeks ago) is the best I can come up with at the moment. But I'll put some thought into it and figure out some other rude angles. Hockey hatred needs to be encouraged... I'd hate to think I'm not doing my part.
THIS video made my week.
Alain Vigneault may want to consider moonlighting as a stock-market tipster, starting his own psychic hotline or at least taking a gambling trip to Las Vegas. His hunches were money in the bank last night at GM Place. The Vancouver Canucks magician pulled another hockey rabbit out of his coaching hat by placing plugger turned producer Jeff Cowan on the first line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin.-- It's starting to seem a little spooky, this whole business of Jeff Cowan as Salvation. Stick him anywhere and it pretty much works. Last night was no exception, as coach Alain Vigneault discovered. "I though the twins and Jeff were really, really strong -- I'd say they had close to 10 scoring chances." -- The Sedins make goal-scoring look and sound easy. From Henrik on the OT goal: "I was just waiting for Daniel to spin off his check and put his stick on the ice. It was pretty easy after that." Easy? Right... Botchford at The Province remarked "make no mistake, the ice at GM Place was the Sedin twins playground Thursday." Indeed, and they were confident, too. Again from Henrik: "We should have won the game way earlier than we did. I don't know what was wrong. Maybe the chances were too good." Yes, the twins were impressive, but God forbid Vancouver does anything the easy way. -- Finally, a word from the St. Louis Blues' Brad Boyes as he explains how the late game charges frequently happen for his club. He says it's all about short shifts and rolling 4 lines all game:
"It's a different mind-set here, coming to a coach that has really instilled the work ethic and short shifts and going hard. Even when it comes to your own play, you feel fresh all the time, you're not getting caught out there, and it really makes a difference."So Vancouver isn't perfect -- they'd do well to figure out that trick, too. Great to get that win, but geez... the last 10 minutes of games can be pretty frightening to endure.
While various things have changed radically for both teams since then, the St. Louis Blues always seem to have a talent for messing up a Vancouver Canucks fan's happy expectations of domination. The last time Vancouver won a playoff series was against the Blues, however, so it's nice to be reminded of good day after taking the bastards out. Video footage of Robson Street after the series win:
1. Canucks Special Teams: J.J. at Canucks Hockey Blog remarks on something this morning that had yet to make its way into my brain -- that Josh Green is a significant loss to the team's penalty kill. And then there's the powerplay, a recent disaster that cries out for salvation; a superstar solution to save the struggling unit. And that superstar? None other that Jeff Cowan, Hero of Women:
An endorsement deal with Playtex surely must be just around the corner. Coach Alain Vigneault is hoping Cowan -- a.k.a., the Brabarian -- can help kick-start Vancouver's moribund power play. And if that means the game has to be stopped to pick up a few 36-inch double-Ds should Cowan happen to score, well, that's a price Vigneault is willing to pay.
"We wilted. There's no way we should have lost that game, being up 2-0 at home early. You can't just play one period and expect to win. "We stopped playing at the end of the first period. As the game went on, we played like a timid team. Nobody wanted the puck. And our power play was terrible. We had a lot of chances to go up 3-0 in the game. We couldn't even get into the zone."So, was it just "one of those games"? Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose? Possibly. But the powerplay outage, for one thing, is more than a concern at this point, with no sign of turning around. Is it now 1 goal in the last 27, 28 chances? What the hell? Incidentally, a potentially important fact about last night: pop-princess Christina Aguilera was in one of the suites (directly above the press box) with her concert sound & light technician, "a huge Wild fan". Her current concert tour will be taking her past Edmonton and Calgary next, then performs back in St. Paul Minnesota. This neatly follows part of the Wild's own road trip before heading to the Twin Cities to celebrate at the mothership, a.k.a. the Xcel Energy Center. Is her tour following the Minnesota Wild's schedule by coincidence or design? Who knows. But I'm prepared to adopt a new hockey superstition and they'd better ban Aguilera tunes from the arena soundtracks for a little while. I think she might be a dark force -- for hockey and for music. ___________________________________ *canucks photo credit Getty Images, Jeff Vinnick
How big a point total is big enough? With 87 points and 13 games remaining, Vancouver has put itself in a great position. To my mind, the worst case scenario the Canucks face now is going .500 for the remaining games, a result which would still give them 100 points for the season. That may well not win Vancouver the division (not very likely, in fact) but it certainly guarantees them a playoff spot. (Which would beat the hell out of last season...) So, how much does winning the Northwest Division matter? Well, the bragging rights are fun -- and the home playoff advantage is obviously very desirable -- but I don't think Vancouver gains any other bonuses in facing a team like San Jose over a team like Nashville. Every top-8 team in the west is going to be a beast to get past. It's going to be a ride. Tonight's game against Minnesota should provide another reminder of that. They've been a formidable opponent all season, and the last game was remarkably good one (*I still like my movie poster... heh). Anyway, if tonight's match-up is anything like the last one, a Canucks-Wild playoff series might actually come in a close second favorite to a Canucks-Flames one (*a Canucks-Wings series would probably be better, but I don't think I could bear the Bertuzzi Effect). But I suppose any series will create that kind of passionate hockey-hatred that would have us on the edge of our seats for a first round -- heart-attack inducing, but always fun. And now on a completely different topic, let me share something that almost made me lose my breakfast this morning. A friend dropped this in my email a while ago. Enjoy.
Trevor Linden's tenure as the elected president of the NHLPA ended last year, much to my relief; as expected, it seems to have provided him with renewed energy on the ice. But recent developments with NHLPA head Ted Saskin seem to be dragging Linden back into the fray of hockey politics he escaped last July. Saskin's suspension by the player reps on Sunday will continue as he's investigated for accessing players' email accounts. Linden has, predictably, been re-engaged by the media given his past relationship with Saskin. He's been publicly supportive of Saskin throughout this (and previous) scandals, and he's likely to be featured heavily in stories over the coming months. Here are some quotes indicating his feelings yesterday:
"I think there is more to the story and you have to understand that. I don't think you can pass judgement until you understand the full story behind it. I'm not going to pass judgment until I know all the facts." And about the email story... "I knew that there were a lot of sensitive documents being leaked to the media a year and half ago. I'm not sure if this has something to do with that. I knew there were some agents and some players leaking documents."Whether it's his intention or not, Linden's last comment does seem to be rationalizing the behavior Saskin is accused of -- accessing those NHLPA email accounts. Certainly not likely to be a popular response to many players. What I'm curious about now is how much all of this will impact one of Vancouver's favorite sons. Saskin was hired during the lockout year under circumstances which have continued to draw attention. Linden endorsed Saskin and has always maintained the process was legal. But now that Saskin is almost certain to fall from his perch, and as investigations continue into activities of the NHLPA, Linden's support is liable to be questioned considerably. How will Trevor Linden's reputation be impacted by all of this? And after having him as their president for 7 years, will the players on the NHLPA hold him responsible for what's happening now, or will the focus remain on Ted Saskin?
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]