Saturday, November 11, 2006
What's known as Veterans' Day stateside is Remembrance Day in Canada. Pregame ceremonies at GM Place were held to honor members of the Canadian forces, including a serviceman dropping the puck between Jarome Iginla and Markus Naslund. The Calgary Flames had this game as the second of a back-to-back set, having flown in from beating the Anaheim Ducks at home and ending their NHL-record start without a regulation loss. It was their third straight win overall. They came to Vancouver wanting to make it four straight. The scary thing for the Canucks is that at this time last season, Calgary had pretty much the same record and then got hot and ended up winning the division, leapfrogging the Canucks in the process. Last year's scenario is a bit more harrowing since Vancouver had started out 8-1-1. For this game, the Canucks welcomed the return of defenseman Sami Salo, who had been sitting out with a knee sprain. Thus, only one-third of the starting Canuck blue line is out with injury as opposed to one-half. Nathan McIver was sent back to Manitoba with Salo returning. His scrap against Travis Moen of the Ducks was greatly appreciated. Furthermore, in a pursuit to hold players accountable, coach Alain Vigneault scratched Jan Bulis and knocked Brendan Morrison down to the left wing of the fourth line. Thus, the centers were Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Marc Chouinard, and Tommi Santala.
On a Vancouver power play halfway through the period, the puck worked from the left-wing boards to behind the net to the right-wing boards and finally to Sami Salo at the blue line, who unloaded a slapshot that deflected off Marcus Nilson's stick and past Miikka Kiprusoff.
»» 1, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Sami Salo 4 (Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin) 10:18
Halfway through a power play with four and a half minutes left, Salo had a wide slapshot go off the end boards and come back out to Daniel Sedin, who put it quickly to the wide-open stick side of Kiprusoff, but the Calgary goalie dove back quickly to glove the shot and hold on. On a later power play, a Patrick Coulombe centering pass went to Matt Cooke, who had his back to the net and passed to Brendan Morrison trailing in the slot, who then passed to Taylor Pyatt at his immediate right. Pyatt snapped it past Kiprusoff.
»» 2, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Taylor Pyatt 8 (Brendan Morrison, Matt Cooke) 18:52
Shots were ten apiece in the period. Calgary was 0-for-2 on the power play while Vancouver was 2-for-3.
On Calgary's second power play of the period, Jarome Iginla got a shot off from the left side and looked at it a bit too long as Cooke drilled him with a hit and broke his stick in the process. The bad news is that it got Iginla going. With just under five minutes left in the period, Iginla rushed across center ice through the Vancouver defense and went straight at Roberto Luongo from the left side, putting it past Luongo before crashing into the net as Mattias Ohlund unsuccessfully gave pursuit.
»» 3, CALGARY, Jarome Iginla 9 (Alex Tanguay, Rhett Warrener) 15:15
Vancouver outshot the Flames 12-5 in the period (22-15 overall). They were 0-for-1 (2-for-4) on the power play while Calgary was 0-for-2 (0-for-4).
Near the five-minute mark, Ryan Kesler was crushed into the boards in the Calgary zone by Andrei Zyuzin. Seconds later, Lukas Krajicek just missed lining Iginla up for a hit behidn the Vancouver net. Iginla worked the puck from behind the net to the left-wing boards and passed to Alex Tanguay in the left circle, who quickly dished off to Rhett Warrener near the right hash. Warrener quickly tapped it through on Luongo for his first goal of the season.
»» 4, CALGARY, Warrener 1 (Tanguay, Iginla) 5:29
With just under eight minutes left, Cooke from the goal line near the right corner centered to Josh Green skating into the low slot, who didn't get a full shot off, but Kiprusoff still had to stop it with the right pad. Later, Morrison chased the puck in the Calgary zone but was bowled over at the end boards by Andrew Ference. Matthew Lombardi then took the puck from behind his own net and skated through all the way to the right hash in the Vancouver zone before a backward centering pass went off Krajicek's stick and was slowed down. The loose puck went back toward the right hash and Kristian Huselius was in the right place at the right time, backhanding the puck through some moderate traffic and under the crossbar to net the Flames the win.
»» 5, CALGARY, Kristian Huselius 4 (Matthew Lombardi) 16:28
Shots were six apiece in the period (Vancouver 28-21 total). Vancouver was 0-for-2 (2-for-6) on the power play while Calgary didn't get a power play in the period and finished 0-for-4, running the Canucks' penalty kill streak to 22. Luongo stopped 18 shots for the game.
Three stars -- (1) Calgary's Jarome Iginla, (2) Naslund, (3) Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff
D Sedin 0-1-1
H Sedin 0-1-1
In the faceoff circle, Vancouver won 25 of 56 draws (45%). Brendan Morrison won four of six, Ryan Kesler won seven of 14, Daniel Sedin lost his two, Josh Green lost his two, Tommi Santala won one of six (ouch), Marc Chouinard won one of seven (ouch again), and Henrik Sedin won 11 of 17. Kesler led the team with five shots, and Markus Naslund and Green each had four shots. Kevin Bieksa and Alexandre Burrows each delivered three hits. Burrows also notched two takeaways. Lukas Krajicek blocked three shots, and Burrows and Green blocked two each. Naslund missed the net with four shots.
On plus-minus, Vancouver's only goals were on the power play, so it's a minus-fest. At minus-1 were Mattias Ohlund, Bieksa, Morrison, Naslund, Daniel Sedin, Alexander Edler, Santala, and Henrik Sedin. At minus-2 were Burrows and Matt Cooke. The lone minus-3 was Krajicek.
The loss dropped Vancouver to 8-9-1 (3-0 overtime, 1-1 shootout), good for 17 points. Worse yet, in the age of the unbalanced schedule, the Canucks are a pathetic 1-5-1 against Northwest Division teams. Vancouver is third in the division, five points back of Minnesota and tied with Edmonton in points but the Oilers have played two less games. Calgary is a point back of Vancouver but has played two less games, likewise with Colorado. Anaheim leads the conference with 28 points, red-hot Detroit is second with 23 points to lead their division, Minnesota is third, San Jose is fourth with 26 points (trailing Anaheim in the Pacific), Dallas is fifth with 24 points (trailing Anaheim and the Sharks in the Pacific), Nashville is sixth with 21, and Edmonton and Vancouver round out seventh and eighth in the West. Colorado and Calgary are ninth and tenth.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
The Canucks beat the Dallas Stars on Monday night, thanks to a good effort in terms of staying close, but largely thanks to the fact that (1) Marty Turco wasn't in goal for Dallas and (2) the late call on Brenden Morrow for elbowing (leading to the power play where Vancouver got the winning goal) was pretty questionable. Anaheim was lookng to set a new NHL record for most consecutive games with a point to start a season. It's a second straight year of massive defensive injuries for the Canucks, as the news came down today that Rory Fitzpatrick would be out four to six weeks with a hairline fracture in his left foot. Sami Salo is out with a knee sprain and Willie Mitchell is still out recovering from a concussion. Nathan McIver was called up in Fitzpatrick's place. In addition, Luc Bourdon was sent back to junior and Patrick Coulombe was called up in his place. This leaves Mattias Ohlund (Canuck veteran) and Lukas Krajicek (formidable defenseman acquired in the Roberto Luongo/Todd Bertuzzi trade last offseason) as the only Canuck defensemen without recent Manitoba Moose experience. In other Moose-related news, current Canuck coach Alain Vigneault coached the Canucks last season. Two years ago, Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle coached the Moose to the Calder Cup semifinals, where they ultimately were swept by the Chicago Wolves, who had the stellar Kari Lehtonen in net. Compound the injury-riddled Canuck defensive situation with the fact that Anaheim was rolling into town with Norris Trophy winners Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger on their blue line and well, it figured to be a rough night in Vancouver. Anaheim also had the fifth-best penalty kill unit in the league coming into the game. The Ducks decided to go with Jean-Sebastien Giguere in their goalie tandem.
Early on, Josh Green was fed by Patrick Coulombe and hit the post behind Jean-Sebastien Giguere on the stick side which probably was the best chance the Canucks had all night. Shane O'Brien from the left point flung the puck toward Corey Perry in front of the net to Roberto Luongo's left side, where he and Matt Cooke were battling for position. Instead of getting to Perry, the puck instead went off of one of Cooke's skates and past Luongo.
»» 1, ANAHEIM, Shane O'Brien 2 (Joe DiPenta, Shawn Thornton) 5:34
With six minutes and change to go, Taylor Pyatt tipped the puck ahead from his own blue line and got leveled by Samuel Pahlsson. A minute and change later, Chris Kunitz skating down the right side tried to center the puck but had it knocked down by Nathan McIver. McIver had the puck loose under himself and tried to clear it away, but McIver beat him to it and put it inside the far post on Luongo.
»» 2, ANAHEIM, Chris Kunitz 8 (Teemu Selanne) 15:26
About two and a half minutes later, McIver and Travis Moen exchanged fisticuffs in a fight where McIver seemed behind early but came back and held his own with a flurry of rights. Of course, McIver was hoping he'd be able to spark the team a bit. Anaheim outshot the Canucks 7-5 in the period. Both teams were 0-for-1 on the power play.
Just after the puck was dumped into the right corner, Rob Niedermayer centered to Pahlsson skating to the high slot, who easily put it through Luongo on the glove side. This would be the final shot Luongo faced as he was given the hook by Alain Vigneault and backup Dany Sabourin was put into the Vancouver net.
»» 3, ANAHEIM, Samuel Pahlsson 3 (Rob Niedermayer, O'Brien) 5:33
At the 8:45 mark of the period, Anaheim was called for too many men, giving the Canucks a power play. A minute and 11 seconds later, Moen was called for tripping, giving Vancouver 49 seconds of a two-man advantage. In that span of 3:11 of either one- or two-man advantage, the Canucks failed to register as much as a shot as boos hailed down from the home crowd. Inside the final minute, a Teemu Selanne shot got through on Sabourin but it was cleared away in close by McIver. Seconds later, Sabourin stopped a Chris Pronger one-timer from the right point. Shots were eight apiece in the period (Anaheim led 15-13). Anaheim was 0-for-3 (0-for-4 overall) on the power play while Vancouver was 0-for-2 (0-for-3).
Just after Vancouver had another power play go for naught, Ryan Getzlaf and Shawn Thornton were off on a two-on-one which was perfectly executed as Thornton centered for Getzlaf, who put it past Sabourin.
»» 4, ANAHEIM, Ryan Getzlaf 6 (Thornton, Corey Perry) 3:21
With Vancouver getting the bad end of a delayed penalty and Jean-Sebastien Giguere on the bench for an extra skater, Tommi Santala smacked the stick of Scott Niedermayer in the Anaheim zone, and the puck drifted back and into the net, which would have made it 4-1. It was originally ruled that Santala touched the puck and therefore the play was over. Vigneault begged for a video review, but never got one. Later, a Pronger wrister from the right point was deflected in front and Sabourin stopped it, but he couldn't fall on it before Todd Marchant walked over and punched it into the net.
»» 5, ANAHEIM, Todd Marchant 3 (Chris Pronger, Travis Moen) 9:45
Shane O'Brien flung the puck toward the net from the left point and had it deflected into the net by Getzlaf. Hilariously, the Rogers SportsNet telecast (via the NHL.com highlight reel) showed Canuck mascot Fin immediately afterward with a sort of "what on earth is happening?!" sort of reaction.
»» 6, ANAHEIM, Getzlaf 7 (O'Brien) 11:40
With seven and a half minutes left, a Patrick Coulombe puck from the point was deflected onto the net by Tommi Santala and stopped by Giguere in a rare occurrence of actual work for him on a night where he could have pitched a tent in front of the net and slept and could have gotten the same result. Ryan Shannon had a one-timer from the blue line on the right side gloved nicely by Sabourin inside the final 30 seconds as the Ducks were on a two-man advantage after Alexandre Burrows had gotten called for a five-minute major boarding penalty for putting Moen into the boards in front of the penalty box and opening up a gash on his right eyebrow. Anaheim outshot Vancouver 12-7 in the period (27-20 total). The Ducks were 0-for-3 (0-for-7) on the power play while Vancouver was 0-for-2 (0-for-5). Luongo stopped six of nine shots before he was pulled, and Sabourin stopped 15 of 18 to finish off the game.
Three stars -- (1) Anaheim's Samuel Pahlsson, (2) Anaheim's Shane O'Brien, (3) Anaheim's Jean-Sebastien Giguere
none for Vancouver
In the faceoff circle, the Canucks won 25 of 55 draws (45%). Brendan Morrison won seven of 16, Ryan Kesler won four of 14 (yikes), Tommi Santala won six of seven, and Henrik Sedin won six of 14. Markus Naslund led the team with three shots. Matt Cooke led the team in dishing out six hits while Alexandre Burrows had five. Kesler also blocked two shots. Josh Green missed the net with five shots.
In the world of plus-minus, it was a brutal night for the Canucks as their penalty kill was very good but all of Anaheim's goals were even-strength goals. Minus-1 Canucks were Green, Santala, and Jan Bulis. Minus-2 skaters were Lukas Krajicek, Taylor Pyatt, Burrows, Kesler, Naslund, Daniel Sedin, and Cooke. Minus-3 skaters were Morrison, Patrick Coulombe, and Nathan McIver. The lone minus-4 Canuck was Mattias Ohlund.
The loss dropped Vancouver to 8-8-1 (3-0 overtime, 1-1 shootout), good for 17 points. San Jose is the only other team in the Western Conference that has played the same amount of games as Vancouver, but they have seven more points. All other West teams have games in hand on Vancouver. The Canucks are second in the Northwest Division, three back of the Minnesota Wild, who are third in the West. Vancouver is one point ahead of Colorado, who is eighth in the conference. Anaheim is even more nuts, leading the conference with 28 points. Detroit leads their division and is therefore third with 21 points. Dallas and San Jose have 24 points each in fourth and fifth. Nashville is sixth with 19. Edmonton is fourth in the Northwest and ninth in the conference with 15. Calgary is last in the Northwest with 12 and 11th in the conference. Those Flames visit Vancouver on Saturday night.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
It's two days later, but what the hay...
The bottom line is that they won. The defense came out early and put the clamps on the Oakland offense (if you can call it that) and kept it coming, which was a welcome sight.
The offense looked great for most of the first quarter. Mike Holmgren stayed with Mo Morris and the run and chewed a bunch of time off the clock, which wasn't so bad since it was raining a bunch and maybe that makes the passing game a little more treacherous.
While Morris got a boatload of carries (he'll more than likely never get that many carries again), as I was sitting there watching late into the third quarter and the fourth quarter, all I could think was, "you know, if just one or two of these long passes gets completed to Randy Moss, this game will get a whole hell of a lot less secure."
The Seahawks on the scoreboard should have absolutely stomped the Raiders, no doubt about that. The worst part about the Seahawks only getting the one touchdown and settling for a bunch of field goals was that by the time it was all over, I still needed two more points out of Josh Brown to eke out a win for my fantasy football team. Boo.
For the West Coast Offense, Seneca Wallace's completion percentage still isn't what is normally indicative of a well-functioning offense, but he wasn't throwing a ton of picks out there and making a bunch of dumb decisions, so that bodes well for the near future.
And since I've waited long enough to post this, I already know (though I'd pretty much suspected) that Shaun Alexander won't be playing against the Rams, which sucks, but I don't want Shaun back until that foot is fully healed. Of course, the Rams have a much more potent offense than the Raiders, so the Seahawk defense will have to ratchet the level of play way up to meet that challenge. Let's hold Torry Holt under 50 receiving yards, whaddaya say? Yeah, that's completely unrealistic, but as a fan, I have to dream.
I said the first game against the Rams was a must-win, and the Seahawks came through. Little did we all know that Matt Hasselbeck would soon be injured and the Vikings would stomp them.
But in a game against the Seahawks' main division rival, with a chance to make it a two-game division lead, and with the game at home...
...it's a must-win on Sunday, injuries be damned. This team's got to just suck it up, show everyone what they're made of, and scratch out yet another win without their quarterback and their MVP running back.
The alternative? A tie for the division lead. That's not an option.
Monday, November 06, 2006
It didn't look good. The Canucks came in 7-7-1 on the season and came home to start a six-game homestand to try to improve on a 2-2 home record so far this season. Of course, the bad thing was that they were matched up against the Dallas Stars, one of the hotter teams in the West in the early going. Also, Dallas goalie Marty Turco came in with a 12-2 career record against the Canucks (he has a crazy record against Canadian teams). The good news? Dallas decided to give Turco a rest for this game, and they started backup goalie Mike Smith instead. The six-game homestand wasn't going to exactly be a cinch of a homestand, either. Dallas would be followed by white-hot Anaheim. Calgary, early season struggles aside, is still a division rival (one of those "throw out the stats" games) and was slated for the third game. Detroit, Saint Louis, and Chicago would round out the back half of the homestand. Also, the Canucks were going to be nearing a decision on whether or not to keep Luc Bourdon or to send him back to junior. If they keep him on for a tenth game, it starts his free-agency eligibility clock. It'd be nice to send him to Manitoba, but you have to be 20 years of age to play in the AHL, and Bourdon is 19.
Just after a Vancouver power play had expired near the midway point of the period, Kevin Bieksa put a run-of-the-mill shoot-in to the net from just past the red line on the Canuck logo, and it got through the five-hole on Dallas goalie Mike Smith.
»» 1, VANCOUVER, Kevin Bieksa 2 (Alexander Edler, Roberto Luongo) 9:28
Late in the period as a Canuck power play was ending, Brenden Morrow skated up the left-wing boards and centered to Stu Barnes, who got a hard shot in close on Roberto Luongo that was stopped and covered. Vancouver badly outshot Dallas 13-3. Both teams went 0-for-4 on the power play.
Just under seven minutes into the period with the Canucks about to get called on a delayed penalty, Mike Modano passed from the right point to Eric Lindros a few strides in from the right point, who one-timed it off of Luongo and into the net on the glove side.
»» 2, DALLAS, Eric Lindros 4 (Mike Modano, Sergei Zubov) 6:43
About nine minutes in, Mike Ribeiro skated down the left side on a Dallas power play and centered to Morrow in the slot, who faked a shot and passed to Lindros, who was stopped close on the short side by Luongo. With just over six minutes left and the Canucks shorthanded, Josh Green skated in on a breakaway and deked back to the forehand, but was robbed by the right arm of Smith. Vancouver was outshot 8-7 in the period but still led 21-11 after 40 minutes. Dallas was 0-for-3 (0-for-7) on the power play while Vancouver was 0-for-2 (0-for-6).
With about three and a half minutes left, Antti Miettinen camped behind the Vancouver net and passed to Sergei Zubov on the right wing, whose fling toward the net was deflected away by Luongo. After Morrow went off with 2:17 to go thanks to a soft elbowing call, the Canucks went on their eighth power play of the game. Henrik Sedin from the goal line on the right side passed across to Mattias Ohlund, who took the pass in close on Smith's stick side and put it off the post. The puck bounced back through to the slot, where Taylor Pyatt came away from the net and gave chase, corralling it and holding it as Philippe Boucher went by trying to block his shot, then he roofed it over the glove side past Smith.
»» 3, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Taylor Pyatt 7 (Mattias Ohlund, Henrik Sedin) 19:15
Vancouver was outshot 9-6 in the period but led 26-20 for the game. Dallas didn't get a power play and finished 0-for-7 while Vancouver was 1-for-2 (1-for-8). Luongo stopped 19 shots for the game.
Three stars -- (1) Bieksa, (2) Dallas' Eric Lindros, (3) Luongo
Luongo 0-1-1 (goalie)
H Sedin 0-1-1
I don't quite have the immediate means with which to find the actual times of the plays to which I'm about to refer, but they both occurred with the game tied at 1-1 (probably in the third period). Lukas Krajicek from the left side centered to Pyatt, who put the puck to the net and was stopped by Smith as the Dallas goalie was plowed into by Henrik Sedin as both went into the net. Later, Krajicek gave away the puck close to his own net, Mike Modano deked to Luongo's left, but Luongo came out to challenge him and stopped the puck with the pads. Krajicek ran into him a bit and while Luongo was still down, he reached up to glove a backhand shot on the rebound on an incredible play.
In the faceoff circle, Vancouver won 30 of 52 draws (58%). Brendan Morrison won six of ten, Ryan Kesler won 12 of 19, Tommi Santala won one of three, and Henrik Sedin won nine of 16. Henrik Sedin led the team with four shots, and Kevin Bieksa, Taylor Pyatt, and Markus Naslund had three shots apiece. Trevor Linden dished out three hits, and Bieksa, Santala, and Jan Bulis dealt two hits each. Mattias Ohlund blocked three shots, and Lukas Krajicek, Alexandre Burrows, and Rory Fitzpatrick each blocked two. Ohlund missed the net with two shots.
In plus-minus, the minus-skating Canucks (all minus-1) were Krajicek, Morrison, Naslund, and Bulis. Plus-skating Canucks (all plus-1) were Linden, Alexander Edler, Josh Green, and Tommi Santala. All other Canuck skaters were even.
The win pushes the Canucks to 8-7-1 (3-0 overtime, 1-1 shootout), good for 17 points, putting them back over Colorado for second in the Northwest Division. The bad news is that every team in the Western Conference has played less games than Vancouver. Vancouver is a mere three points back of the division-leading Minnesota Wild, but the Wild have three games in hand. Colorado a point behind Vancouver has two games in hand. Edmonton at fourth in the division has three less points than Vancouver as well as three games in hand. Calgary has ten points in 13 total games. Anaheim leads the conference with 26 points (and no regulation losses). Minnesota leads the Northwest and Nashville (19 points) leads the Central, and the teams are second and third in the West. Dallas is fourth with 22, the Sharks are fifth with 20, and Detroit has 19 in sixth. Colorado is eighth. Vancouver hosts Anaheim on Thursday to continue a long-awaited six-game homestand.