Friday, December 22, 2006
The Canucks were trying to avoid whiffing on all three games of their pre-Christmas road trip and losing six straight road games. A loss in this game would mark their first six-game road losing streak since late in the 1998-99 season. Worse yet, the Canucks didn't exactly want to stumble into their short holiday break; their first four games after the break were against nothing but Edmonton and Calgary, two important divisional opponents. That fact alone and the possible points that could go one way or the other make that upcoming stretch the most important stretch in the Canucks' season to date. But the Canucks still had one game before the break, a date with the fighting Hitchcocks.
With a Columbus power play just expiring, Anson Carter from the end boards passed to Aaron Johnson near the left point, who let loose on a slap shot that beat Roberto Luongo. Luongo had many bodies in front of him leading up to the goal and pleaded for an interference penalty. Though the goal did go upstairs for video review, the result was upheld, ending Johnson's 28-game goal drought. Luongo banged his stick into the back of the net in frustration after the play. Unfortunately for Vancouver, the Blue Jackets had a season record of 10-1-2 when scoring the first goal of the game.
»» 1, COLUMBUS, Aaron Johnson 1 (Anson Carter, Nikolai Zherdev) 6:36
On another Columbus power play (there were five total in the period) just past the halfway point, Ron Hainsey's wrist shot from the top of the right circle was stopped, but Luongo let the rebound go straight up the slot, where Carter got past the Canuck penalty killers and put the puck through.
»» 2, COLUMBUS, powerplay, Carter 7 (Alexander Svitov, Ron Hainsey) 11:51
Columbus outshot the Canucks 8-7 in the period. They were 1-for-5 on the power play while Vancouver didn't get a power play in the period.
Willie Mitchell had a slap shot off the faceoff covered by Pascal Leclaire after a Vancouver faceoff win. Leclaire left the game not long after this as he had sustained a knee injury. Fredrik Norrena took over in goal for Columbus. Norrena would face baptism by fire as he and the Blue Jackets were faced with killing off 1:31 worth of a five-on-three Vancouver advantage. After some cycling up high, Kevin Bieksa passed to Markus Naslund on the goal line to the right side. Naslund skated along the right-wing boards before passing back to Bieksa, who blasted a straightaway one-timer that beat Norrena to put the Canucks on the board. They still had 1:25 left on the power play, but ultimately couldn't score with it or any of the three subsequent power plays they had in the period.
»» 3, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Kevin Bieksa 8 (Markus Naslund, Henrik Sedin) 2:47
With five and a half minutes left to go, a Vancouver turnover turned into a Columbus rush as Nikolai Zherdev left the puck for Alexander Svitov at center ice, who skated it across on the left side and centered to Dan Fritsche barreling down the slot. Fritsche put a shot on the net that Luongo somehow stopped and held onto. Vancouver outshot the Blue Jackets 9-4 (16-12 overall). They were 1-for-5 on the power play while Columbus didn't get a power play chance (1-for-5).
A Zherdev tripping minor near the end of the second period left Vancouver with 74 seconds of man-advantage time to start the final period. Kevin Bieksa at the right point wristed the puck toward the net, and Norrena stopped it. Henrik Sedin grabbed the rebound and used his telepathy to pass behind him to Daniel Sedin in front of the right hash. Norrena ended up lying on his side (leaving the top half of the net open) but stopped Daniel's shot nonetheless. Later in the period with some four-on-four play, Vancouver was trying to keep the puck in the attacking zone as it rattled behind the net and out through the other side. Mitchell tried pinching but was unsuccessful, leaving Bieksa back as the only Canuck to face a Columbus two-on-one with Rick Nash and Duvie Westcott. Westcott never actually touched the puck on the play, skating down the left side as Nash skated down the right and whipped a wrister from the right hash that beat Luongo, all but salting away the victory for the Blue Jackets.
»» 4, COLUMBUS, Rick Nash 13 (Sergei Fedorov, Hainsey) 14:39
Alain Vigneault pulled Luongo from the net with over a minute to go in the game in a last-ditch attempt to chip away at a two-goal deficit. Mattias Ohlund at the left point flung the puck toward the net. Daniel Sedin at the left hash marks got a stick on the puck and changed its direction, crossing up Norrena and getting the Canucks within one goal.
»» 5, VANCOUVER, Daniel Sedin 10 (Mattias Ohlund, H Sedin) 18:45
It was a frenzy for the Canucks as Luongo was pulled for a sixth attacker, and they had many chances to get the tying goal but came up fruitless. The last fifteen seconds saw the Canucks relentlessly jamming away at the puck down low, with the best chance being Markus Naslund missing from point-blank range, extending his goal drought to 11 games. Vancouver outshot Columbus 17-10 (33-22 total). They didn't get a power play chance, finishing 1-for-5, while Columbus was 0-for-1 (1-for-6). Luongo stopped 19 shots for the game.
Three stars -- (1) Columbus' Anson Carter, (2) Columbus' Rick Nash, (3) Columbus' Aaron Johnson
H Sedin 0-2-2
D Sedin 1-0-1
In the faceoff circle, the Canucks won 39 of 65 draws (60%), unfortunately a stat that doesn't necessarily correlate with the final score. Brendan Morrison won ten of 14, Trevor Linden won three of five, Ryan Kesler won 13 of 19, Josh Green split a pair, Marc Chouinard won one of three, Henrik Sedin won ten of 17, and Jan Bulis lost both of his. Kevin Bieksa led the team with five shots as Daniel Sedin had four and Markus Naslund had three. Mattias Ohlund dished out four hits. Sami Salo blocked a pair of shots. Bieksa missed the net with three shots while Ohlund and Taylor Pyatt missed with a pair each.
It's all ones and evens in the plus-minus department for this one. At minus-1 were Bieksa, Lukas Krajicek, Morrison, Willie Mitchell, Green, Chouinard, and Bulis. At plus-1 were Ohlund, Naslund, Daniel Sedin, and Henrik Sedin. All remaining Canuck skaters were even.
The loss sent the Canucks home for the Chirstmas break with an 0-3 road trip and their sixth straight road loss. Their overall record dropped to 17-18-1 (5-0 overtime, 1-1 shootout), good for 35 points. They lie in the cellar of the division, three points behind Northwest Division-leading Edmonton, two points behind second-place Calgary, and one point behind both Colorado and Minnesota. Anaheim still leads the Western Conference with 60 points. Nashville is second with 49, and Edmonton is third. San Jose is fourth with 48 (second in the Pacific), Detroit is fifth with 46 (second in the Central), Dallas is sixth with 44 (third in the Pacific), Calgary is seventh, Colorado is eighth, Minnesota is ninth, and Vancouver is now eleventh as Chicago has a games-in-hand advantage for tenth.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Two nights earlier, the Canucks lost their fourth consecutive road game, dropping a 5-2 decision to the division rival Minnesota Wild. They had scored a combined six goals over the four losses while giving up 20 goals. In their franchise history, the Canucks had won seven road games against Boston, but had dropped another 38 and tied seven. Roberto Luongo was given some rest from the Vancouver net by coach Alain Vigneault, so Dany Sabourin got the start, further befuddling the Canucks' possible chances at a victory in Beantown. Could the Canucks keep their season record above the .500 mark? On the Canuck radio side, it was CHUM Radio's Day of Giving to support Canuck Place.
Rory Fitzpatrick went to the box just 2:05 into the game for a hook. On the ensuing Boston power play, Glen Murray in the high slot one-timed a shot off Dany Sabourin's left shoulder and it went wide. The puck went behind the net and found its way to Marc Savard along the right-wing boards, who faked a slap shot and passed to Marco Sturm on the goal line to the right of the net. Sturm quickly passed across the ice down low to Patrice Bergeron, who snapped the puck through a fairly open stick side on Sabourin.
»» 1, BOSTON, powerplay, Patrice Bergeron 11 (Marco Sturm, Marc Savard) 3:14
A little over three minutes later, Brendan Morrison on the right wing fed Matt Cooke skating down the slot, who went to the backhand but was absolutely robbed by the glove of Tim Thomas moving back into the net. With eight minutes left in the period, Jan Bulis took a hooking penalty, but Trevor Linden went off for two (unsportsmanlike) and ten (misconduct), giving Boston a full two minutes of five-on-three. Savard had a pass across to Bergeron tipped away, but Zdeno Chara and Glen Murray played some catch up high before Murray ripped a slap shot from the left side that beat Sabourin.
»» 2, BOSTON, powerplay, Glen Murray 18 (Zdeno Chara, Savard) 12:20
On yet another Boston power play late in the period, Sabourin made saves on a tipped slap shot from up high by Chara as well as a one-timer from the back of the left circle off the stick of Bergeron. Boston outshot the Canucks 13-12 in the period. They were 2-for-5 on the power play while Vancouver was 0-for-2.
Early in the period, Lukas Krajicek had a shot from the left point fail to get through, and Ryan Kesler got the puck down low and backhanded it toward the goal, but Thomas stopped it. Late in the period, Jeff Hoggan got the puck after Trevor Linden turned it over, and he took it down the ice. Hoggan got past Kevin Bieksa before trying to go short (stick) side on Sabourin, who closed up to deny Hoggan. With two minutes left in the period, Jan Bulis shot from the high slot and rang a puck off the post. On the same possession, Alexandre Burrows shot from the back of the left circle and had it stopped by Thomas, who gave up a rebound at which Canuck players in front took many hacks. This ticked off Thomas, who wanted a piece of Burrows and Josh Green immediately after the play. Vancouver outshot the Bruins 13-6 in the period (25-19 overall). They were 0-for-1 (0-for-3) on the power play while Boston also was 0-for-1 (2-for-6).
On a Vancouver power play about seven minutes into the period, Mattias Ohlund in the high slot quickly fed Linden down low to Thomas' immediate right, but Thomas moved from left to right and completely closed off that part of the net, so Linden suddenly had nowhere to shoot and was easily stopped. In the dying seconds of the same power play, Markus Naslund on the goal line on the right side centered to Taylor Pyatt down low, whose shot was stopped. Krajicek jumped up into the play and was stopped on the rebound, and Ohlund up high got a loose puck on the same possession and had a shot stopped. Krajicek had a shot from the left wing stopped seconds later. In effect, Tim Thomas stood on his head for the entire game. Vancouver whitewashed Boston 14-0 on shots to no avail (39-19 total). They were 0-for-3 (0-for-6) on the power play and Boston didn't get a power play, finishing 2-for-6. Sabourin stopped 17 shots for the game.
Three stars -- (1) Boston's Tim Thomas, (2) Boston's Zdeno Chara, (3) Bieksa
none for Vancouver
In the faceoff circle, Vancouver won 24 of 52 draws (46%). Brendan Morrison won five of 11, Trevor Linden split four, Ryan Kesler won five of 15, Marc Chouinard won three of seven, and Henrik Sedin won nine of 14. Kevin Bieksa led the team with six shots and Sami Salo had five. Kesler delivered three hits. Rory Fitzpatrick blocked a pair of shots. Linden missed the net twice with shots.
This shaped out to be the most boring game of the year in terms of plus-minus for the Canucks since they didn't score any goals and the only goals they gave up were both on the power play. Thus, all Canuck skaters had an even rating on the night.
The loss dropped Vancouver to a record of 17-17-1 (5-0 overtime, 1-1 shootout), good for 35 points. This leaves them still last in the Northwest Division, three points back of division-leading Edmonton, two back of Calgary, and one behind both Minnesota and Colorado (the Wild have a game in hand on Colorado). In the West, only the Pacific Division teams and Nashville have played as many or more games than Vancouver. Anaheim has a vast lead with their 60 points, Nashville is second with 49, and Edmonton is third. San Jose is fourth with 48 (second in the Pacific), Detroit is fifth with 44 (second in the Central), Dallas is sixth with 44 (third in the Pacific), Calgary is seventh, Minnesota is eighth, Colorado is ninth, and Vancouver is tenth. Vancouver has a one-point lead on Chicago, who has two games in hand.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Three nights earlier, the Canucks came up with a much-needed win against the Minnesota Wild. With the circumstances that played out in the days since, a win in this game could have meant the top spot in the Northwest Division. Contrary to some pregame rumblings, defenseman Sami Salo ended up sitting out for a sixth straight game with a bum shoulder. Helping out the Canucks, however was the fact that the Wild had only one regulation win in the previous 20 games. Not good for the Canucks, however, was Minnesota's home record, which sat at 12-3-1. This game was also the first of a three-games-in-four-nights jaunt that also saw the Canucks traveling to Boston and Columbus.
Early in the period, Nick Schultz fished the puck out from his own end boards and passed to Pavol Demitra, who skated across center ice and fired a slap shot from just inside the Vancouver blue line that handcuffed Roberto Luongo. It hadn't happened in a while, but Luongo had just given up a goal on the first shot of the game. Oddly, Demitra had beaten Luongo with another long slap shot three nights earlier in Vancouver.
»» 1, MINNESOTA, Pavol Demitra 8 (Mikko Koivu, Nick Schultz) 1:47
Vancouver outshot the Wild 9-6 in the period. Both teams were 0-for-1 on the power play.
Kevin Bieksa had lost the puck coming out of his own zone, as did Willie Mitchell. Pierre-Marc Bouchard skated from the right-wing boards and snapped a puck toward the net from the right hash that was stopped (Luongo couldn't cover), but Brian Rolston followed up on the rebound skating right to left in front of the net and waited for Luongo to go down. Rolston had a wide open net on the stick side on which he didn't miss.
»» 2, MINNESOTA, Brian Rolston 16 (Pierre-Marc Bouchard) 2:01
Todd White had a centering pass in the Vancouver end leak through and go rink-wide, where Trevor Linden ran it down and skated to center, where he passed to Taylor Pyatt. Pyatt was bumped off the puck near the right-wing corner, but got it back. He skated along the right-wing boards before passing to Linden in the high slot, who snapped the puck through a Ryan Kesler screen in front, but more importantly it got through high on the glove side past Manny Fernandez.
»» 3, VANCOUVER, Trevor Linden 3 (Taylor Pyatt) 6:50
Late in the period just after Vancouver had allowed a shorthanded breakaway, the puck was innocently in the Minnesota zone when Keith Carney spotted Todd White darting across center ice splitting and getting past the Vancouver defense. White eventually was caught in the high slot and lost the puck, but Branko Radivojevic was right behind him and picked up the puck, then slapped it past Luongo.
»» 4, MINNESOTA, Branko Radivojevic 4 (Todd White, Keith Carney) 17:12
On a Minnesota power play in the final minute, Demitra centered to White in the slot, who tried tipping it on goal, but Luongo came up with it and held on for the whistle. Minnesota outshot the Canucks 11-7 in the period (17-16 overall). Both teams again were 0-for-1 on the power play (0-for-2).
After Vancouver blew multiple clearing attempts in their own zone, Keith Carney held the puck in at the left point and passed along the boards to Rolston, who took it on the end boards. Rolston found White all alone at the left hash, and White fired a shot that beat Luongo on the far side, though it was deflected on the way through by Mark Parrish, evidently.
»» 5, MINNESOTA, Mark Parrish 9 (White, Rolston) 6:52
The Canucks got a much-needed two-man advantage that seemed like too little too late even at the time. Bieksa at the right point dished to Henrik Sedin up high, and the two criss-crossed along the blue line. Henrik stickhandled straight away, then passed to Bieksa near the left point. Instead of firing off the usual one-timer, Bieksa instead took the puck off his skate and drifted a couple feet back before simply wristing the puck toward the net, but somehow it got through on Fernandez.
»» 6, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Kevin Bieksa 7 (Henrik Sedin, Markus Naslund) 15:17
The killer goal in the game had early come much earlier than this, but Canuck coack Alain Vigneault nonetheless pulled Luongo from the net with just over two minutes left in regulation. That all backfired with one last Vancouver defensive turnover, which ended up on the stick of Koivu, who passed to Radivojevic skating across center. He hit the empty net from the red line.
»» 7, MINNESOTA, emptynet, Radivojevic 5 (Koivu) 18:04
Minnesota outshot Vancouver 10-6 in the period (27-22 total). They were 0-for-2 (0-for-4) on the power play while Vancouver was 1-for-2 (1-for-4). Luongo stopped 22 shots for the game.
Three stars -- (1) Minnesota's Brian Rolston, (2) Minnesota's Keith Carney, (3) Minnesota's Todd White
H Sedin 0-1-1
In the faceoff circle, Vancouver won 30 of 57 draws (53%). Brendan Morrison won eight of 17, Trevor Linden lost both of his, Ryan Kesler won ten of 17, Marc Chouinard won five of 12, and Henrik Sedin won seven of eight. Matt Cooke and Yannick Tremblay led the team with three shots apiece. Markus Naslund coughed up the puck twice. Lukas Krajicek and Willie Mitchell blocked a pair of shots apiece. Tremblay missed the net with three shots, and four other Canucks missed twice each.
There was no happiness in plus-minus on this night as no Canuck came away with a plus rating. At minus-1 were Kevin Bieksa, Mitchell, Taylor Pyatt, Alexandre Burrows, Kesler, Rory Fitzpatrick, Tremblay, Henrik Sedin, and Jan Bulis. At minus-2 were Mattias Ohlund, Krajicek, Morrison, and Naslund. The lone minus-4 was Cooke. All remaining Canuck skaters were even.
Other than dropping the Canucks' division record to a brutal 4-9-1, it also dropped their overall record to 17-16-1 (5-0 overtime, 1-1 shootout), tumbling them all the way from third in the division to fifth/last with their 35 points. They are two points behind Northwest Division-leading Calgary and one point behind all of second-place Edmonton, third-place Minnesota (Edmonton won the only meeting between the Oilers and Wild), and fourth-place Colorado (more games played than the other two teams). Aanheim is still running away with the West with 58 points. Nashville is second with 47 points, and Calgary is third. San Jose is fourth with 48 (second in the Pacific), Detroit is fifth with 42 (second in the Central), Dallas is sixth with 42 (third in the Pacific, one more game played than Detroit), Edmonton is seventh, Minnesota is eighth, Colorado is ninth, and Vancouver is tenth.
Monday, December 18, 2006
So, with no Seahawk football to track, what did I do with the Sunday?
-- woke up fairly early and ate a non-glamorous but filling Denny's breakfast (Savory Sausage Scramble)
-- didn't watch a lick of NFL football
-- napped at length
-- got waaaaay too caught up in a Bollywood flick
-- picked up some edibles for the next few days' lunch
-- caught this season's holiday episode of MythBusters that I didn't catch last Wednesday
-- packaged up Christmas gifts for relatives that hopefully get there in time after I mail them Monday
-- never got around to a bunch of Canuck posts for which I have the bare framework but haven't gone through and seen all of the goal video yet
After all that non-NFL stuff I did, I still came back at the end of the day and still took a gander at the standings.
Teams and remaining schedules in the order of if-the-season-ended-today seedings...
Chicago Bears (12-2), NFC #1 seed, homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, and North division all clinched
24 Dec: at Detroit
31 Dec: vs. Green Bay
New Orleans Saints (9-5), NFC South division clinched
24 Dec: at New York Giants
31 Dec: vs. Carolina
Dallas Cowboys (9-5), NFC playoff berth clinched, leading NFC East
25 Dec (Mon): vs. Philadelphia
31 Dec: vs. Detroit
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (8-6), leading NFC West
24 Dec: vs. San Diego
31 Dec: at Tampa Bay
Philadelphia Eagles (8-6), second in NFC East
25 Dec (Mon): at Dallas
31 Dec: vs. Atlanta
New York Giants (7-7), third in NFC East
24 Dec: vs. New Orleans
30 Dec (Sat): at Washington
Atlanta Falcons (7-7), second in NFC South
24 Dec: vs. Carolina
31 Dec: at Philadelphia
That's mostly for informational purposes for you as well as me, but I guess the most shocking thing is this...
...a situation STILL EXISTS, however highly unlikely and incredibly improbable it may be, wherein the Seahawks could obtain the #2 seed and get a first-round bye. That's how pathetic the NFC is right now. Yes, the Seahawks, they of the 3-3 record against the NFC West (ugh), could still get the #2 seed. Big thanks to the Redskins for beating the Saints and making possible such a scenario.
The Seahawks need the following to happen to get the #2 seed since they've blown a bunch of tiebreakers...
-- run the table themselves (obviously) to finish 10-6
-- have New Orleans and Dallas lose out, leaving both teams at 9-7
-- have Philadelphia lose at home to Atlanta on New Year's Eve one week after beating Dallas, leaving the Eagles at 9-7
You know what's another scary thing? If the Seahawks lose the San Diego game and beat Tampa Bay, and if Dallas loses out, the Seahawks would still hold the conference record tiebreaker over Dallas. Yuck.
Do I think the Seahawks will run the table? No. Then again, I'm not sure what I expect from this team anymore.
I'm just absolutely shocked that the Seahawks aren't eliminated from a number two seed right now. That's just not right. The NFC is terrible.