Saturday, December 30, 2006
The Canucks had two nights off after beating the Flames in Calgary and in Vancouver on consecutive nights. The good thing is they got some rest, but the bad thing is that other division rivals played games in the meantime too. In other words, both Minnesota and Calgary won games, putting Vancouver back into third place in the extremely tight Northwest Division and into eighth place in the Western Conference. The big games kept coming though, as the Canucks traveled to Edmonton to face the Oilers, another division rival. The good news for Vancouver was that Edmonton had lost six of eight coming into this game as well as five of seven at home. Edmonton had started the season 10-2 at home. Roberto Luongo unsurprisingly would be in the Vancouver net for this one whereas the Oilers went with Jussi Markkanen, who had a 4-1 career record against the Canucks.
Vancouver's first goal would be the result of an Edmonton turnover, some battling, and some quick passing. Markus Naslund took the puck away and Ryan Kesler took a shot that was blocked. Jan Bulis behind the net passed to Naslund, who circled behind the net and was stopped on a wraparound attempt. The Canucks won a battle in the right corner, and Kesler passed back to Naslund on the goal line, who had to lean forward to quickly poke the puck toward the slot -- a pass that crossed up Marc-Andre Bergeron, who wondered who he was supposed to cover -- where Bulis tapped it past Markkanen.
»» 1, VANCOUVER, Jan Bulis 7 (Markus Naslund, Ryan Kesler) 8:38
With just under eight minutes left, the puck went quickly from the Vancouver end into the Edmonton end, and Taylor Pyatt on the end boards sent it to Henrik Sedin on the left-wing boards. Henrik quickly made a long pass to Daniel Sedin bearing down on the net, who rang a shot off the post. Edmonton outshot Vancouver 7-5 in the period. They were 0-for-1 on the only power play of the period.
Vancouver got an early power play and capitalized. Henrik Sedin on the right-wing boards bided his time looking for his brother Daniel to get open in the high slot. Henrik finally passed to Kevin Bieksa at the blue line, who let loose on a one-timer that Daniel deflected into the net. Daniel at this point had put up five goals and two assists over his last four games.
»» 2, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Daniel Sedin 14 (Kevin Bieksa, Henrik Sedin) 2:02
The Canucks carried over momentum from an expired power play to stake themselves out to a three-goal lead. A loose puck got to the end boards that Markkanen let go. Markus Naslund fought off other Oiler defenders for the puck and passed to Lukas Krajicek at the right point, and Krajicek passed to Sami Salo at the left point. Salo skated a few feet toward the left circle before blasting a one-timer through a couple of bodies in front (one of which was Pyatt), past Markkanen, and into the net.
»» 3, VANCOUVER, Sami Salo 6 (Lukas Krajicek, Naslund) 15:43
Vancouver was about to get a very rare four-goal lead after the Oilers had taken another penalty. Bieksa at the right point threw the puck toward the goal and it was tipped onto the net by Daniel Sedin. The rebound trickled up the slot, where Mattias Ohlund boomed it past Markkanen.
»» 4, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Mattias Ohlund 6 (D Sedin, Bieksa) 17:24
Vancouver outshot Edmonton 11-10 in the period, but Edmonton had a 17-16 edge for the game. The Canucks were 2-for-3 on the power play while Edmonton was 0-for-2 (0-for-3).
Roberto Luongo is very good and even great in many parts of his game. It's well known, however, that he's not too good handling the puck. Edmonton dumped the puck into the Vancouver zone and Luongo nearly handled it in the evil trapezoid area, which would have been a minor penalty. He didn't play it and let it go past the trapezoid, but had to hurry back to the net as Ryan Smyth was right there to play the puck. Luongo was a bit too far out of the net, and Smyth found Marc-Antoine Pouliot skating down the slot. Pouliot got the pass from Smyth and easily put it into the net as Luongo didn't get back in time.
»» 5, EDMONTON, Marc-Antoine Pouliot 2 (Ryan Smyth, Ales Hemsky) 0:40
The Canucks had decent four-on-four pressure with just over eight minutes left. A Matt Cooke slapshot was blocked, and the puck came back to him. Brendan Morrison got the puck and shot from just inside the right hash which was nicely stopped by Markkanen. The rebound came out, and Morrison backhanded a shot that was stopped by Markkanen again, and the short rebound out front was hacked at by Cooke, who couldn't get a shot away, and Morrison tried shooting too but was tripped up because Markkanen was lying on his back at this point. Finally, Willie Mitchell got a hold of the puck and blasted it, but it was blocked by Petr Sykora. Vancouver would have to kill off a penalty just a few minutes later, but they quickly turned the tables. The Canucks picked off a pass in their own zone just as an Ohlund hooking penalty expired. Morrison spotted Ohlund coming out of the box and hit him with a stretch pass, and Ohlund skated in alone on the net. He skated down the left side before deking to the backhand and putting it past Markkanen.
»» 6, VANCOUVER, Ohlund 7 (Brendan Morrison) 15:02
Sixty-seven seconds later, the Oilers would get back on the board, but it was too little too late. Vancouver was trying to clear the puck from their own zone, and Mitchell was trying to pass to Bulis along the boards. The pass was a bit wide and Bulis didn't get to it, but Jan Hejda did. He centered the puck, and it went off Raffi Torres' skate, but it banked right to Shawn Horcoff, who banged it past Luongo.
»» 7, EDMONTON, Shawn Horcoff 5 (Raffi Torres, Jan Hejda) 16:09
The Sedins would go to the well one last time, and on an incredible play. Rory Fitzpatrick got the puck behind the Vancouver net and passed along the boards to Daniel Sedin, who took it across center. He dropped it back to Henrik, whose slapshot was stopped, but the puck deflected high into the air. Daniel found himself just beside the net, where he grabbed the puck out of the air with his glove, put it back onto the ice, and tapped it into the net. Truly amazing.
»» 8, VANCOUVER, D Sedin 15 (H Sedin, Rory Fitzpatrick) 16:47
Edmonton peppered pucks at Luongo, outshooting the Canucks 20-9 (37-25 total). They were 0-for-6 (0-for-9) on the power play while Vancouver was 0-for-2 (2-for-5). Luongo stopped 35 shots for the game.
Three stars -- (1) Naslund, (2) Ohlund, (3) D Sedin
D Sedin 2-1-3
H Sedin 0-2-2
In the faceoff circle, Vancouver won 26 of 64 draws (41%). Brendan Morrison won nine of 15, Trevor Linden won two of three, Ryan Kesler won four of 14 (ouch), Josh Green won three of 10 (ouch), Henrik Sedin won five of 15 (more ouch), and Jan Bulis won three of four. Daniel Sedin led the team with four shots (he scored on two of them). Matt Cooke and Henrik Sedin had three shots apiece. Markus Naslund recorded zero shots on goal. Mattias Ohlund and Alexandre Burrows threw three hits each. Kesler notched four takeaways and Rory Fitzpatrick had three. Sami Salo and Henrik Sedin coughed up the puck four times each and Roberto Luongo, Kevin Bieksa, Lukas Krajicek, and Willie Mitchell had three hiccups each themselves. Mitchell, Matt Cooke, and Bulis missed the net twice apiece.
There was some range on the plus-minus ledger for this one. At minus-1 were Mitchell and Linden. The lone minus-2 was Bieksa. At plus-1 were Krajicek, Morrison, Kesler, Naslund, and Cooke. At plus-2 were Salo, Taylor Pyatt, and Fitzpatrick. The lone plus-3 was Ohlund. All remaining Canuck skaters were even.
The win pushed the Canucks to a record of 20-18-1 (6-0 overtime, 1-1 shootout), good for 41 points and vaulting them from third place back into the top spot in the Northwest Division. It also made their formerly brutal division record to a progressively less brutal 7-9-1. Calgary is a point behind Vancouver in second place, Minnesota is a point behind Vancouver in third place (Calgary has two games in hand on the Wild), Edmonton is three points behind Vancouver in fourth place, and Colorado is three points back in fifth/last place (the Oilers have a game in hand on the Avalanche). In the Western Conference, only Nashville and the non-Phoenix teams in the Pacific Division have played as many games as or more games than Vancouver. Anaheim is banged up but still at the top of the West with 62 points. Nashville is second with 55. Vancouver is third by virtue of leading the Northwest Division. Detroit is fourth with 51 (second in the Central). Dallas is fifth with 50 (second in the Pacific), and San Jose is sixth (third in the Pacific, Dallas has the head-to-head). Calgary is seventh, Minnesota is eighth, Edmonton is ninth, Colorado is tenth, and Chicago is 11th with 37 points.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
After their biggest win of the season the night before in Calgary, the Canucks came back home to face the same team. A loss would flag most of the momentum from the huge win in Calgary. A win, however, would not only be big, but it would be all but necessary to keep their playoff hopes alive in a tough Northwest Division. People like to call these divisional games four-point games, and it's true. Though only two (or three) points are awarded in these games, the swing is four points. When you're in the same division, the games mean a lot more. A win in this one wouldn't just mean that they beat the Calgary Flames twice in two nights, it would also mean Calgary didn't win on consecutive nights, which is just as important. The Sedins worked their magic in Calgary, but who would supply the magic for this game?
On a very early Vancouver power play, Brendan Morrison at the left point passed all the way down to Jan Bulis down low, who one-timed the puck off the base of the post. Though the puck was never covered by Miikka Kiprusoff, the nearby referee whistled the play dead after losing sight of the puck. Still, the Canucks would end up making good later in the same power play. Mattias Ohlund at the left point passed to Kevin Bieksa also at the blue line. Bieksa flung the puck toward the goal and it was deflected off Andrew Ference and onto the net, then trickled through Kiprusoff, but off the base of his stick-side post and out. That's where Daniel Sedin skated to fetch the rebound and put it into the back of the net.
»» 1, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Daniel Sedin 13 (Kevin Bieksa, Mattias Ohlund) 2:32
The Canucks won a faceoff in their own zone, wound the puck behind their own net, and quickly took it the other way. The puck went off Taylor Pyatt as it came out of the Vancouver zone and Daniel Sedin took it across center with Henrik Sedin as a two-on-one was developing. Daniel skated down the right side and got the pass past Rhett Warrener and through to Henrik skating on the left, who easily tipped the puck past Kiprusoff.
»» 2, VANCOUVER, Henrik Sedin 5 (D Sedin, Taylor Pyatt) 13:39
Vancouver badly outshot Calgary 15-8 in the period. They were 1-for-3 on the power play while the Flames were 0-for-3.
A regular puck into the neutral zone turned into a two-on-one from the blue line to the net for Calgary as Josh Green was late racing off the bench, Mattias Ohlund got caught at the blue line, and Yannick Tremblay was the last man back and didn't read the play quite well enough. Tony Amonte just past the right point dished off to Byron Ritchie skating into the Vancouver zone. Ritchie wristed it past Roberto Luongo for Calgary's first tally of the game.
»» 3, CALGARY, Byron Ritchie 3 (Tony Amonte, Mark Giordano) 8:55
Just 65 seconds later, Calgary tallied again after a bad Markus Naslund pass that was picked off. Later in the play, Jarome Iginla skated down the left side and passed quickly to Daymond Langkow in front, who tried beating Luongo low to the stick side, but Luongo made a right toe save. The rebound trickled out to the left hash, where Robyn Regehr skated untouched and unloaded a slap shot that Luongo stopped as well, but the third time would prove to be a charm for the Flames as the rebound of the Regehr shot went to Luongo's right, where Kristian Huselius was near the goal line and put it through on a very sharp angle. The goal made Calgary a plus-18 team in five-on-five play.
»» 4, CALGARY, Kristian Huselius 12 (Robyn Regehr, Daymond Langkow) 10:00
The Canucks won a battle for the puck in their own zone and once they finally cleared their zone, Matt Cooke took the puck and broke to the open ice on the right side, putting a quick backhander -- the first Canuck shot of the period -- past Kiprusoff to stake the Canucks out to a lead once again.
»» 5, VANCOUVER, Matt Cooke 2 (Trevor Linden, Ohlund) 14:09
Vancouver needed a first to expand on their lead. Huselius coughed up the puck near the Vancouver net and Kevin Bieksa rattled it down the boards on the left side, where Mark Giordano failed to hold it in the Vancouver zone, having it go off of him and right to Cooke, who skated into the Calgary zone on a two-on-two with Brendan Morrison that developed into a three-on-two when Willie Mitchell skated into the play. Cooke passed to Morrison, who gave it back to Cooke on the right-wing boards. Cooke passed to Mitchell skating into the left circle, who found the tape of Morrison's stick, and Morrison from point-blank range just had to redirect it past Kiprusoff and into the net.
»» 6, VANCOUVER, shorthanded, Brendan Morrison 9 (Willie Mitchell, Cooke) 16:40
Calgary badly outshot Vancouver 13-3 in the period (21-18 overall). They were 0-for-2 (0-for-5) on the power play while Vancouver was 0-for-1 (1-for-4).
The Flames got exactly the start they needed for the third period thanks to a seemingly innocent play that turned horribly wrong for Vancouver. Kevin Bieksa had the puck stolen at his own blue line by Huselius, who skated all the way from the left point to the net and easily put it past Luongo high on the short (stick) side. Luongo might have been waiting for a pass since two other Flames were in the zone on the play.
»» 7, CALGARY, Huselius 13 (unassisted) 0:51
It didn't take long for the Vancouver fans to have a sick feeling in their stomach as another two-goal lead had disappeared. Calgary chipped the puck to the end boards from the left point, where it banked off the boards to Stephane Yelle, who quickly put a shot to the net that was stopped. Dustin Boyd took a hack at the rebound and was stopped, but by this point Luongo was down and out, and David Moss to Luongo's right put a backhand shot into the net as Markus Naslund was trying to bump him off the puck to no avail. This was Moss' third goal and this was Moss' third game in the NHL.
»» 8, CALGARY, David Moss 3 (Dustin Boyd, Stephane Yelle) 2:12
It got worse. The Flames kept the Canucks and Luongo under siege for most of the period and got a break as Ohlund was called for his third minor penalty of the game with 6:08 left. On the ensuing power play, the Flames won a battle along the Vancouver end boards and sent the puck out to the blue line. Dion Phaneuf made a hard pass to Iginla below the right hash, and he quickly passed to Langkow mid-slot, who turned and fired the puck past Luongo to give Calgary its first lead of the game.
»» 9, CALGARY, powerplay, Langkow 13 (Jarome Iginla, Dion Phaneuf) 15:13
Vancouver would end up getting what they badly needed. Jan Bulis near the end boards chipped the puck to Naslund, who flung the puck toward the net that was stopped with Ryan Kesler in front. The puck was loose in front of the net and Kiprusoff was trying to reach to cover it up, but it got too far away from him and he was in no position to stop Kesler's shot as Kesler chipped a backhander over Kiprusoff.
»» 10, VANCOUVER, Ryan Kesler 5 (Markus Naslund, Jan Bulis) 16:20
Calgary again badly outshot Vancouver 15-4 in the period (36-22 overall). They were scored on the only power play awarded in the period (1-for-6), so Vancouver remained 1-for-4).
Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin did some stuff in the Calgary zone before the puck cycled counterclockwise to set up a Sami Salo one-timer from the left side. The one-timer came, sure enough, and it deflected off of Chuck Kobasew's skate as well as Phaneuf, and it found the back of the net.
»» 11, VANCOUVER, Sami Salo 5 (Ohlund, D Sedin) 2:46
Vancouver had the only two shots of overtime and scored on the second one. Calgary outshot Vancouver 36-24 for the game. No power plays were awarded in the period, so Calgary finished 1-for-6 and Vancouver finished 1-for-4. Luongo stopped 31 shots for the game.
Three stars -- (1) Cooke, (2) Calgary's Kristian Huselius, (3) Salo
D Sedin 1-2-3
H Sedin 1-0-1
In the faceoff circle, Vancouver won 33 of 61 draws (54%). Brendan Morrison won 14 of 19, Trevor Linden won three of four, Ryan Kesler won five of 13, Marc Chouinard won two of eight, and Henrik Sedin won eight of 16. Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo, Morrison, and Daniel Sedin led in shots with three apiece. Matt Cooke delivered a half-dozen hits while Taylor Pyatt and Linden dished out three each. Morrison, Linden, and Markus Naslund notched two takeaways each. Cooke coughed up the puck twice. Willie Mitchell blocked five shots and Mattias Ohlund blocked a pair.
Here's the plus-minus for this wild game. At plus-1 were Ohlund, Morrison, Linden, Daniel Sedin, Cooke, and Henrik Sedin. The lone plus-2 was Salo. All the minus skaters were minus-1, and they were Kesler, Naslund, Josh Green, Yannick Tremblay, and Jan Bulis. All remaining Canuck skaters were even.
The Canucks got this much-needed win to push their division record to a less-pathetic 6-9-1. Their overall record improves to 19-18-1 (6-0 overtime, 1-1 shootout), good for 39 points, suddenly vaulting them into first place in the Northwest Division thanks to losses by Minnesota and Colorado earlier in the night. They are exactly one point ahead of every other team in the division, a feat nearly unthinkable two days beforehand. The current division order is Edmonton in second, Calgary in third, Colorado in fourth, and Minnesota in fifth. Minnesota has played the most games out of the group, Colorado has a game in hand on Minnesota, and the Oilers and Flames both have two games in hand on the Wild. The Oilers have won two of the three matchups this season with the Flames. In the Western Conference, only Los Angeles, Dallas, and Anaheim have played as many or more games than Vancouver. Anaheim still has a comfortable lead with their 62 points, but now has some key injuries to deal with. Nashville is second with 53 points. Vancouver went from eleventh the night before up to third by virtue of leading the Northwest Division. San Jose is fourth with 50 points (second in the Pacific), Detroit is fifth with 49 (second in the Central), Dallas is sixth with 48 (third in the Pacific), Edmonton is seventh, Calgary is eighth, Colorado is ninth, Minnesota is tenth, and Chicago is eleventh with 37 points.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
The Canucks came back after the Christmas break, but they would have to ratchet their game to a high level quite quickly as the first four games after the break were against the Oilers or Flames, both key divisional opponents. This marked the beginning of a stretch that could possibly make or break the season for the Canucks; doing poorly would bury them pretty deeply and hurt their chances for a playoff spot while doing well would help them get in the thick of the race. Stacked against Vancouver, however, were the fact that they had lost six straight road games and they were 0-7-1 on the road this season against divisional opponents coming into the game. Also, Calgary took a ten-game home-ice win streak into this game. So what would it be for Vancouver? More of the same up and down, topsy-turvy, win-one-lose-one stuff, or would it be the Canucks finally bearing down and putting a run together? As odd as it sounds, this was Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, but with so many divisional games coming up, it was now or never for the Canucks if they were to make a playoff run.
On a Vancouver power play just past the halfway point of the period, a Sami Salo shot from the blue line was deflected onto the net and stopped, but the rebound went to Miikka Kiprusoff's right, where Lukas Krajicek put a good shot onto the net, but Kiprusoff stopped and covered it. Later in the period, Alex Tanguay had a pass picked off in his own zone, resulting in a Matt Cooke shot from the high slot that Kiprusoff stopped with the left pad. On the Calgary side of things, both Tony Amonte and Dion Phaneuf rang shots off posts behind Roberto Luongo. Shots were nine apiece in the period. Vancouver was 0-for-2 on the power play while Calgary was 0-for-1.
In the early minutes of the period, Matt Cooke on the right-wing boards set up Trevor Linden in the high slot for a one-timer that was stopped by Kiprusoff. Brendan Morrison was right in front for a chance on the rebound, but Kiprusoff was able to stop that as well. On a Vancouver power play not long after, Kevin Bieksa's shot from the right point was deflected from the slot onto Kiprusoff by Henrik Sedin. Kiprusoff stopped it, but the rebound went way to his right, and Trevor Linden had a wide-open net that he didn't miss.
»» 1, VANCOUVER, powerplay, Trevor Linden 4 (Henrik Sedin, Kevin Bieksa) 5:05
The Canucks tallied again in the final two minutes. Ryan Kesler intercepted a Tanguay pass in his own zone and Daniel Sedin raced the other way with it on a rush. Once in the Calgary zone, Jan Bulis was going to the net on the play and Daniel was trying to set him up, but his pass was broken up by Daymond Langkow. The bad thing for Langkow was that it deflected right back to Daniel, who snapped it past Kiprusoff from just below the right hash.
»» 2, VANCOUVER, Daniel Sedin 11 (Ryan Kesler) 18:29
Vancouver outshot the Flames 13-6 in the period (22-15 overall). They were 1-for-2 (1-for-4) on the power play while Calgary was 0-for-1 (0-for-2).
With the Flames trying to regroup in the neutral zone, Taylor Pyatt picked off the puck and dished to Daniel Sedin, who took it into the Calgary zone. Daniel passed to Henrik Sedin mid-slot, who let a hard shot go barely wide of the net on Kiprusoff's glove side. The puck went into the right-wing corner, where Pyatt won the battle and passed to Henrik along the end boards, closer to the net. Henrik backhanded a pass out from to Daniel, who put it past Kiprusoff to get the Canucks a three-goal lead.
»» 3, VANCOUVER, D Sedin 12 (H Sedin, Taylor Pyatt) 10:51
With about six and a half minutes left, the Canucks rushed into the Calgary end and Krajicek's sharpangle shot from the right-wing boards was stopped, as was Josh Green bearing down on the net for the rebound. The Flames got a power play in the final minute of play, but it was much too little too late. Andrew Ference's shot from the blue line was knocked down in the low slot by Chuck Kobasew. The puck trickled to Luongo's right, where David Moss was waiting and banked the puck off something and past Luongo, screwing the latter out of his third shutout of the season. Luongo was bumped on the play, for what that's worth, though this kind of falls on Linden for taking the late penalty.
»» 4, CALGARY, powerplay, David Moss 2 (Chuck Kobasew, Andrew Ference) 19:37
Calgary doubled up the Canucks 12-6 on shots in the period, but Vancouver took a 28-27 edge for the game. The Flames were 1-for-4 (1-for-6) on the power play while Vancouver was 0-for-1 (1-for-5). Luongo stopped 26 shots for the game.
Three stars -- (1) Luongo, (2) D Sedin, (3) Calgary's Dion Phaneuf
D Sedin 2-0-2
H Sedin 0-2-2
In the faceoff circle, the Canucks won 20 of 52 (38%) draws. Brendan Morrison won five of 11, Ryan Kesler won eight of 21, Marc Chouinard won two of six, Henrik Sedin won five of 11, and Jan Bulis lost both of his. Lukas Krajicek led the team with four shots while Sami Salo and Daniel Sedin each had three. Taylor Pyatt, Kesler, Matt Cooke, and Bulis each delivered three hits. Morrison notched five takeaways while Kesler got four. Kevin Bieksa coughed up the puck twice, but blocked four shots. Six Canucks missed the net twice each with shots.
In plus-minus, the only Calgary goal came very late on a power play that unfortunately spoiled Roberto Luongo's shutout, so it's all plus for the Canucks. At plus-1 were Mattias Ohlund, Krajicek, Salo, Pyatt, Kesler, Rory Fitzpatrick, Henrik Sedin, and Bulis. The lone plus-2 was Daniel Sedin, who scored both of the even-strength Vancouver goals. All remaining Canuck skaters were even.
With this win, the Canucks snapped Calgary's ten-game home winning streak as well as their own six-game road losing streak. This was also the Canucks' first divisional road win of the season after nine such games. Their overall record is 18-18-1 (5-0 overtime, 1-1 shootout), good for 37 points. They are tied in points with Calgary, but the Flames have three games in hand, technically still leaving the Canucks in fifth/last place in the Northwest Division. Still, it's a tightly packed division. The Canucks trail all of Colorado, Edmonton (Colorado leads by head-to-head record over Edmonton), and Minnesota (the Wild have played one more game than both the Oilers and Wild) by one point. In the Western Conference, only Nashville and all the Pacific Division teams that aren't Phoenix have played as many or more games than Vancouver. Anaheim is still nuts and leads the West with 62 points. Nashville is second with 53 and Colorado is third. San Jose is fourth with 50 (second in the Pacific), Detroit is fifth with 47 (second in the Central), Dallas is sixth with 46 (third in the Pacific), Edmonton is seventh, Minnesota is eighth, Calgary is ninth, white-hot Chicago is tenth with 37, and Vancouver is eleventh.