Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Conflation of Nerdity: The Best of #NHLStarWars

I suffer from a myriad of interests; growing up, I was both a nerd and a jock, obsessively reading comic books, scientifiction, and fantasy, while also playing soccer and baseball and obsessively following hockey. I adored the original Star Wars trilogy, actually wearing out my VHS copies through repeated watching. I equally adored the Vancouver Canucks, actually wearing the infamous "Flying V" jersey to elementary school during the 1994 playoff run.

On Tuesday, these two worlds collided, thanks to @whatnojagr and his #NHLStarWars hashtag. The meme really took off when Greg Wyshynski got ahold of it and brought the eyes of the masses (of his followers) to the table. Harrison and I are no strangers to NHL hashtags, contributing to the wonderful #NHLCupcakes and attempting to start a few of our own. Unfortunately, #ForthepriceofDerekBoogaard and #ImissKyleWellwood just don't have the same traction.

Here are a few of our favorite #NHLStarWars tweets, including a few of our own, because we are awesome. #shamefulselfpromotion

Bam! Short jokes! Also, just like R2D2, Gionta will require an interpreter for the French-speaking fans to understand him.

Mostly I just love the animated gif for this one, which has been around for a while. Hopefully Hips won't do the same to Luongo this year...

Best part about this one is that she was already too late.

She nails it with this one. "Leave Phoenix? In our moment of triumph?"

There was an odd attempt to cast Sean Avery as Han Solo. Ugh, no thanks. He's certainly a scruffy nerf-herder, but there's no way he gets the plum position as anti-hero-for-the-ages. ACMESalesRep gets it right with the Jar-Jar Binks comparison.

He wasn't the first to make the joke, but he was the first to make it well. Though really, wouldn't Admiral Ackbar be every team playing against Jacques Lemaire?

The addition of the #TooEasy hashtag lifts this one above the other Scott Hartnell as Chewbacca references.

Despite her earlier assertion regarding the creativity of Wellwood fat jokes, @thetinnishflash goes for the old, yet hilarious, Crosby-is-a-whiner joke. #hypocrisy?

Harrison steps to the plate with the first PitB entry and nails it. Nothing more to add.

Indeed. It's tempting to jump in here with a rant about how disappointed I was that the Clone Wars simply featured one side of the war using an army made of clones rather than a revolution of clones fighting for clone rights, but that would get a little too nerdy and I'm still trying to wipe the memories of the prequels from my mind.

A typical "Montreal Canadiens are short" joke vastly improved by the addition of Chewbacca. Just like the actual Ewoks.

@Disastromatic Pierre McGuire = C-3P0
@Disastromatic jumped in with this gem then followed it up with a series of killer puns, the best of which was...

@Disastromatic Mon Cammalleri
This joke is just too perfect. Seriously.

I arrived late to the party, but I still think this is hilarious.

Harsh. Also, humourous.

Apparently @hawknut is in the business of being funny and business is booming (I am clearly not in that business). Also, I don't know what he's talking about as I don't remember either of those things happening.

As Professor Farnsworth might say, "Oh my, yes." For those needing reminding, Stefan should be embarrassed for what he just did.

Finally, just 15 minutes ago, I made this hilarious joke. If you don't likewise think it's hilarious, then you have no sense of humour and you should be ashamed of yourself.

I Watched This Game: Canucks at Sharks, September 29, 2010

I Watched This Game is a recurring feature on Pass it to Bulis, chronicling the insights and observations of two guys that watched a hockey game.

I'm not sure why, but I honestly thought last night's game was going to be closer. Before puck drop, Skeeter told me it was going to be like the Edmonton game. I goaded him into a prediction of an identical 8-2 score. Then I laughed to myself, and told him it was going to be low-scoring, tight-checking. Indeed, the Canucks were going to lose, but not by the laughable margin he thought they might. 8-2, I said? Come on, Skeeter! I hypothesize that you are a fool, and tonight's score will likely support this, I said. Unfortunately, exactly halfway into the game, it was 4-1. After that, I was much less sure of myself.

Unfortunately, last night's incarnation of the Canucks were in about the same headspace. It was a crummy, disjointed effort from a bunch of guys who, I would have assumed, were going to bring a lot more considering the stakes. I know it's just the fourth-line, but I feel like nobody's' really stepped up and claimed a spot. The next game needs to be a tune-up for the regular season, and a lot of these guys let their last shot at a roster spot slip away by sucking an orange peel last night. Here are some things:

  • I know Raffi Torres scored both Canuck goals last night, but Jeff Tambellini might have been the best forward. He and Jannik Hansen simply seemed to have more skill than everyone else (probably because they do). The problem is that both Hansen and Tamby have similar skill sets and would likely be used as in a sort of sliding capacity as the third forward with AV's duos. You've got to think Hansen's got an edge because of familiarity, but I feel like Tamby's been the better forward these past few games. And if they both make it, what does that do for Brendan Morrison?
  • I want Morrison on this team, but I wonder that has more to do with my concern he won't have a job. If he signed with another team, I'd be ecstatic, not upset. Ask yourself if you want him on the team because he's a good fit or because you like him.
  • Last game, Skeeter suggested The Rog Mahal as a possible nickname for this place after Shorty called it the Rog. I think he's on to something with "Rog" puns, but I've got a few more. How about, the Jolly Rog? Rog al Ghul? Rog-stafarianism? The GaRog? That one would be an easy transition for fans. Rog Hashanah? Nah, too sacrilegious. I feel like these are getting worse, and they were terrible to begin with.
  • Shane O'Brien had a weird game tonight. I hesitate to say it was bad, because I love Shane O'Brien, but it wasn't always good. His odd attempt to cover a loose puck in the first was hilarious as he laid down with his head nestled into Lack's torso. He looked like a piglet after its breakfast. Even he knew it was ridiculous. That huge smile of his was priceless. And later, during attempt to bring the puck across the blue line, he had a Lack-ian brain cramp and forgot what the lines were for. He crossed the line, then stopped and brought the puck across. After the whistle, he wore an "Oh-no-I-think-I-just-cut-myself" sort of cringe.
  • As a scientist of sorts, I can pinpoint the precise moment Darcy Hordichuk got waived. It was just over five minutes into the first when he took a hooking penalty in the offensive zone.
  • Guillaume Desbiens and Mike Moore had a spirited scrap in the first period. The announcer commented that they know each other pretty well from their time in the AHL. Well, they'll have plenty of time to see where that relationship is going this season, in the AHL.
  • Is it safe to say James Duthie didn't read the Team 1040 handbook of dos and donts for interviewing Mike Gillis? He lost MG's respect early on when he asked, effectively, if any trades were brewin'. After that, it was all condescending lip curls and pat answers for Gillis. Tip for Duthie and all others who might interview a Canucks GM: if you want him to love you, start by ripping Dave Pratt, lob a few softballs, then tell him the mind room was a great idea.
  • Skeeter pointed out that this is the first year we've heard anything about the 50-contract limit, and now we hear something nearly every day. Odd how that happens.
  • Cody Hodgson needed to play like a superstar in the making last night in order to be here for the season opener, and instead he played like a guy who has plenty of skill, but needs to get back to game speed in the AHL. That's fine. There are so many examples of current superstars needing some seasoning I feel like I shouldn't even have to make the argument. Go elsewhere for that.
  • The Canucks' penalty-killing was atrocious last night, which might be the only cause for concern. All of these guys are bottom six guys. That's going to be their job come mid-October. They need to be good at it.
  • I'm a lot more enamoured with Lee Sweatt than Skeeter is, but I thought he was okay last night. He won't be making the team (he was in the lineup for this shellacking and the 8-2 debacle, so he's done), but he's going to push for a spot next year. Both Sweatts are, and that's awesome.
  • Dan Hamhuis made one small mistake, by overcommitting himself on the beautiful Dany Heatley goal. Other than that, he continues to seem downright holy.
  • Keith Ballard had good and bad moments, as usual. His footspeed is starting to look better, though. On a sidenote: Skeeter's been tagging posts that mention him as "Hips." Is this his attempt at a brand new nickname? If so, I'm on board. I love nicknames that are just body parts. Ryan "Balls" Johnson. Sami "Ball" Salo. I hereby declare Keith Ballard "Hips".
  • "Hips" had good and bad moments, as usual.
  • Skeeter and I made notes and there was more to say, but I forgot my notebook at home and now I'm at work. Sorry, Skeeter. Anything you want to add?

Why yes, Harrison, I do have things I want to add:
  • Harrison and I pinpointed 4 times that Guillaume Desbiens was cut from the Canucks of our hearts. Fortunately, he will only need to be cut once for real. Still, he performed better than I expected and he made a decent argument for being a call-up if someone on the 4th line goes down with an injury. He hits and can fight in a pinch and isn't as useless as Hordichuk at the other elements of the game, but guys like Glass and Oreskovich are more likely to start the season as 4th-line wingers.
  • Eddie Lack was reasonable, given the lack of support in front of him, but his biggest deficiency appears to be his lateral movement. He had trouble moving across his crease quickly to react to the passing of the San Jose powerplay. His save percentage was .890 at even strength and .600 on the penalty kill. I like Lack a lot, but he will definitely need some time in the AHL to adapt to the North American game and get a larger number of starts after being a perennial backup throughout his career.
  • I hate that the referees don't get to use their discretion on delay of game penalties. Both Torres and Ehrhoff took them after batting pucks out of mid-air in the defensive zone and seeing them flutter over the glass. That's not a penalty, that's bad luck.
  • I have some thoughts on the role of fighting and enforcers in the NHL (look for a post tomorrow), but both Harrison and I were thoroughly annoyed when the refs jumped in between Ehrhoff and Pavelski after both had dropped the gloves. There was a legitimate fight brewing for legitimate reasons (Pavelski had just hit Ehrhoff from behind) and it was broken up for no reason other than that they are not "designated fighters." To quote the Arrogant Worms, "Please Mr. Linesman, let the players fight."
  • Also annoying, the fact that Ehrhoff got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for dropping his gloves. Are you kidding? Not only had both players dropped their gloves, making it ludicrous that one would get a penalty and not the other, but how is it unsportsmanlike to drop the gloves in preparation for a fight? Back in March of 2009, the NHL took action to eliminate "staged fights," but fighting after a cheap shot or illegal hit was considered to be okay. So why did the linesmen step in between Ehrhoff and Pavelski to prevent them from fighting and why did only Ehrhoff get a penalty for dropping the gloves?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Sharks, September 28, 2010

I Watched This Game is a recurring feature on Pass it to Bulis, chronicling the insights and observations of two guys that watched a hockey game.

Know what I like to see? Antti Niemi losing. I also like to see a near-regular season lineup for the Canucks look so poised and ready for action. It was a solid performance all-around, but all eyes were on the fringe players, the ones doing their best to make the team. Players like Cody Hodgson, Jeff Tambellini, Tanner Glass, and Alexandre Bolduc. Here's what we saw tonight:
  • Shorty attempted to nickname Rogers Arena "The Rog" before the game. I'm not sold. Perhaps "The Rog Mahal"?
  • Teams should use duos or trios more often for the national anthem. Harmonies help fill out the sound and can cover up the occasional flat note.
  • Cory Schneider answered all the questions that were raised after getting shellacked for 8 goals against Edmonton. It's amazing what he can do when he's not facing poorly defended 2-on-1s every single shift. John Garrett, who made his return to the broadcasting booth after Burrows was sent to the minors, pointed out that he has a reputation for bouncing back from weak performances; I don't know about that, but I'm sure he appreciated having an NHL-level defence in front of him. He made most of his saves simply by being sound positionally and controlling rebounds, though he moved well when necessary, especially on the penalty kill.
  • Cody Hodgson started off well enough and didn't look out of place with Kesler and Raymond, but he was also nothing special. He managed to draw an early penalty and made a couple decent plays defensively, but he got demoted in the third period to the fourth line, while Torres skated on the second. He'll likely get one more chance with two pre-season games left, but it looks like he'll be starting off the season with the Moose, which is probably better for him. It's tough to lose an entire year of development.
  • Jeff Tambellini, on the other hand, really improved his stock, scoring the Canucks third goal with a beautiful snap shot over Niemi's glove. It's his go-to shootout move and he showed that it works just as well on a 2-on-1. Also note, Jannik Hansen freeing up the puck for Tambellini with some strong work on the boards. The guy's got speed to burn and looked good enough on the fourth line that he got bumped up to the third line in the final period. He skated hard on the forecheck and definitely made a good argument for his versatility.
  • While Tambellini showed off his great shot, Glass showed why he should never be on the third line, not by missing an open net, but by completely missing the puck with an open net. On the other hand, he did blow up Joe Pavelski with a big open-ice hit and stood up to Douglas Murray with a smile on his face afterwards, so he's plenty suited to the fourth line. Only the fourth line.
  • Bolduc? He was merely okay. Nothing particularly stood out from him, which likely means he's Manitoba Moose-bound.
  • That's that for the bubble players. The rest of the team was largely fantastic.
  • I'm loving the look of the powerplay under new assistant coach Newell Brown. Every player on the ice is in motion, causing plenty of confusion to the penalty killers and opening up numerous shooting lanes. I have the feeling the Sedins will thrive under this system. It only led to one goal, a classic example of wizardous sedinerie, but it seemed to constantly bamboozle the Sharks' penalty killers and the second-unit looked just as good.
  • Bieksa had a strong game skating with Dan Hamhuis. The two seem well-suited together, especially on the penalty kill, though it could just be that Hamhuis is so damn good that it doesn't matter who he's paired with. He could be paired with Taylor Ellington and I'd be praising Ellington for having a great game. Actually, that's extremely unlikely. Never mind. In any case, Bieksa hit hard, created offense, and limited his mistakes. That's all I ask of him.
  • Mason Raymond's goal, in the video at the top of this post, is all sorts of beautiful, roofing a backhand while making Dan Boyle look extremely silly. Lovely. It was a great shift for the entire line, including some nice work from Bieksa.
  • Jannik Hansen has solidified his spot on the third line, in my mind. He was great with Manny Malhotra on the penalty kill, forechecked effectively, and drew an interference call in the third period just by skating hard and keeping his feet moving.
  • I'm still not seeing enough from Raffi Torres. He threw a few hits and managed an effective cycle with Kesler and Raymond in the third period, but he was mostly invisible and seemed to stay on the perimeter. He was the only minus player for the Canucks in this game. One of the main criticisms he has faced throughout his career is inconsistency, so I'm hopeful he'll be better in the regular season. Quite frankly, as a third-line winger, he just needs to be competent most nights and chip in some scoring when possible. But if he's asked to fill in on the top-six with Burrows out, he'll need to be better.
  • How nice was it to see a hipcheck from Ballard? So nice. He absolutely obliterated Wallin against the boards. Speaking of hitting, it was good to see Edler continuing his physical play from last year's playoffs. He had a nice solid hit on Setoguchi in the first period and wasn't afraid to engage physically in his own end. I'm thinking this could be a big season from the blond wonder.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why Are the Atlanta Thrashers Actively Acquiring Black Players?

"I think we're going to try to stick with more Western Canadian kids [...]" -- Canucks GM Mike Gillis

In July of 2009, the Atlanta Thrashers signed prospect Anthony Stewart, formerly of the Florida Panthers. In the 2009 entry draft, they selected center Evander Kane fourth overall. In a trade deadline swap, they acquired Johnny Oduya, among other pieces, from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Ilya Kovalchuk. This past summer, they picked Sweden's Sebastien Owuya in the sixth round of the 2010 entry draft, acquired Dustin Byfuglien and Akim Aliu in a 9-player trade with Chicago, and signed Nigel Dawes to a two-way deal just prior to the beginning of training camp. Why are these moves significant? All of these players are black.

That's seven black players (six if you discount Owuya, who has not yet signed an NHL deal) that the Thrashers have acquired in just over a year, in a league that only has about 30 active black players. To put it another way: in the last fourteen months, the Atlanta Thrashers have acquired 20% of the black players in the NHL. On purpose. Considering the sensitivity around racial discourse in North America, one might be hard-pressed to find any member of the Thrashers' organization foolish enough to admit that they are intentionally acquiring black players, but this is a conspicuous trend. Considering that active acquisition of visible minorities is an unprecedented organizational mandate in the hockey world (both for political reasons and the availability of such players), a discussion of Atlanta's seemingly race-conscious roster-building is warranted. There are two major questions that need to be answered. First: why are they doing it? Second: is it an acceptable practice? In this article I will explain the uniquely African-American market in Atlanta, and why the Thrashers' strategy is a good one.

Canucks Training Camp Roster V

Are you ready for a huge round of shocking cuts? Here goes. According to the Vancouver Canucks Twitter account, Mario Bliznak, Kevin Connauton, Evan Oberg, Prab Rai, Jordan Schroeder, Chris Tanev, Aaron Volpatti have been assigned to the Moose, while Travis Ramsay, who does not have a contract with Vancouver, has been released to them outright. Also, Tyler Weiman is on waivers, which is understandable. While there is a goaltending battle brewing for the second spot, Weiman wasn't a part of it, and he'll back up either Schneider or, more likely, Lack, depending on what happens in these last two games.

As for the rest of them, there are very few unexpected moves here. Let's start on defense: Kevin Connauton showed he's nearly NHL-ready and might be in lie for a callup this season, but his defensive coverage needs to catch up to his offensive acumen before he can be considered a Canuck. Chris Tanev simply needs more seasoning, but he showed some promise. Evan Oberg, who surprised last year and was one of the Canucks' first defensive callups, seems to have either regressed, or worse, shrunk. It will be worth watching if he can get back to last year's level of play. I don't even remember Travis Ramsey, but he was never Canucks property, so that's okay.

As for the forwards, I thought Bliznak had moments, but that's all--he's not an NHL regular. He's a valuable checker when the game isn't too fast for him, so Manitoba will love him. Prab Rai, like Chris Tanev, needs more seasoning, but he got me more excited for him than I was prior to training camp. He'll come through Abbotsford a few times this season. Expect the Lower Mainland's high Indo-Canadian population to go nuts for him. I'm a bit bummed about Aaron Volpatti, who had such a great prospects camp, but, again, he was seven years older than most of those kids. Against men, he just didn't have it. He might be in line for a callup later on this year.

The big surprise is Jordan Schroeder. He was quiet during prospects camp and the early stages of training camp, but I really felt like he got his legs under him in the Anaheim game. He scored a goal, showed some good hands, and demonstrated his NHL skating. I guess it was too little, too late, however. Don't worry, Canuck fans: Schroeder will be a top-line guy in Manitoba, and he'll be in the NHL soon enough.

Now it gets interesting. This leaves the Canucks with 36 guys in training camp, below:

Forwards (22)
Alex Bolduc, Alex Burrows, Guillaume Desbiens, Tanner Glass, Jannik Hansen, Cody Hodgson, Darcy Hordichuk, Ryan Kesler, Manny Malhotra, Brendan Morrison, Victor Oreskovich, Joel Perrault, Mason Raymond, Rick Rypien, Mikael Samuelsson, Peter Schaefer, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Sergei Shirokov, Bill Sweatt, Jeff Tambellini, Raffi Torres.

Defensemen (11)
Andrew Alberts, Keith Ballard, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, Christian Ehrhoff, Dan Hamhuis, Shane O’Brien, Aaron Rome, Sami Salo, Yann Sauve, Lee Sweatt.

Goalies (3)
Eddie Lack, Roberto Luongo, Cory Schneider.

It's Not an Excuse, It's a Reason

Who would guess a guy who hits like this would get a hip injury?

One of the biggest disappointments of the preseason has been the play of Keith Ballard. Back in June, Mike Gillis made arguably the biggest splash of the entry draft by trading the Canucks' first round pick, along with Steve Bernier and Michael Grabner, for the hard-hitting Florida defenceman and Victor Oreskovich. Because Ballard has played his entire career in small-market cities, most of the Canucks fanbase was unfamiliar with him except from a pair of hilarious youtube videos that showed him to be a goaltender's worst nightmare and one video slightly less hilarious but more full of glorious hipchecks. Harrison admitted his own confusion and NucksMisconduct had to ask, "Just what the hell is a Keith Ballard?" in their own review of the trade.

So, for many Canucks fans, this preseason has been the first real opportunity to see who Keith Ballard is and how he plays. Canucks fans wanted to see how "their" 4.2 million dollars was being spent and the results have not been encouraging: Ballard's defensive zone coverage has been a mess and he's a -4 in the two preseason games he's played. He hasn't just been bad, he's been noticeably bad in both games. But, as Iain Macintyre pointed out this morning, it's not necessarily his fault.

It turns out, and this is the first I have heard of it, Keith Ballard had a hip surgery back in May that kept him on crutches for two months. Apparently, he "had a stress fracture repaired in his hip socket and a cyst removed from the area" that delayed his summer training. He played through the injury all of last season, enhancing his reputation as a durable player with another full 82-game season. The report back in May was that the surgery was minor and that he would be 100% by training camp. Health-wise, this appears to be the case as Ballard claims that the hip is not the issue and that he's just taking a while getting back up to game-speed. Still, it's hard to believe that missing two months of training in the summer would not be a contributing factor to his slow start.

My soccer coaches always used to say, "Don't make excuses for a poor performance." And Ballard isn't making excuses, admitting that he's "just not quite there yet." But it is a reason why his play has not been up to par. Quite frankly, it's not surprising that Ballard would have a stress fracture on his hip given the number of hipchecks he deals out on a seemingly daily basis. I'm hoping that he gets back up to speed by the start of the season and I'm doing my best to avoid judging a player after two entirely meaningless games. But it's difficult to avoid when Ballard has spent his career in Arizona and Florida, far away from Vancouver eyes. Ballard's game depends on good reads and great timing, as a proper hipcheck is nearly impossible without perfect timing.

Fortunately, the Canucks defense is deep enough to start the season that Ballard won't have to play on the top-pairing as he did on Sunday. And he should never, ever be paired with Kevin Bieksa again. Ever. Bieksa and Ballard were on the ice for both of Edmonton's powerplay goals and were spectacularly ineffective together. That was a comedy of errors that should never be repeated.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I Watched This Game: Canucks at Oilers, September 26, 2010

I Watched This Game is a recurring feature on Pass it to Bulis, chronicling the insights and observations of two guys that watched a hockey game.

Eight goals for the Edmonton Oilers. Eight. What in tarnations?

That was, suffice it to say, a terrible game. If I were coach of the team, I'd cut everyone in this unit and start the season with the squad that beat the Ducks last night. Mind you, that's why I'm not the coach of the team. I have faith that AV will be able to sort through this mess and send the guiltiest parties back to Manitoba (ex: Kevin Bieksa). Thankfully, I won't dwell on this too much. It was a preseason game, and Dexter's on in half an hour. Let's make this quick.

  • We watched this game with our wives. During the anthem, they commented on the size of Horcoff's nose. Skeeter's response: "Horcoff has a heck of a honker." Weird.
  • Hodgson looked reasonable in his first preseason game, quickly getting into the game with some physical play. He looked strong and confident, though not confident enough to try anything especially creative. He played a safe, responsible game and did not look out of place with Kesler and Raymond. With a couple more strong performances, this could actually be a line we see at the start of the season, with Samuelsson starting with the Sedins. In any case, it's hard to gauge Hodgson's performance given that the team collectively sucked.
  • As mentioned above, Bieksa did not have a good game. He wasn't alone, as the defense was just plain bad. Lee Sweatt was arguably the best defender, but he made several mistakes as well, notably a poorly advised pinch on the Oiler's fourth goal. There was a wealth of odd-man rushes for the Oilers to take advantage of, mostly caused by poor positioning by the defense. It's comforting to note that Ehrhoff, Edler, and Hamhuis weren't in this game, but Ballard, Bieksa, and SOB were and they were not good. At all.
  • While he didn't have much support in front of him, Cory Schneider had a poor game. He let in 8 goals, there's not much more to say. Quite frankly, Eddie Lack has outplayed Schneider in the preseason. There wasn't a battle for the backup role heading into camp, but 8 goals opens up the debate.
  • The following Canucks were not terrible: Oreskovich, Morrison, Kesler, Raymond, Hodgson, and Malhotra. The rest were terrible or, at best, unnoticeable.
  • I desperately want to make a drunk Khabibulin joke, but Skeeter's the one typing this (awkwardly writing in the third person), so it's not happening.
  • Funniest part of the game was Hordichuk trying to steal Volpatti's fight and getting a penalty. "No, Volpatti, you're not making the team by fighting, I am! That's my job!" Guess what, Hordi, it's not going to be your job in the future. As in, this season.
  • Hordichuk did manage to get in a fight with Zack Stortini, but the real highlight was after the fight, when the penalty box camera captured him watching his fight on the Jumbotron and making some sweet reaction shots. The video above stops just before the first of these.
  • Burrows claimed that the Canucks' sluggish play might be due, in part, because they flew in that day and didn't get to indulge in their pre-game nap. That puts hockey alongside kindergarten as the only place where a nap makes or breaks the success of the day.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Ducks, September 25, 2010

I Watched This Game is a recurring feature on Pass it to Bulis!, chronicling the observations and insights of some guys who watched a hockey game.

Every now and then I'll hear a Canucks fan gripe that the game they just watched wasn't very good. Not that the Canucks didn't play well, or even that the other team didn't--simply, it wasn't a very good game. If you hear somebody say that, chances are the Canucks lost the game and the analysis is dripping in fan disappointment and bias. I have never watched a Canucks game where they've won and thought, "That wasn't a very good game." If the Canucks win, it's good. But if they lose? Well, maybe, outcome aside, I just wasn't entertained. Yeah, right. We all know that if a game failed to entertain us, it's because we lost. I say this because I found the last two preseason games really uninspiring. I found this one quite exciting. Surprise, surprise, we lost those two and we won this one.

Now, there were other factors. The Ducks are a mean unit of big, dumb goons and Anaheim-Vancouver tilts are always spirited. That this one took place in the preseason, when everybody seems meaner and dumber was an added bonus. Plus, watching the Canucks beat the Ducks will always fill me with glee, as I'm still sore over their playoff series in 2007, which the Canucks would have won if they'd passed it to Bulis more often. Anyway. Let's get into the stuff I noticed.

  • Jim Hughson, early in the game: "Their third line is out. Alex Bolduc, with Tanner Glass..." Does anybody listen to me? I don't care that the Canucks essentially dressed two fourth lines tonight. Under no circumstances should Glass ever be on the third line. Haven't you seen how I tag my posts? When will we learn? When!?
  • I love the new Canucks power play. The way that everybody's in motion, the passing lanes that open up... I know the power play was decent last season, but at times it seemed really static and predictable. This new machine seemed tailor-made for a strong passing team like the Canucks.
  • Early on, after an especially strong shift, I wrote "Morrison wants it bad." After that, I added an exclamation point every time I noticed him doing something awesome on the ice. At the end of the night, my notebook looked like this. "Morrison wants it bad!!!!!!!!!" Suffice it to say, he had a great game. I've been a little concerned that fans want him on the team for his niceness rather than his goodness, but he was very good tonight, and may have earned his contract. Gillis's post-game comments sounded encouraging.
  • Darcy Hordichuk and George Parros have a pretty good little thing going, don't they? They make a living fighting each other, and they know it. Parros is really something. It's incredible that a guy who has a degree in economics from Princeton University, and wrote his senior thesis on the West Coast longshoremen's labour dispute chooses to make a living punching Darcy Hordichuk and having a moustache.
  • My wife keeps hearing Jeff Tambellini as Jeffrey Tambor. Think that if he gets put on waivers, he claims he was set up by the British?
  • Jonas Hiller's mask is awesome. It really does look like he spray-painted it himself, as Ji Hughson suggested.
  • Hughson on Joel Perrault: "He's trying to win himself a job and he just ran into his winger."
  • What sort of cruel joke is it that, in the only game Burrows isn't calling, Koivu gets called for a blatant slewfoot?
  • Daniel Sedin scored on a slapshot, then tries another one right after. Daniel slapping the puck? Sounds a lot like he might be OUT. FOR. BLOOD.
  • Luongo was incredible tonight. Made some enormous saves, looked big, got across his crease well, validated the early work of Rollie Melanson that's been getting so much press. He deserved the shutout, but Ian Walker jinxed it. Look at this timeline! 9:15, Walker says shutout. 9:18, Josh Green scores. That is bogus. Ian Walker, if this wasn't the preseason, I might march over to your house and trample your azaleas.
  • I have been loving Andrew Alberts this preseason. He seems to make a big hit almost every shift and he's limiting his mistakes. Underrated battle: him and Shane O'Brien for that sixth spot. The more I think about it, the more I think Shane O'Brien might be the guy on the way out. Everything he does well, someone else does better.
  • Other guys that looked good: Jordan Schroeder, Peter Schaefer, Guillaume Desbiens, and most of the veterans. The Sedins were wonderful as usual, and I thought Dan Hamhuis and Christian Ehrhoff were incredible tonight, Hamhuis especially.
  • Other guys that looked less good: Chris Tanev was invisible and I thought Evan Oberg was the only guy who really played badly tonight. I have pinpointed exactly 2:30 into the second period--when he shied away from taking a hit and sheepishly turned the puck over in the defensive zone--as the exact moment he got himself cut.
  • Finally, Luongo blockered away a lazy blooper from center ice and the audience looed. We got a bad rap last year for looing some really mundane saves, and this one, in a preseason game, was among the worst I've seen. Let's save the looing for loo-worthy saves, please? We're like the Double Rainbow guy with our exuberance.
  • How unimportant is the outcome in these preseason games? Well, I watched every second of this one and, most of the time, had no idea what the score was.

Canucks Training Camp Roster IV

Edit: apparently, according to Sportsnet, the Canucks have also placed defensemen Nolan Baumgartner and Sean Zimmerman on waivers. Zimmerman I know nothing about, so he likely deserved it, but for Baumgartner, well, my heart goes out to him. Baumer is a great team guy with the skill set of an all-star--unfortunately, an AHL all-star. He's also a savvy veteran, so he kind of saw this coming, but nobody likes to predict their own demise. His consolation prize is the captaincy in Manitoba, but you've got to think he'd trade it in for a longer sniff of the big leagues. His other consolation prize? He and Wade Redden can meet up at that Burger King in Hartford way more often now.

According to Kristin Reid's Twitter, The Canucks have made one cut this Saturday, sending defenseman Taylor Ellington back to Manitoba. If, like me, you forgot that Taylor Ellington was even at training camp, you're not alone. The Canucks management felt the same way, which is why he's been sent down. But let's not be too hard on the kid. Ellington is still young, and it's not his fault that he was selected in the Draft of Many Tears (an accurate name for Dave Nonis's 2007 prospect selections), or that his game was a lot more tailor-made (pun resisted) for the old NHL than the new one. Ellington is an unflashy, bank-it-off-the-glass sort of defenceman, and he's going to have a hard time standing out in a training camp guys the likes of Lee Sweatt, Kevin Connauton, and Chris Tanev, who aren't allergic to the puck. There's still a place for a player of Ellington's ilk, but he needs to be absolutely rock-solid and a lot more hitty to be an NHLer. Ellington isn't there yet, which is why he isn't here now; he'll likely be a shutdown defenseman for the Moose this season.

This leaves the Canucks with 45 guys in training camp, below:

Forwards (26)
Mario Bliznak, Alex Bolduc, Alex Burrows, Guillaume Desbiens, Tanner Glass, Jannik Hansen, Cody Hodgson, Darcy Hordichuk, Ryan Kesler, Manny Malhotra, Brendan Morrison, Victor Oreskovich, Joel Perrault, Prab Rai, Mason Raymond, Rick Rypien, Mikael Samuelsson, Peter Schaefer, Jordan Schroeder, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Sergei Shirokov, Bill Sweatt, Jeff Tambellini, Raffi Torres, Aaron Volpatti.

Defensemen (15)
Andrew Alberts, Keith Ballard, Kevin Bieksa, Kevin Connauton, Alex Edler, Christian Ehrhoff, Dan Hamhuis, Shane O’Brien, Evan Oberg, Travis Ramsey, Aaron Rome, Sami Salo, Yann Sauve, Lee Sweatt, Chris Tanev.

Goalies (4)
Eddie Lack, Roberto Luongo, Cory Schneider, and Tyler Weiman.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Super Post: Every Goal the Canucks Scored Last Season

And so the Every Goal series draws to a close. Over the past few weeks, we've managed to locate and compile every single one of the 268 goals the Canucks scored last season, player by player, clip by clip, in chronological order. We assessed, we remembered, we viewed Canuck successes (goals!) out of the context of their failures (losses!), and we got ourselves pumped for the upcoming season. And, now that the season is imminent and there's ample Canuck news to cover, features like this will be unnecessary. But! If you're ever bored, stuck inside on a rainy day, waiting for mother to come home, don't turn to an anthropomorphic cat looking for trouble--turn to Pass it to Bulis, and check out Every Goal the Canucks scored in 2009-10:

Table of Contents

35 - Alex Burrows
30 - Mikael Samuelsson
29 - Daniel Sedin
29 - Henrik Sedin
25 - Mason Raymond
25 - Ryan Kesler
14 - Kyle Wellwood
14 - Christian Ehrhoff
11 - Steve Bernier
09 - Jannik Hansen
09 - Sami Salo
05 - Michael Grabner
05 - Alex Edler
04 - Rick Rypien
04 - Tanner Glass
04 - Willie Mitchell
03 - Pavol Demitra
03 - Kevin Bieksa
02 - Mathieu Schneider
02 - Shane O'Brien
01 - Andrew Alberts
01 - Nolan Baumgartner
01 - Brad Lukowich
01 - Darcy Hordichuk
01 - Matt Pettinger
01 - Ryan Johnson

But wait! That's not all! Reader and expert Youtuber nic876 was kind enough to keep the gravy train a-rolling, as he put together 2 Youtube clips that account for every goal the Canucks scored in the 2010 playoffs (1 per round). Ideally, this is how we would have done this whole series, but we're bloggers, not video editors. We'll leave it to people like nic876 and, of course, the beloved CanucksHD to provide feasts for the eyes while we focus on sumptuous lit-banquets for the mind. I'm too tired to provide analysis at this point, but I'll leave you with this: most goals were scored by hard work, wizardous sedinerie, and good forechecking. That's just about the modus operandi of this team.

Round 1: Every Goal the Canucks Scored vs. the Kings

Round 2: Every Goal the Canucks Scored vs. the Blackhawks

Thanks to everyone who read this series, but enough looking back. The future is... well, just ahead. Whoop--there it went.

Every Goal Alex Burrows Scored Last Season

And so, we come to the end of the Every Goal series.
It's incredible to think of last season as Alex Burrows' breakout season when he scored 28 goals the season prior. That said, last year was his breakout season, as the Wayne Gretzky of ball hockey increased his points totals (35 goals, 32 assists) after a season of surprising output (28 goals, 23 assists) that everyone thought was a fluke. Alex Burrows proved last season that he was the real deal, and if that wasn't enough, the former ECHLer became a household name following his private assassination by Stephane Auger, his public assassination by Ron Maclean, and the ensuing controversies. On a more positive note, he was also our team-leader in goal-scoring, a major dressing room presence, and a large part of Henrik Sedin's Art Ross and Hart trophy wins. In short: Alex Burrows cemented himself as the Canucks' identic nucleus last season. Here are all 35 goals he scored in 09-10.

1. Oct. 1 vs. the Calgary Flames
Alex Burrows works so hard on every play, so desperately, you'd think he didn't have a four-year contract. That said, he knows why he got that contract: he plays like this all the time. For much of this clip, Burrows is in front, shrouded by all-four bright red jerseys of the Flames penalty-kill. He fights for rebounds like a drunk, surviving the worst gang-beating this side of Henrik Sedin and the LA "Rodney" Kings, and even scoring the goal while Dion Phaneuf has him in a headlock. This is why Alex Burrows is (wait for it)... my favourite player.

2. Oct. 7 vs. the Montreal Canadiens
In which Burrows is the clean-up man on a failed piece of wizardous sedinerie of the highest order. "Not sure what Henrik was thinking going to the bankhand there," Ferraro says, speaking for all of us, but it works out in the end. Consider that Price does well to cut off Daniel's sharp-angle shot, or he might have been the goat in a top ten Sedin highlight on this one.

3. Oct. 11 vs. the Dallas Stars
For people that claim Burrows is just a tap-in artist or a Sedin-brand pylon, I submit this clip as evidence. Burrows benefits from some excellent passing here, but he shows impressive patience and lovable coyness when he takes the pass, then far side around Turco, who is trying to get over and cover the short side. It's subtle, but it's a heady goal-scorer's goal.

4. Nov. 5 vs. the Minnesota Wild
One might be forgiven for thinking Burrows is playing croquet here, as he slides the puck through a slew of feet (slewfoot!) to score the empty-netter. Burrows is also the one that clears this puck out of the defensive zone, as well as the one who regains control of it when he knocks it out of mid-air with his glove. It's a nice effort for an empty-net goal.

5. Nov. 26 vs. the Los Angeles Kings (at 0:27 of clip)
One of the many set plays of this line. Daniel jumps off the draw and switches wings with Burrows. Henrik wins the draw back to Daniel, coming across behind him, while Burrows muscles past his man and beats him to the net. In the confusion, a seam opens up, and Daniel hit Burrows with a cross-ice pass for the tap-in. If I recall correctly, they pulled this off a few times last season. Watch it a couple times. Daniel and Burrows know exactly where they're going from the moment they line up.

6. Nov. 28 vs. the Edmonton Oilers
Here's a highlight reel goal. Daniel and Henrik again work wonders with their passing, and the pass to Burrows down low put him alone in front of the net. The problem? He's facing the wrong way and the puck's on the wrong side of him. Burrows' control as he spins and cuts to the net is great, as is the second effort once his first attempt to stuff the puck home is denied.

7. Dec. 2 vs. the New Jersey Devils
Fantastic Sedin passing is kind of a given for any of these clips, but I like Daniel's sudden choice to spin and fire this one towards the net. Totally unexpected, even though he's typically the shooter. Burrows is where he usually is, right in front of the net, and he tips this one past Brodeur.

8. Dec. 3 vs. the Philadelphia Flyers
This is a lucky goal, but here are the reasons you could argue otherwise: as usual, the Sedin passing is of an extraordinary caliber just for Daniel to get a shot off. Burrows is a huge part of that, however. He usually is, though his excellent passing skills don't get much press. His major contribution to this goal, though, is where he is and who he's with. That's Pronger he's got tied up in front of the net, and any time Pronger's on the ice and he's too preoccupied to check a Sedin, an angel gets its wings. Alex Burrows just might be that angel.

9. Dec. 5 vs. the Carolina Hurricanes
Yet another highlight reel goal. We often talk about Henrik's remarkable passing, but that has as much to do with speed and weight as precision. Here he lobs one into the zone, knowing Daniel will be the first one onto it. He's right, and as Daniel comes out from behind the net, he centers it to Burrows. The puck gets tipped into the air, but Burrows shows some great hand-eye coordination and bats it in. I remember this game. I was way too bummed at the Canucks' crappy showing to be as blown away by this goal as I am now. Such is the inherent value of the Every Goal series. Out of context, this goal makes me happier than it ever could have.

10. Dec. 12 vs. the Minnesota Wild
Blah blah, incredible passing, but here's the difference this time. Rather than being parked in front of the net, Burrows sneaks into the open area at the faceoff dot, and when he receives the pass, he shows off that great wrist shot of his. Incredible that it took 10 goals to see Burrows score on a wrist shot. I thought he did that more often. Note the good job Shane O'Brien does to protect the puck. He's actually very good at that, both when he's trying to take it out of the defensive zone and when he's trying to keep it in the offensive zone.

11. Jan. 2 vs. the Dallas Stars
I like this empty-net goal because Burrows scores it by going to an area where he can receive the pass. There's another of his assets: he thinks the game well and knows where to go. He'll always get his fair share of empty-netters, too, because he's one of the best players to have on the ice when you're trying to close out a game. Lastly: you may not think much of this goal, but it's the first of 15 he scores in the month of January. Suffice it to say, he was an NHL player of the month that month.

12. Jan. 5 vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets
Part of me thinks Henrik meant to wrap this around on the backhand and lost control of the puck, but I know better. (Recall: if it's unthinkable, it was on purpose.) He meant for this to be a pass, which is incredible. Burrows is right there and this goal is a beauty.

13. Jan. 5 vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets
This short side back-pass is another set play by the Sedins. It's used regularly by others these days, but, like that slap-pass on the powerplay, it was wizardous sedinerie before it became textbook.

14. Jan. 5 vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets
Derek Brassard plays the goat here, as this 2-on-2 becomes a 2-on-1 the moment he forgets the principles of basic coverage. Burrows breaks to the net hard at the precise moment Brassard looks away, and Kesler feeds him with a pass. Ironically, while Brassard looks terrible on this goal, Burrows comes out of it looking like Bobby Orr. This is his first hat-trick goal in two nights.

15. Jan. 7 vs. the Phoenix Coyotes
By now, Burrows and the puck had become one (like this song), and it's no wonder that this one squirts free to him. He roofs it.

16. Jan. 7 vs. the Phoenix Coyotes
I love this goal. I love it because it's a broken play and it shouldn't be so fluid, but that's how this line can be sometimes. Even off a broken play, it looks planned. Burrows doesn't just rush to the net here either. He goes slowly, making sure he's always ready for the pass, and sure enough, when Henrik centers it to Daniel, Daniel touches it to an open Burrows for the goal. People have said anybody could score 30 with the Sedins, but not that many guys are going to be in the right position to receive half these passes.

17. Jan. 7 vs. the Phoenix Coyotes
Earlier in the Every Goal series, Skeeter talked about a goal that Wellwood scored with "something akin to authority." That was a little shot at the little guy, who is beloved around here despite shortcomings such as his inability to bear down on a shot. Kyle, if you're out there, this is how you do it. Burrows murders this puck into a wide open net for his second hat-trick in as many nights.

18. Jan. 11 vs. the Nashville Predators
This is the same play as the Nov. 26th goal. Burrows has a little more trouble getting to the net, which delays the inevitable and forces Daniel to pass it from a worse angle, but the result is exactly the same.

19. Jan. 11 vs. the Nashville Predators
On the power play, a rare off-mark pass from Henrik gets tipped right to Alex Edler, who one-times it. Alex Burrows, doing that thing where he parks in front of the net (it beats skating, which he's still kind of crummy at) tips it on the way through to take the credit. Note: if it's there to take, you should always take the credit, especially if you're a time-traveler.

20. Jan. 13 vs. the Minnesota Wild
Burrows starts this play, then goes directly to the net, where he tips home a Sami Salo blast. Should we be surprised he gets a stick on this one? Of course not; it was January.

21. Jan. 16 vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins
Burrows' second shorthanded goal of the month (he would get five total, with four coming in that magical January) is really similar to the one he scored against the Carolina Hurricanes last season to end a 10-game winless streak. He pokes the puck free on the penalty kill, goes in alone, and makes his signature move to the backhand. It's his bread-and-butter, and we love him for it.

22. Jan. 20 vs. the Edmonton Oilers
What do you say about a goal like this? The passing is incredible? Burrows is in perfect position? All those things are true. It amazes me that tic-tac-toe passing plays of this sort have become commonplace in Vancouver. We really are lucky.

23. Jan. 21 vs. the Dallas Stars
Here's another thing the Canucks did more than a few times last season: they stole the puck from a goaltender trying to play it and put it into the empty net. A goal like this is the best argument against the trapezoid there can possibly be. Goalies who play the puck--even the best ones--typically make mistakes. Let them play it as much as they want, at their own risk. Poor Alex Auld. He's maybe the best bald player in Canucks history (sorry Jan), but he still kind of sucks.

24. Jan. 30 vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs
Didn't we see this goal two clips ago? Speaking of sucky goalies, this is Vesa Toskala getting beaten on Burrows' patented deke to the backhand. You'd think, by then, goaltenders would know that Burrows did the same move almost every time, but maybe they did and Toskala's just terrible.

25. Jan. 30 vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs
Burrows third empty-net goal of the season is a lot like his first two. He shoots the puck toward the net, and because there's no goalie in it, the puck goes right in. Textbook. It's only fitting that Burrows' 15 goal-month would begin and end with an empty net goal, or that this last one would be shorthanded to boot. Understatement: Burrows had a pretty good January. Understatement of the year: Tanner Glass is not a third-line player.

26. Feb. 11. vs. the Florida Panthers
Back to those Sedin passing plays. In this clip, Burrows fights to get to the front of the net and receive a Henrik Sedin pass, and when I say "fights", I mean fights. Kyle Wellwood might say he's under more pressure than Atlas. Oh Wellwood, you just love Ayn Rand, don't you?

27. Mar. 2 vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets
Speaking of Kyle Wellwood, here he is, making a beautiful pass to get it to Burrows in front. As usual, Burrows is taking a beating in front just to be there.

28. Mar. 3 vs. the Detroit Red Wings
More wizardous sedinerie. This one comes on the rush, as Henrik drops for Daniel and goes to the net for a give-and-go. He's cut off on a great defensive play by Johan Franzen, but Burrows beats Stuart to the net and redirects the pass over Howard. Burrows' tip here is money. Note: tips should be money, not scratch & win tickets. A waitress friend told me a guy tried that once. Not cool.

29. Mar. 5 vs. the Chicago Blackhawks
Here's another incredible goal that underwhelmed and was forgotten because it came in a game where the Canucks were getting creamed. Look at the effort by Daniel on this play to accept this stretch-pass. From there, he gets it to Burrows who rips it past Niemi.

30. Mar. 9 vs. the Colorado Avalanche
This is the second goal of the season to go in off of Alex Burrows' thigh, this time on a Christian Ehrhoff shot from the point. What's up with Alex's thigh? It's a goal-scoring machine. Consider that the side of Alex Burrows' butt scored one less goal than Pavol Demitra last season.

31. Mar. 13 vs. the Ottawa Senators
Burrows' fifth shorthanded goal of the season (and his third on a breakaway) is different from the others in that he goes forehand. Look at LeClaire cheating to the other side, thinking that's where Burrows' is gonna pull it. You only get this much space on the forehand after people scout your backhand. Burrows is a dangerous player.

32. Mar. 16 vs. the New York Islanders
Burrows scores here on a centering feed from Daniel Sedin, but it's more than a tap-in, as he cleverly pulls the puck to the backhand to open Roloson up. Daniel's pass is a thing of beauty, but I almost forgot to mention it because I see it so bloody often.

33. Mar. 24 vs. the Anaheim Ducks
This is an incredible goal, but please, keep in mind that we've seen it a bunch of times. The turnover behind the net, the centering pass to Henrik, and then the spinorama pass to the goal scorer. This time, the goal scorer is Burrows, who has more empty net than the disciples of Jesus, who fished all night and caught nothing before Jesus showed up the next morning and told them to throw their net on the right side of the boat. Everybody remember that? No? Seriously, was I the only person who paid attention in Sunday School? Good grief.

34. Mar. 27 vs. the San Jose Sharks
I like this goal because it's the exact same play that Burrows and the Sedins have done twice this season. It was prettier then, with Daniel as the winger who curls behind Henrik and Burrows the winger breaking to the net, but the result is the same. Daniel is trying to break to the net and pick up a tap-in goal off a rebound, but he gets slowed up. Lucky for him, Burrows' shot gets through somehow.

35. Mar. 30 vs. the Phoenix Coyotes
Burrows' career-high 35th goal of the season is befitting of a 35-goal scorer, as he streaks down the wing and wires a slapshot past Brzygalov. It is a thing of beauty and a beautiful capper to an incredible season. Here's hoping that Burrows can produce similar numbers this year.
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