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Posts Tagged ‘edmonton oilers’

Rollercoaster season sees Canucks fight injuries; score heavily.

The 2009/2010 regular season comes to a screeching halt after seeing the Canucks deal with all kinds of adversity and successes, expectations and disappointments, highs and lows, and one of the NHL’s highest total of mangames lost to injury.  Still, they persevered, and once the dust settled they found themselves repeating as Northwest Division Champions, 2nd in league scoring with Henrik Sedin leading the way as the Art Ross Trophy winner, a 1st round match with the young and dynamic LA Kings, and a lot of questions to be answered.

Will the team’s depleted defense keep them from reaching their potential?

Will Luongo shake off the post-olympic cobwebs and regain his masterful form in time to keep the Canucks rolling?

Will the Sedins continue rolling and light up the other team’s goaltender?

Can Kesler and Burrows continue to get under the skin of their opponents while continuing to put up points?

There’s a lot that needs to be answered going into Thursday’s playoff opener at GM Place.  It all depends on which Canucks team shows up.  The Canucks have shown that when they are interested, they can beat anyone in the league as evidenced by wins over Chicago, Detroit, San Jose, Washington and Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh.  They’ve also shown their ugly side with inexplicable losses to Columbus, Carolina, Edmonton, and the Islanders.

Their first round opponent, the LA Kings, provide the Canucks with a serious competition.  They are young, fast, and physical.  They have depth at forward as well as on defence and have been overlooked by many around the NHL as this year’s “one-hit wonder”.  In my opinion, this team is for real.  They will give the Canucks all they can handle and meet the Canucks hit for hit and shot for shot.  The Canucks will need to be disciplined and stay put of the box as much as possible and they will need to have the better goaltender.  If Luongo is Luongo, the Canucks will win this series.  If we see the same Luongo we’ve seen since after the Olympic break, things may not go as well for the Canucks.

All in all, I expect this series to be very entertaining and well-played.  I expect that the Canucks will defeat the Kings in 7 games (as long as the refs stay out of the way).

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Gold or Bust for Men’s Hockey

The 2010 Vancouver Olympics Men’s Hockey Tournament is in full swing.  After 2 days of competition, all 12 countries have gotten their feet wet.  As expected Canada and the USA had little problem dispatching Norway and Switzerland respectively.  Germany surprised Sweden by battling them to a very competitive 2-0 result which saw the Germans hit several goal posts behind Swedish goalie Henrik Lundqvist.  The Czech Republic ousted the rival Slovakia 3-1, and the Russians handled Latvia 8-2.

Canada started Roberto Luongo between the pipes against Norway and he subsequently posted a shutout on what was, expectedly, a quiet night for him in which he only faced a handful of dangerous shots.  Martin Brodeur, who is expected to be the Team Canada starter for the run of the tournament will start today, in what should be another tune-up type game, against the Swiss.  Although, your humble blogger is loathe to point out that the Swiss stunned Canada in Torino2006, and should not be taken lightly this time around.

Canada’s first game against Norway, which they won 8-0, saw the top line of Crosby, Nash, and Iginla light up Norway with Iginla notching a hat-trick.  This line looks deadly, with Crosby having 2 snipers to choose from in Nash and Iginla.  But then again, it was Norway.   The Swiss, no doubt, will put up a much bigger fight, but anything short of a convincing victory will leave fans wondering.  The 7th place finish in Torino still leaves a bitter taste in the collective mouth of Canadian hockey fans.

Team Canada coach Mike Babcock has been trying out different line combinations.  Initially, he had put Patrice Bergeron, who your humble blogger thinks shouldn’t even be on this team, on the top unit with Crosby and Nash.  Bizarre.  After the futile production that this line produced in the 1st period, Babcock promptly, and wisely, yanked Bergeron off the 1st line replacing him with Jerome Iginla who went on to score a hat-trick taking beautiful feeds from Sidney Crosby while looking dangerous on almost every shift.

Tonight’s game should provide a better idea of what Team Canada will look like moving forward.  The team has had a game to get to know each other a little bit, work out some special teams systems, figure out some line combinations, and will have their number one goalie, Martin Brodeur between the pipes.   Due to the short nature of this tournament, there is not a lot of time for teams to ‘gel’ or master checking systems.  This team needs to come together fast, and come together now.  We will see what they look like tonight against the Swiss.

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Dany Heatley Should Count His Blessings

Dany Heatley finally spoke out yesterday from Kelowna, BC on his thinking behind demanding a trade from the nation’s capital.  On the eve of  Team Canada’s Olympic orientation camp, Heatley talked to the media about the issue breaking months of silence.  We found out that he no longer wants to play for Ottawa because of his ‘diminshed role’ on the team.

The Ottawa Senators have been greatly underachieving the last couple of seasons.  Many believe with a top line consisting of Heatley, Jason Spezza, and Daniel Alfredsson the team should realize more success.  Of course, this hasn’t been the case the last couple of seasons leading to some head-scratching and much to Heatley’s shagrin – line shuffling.  Clearly this has not sat well with Heatley a two time 50 goal scorer, causing him to demand a trade to a team that might appreciate his talents more and use him more effectively.

For Heatley, I have this advice.  Things aren’t so bad…count your blessings.  Earlier in your career you were on a team in a struggling hockey market where nobody cared about how crappy your team was.  Playoffs were a pipe-dream.  But things would change for you wouldn’t they?  Shorty, after the tragic car accident involving you and your teammate and friend Dan Snider you were traded to a then cup-contending team in a canadian hockey market where your past would be forgotten and you would be idolized.

Dany, when things go bad on a team, sometimes changes need to be made in the line-up wether it be line combinations or power-play units.  You should accept these things….its called being a team player.  I mean, if Team Canada doesn’t put you on the top power-play unit and give you 30 minutes of ice-time are you gonna ask to be traded to Team Russia?  So, Ottawa, contrary to what this writer would do, bent to your demands and arranged a trade to an up-coming young team in a Canadian market close to your hometown.  Still not good enough for our Dany boy though was it?

Dany, things aren’t as bad as they could be, especially considering your situation a few years ago.  After all 7.5 million dollars a year to play hockey isn’t so bad is it?  I think its time to count your blessings, Mr. Heatley and stopping being such a diva.

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One step forward, one step back for Canucks

The off-season for the Vancouver Canucks thus far has been, depending on who you ask, either highly successful or completely uneventful.  On the optimistic side of the coin, you could argue that in re-signing Henrik and Daniel Sedin at the last possible moment, that they were able to acquire not one but two top-line players who are both consistently in the top 25 in league scoring…and considerably under market value at that.  You could argue that Mathias Ohlund is long in the tooth, not as effective as he once was, and Tampa Bay’s offer was ridiculously over-priced.  The optimists will tell you that Mikael Samuelson and his Stanley Cup experience are the piece that is missing from the Canuck puzzle, and his 20 plus goal seasons of late on the third line in Detroit will translate to 30 plus goals if he gets a chance to play with the twins or gets even a bit of power-play time.

Then there is the glass half-empty set that will tell you that Mike Gillis has basically done nothing to improve this team that failed to get past the second round last year.  They will say “Congratulations on signing the twins, but didn’t we already have them before?”.  Matias Ohlund has been replaced by Aaron Rome….say what you want about Ohlund, but at least we’ve heard of him which is something we cannot say about his replacement.  Mikael Samuelson…nice pick up…but he just replaces Mats Sundin, Taylor Pyatt, Kyle Wellwood, or potentially all three…do we really have a net gain here?

It is easy to look at the glass either way with this team.  It just seems like one of those off-seasons so far where there are just as many questions in late July as there were when the season ended.  One can’t definitively say that this team is significantly better or, really, any worse.  It appears as thought the Vancouver Canucks will head into the 2009/2010 season with a team that is pretty much at the same level that last year’s edition was.  It will have a solid defense, adequate scoring and will depend on Roberto Luongo to take him as far as he is able.  One can say that not much has changed here….the problem is, much has changed around them.  The Calgary Flames, somehow, managed to stick it to the salary cap by signing all-star defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, while Edmonton addressed their main weakness by putting Nikolai Khabibulin between the pipes.  The Chicago Blackhawks, the team that eliminated the Canucks, went out and added Marian Hossa.  So, maybe the status quo isn’t really the status quo.  Canucks Nation better pray that Roberto Luongo can walk on water for them.