I Watched This Game: Canucks at Nashville Predators, February 7, 2012

Byron Bitz came one element short of a Gordie Howe Hat Trick against the Predators. Surprisingly, that missing element was a fight. Who saw that coming? Other than Alain Vigneault, of course, who started Bitz on a line with Henrik Sedin.

The leading theory was that Vigneault was sending Henrik a message by putting him on a line with the 6’5″ winger; turned out he was just trying to get Henrik going. It worked. Henrik had his first multi-point game since January 10th thanks to a couple nice plays by Bitz. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I watched this game.

Canucks 4 – 3 Predators (SO)

  • The Sedin Split Experiment (which is also the name of PITB’s new progressive-electronica-jazz side project) didn’t fare too well early in the game. Daniel just had to deal with one new linemate, Ryan Kesler, replacing his brother, and that line had some jump, but Henrik’s line with Bitz and Mason Raymond had major issues, as a Sami Salo turnover led to a couple great scoring chance for the Predators. Fortunately, Luongo made like a bucket and bailed out his team with a couple sterling saves.
  • A little later, Henrik lost his coverage and ended up in a vulnerable spot on the ice facing a Kevin Klein slapshot and took it right off the ankle. When he headed straight for the locker room, putting no weight on his leg, Canucks fans feared the worst. Apparently so did Vigneault, as a future without Henrik flashed before his eyes and the coach immediately reunited the Sedins when Henrik returned from the locker room none the worse for wear.
  • In fact, Bitz’s success came on a line with both Sedins, so it could be argued that the Sedin Split Experiment ultimately failed. But the line juggling wasn’t limited to just lifting and separating splitting the twins.
  • Like I suggested a couple weeks ago, Vigneault shook up the powerplay by moving Cody Hodgson to the first unit. It wasn’t on the point, however; it was in place of Kesler, who was bumped to the second unit. It paid off on the Canucks’ one and only powerplay, but not as anticipated. Instead, Kesler cashed in, finding his old haunt at the top  of the right faceoff circle and snapping a one-timer top corner to open the scoring.
  • With the goal, Kesler now has a 6-game point streak, which, knowing him, he will undoubtedly celebrate by going streaking.
  • A portion of this game was a contemporary re-telling of the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with the new title of Dr. Roberto and Mr. Luongo. Dr. Roberto showed up early, but Mr. Luongo reared his ugly head on the Predators’ first goal, as Colin Wilson’s wristshot from the faceoff dot weaselled its way under his arm. I R Baboon was not impressed.
  • The real key to Daniel’s goal was how Daniel got open. When Henrik picked up the puck on the sideboards, Francis Bouillon anticipated a pass to Daniel, so he got in position between the two Sedins to pick off the pass. Instead, the puck went around the boards to Bitz and Daniel had a free lane to the net. It’s like Bouillon was the passenger in Daniel’s carpool that allowed him to use the HOV lane.
  • Nashville’s second goal was controversial if you don’t know what a kicking motion is. If you do, it was just a really nice play by Klein, who made the slap-pass from the boards, and Kostitsyn, who angled his skate perfectly to deflect it past Luongo.
  • Mr. Luongo showed up again a minute after Kostitsyn’s goal. Mike Fisher tipped a Shea Weber slap shot that Luongo stopped. Unfortunately, he didn’t realize that he had stopped it and somehow managed to kick the puck behind him into the net. Shortly after, he slipped on a banana peel and landed face first into a pie plate full of whipped cream.
  • Then Dr. Roberto showed up again, making what might be the save of the season to keep the score tied. Actually, forget “might be.” I’m calling it: save of the season. Seriously, watch it again. Normally, when a wristshot goes top corner, a goalie tries to save it with a glove. Not Luongo. He uses the toe of his skate. He’s the most interesting goaltender in the world.
  • Dr. Roberto was surgically precise in the shootout, stopping all but one attempt. Meanwhile, the Canucks shooters actually looked threatening. Burrows scored on Blue Steel, Daniel and Cody Hodgson both hit the post, and Alex Edler hypnotized Pekka Rinne into believing that he was going backhand, before wristing the puck between Rinne’s legs. And for the second game in a row, the Canucks won in the shootout despite giving up 40+ shots against.
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54 comments

  1. Cam Charron
    February 7, 2012

    They split up D. and H.?

    So what will happen to Pass It To Bulis now?

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  2. aidanbc
    February 7, 2012

    Update in the Twitter Needs Juice campaign: Can I submit this Kevin Bieksa hashtag about his defensive partner Dan Hamhuis as the best of his young twitter career?

    kbieksa3 Kevin Bieksa
    Congrats to Hammer on 600 matches…wow is he ever getting old though! #steadyastheycome #2on1specialist

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    • Nee
      February 8, 2012

      And PITB’s hilarious response:

      passittobulis Pass it to Bulis
      @
      @kbieksa3 You have to be steady with 600 matches. You don’t want to accidentally light yourself on fire. #lessonsfromSmokeythebear

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  3. Anonymous
    February 7, 2012

    Wow I never noticed Lu repeated the GREAT!SAVE pose in overtime, that’s hilarious!

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  4. stathead
    February 7, 2012

    Henrik objected to being reassigned to a line without his brother; threatened to self-harm via puck blockage; AV relented and reunited the twins. Fairytale.

    I had my personal fortune riding on a Gordie Howe hat trick for Bitz. Who knew? Why the discipline? Do the preds not normally fight or something?

    Only mistake in article: our shooters did not look threatening.

    Weird NHL reporting protocol: Edler described as beating Preds. Burrows shootout goal implicitly considered unimportant even though it kept us in the shootout. Some kind of machismo thing?

    Nifty game though; players and randomized lines in nice form; goalie vg. Heartstopping possible loss moments as per general Canuckery rescued by stellar goaltending later to be described as overrated goaltending followed by win. Sun continues to rise and set in usual manner.

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  5. sarah
    February 7, 2012

    Dr. Roberto and Mr. Luongo might be my favourite thing ever. Well done.

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    • Matt
      February 8, 2012

      I used to think of them as Roberto and Wario, but yours is much better (and worse).

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      • sarah
        February 8, 2012

        Someone needs to make a “Dr. Roberto/Mr. Luongo” parody song to the tune of Styx’s “Mr. Roboto.” Don’t let me down Internet!

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  6. Phileo
    February 8, 2012

    Canucks did what needed to be done to scrape together a win.
    However, their 2nd period problems have not gone away at all:
    Canucks mustered only 6 shots (Preds had 12), and was again outscored in the 2nd period.
    It’s happening too often for it to be a random coincidence, and AV must do something to address this issue with the 2nd period. Maybe keep the lines intact for the 1st, and do all the line juggling in the 2nd?

    I liked how AV listens to my rant on the previous IWTG post and re-united Kess & Burr as the “alternate” 1st line (Daniel along for the ride!). Quite pleasantly surprised at the play of Bitz! IF he can keep it up, he would make a great argument for making the (not so) great Dane ride the pine if Honey Badger continues to be invisible during the game.

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    • The Bookie
      February 8, 2012

      My personal, uneducated theory on our 2nd per. woes is that it’s tied into the lack of coherence in our D and the longer line changes, hobbling us from mounting consistent offence. But I have no idea how to elucidate it through stats. Can I Ask It To Drance?

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      • J21
        February 8, 2012

        Daniel pretty much already beat you to it — in his Malhotra short shifts posting a while back he highlighted the long change as a good candidate to be the explanation for the messed up second periods. I think this is getting as close to “proven” in the scientific sense as we can get — the data sample is now pretty substantial, and it’s very consistent.

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        • bergberg
          February 8, 2012

          But if this is the problem, shouldn’t other teams experience the same long-change problem in the second period as welll?

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        • J21
          February 8, 2012

          The Canucks’ high-speed game is founded on very short shifts. They have the shortest in the league. So it’s reasonable to expect a greater effect on them than other teams when shift length is more integral to their style of play.

          Think of it this way: if hockey sticks were only ever curved for left-hand shooters, it would be an annoyance for all teams, but it would most affect the team with the largest number of right-hand shooters.

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          • peanutflower
            February 8, 2012

            Can someone please explain this long line change thing in the second period. I don’t get it…

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            • josiahbc
              February 8, 2012

              During the first and third periods, the teams have the bench close to their own blue lines. If the canucks can get the puck out of their own end and into the neutral zone, there is a good opportunity for everyone, including the defencemen to change shifts. During the second period, the goalies switch sides and now the players bench is at the opposite teams blue line. Merely getting the puck into the neutral zone may allow the nearest winger to change but the puck has to get all the way into the offensive zone for the Dmen to change. The players have to skate a longer distance to the bench.. hence the “long change.” hope that can help a little.

              My theory for this is the Canucks lack a simple breakout. They rely on stretch passes through the neutral zone and any mistakes prevent a change.

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              • peanutflower
                February 11, 2012

                got it! good explanation. Thanks! I didn’t know that shifting ends made a difference, but I guess it wouldn’t have taken much thought on my part to figure that out…

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    • akidd
      February 8, 2012

      daniel did make a very good point about the short shifts and the 2nd period but that can’t explain all the canuck woes in the 2nd. and surely the braintrust that gillis employs would have made some adjustments by now. there’s gotta be something else to it as well.

      is it that the canucks’ rep in the 2nd is so well-established that opposing teams purposely pour it on in the second knowing then is their best chance?

      or even it’s just the canucks just expecting to play badly in the 2nd–a self-fulfilling prophesy?

      a moody team that likes to doze in the the middle of the workday.

      surely if it was all about linechanges AV would have started lengthening shifts in the 2nd by now.

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  7. invisibleairwaves
    February 8, 2012

    Kesler scores and Luongo lets in flukey goals? Yep, that’s a Preds vs. Nucks game all right.

    The Sedins seemed to have one of their better games in a while after they were reunited. Hopefully this means we’ll see some real wizardry soon.

    Also, what’s the opposite of chemistry? Because that’s what Edler and Bieksa have. They aren’t even paired together and they still manage to combine for some truly terrifying miscues on a semi-regular basis.

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  8. Chris
    February 8, 2012

    So, we look like world-beaters while also looking bored. Is this a good or bad thing I’d really like to know.

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  9. Canuck in Oz
    February 8, 2012

    I’d like to postulate something that I’ve been thinking about lately, during this odd streak. Might be controversial, thought provoking or just plain wrong, but…you know, wouldn’t be the first time.

    Is it possible that the Canucks are perhaps saving themselves, just a bit, for the post season, and perhaps taking the foot off the pedal for a while? They’re now 13 points up on Minnesota, safely in the top three in the conference, and let’s assume that it’ll take A LOT to go wrong for that to change. Maybe someone in the organization has thought, we smashed all & sundry in the regular season last year, and look where that got us. Really, hands up any Canucks fan that really gives a flying fig if we win the Presidents Cup again this year.

    All they have to do, really, is stay ahead of San Jose (assuming SJ don’t implode between now & start of April…no sure thing). Would they want to catch Detroit for first? OK, they might play Minn or the Avs 1st up – then maybe get St Louis in the second round. But maybe someone’s done some calculations & thought,hey we’d only have to play LA first round, and if things go our way, SJ in 2nd round…while Detroit & St Louis beat holy hell out of each other.

    Yeah, look, I know…the boys are pros, and want to win every game, etc etc, and there’s a lot of things that can go on during the first round of the play-offs, and there’s still two months in the season where things can go right or wrong, and at the end of the day, the truth of the whole thing is that they’re probably just hitting a ten-fifteen game flat spot in the season. But they’ve been like this since Boston (twelve games). Co-incidence?

    All I know is that I can’t wait for them to step it up a notch and actually win a damn game in regulation.

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    • DaveM
      February 8, 2012

      They are zoning out at the moment because they’re in the middle of a regular season that is illogically long. It’s just a marathon qualifying round for the knockout round that everyone really cares about.

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    • bergberg
      February 8, 2012

      You know, Ozzy Canuck, I’ve thought the same thing. The only thing that makes me nervous about that theory though is that if you aren’t practising at 100% (i.e. the regular season) you are more likely to continue not preforming at 100% in the big show (i.e. the playoffs). To illustrate my point, in my high-school days I was part of a dance group (I won’t go into details to save further embarrassment). In practice, many of the girls would just mark their steps (move to position, do a motion to mark the dance step) without actually acting like they were performing the routine. Then came our big competition day, and what happened? Half those girls did the same marking step from practice instead of the actual dance move. It was horribly embarrassing and all we got was a participation award.

      The point of this pointless rant is, I don’t want the Canucks to just get a participation award out of the playoffs.

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      • JDM
        February 8, 2012

        “Maybe someone in the organization has thought, we smashed all & sundry in the regular season last year, and look where that got us. ”
        It got us to game 7 of the SCF… that’s pretty damned good. If you asked anyone on the team if they’d take a one game shot for the cup again… I don’t even have to finish this sentence do I.

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        • Canuck in Oz
          February 8, 2012

          You make a valid point. However, I’m thinking that, in some ways, injuries cost us that game 7 (I could go on about the reffing and lack of scoring but there’s no sense getting myself upset before I go to work). If going 95% at this time of year, instead of 100%, helps save something extra, and potentially can save some injuries later (i.e., wear & tear through travelling, playoff games, etc) if the Nucks are fortunate to get to that spot again, then…I’m no sports scientist, but if the season is a marathon, I don’t want to be collapsing at the 26.1 mile mark.

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    • akidd
      February 8, 2012

      good point, oz. i’ve thought the same thing too. it looks like the central division is the scary one this year so why not cruise to the 2-spot and let the central beat itself up in the 2nd round?

      probably because it’s a little early for engineering matchups. gillis has said that it’s all about getting every advantage you can however small(that’s his mantra) and a game 7 at home in the conference finals is no small advantage.

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    • tom selleck's moustache
      February 8, 2012

      I think that they really do want that top spot though because having home ice really did make a difference; one only needs to look at Luongo’s home and away numbers to see how stark it can be. This is especially true given how strictly AV adheres to his line matching and zone/line deployment.

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  10. Brentals
    February 8, 2012

    A Shaq movie reference, Zoolander and a bra joke all in the same post. Golden.

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    • JS Topher
      February 8, 2012

      I’m glad to see someone noticed the bra joke… It was pure genius… But, it is a small bit of knowledge that not just anyone understands. Heck even some women I’ve known don’t REALLY know the purpose of a bra other than to hold some mams. So then, I realized as I scrolled down through these comments and found no one notably impressed by such a joke, that there was one of two sad scenarios at play.
      In scenario 1, there are far too many men on this site and the women who are, just don’t know enough about their lingerie to get the best use of it. Misused lingerie, as we all know, is a sad, sad crime.
      In scenario 2, however, it’s just possible that having grown up with only women around, and then spending a great deal of my adult life working wih women, I only get this joke, as a single man, because I have become the girliest straight man alive today.
      The sad truth, is that I hope and pray for the latter, as I like to believe no woman ever mismanages her lingerie…
      As a side note I wonder, how long have you been waiting to make this joke Daniel? How long have you let it stew in your thought cauldron?

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      • peanutflower
        February 8, 2012

        Well, I have to say as a Bulie of the female persuasion that I got the “lift and separate” right away, but that’s just really such an old advertising bra line, so I’m not surprised that it flew over a lot of Bulie’s heads, girls included. My daughters wouldn’t get that reference.

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  11. Julia
    February 8, 2012

    I caught the end of the Wild post-game show when I got home from school last night, and according to the broadcasters the plan for their next game against Vancouver is to take advantage of Henrik’s injury and the fact that the Sedins won’t be together. Hmm, good luck with that…

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  12. MelT
    February 8, 2012

    “wristshot…weaselled it’s way under his arm”

    What is weasel?

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  13. cathylu
    February 8, 2012

    I have nothing intelligent to say about this game, but again I’m happy for the 2 points. Oh, and congrats to Bitz – he looked like he was in heaven standing between the twins.

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    • obituary mambo
      February 8, 2012

      Sadly, I’m in pretty much the same boat. My mind is numb watching game after game of this sub-par approximation of my favorite team. I would, however, like to add my contribution to the plethora of Bitz inspired puns: The twins have been Bitzdazzled! I tweeted (what I like to think of as) this little gem last night just after Daniel’s goal. It’s dorky, I know, but I’m oddly proud on it. Bedazzling is, after all, a form of wizardry.

      Also, I’d like to think that the fact that the Preds earned a point off of a couple of junk goals goes some way toward making up for the two illicit points our ‘Nucks earned (hmmm, “earned” may not be the word I’m looking for…) in Denver, however small the degree. This was justice coming back to kick them in their collective backsides, was it not?

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  14. jenny wren
    February 8, 2012

    When Kesler scored we were ahead.
    “They’ll tie it soon,” The Olde Coot said.
    And so they did but then we’d three
    As Bitz led a short scoring spree.

    But in the second Preds got two
    As other teams are wont to do.
    Into the third the game was tied.
    That Nashville’s good can’t be denied.

    Canucks played better than they’ve done
    In recent games that they have won,
    And so the play went forth and back
    With goalies thwarting each attack.

    Another shootout we’d to see:
    The final score was four to three!

    Jenny Wren

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    • Nee
      February 8, 2012

      Nicely done!

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  15. madwag
    February 8, 2012

    danielson:

    ” Luongo made like a bucket and bailed out his team with a couple sterling saves.” Pretty good but you missed a chance. They were “galvanizing” saves. Cheers.

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  16. J21
    February 8, 2012

    Burrows must be close to 100% on Blue Steel, no? Why does he ever deviate from it?

    And as mentioned above, I don’t see how much more proof we can take that Daniel was correct about the long change being the source of the Canucks’ second period woes.

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    • Warpstone
      February 8, 2012

      Re: the long change. Has anyone gotten a definitive answer from Vigneault on his thoughts about this?

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  17. peanutflower
    February 8, 2012

    Great comments Bulies! Interesting game. I’m hoping Bitz isn’t Cowan 2.0. It would be nice to see more Bitz. I’m going to refrain from any puns.

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    • Nee
      February 8, 2012

      It was interesting to see AV throw the lines in the blender. Not so used to seeing that here. I follow Chicago a bit (6 game losing streak…woo!) and they never seem to have the same lines for more than a few games. Seems to have been this way for the last few years.

      I bet it drives the players nuts.

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    • J21
      February 8, 2012

      How about one: his nickname should be “Naughty Bitz”.

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      • Cathylu
        February 8, 2012

        Hahaha….Monty Python.

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  18. Lisa
    February 8, 2012

    Happy Bitz played well and got a goal and an assist.
    Lu’s Bert Reynolds Pose save was the cherry on top!
    Can only hope games get more exciting…shelled out a lot of cash to see the Nucks take on the Leafs next week! Go Canucks Go!

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  19. VanFan85
    February 8, 2012

    This edition of PITB made me lose my coffee…. I dont think I have laughed that hard…ever. PITB you are the light of my morning, I look forward to reading this blog after every Canucks game, it puts me in the right place in the morning to deal with a long day at work. Thank You!

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  20. Rituro
    February 8, 2012

    I choose to believe the casual dismissal of Bitz in PITB’s year-in-review article (and my stoic defense of the ex-Clipper) contributed mightily to his excellent night. It’s the Drance Effect™.

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  21. Warpstone
    February 8, 2012

    Hang on, hang on, there’s a lot to “unpack” here:

    1) Does this mean the coach’s musical gig could be called the Alain Vigneault Project?
    2) Who is which Marvel on the Sedin Line? Surely Burrows is not Mary…?
    3) Does this mean Mason Raymond’s spinorama move makes him the Hansel to Burrow’s Zoolander move?

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  22. whisky jack
    February 8, 2012

    Giving credit where it is due
    To Edler Bitz and Bobby Lu
    Bieksa the twins and Kesler too

    And ‘twould be rude and most unfair
    To not note Maxim Lapierre
    Who on the ice was everywhere

    Whisky Jack

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  23. Jason
    February 8, 2012

    Holy crap, an I Am Weasel reference… where do you keep getting this stuff?

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  24. jimbob
    February 8, 2012

    with a “twins /breast reference” and a new phrase ‘ made like a bucket’. Classic. well done sir!

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  25. tj
    February 8, 2012

    Ack. I sorta like this post. But it made me smile and grimace. It reads as though there also are two Daniel Wagners penning this post… The Bad: Boob jokes? Really? I believe the influence of the other blog job is creeping (empahasis on creepy) in. Also, I can forgive a lot of blog-writing sins, but using “it’s” for “its” isn’t one of them. Pet peeve of mine. Sorry to say. (That, and the use of ‘anyways’… But I digress…)

    Oh, but the Good: All the Luongo observations, especially the bucket simile, and the Sedin Split jokes. Good stuff, indeed.

    (Apologies for the criticism, but I know you can take it!) Thanks, DW.

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  26. akidd
    February 8, 2012

    i think this ‘slump’ is because of two reasons:

    1) the sedins. the margin of victory is considerably smaller without their 2-3 points a night.

    but mostly,

    2) the d-corps(and the transition game). just not that good this year. not ‘elite’ good anyways. they aren’t transitioning the puck well enough. maybe the forwards aren’t helping much but the other teams seem to have studied the canuck book well-enough to get bodies to places where the canucks like to move the puck and the d-corps(or coaches) aren’t making the adjustments.

    the canuck system is an intricate lace and if that first or second pass doesn’t cleanly get the puck moving the other way then it all unravels. instead of the sedins spending a minute (45 secs)cycling in the o-zone they spend a minute feebly trying to stickcheck in the d-zone.

    it all starts with the d-corps i believe. if raymond gets the puck cleanly with speed he is a different player.( i’ve also seen a lot of bobbled pass receptions. gotta take that puck clean.)

    the best game the canucks have played since the bruins in my opinion was vs the sharks on jan 21. and that game had…CHRIS TANEV. of course he didn’t do it al lby himself but his 15 plus mins of clean transitioning sure seemed to affect the overall flow of the game.

    please mg, bring back tanev. expose sulzer if you have to. tanev needs some time with the team and the team needs time with tanev. after a month the muscle memory starts to go. i’d hate for the canucks to forget about that slick puck possession game they once had.

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  27. BS
    February 8, 2012

    How deep into the playoffs will they go with effort like they have put in over the last 10 games? Most decided by shootouts or overtime against some incredibly weak teams

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  28. Eric Blacha
    February 8, 2012

    What about Ballard? He had what I believe was his best game of the season. Offensively great, close to having a goal and an assist on Kesler’s one timer.

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    • peanutflower
      February 8, 2012

      It was hilarious in a nice way listening to Shorty and Cheech extoll the virtues of Ballard’s skating in his end to end attempt. It’s almost like listening to Lee saying “the smooth skating Finn”.

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