I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Phoenix Coyotes, February 26, 2013

Don’t despair just because the Canucks didn’t win this game. In fact, it’s good that they didn’t. Hear me out: In 2010, the Canucks were blown out by a Central Division team — the Chicago Blackhawks, in a 7-1 debacle — then went on to face the Phoenix Coyotes in their next game. They played much better, but still lost. But then they got their act together and immediately went on a run that culminated in a Stanley Cup Final appearance!

Wouldn’t you know it, just two nights ago the Canucks were blown out by another Central Division team — the Detroit Red Wings, 8-3. And here they are in their next game, versus the Phoenix Coyotes. Again, they lost. But this can only mean that history is repeating itself and they’re definitely going on another Cup run this spring. There’s no other conclusion to reach. Rejoice, friends, just as I did when I watched this game!

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When it comes to taking penalties, Alex Burrows is Mr. Versatility

The Canucks are taking far too many penalties this season. At least, that’s what it feels like just 18 games in. It doesn’t help that the Canucks are currently 19th in the NHL in penalty killing at 79.4%. Penalties tend to be a lot more memorable when a goal is scored during the subsequent powerplay.

Sunday’s game against the Red Wings is a good example. While there were certainly some questionable calls by the officials, it was the Canucks’ lousy penalty killing that helped make them part of the story of the game. With some better penalty killing in the second period, the Canucks would actually have had a chance to get a point out of that game instead of it becoming an 8-goal debacle.

Over the past couple seasons, the Canucks have had one of the league’s best penalty kills, which played a big part in their back-to-back Presidents’ Trophy wins. This season, the Canucks have given up 15 goals while shorthanded. At 5-on-4, they’re tied for the second most goals-against in the league. That has to be a combination of their poor penalty killing and taking too many penalties.

The biggest culprit so far has been Alex Burrows, who has found himself in the box far too often this season. This just makes matters worse, as he is also one of the Canucks’ best penalty killers.

Over at Backhand Shelf this morning, I looked at the trends in penalty minutes across the entire NHL. I’m going to do the same here, focussing on the Canucks.

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Why realignment is scary for the Canucks; conversely, why it’s really, really awesome

With realignment rumoured to be on the horizon, this may be the final year the Vancouver Canucks get to reap the benefits of playing in the Northwest Division, the lamest party of five since season five of Party of Five. It’s a truly abysmal hellscape of a grouping, with one team team in contention and four teams that, through the first third of the season, are decidedly not.

At the time of this writing, the Canucks are the only Northwest team that isn’t amongst the league’s 10 worst teams. And in the Western Conference, only the futility of the Columbus Blue Jackets prevents the Northwest from occupying spots 12 – 15.

How bad is it? Colorado, Minnesota, Edmonton and Calgary are all sitting at about 17 points through 17 games. Supposing they keep up this pace, they’ll all finish below 50 points. If 50 points is all it takes to win the Northwest Division, the Canucks would need just 13 more wins. There are 30 games remaining.

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