I Watched This Game: Canucks at Edmonton Oilers, March 30, 2013

This game must have been a massive relief to Canucks fans who were tired of the low-scoring, defensive snoozefests that the Canucks have been known for recently. For once, the Canucks didn’t sit on a one-goal lead and bore fans to tears. This game was wide open right from puck drop, with goals galore. Heck, even one of Wayne Gretzky’s seemingly unbreakable records was broken, tonight! What more could you ask for?

Wait, you wanted the Canucks to score? Oh.

Well, crud. That sure didn’t happen. I watched this game.

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Canucks purchasing, moving the AHL’s Peoria Rivermen, according to report, but where to?

The game of AHL thrones appears to have begun. Who will win? Who will die? As we all know, there is no middle ground.

10 days ago, we discussed a report from the Team 1040′s Tom Mayenknecht that had the Canucks, Flames, and Blues working on a three-way affiliate trade, of sorts. In a move that seemed needlessly complicated, Mayenknecht said that the Canucks would be buying the Peoria Rivermen and moving them to Abbotsford, the Blues would be partnering with the suddenly vacant Chicago Wolves, and the Flames would be moving the Abbotsford Heat to Utica.

It had the look of a few steps too many, and we speculated instead that it would likely be the Flames purchasing the Rivermen while the Canucks snagged the franchise in Abbotsford. That still seems, to us, to be the most logical course, but over the weekend, more reports surfaced tying the Canucks not to Abbotsford, but Peoria.

Late Saturday night, Andy Strickland of True Hockey reported that St. Louis and Vancouver have reached an agreement on the Rivermen.

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Feast your eyes on the ‘Bieksa’s Buddies’ quilt, featuring Flat Stanley as Kevin Bieksa

The 2013 NHL lockout yielded many horrors, from “the podium” to “assmode” to the three-act masterpiece that was “The Voicemail”. But if, like me, your efforts to suppress the four-month ordeal have been unsuccessful to date, you may recall the lone bright spot that was the Bieksa’s Buddies charity game.

In an effort to mitigate some of the difficulty charitable benefactors like Canuck Place and the Canucks Autism Network were facing with the lockout eating into their donations, Kevin Bieksa organized a charity game, pitting a ragtag group of Canucks, Canuck family members, and celebrity Canuck fans like this sauve, poncho-wearing stud against the UBC Thunderbirds for a game at Thunderbird Arena. It was a rousing success, yielding a $200,000 intake to split between the charities.

It also yielded this sweet quilt.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Colorado Avalanche, March 28, 2013

What do I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, American Psycho 2, Son of the Mask, Home Alone 4, Return to Oz, S. Darko, Roadhouse 2: Last Call, and this game have in common? They were all sequels that absolutely nobody asked for. But, unlike those movies, the complete cast from last Tuesday’s snoozefest versus Columbus returned for another non-adventure (save Keith Ballard, who wisely hurt his foot).

You may have thought the Canucks’ actionless affair with Columbus was a one-off. Not so. The Canucks returned Thursday with [the complete absence of] a vengeance, perhaps realizing about eight minutes in that Cory Schneider was going to be nigh unbeatable and taking the rest of the night off. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do the same, because there is no Cory Schneider equivalent for blogging (except for, like, the spam blocker, maybe.) I watched this game.

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Eight right-handed defencemen that the Canucks could target at the trade deadline

It seems like every fan is looking for their team to make a big splash at the trade deadline. The rumour-mongers know this, of course, which is why all anyone can talk about heading into the deadline are the big names — guys who were high first round draft picks or have played in All-Star Games and at the Olympics — when the bulk of the trades made at the deadline are small deals for depth players, prospects, and draft picks. The main reason the trade deadline is usually such a disappointment is that people’s expectations are all wrong.

One of the Canucks’ needs is for a right-handed defenceman and all of the big-name defencemen that are rumoured to be available are left-handed shots except for Dan Boyle, who I still have trouble believing is actually available and who has a cap hit of $6.67 million through 2014. If you were worried that the Canucks might have trouble fitting Jussi Jokinen’s $3 million cap hit if they had claimed him from waivers, but you want the Canucks to trade for Boyle, you might have some cognitive dissonance you need to work through.

In any case, I’m not convinced that the Canucks need a big-name, top-pairing defenceman at the trade deadline. The Canucks essentially already have five top-four defencemen if you count Chris Tanev. At most, the Canucks could use a second pairing right-handed defenceman, but might be better served trading for a depth defenceman who can step in on the right side in case of injury or play on the third pairing.

That kind of player, however, isn’t particularly sexy and doesn’t find his way into trade rumours very often. So I’m going to look at some of the right-handed defencemen out there who might be available, looking mainly at teams who will be sellers at the deadline or might be looking to trade from a position of depth to fill in a position of weakness heading into the playoffs.

Here are 8 right-handed defencemen who the Canucks could potentially target at the deadline, some more likely than others:

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Has Jordan Schroeder’s improved play eased Vancouver’s need for a centre?

ESPN’s Pierre Lebrun gave Vancouver hockey fans some food for thought Wednesday when he named the Canucks among the teams showing an interest in San Jose bruiser Ryane Clowe, who might be on the market as the Sharks debate a deadline sell-off. “Don’t just assume he’s 100 percent headed to an Eastern Conference team,” Lebrun added after discussing a number of scenarios in this regard. “I’m told there are Western Conference teams, the Vancouver Canucks among them, that also covet Clowe.”

This left many Canuck fans scratching their heads for several reasons. Does the club really need a guy that takes a lot of penalties, has yet to score a goal all season, and abuses the letter E so brazenly? And beyond that, don’t the Canucks need a centre more than they need another winger?

Let’s ignore, for the moment, Clowe’s awful luck this season, the blowups it’s produced, and the extraneous E’s, instead taking a look at that last objection. All season long, the Canucks have been shorthanded up the midde, what with Ryan Kesler spending so much of the year on the IR and Manny Malhotra’s tenure as a Canuck ending back in February. It’s been our understanding that acquiring a centre has been a top priority for this team all year.

But now we’re beginning to wonder if Jordan Schroeder may have helped to shift their priorities.

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Watch Nicklas Jensen dangle fancily, score shootout winner for Wolves [VIDEO]

With the NHL’s trade deadline now less than a week away, Canucks fans have spent the last few days debating which of their prospects Mike Gillis and co. should consider off-limits. The name that comes up most frequently: winger Nicklas Jensen.

It’s easy to see why. Jensen is exactly what you want an NHL forward to be these days — big. But it’s not just that. He’s also got some soft hands for a large man. As evidence, we submit his lovely shootout goal for the Chicago Wolves Wednesday night in their 3-2 win over the Oklahoma City Barons. Feast your eyes on this fabulous move, as Jensen pulls off the deke made famous by Peter Forsberg to make veteran goalie Yann Danis look silly:

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How do the Canucks’ forward lines compare to the rest of the NHL?

Thanks to a litany of injuries (and, apparently, dehydration), the Canucks’ forward lines have been a complete mess recently. During one game, last season’s second line of Ryan Kesler, David Booth, and Chris Higgins was out, and Keith Ballard has now played three games as a forward on the third line. After passing up Jussi Jokinen on waivers, the Canucks are still relying on Andrew Ebbett to centre their third line until Kesler returns.

Despite all this, the Canucks are on a five-game winning streak, largely thanks to some stellar goaltending by Cory Schneider, as well as secondary scoring from the second and third lines. While some fans have complained about the Canucks’ depth at forward, it strikes me that their forward depth is actually pretty strong for the team to be missing so many players and still ice a lineup capable of winning games.

So how do the Canucks’ lines compare with the rest of the NHL? Despite missing Ryan Kesler, the Canucks’ lines compare very favourably.

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Roberto Luongo watches Real Housewives during most uneventful game ever

Originally, I considered filing this picture of Roberto Luongo at the Vancouver Canucks’ bench under the “I find this photo odd” feature, but truthfully, I only find the caption odd. According to Getty Images, in this photo, “Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks checks the replay on his iPad during their NHL game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Rogers Arena March 26, 2013.”

But that can’t be right. Why would any non-masochistic person replay any portion of Tuesday night’s game? It made Season 1 of Treme look like Season 4 of The Wire, that’s how dry that game was.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Columbus Blue Jackets, March 26, 2013

This was easily the worst game of the season. It’s not that the Canucks were bad at all — in fact, they dominated the Blue Jackets from start to finish — but the entertainment value of this game was nearly non-existent. This game was duller than a beach ball. Construction workers had to turn off the game on the radio so that they could operate heavy machinery. It was like Waiting for Godot with less Godot.

I regret to say that I watched this game.

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I Find This Photo Odd: Keith Ballard stares into your soul

Everything’s coming up Keith Ballard these days (inasmuch as is possible so long as he continues to play under Alain “My defenders should defend” Vigneault, that grump). Sure, he remains the sixth or seventh defender on the Vancouver Canucks’ blueline depth chart, but due to a rash of injuries up front, he’s skyrocketed all the way up to ninth on the depth chart for forwards. Huzzah!

What’s more, like Brent Burns in San Jose, Ballard hasn’t looked out of place in this temporary reassignment. In two games up front, he’s generated scoring chances and been a part of cohesive lines. Granted, he hasn’t been as productive as Burns, who has 7 points in 7 games as a forward for the Sharks — but on Sunday night, Ballard got his first, an assist on a lovely goal by Alex Burrows.

Even more valuable than the assist, however, was the additional reward: the hockey hug.

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With Jussi Jokinen and Kaspars Daugavins on waivers, Canucks should go claim-happy

The waiver wire is normally the home to fourth liners, career AHLers, and overpriced veterans past their prime, but two players were placed on waivers on Tuesday that are far more useful: Jussi Jokinen and Kaspars Daugavins. Considering the Canucks current injury woes at forward that have necessitated using defenceman Keith Ballard at left wing, Mike Gillis should certainly consider claiming both players.

As is usually the issue with useful players on waivers, it’s likely that one or both will be claimed well before they reach the Canucks. Still, if Gillis has the opportunity, both players would be an immediate fit in the Canucks’ lineup.

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Would Jarome Iginla waive his NTC to come to Canucks?

By now, you’ve likely heard of Jarome Iginla’s “list”, a nebulous, highly dubious group of teams he’d be willing to join if the Calgary Flames asked him to waive his no-trade clause in advance of the April 3 trade deadline.

I don’t think it’s real, but over the weekend, the hockey world erupted with reports of which clubs happened to be on this list. The firmest report came courtesy of RDS correspondent Ren Lavoie, who insisted that the list consists of just four teams: Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, and Pittsburgh, the last four Stanley Cup winners. If this is true, it’s clear that Iginla is hoping history repeats himself.

Still, other insiders mentioned other teams. And On Monday, Elliotte Friedman even went so far as to suggest that Iginla might be willing to join the Vancouver Canucks.

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New Van Fan, episode eight: The Sedins

Andreas has come a long way in his Canucks fandom over the last month or so. In fact, with his innovations like the Snepsts Day and the Alain Vigneault Gum Game, it’s easy to forget that he’s a complete newbie. This episode, then, is a good reminder, as Dan gives Andreas a more complete introduction to the Sedin twins and their wizardry and Andreas discovers for the first time that they, like him, have red hair.

Enjoy episode eight of New Van Fan, where we discover that when it comes to the Sedins, magic isn’t just on the ice — it’s also in the air.

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Luongo, Kesler, Bieksa riff on greasy hair, indecipherable Burrows in odd Twitter conversation

The Canucks are on a roll, winning four straight. As a result, the team is feeling pretty loose and relaxed. Want proof? After their victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night, three Canucks engaged in an absurd and ridiculously hilarious conversation on Twitter.

We’re used to Roberto Luongo entertaining Canucks fans and the rest of the hockey world with his self-deprecating humour on his no-longer-alleged Twitter account, @strombone1, but on Sunday night Ryan Kesler (@Ryan_Kesler) and Kevin Bieksa (@kbieksa3) joined in on the fun. The three Canucks riffed on Luongo’s hair, for the most part, but couldn’t resist a couple quips on Burrows’ indecipherability and a couple body blows on Kesler’s nude photo.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Colorado Avalanche, March 24, 2013

How undermanned are the Canucks right now? When the announcement was made that Dale Weise had a shoulder injury and wouldn’t play against the Avalanche on Sunday night, it felt like a devastating blow.

Weise joined Ryan Kesler, David Booth, and Zack Kassian on the injured list. Manny Malhotra is done for the season. Steve Pinizzotto is still out with an unknown illness. Alex Edler finished of the second game off his two-game suspension. The Canucks were forced to trot out the absurd third line of Alex Burrows, Andrew Ebbett, and Keith Ballard, placing Chris Higgins with the Sedins.

Yes, Ballard once again needed to play as a forward for the ramshackle Canucks. Fortunately, they were playing the Coloardo Avalanche, the last place team in the Western Conference, who have bigger problems than having to play a defenceman as a forward: at one point in this game, they had Shane O’Brien on their first unit on the powerplay. Yikes. I felt a twinge of sympathy when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Los Angeles Kings, March 23, 2013

On one hand, Alain Vigneault has to be frustrated by the Canucks’ continued struggle to ice something resembling a competitive lineup. Thursday night, the club was so shorthanded they were forced to deploy Keith Ballard as a top-nine forward, and somehow they managed to lose another key component in that one after Alex Edler was suspended two games for colliding with Mike “I step in front of cars and sue the drivers” Smith.

But on the other hand, the shorthandedness of Vigneault’s club means they have no choice but to go into full-blown shutdown mode, and I think we all know that Alain Vigneault descends into hockey vampirism — sucking the life out of games in order to survive — with unbridled, abject glee. The Canucks were unyielding in their defensive posture in this one, scoring early, then nursing a 1-0 lead so completely that, after the game, they had to burp it. I sort of felt like a creep when I watched this game.

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Alex Edler suspended two games for Mike Smith collision, because whatever (VIDEO)

The Canucks are already having to get creative in order to ice a competitive lineup. Thursday night in Phoenix, they had defenceman Keith Ballard playing as a winger. On the third line. If that doesn’t say something about how incredibly shorthanded they are, I don’t know that does.

And now they’re going to be even more shorthanded. The Shanahammer has come down on Alexander Edler for his charge on Coyotes’ netminder Mike Smith and it’s come down absurdly, head-scratchingly, absolutely what-the-effingly hard: Edler will sit for two games. On the bright side, they have a third-line winger they can probably convert.

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Cory Schneider says Canucks game ‘wasn’t a Picasso’, but it totally was

“It wasn’t necessarily pretty all the time. It wasn’t a Picasso, but it was effective and it got the job done.”

That’s what Cory Schneider said after the Canucks’ hard-fought 2-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday. While I understand what he’s saying and it’s a pretty common phrase, I have to wonder how many Picassos Schneider has seen in his life. Picasso’s paintings may be brilliant masterpieces, but not too many of them can be appropriately described as “pretty.”

In fact, the surrealism of Keith Ballard playing forward, the usually sleepy Alex Edler running over Mike Smith, and Chris Tanev scoring a goal fits pretty well with Picasso’s surrealist period. Here are three examples of how the game between the Canucks and Coyotes totally was a Picasso.

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Alex Edler faces hearing for hit on Mike Smith; Shanaban on the way?

Canuck fans are usually delighted when Alex Edler decides to play with an edge. The big Swede can be a punishing hitter when he overcomes his narcolepsy and chooses to assert himself — just ask Patrick Kane, Drew Doughty, or, as it happens, Mike Smith.

Of course, the Smith hit is different. While Edler is well within his rights to crush just about any member of the opposition that has the puck, especially behind the net in the “hitting zone”, the NHL rulebook is pretty explicit about goaltenders not being “fair game”. Thus, Edler’s huge collision with Smith from Thursday night’s 2-1 Vancouver win over the Phoenix Coyotes has earned him a phone hearing with Brendan Shanahan and the Shanavengers at the Department of Player Safety.

It’s possible that this could just be a friendly “hi, how are ya”. But it’s also possible that this could be a precursor to the Canucks’ second suspension of 2013. The Bible says faith comes by hearing. Does suspension as well?

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Phoenix Coyotes, March 21, 2013

By all accounts, this game should have been a gong show. David Booth joined Ryan Kesler on the Injured Reserve list, Zack Kassian and Steve Pinizzotto didn’t even fly to Phoenix, and Chris Higgins tweaked his back at the morning skate, turning the Canucks’ lineup into the hockey equivalent of Aziz Ansari’s boombox mixtape.

Like that mixtape, the Canucks’ third line seemed to be thrown together at random, with Andrew Ebbett centring Dale Weise and Keith Ballard. Andrew Gordon drew into the lineup for his first game as a Canuck on a fourth line with Maxim Lapierre and Tom Sestito. The haphazardly arranged lineup looked like a disaster on paper, but the Canucks knuckled down and played a simple, hard-working road game.

That isn’t to say it didn’t have its bizarre moments, as it certainly did. At times, this game resembled the Coyotes’ original, seemingly peyote-inspired, jerseys. I reached a higher plane of existence when I watched this game.

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Spitballin’ on who will play, who won’t play, and who misread the play

Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few topics that deserve mention.

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Breakdowning Jordan Schroeder and Dale Weise’s brief turn as the Sedins

Much like Stella Payne, Jordan Schroeder had lost his groove, so the Canucks sent him down to Chicago to get it back. On Tuesday, he made a strong case for having rediscovered it.

Alain Vigneault faced a lot of criticism for his decision to pair Jordan Schroeder with Dale Weise and Tom Sestito in the games before Schroeder’s demotion to the minors, but much of it was misplaced. Sure, Schroeder is the most skilled player on that line, but that should be perfectly clear. To be a centre in the NHL, you have to be able to elevate your wingers rather than falling to their level, and Schroeder was unable to stand out on that fourth line during his first stint with the team.

Early in his second stint, however, he finally broke through, making Dale Weise look like the Daniel Sedin to his Henrik as the two combined for a highlight-reel goal that turned out to be the game-winner. It’s a great goal, and it only gets greater the more you watch it. How does a 2-on-4 during a line change turn into a down-low 1-on-0 for Dale Weise in a matter of seconds, especially against the St. Louis Blues, who are usually airtight defensively? Well. Let’s break it down.

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Report: Canucks, Blues, Flames working on three-way trade… for AHL affiliates

It’s been awhile since we talked about the hockey team in Abbotsford, which makes sense, since they’re a Calgary Flames affiliate and this is a Vancouver Canucks blog. But if the Team 1040′s Tom Mayenknecht is correct, it won’t be a Flames affiliate for much longer. As has been rumoured for ages, the Canucks are in the process of working out a move that would allow them to set up shop in the Lower Mainland’s city in the country.

According to Mayenknecht, as part of a game of musical chairs, the Flames would move the Heat to Utica, leaving Abbotsford for the Canucks, who would then finalize a purchase for the Peoria Rivermen and quickly transform them into the Abbotsford Fraser Rivermen (or, you know, a better name). Meanwhile, the St. Louis Blues would align themselves with the independent Chicago Wolves.

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Chris Tanev thinks he’s a road hockey goalie

You may have noticed that Chris Tanev is getting beat up in front of the net recently — Not by opposing players, but by the puck. It seems to be a nightly occurrence for Tanev to block a heavy shot, drop to the ice in pain, and then make his way to the dressing room, get attended to by Mike Burnstein, and come back to the game. It’s happened so often that I’ve taken to calling him Chris “Walk it Off” Tanev.

For instance, he took a Shea Weber slapshot to the knee that cracked his knee pad during the Canucks’ game against the Nashville Predators on March 14th. He went directly to the dressing room and I thought his night was done. That’s the same Shea Weber that shot a puck through the net during the Olympics. Instead, he walked it off and came straight back to the bench. He ended up not missing a shift.

Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues, Tanev took a shot to the side of the head on Patrik Berglund’s goal and left the game. There was good reason to be concerned: a puck to the head can break a player’s jaw or orbital bone or even cause a concussion. But, after the game, reports came in that Tanev was fine.

Why does Tanev keep getting (temporarily) injured by shots? It’s because he seems to think that he’s a road hockey goalie. By all indications, he’s a pretty good one too.

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