Stick in Link: Chris Tanev is tough, angry Sedins, and behind the scenes with Ben Cooper

It’s time for “Stick in Link”, the feature where we just plug in a bunch of stuff written by others! Featuring a smattering of links from around the Smylosphere and beyond every Tuesday and Thursday. Warning: our links are so hyper, they change colour when exposed to heat. (Have something for us to share in the next edition? E-mail us at passittobulis@gmail.com, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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Big Numbers: Empty net goals, Station Wagon line, and power plays

Every now and then we like to take a break from all the words and just post some numbers. And some words describing the numbers, as otherwise it would just be a whole bunch of numbers with no context, which would be really weird. Big Numbers is a weekly feature on Pass it to Bulis in which we identify the numbers and statistics that really matter or, frequently, the ones that don’t matter at all but are still pretty interesting.

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Have the Canucks set an NHL record for empty net goals?

The Canucks managed to score just two empty net goals all of last season. This season, that’s how many they tend to score in a single game.

With two empty net goals against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night, the Canucks brought their league-leading total to 20, ten times as many as last year. They have five empty net goals in the last three games alone.

The Canucks’ empty net goals represent nearly 10% of their goalscoring this season and it’s one of the reasons they have a 28-1-2 record when leading heading into the third period, which is the 7th best record in the league. Their ability to put the puck into the empty net has helped them close out games that could have otherwise gone to overtime on a single bad bounce.

They also may have set an NHL record for the most empty net goals in a season.

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 26: Tanev Re-Signed and Fast Food Burgers

Chris Tanev is one of the best of the new breed of defensive defencemen, who cannot possibly be described as “stay-at-home.” This season he has proven that he is a top pairing defenceman capable of elevating the play of everyone around him and the Canucks rewarded him with a five-year, $22.25 million contract.

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Losing winnable games may cost the Kings more than the Canucks

There’s been plenty of consternation in Canucks nation over their performance against the worst teams in the NHL this season, giving up key points in recent games against the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Arizona Coyotes, and Columbus Blue Jackets. The Canucks may be second in the Pacific Division, but the Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings are not far behind, so there’s a chance, albeit a slim one, the Canucks could miss the playoffs, with losses in winnable games to blame.

Meanwhile, Canucks fans have a skewed view of the Kings. Up until Saturday’s big win, the Kings had dominated the Canucks, outshooting them 96-54 and outscoring them 12-3. Combine that with the Kings’ reputation for heating up heading into the playoffs and the concern is understandable.

If all you see of the Kings is how they play against the Canucks, they look like a nigh-unstoppable juggernaut, excepting the Canucks’ one win. What you would be missing, however, is that the Kings have struggled just as much as the Canucks, if not more, against the worst teams in the league and it may end up costing them a spot in the playoffs.

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Tyler Toffoli the latest non-suspension to leave Canucks fans shaking their heads

The word came out Sunday morning, with no official pronouncement from the league, just a spattering of tweets from media folk who were asking around: there would be no hearing for Tyler Toffoli for his hit on Alex Burrows, which obviously meant no suspension. The Department of Player Safety looked at the hit and decided the five-minute major and a game misconduct were punishment enough.

Unsurprisingly, this infuriated Canucks fans and gave the conspiracy theorists who suggest the NHL favours big market American teams like the Kings over the Canucks another soap box to pontificate from.

I’m not the type to fashion tinfoil hats — I prefer the classic tinfoil swan — so that’s not what this is about. It’s still incredibly upsetting to see Canucks players repeatedly taking illegal hits with minimal consequences. Toffoli’s hit on Burrows isn’t the first such hit this season and it’s understandable why fans would be outraged.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 4, Kings 1

In their three previous meetings with the Kings, the Canucks hadn’t managed even 20 shots on goal, totalling just 54 shots. It’s looked like the Canucks don’t even belong in the same league with the Kings, getting outright dominated and outscored 12-3.

That’s why it was incredible to see the Canucks not only compete with the Kings, but for long stretches outplay them, tallying more than 20 shots in the first two periods alone, finishing the game with 42 shots to just 26 for the Kings.

All of that wouldn’t matter if the Canucks didn’t also outscore the Kings, but they did, if only barely, polishing off the win with two empty net goals. It’s a huge win, giving them a four-point cushion over the Kings and, for the moment, keeping them outside the playoff picture. Sure, there’s not much chance the Kings stay outside of that picture, but the Canucks, at least for now, made the possibility of facing the Kings in the playoffs just a little bit less terrifying.

I watched this game.

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The Paper Feature: Jannik Hansen back to being an unsung hero

The Fred J. Hume Award has been around for as long as the Canucks have been in the NHL. Named after the former mayor of Vancouver and owner of the WHL Canucks, the award is given out to the team’s unsung hero, a player who doesn’t get enough credit for their contribution on the ice.

The award has never been won by one player more than twice, which makes sense. Even winning it twice seems to be one too many times: after your praises have been sung by winning an award, how can you be an unsung hero? Winning it a third time seems absurd. You’ve already got two hit singles in your discography; you’re no longer a one-hit wonder.

If any player can win this award three times, however, it’s Jannik Hansen.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 2, Blue Jackets 6

Never has the end result of a game less reflected its beginning. The Canucks were dominant in the first period, firing 20 shots on net. Sure, they couldn’t beat Sergei Bobrovsky, but it looked like it was just a matter of time with how the Canucks were playing.

Then they made a crucial mistake: they took a two-goal lead. The worst lead in hockey lived up to its billing, as the Blue Jackets effortlessly came back, then didn’t make the same mistake as the Canucks, taking a three-goal lead.

A three-goal lead, as we all know, is insurmountable, so Willie Desjardins tried to game the system by going with an empty net with 5 minutes left, clearly hoping the Blue Jackets would take a four-goal lead, which is just two two-goal leads, which should be twice as easy to recover from. Regrettably, they didn’t have enough time to take advantage of it.

Also regrettably, I had enough time to take advantage of my sports cable package when I watched this game.

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With a healthy defence, what should the Canucks pairings look like?

For a brief period of time, the Canucks defence pairings looked a little like this: Dan Hamhuis and Yannick Weber on the top pairing, with Luca Sbisa and Alex Biega behind them, and Ryan Stanton and Adam Clendening on the third pairing. With injuries to Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Kevin Bieksa, and Frank Corrado all overlapping, that’s the defence that Eddie Lack had in front of him.

Amazingly, the Canucks actually managed to win games with those defence pairings.

Now, though, the Canucks’ defence appears to be completely healthy. Edler, Tanev, Bieksa, and Corrado have all recovered, giving the Canucks nine blueliners on their active roster. That means that three defencemen have to sit as healthy scratches every game. So, who should be playing and how should the defence pairings be arranged?

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Stick in Link: Canucks line up Pat Quinn tribute for St. Patrick’s Day

It’s time for “Stick in Link”, the feature where we just plug in a bunch of stuff written by others! Featuring a smattering of links from around the Smylosphere and beyond every Tuesday and Thursday. Warning: our links are so hyper, they change colour when exposed to heat. (Have something for us to share in the next edition? E-mail us at passittobulis@gmail.com, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 25: Doomed Millionaires and Assumed Foursomes

Both times the Canucks have worn their throwback Vancouver Millionaires jerseys, they have suffered embarrassing losses, including the stain of the 2014 Heritage Classic. And yet, the Canucks will be wearing them again next week, this time honouring the 100th anniversary of the Millionaires’ Stanley Cup victory.

We discuss this decision, but also talk about the Canucks’ recent victory over the Leafs, who the Canucks’ unsung hero has been this season, and breakdown the best and worst-case scenarios for potential playoff match-ups, assuming the Canucks hold on to a playoff spot.

Before all that, however, Harrison tells a weird story his friend told him about social awkwardness and bad assumptions.

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Real Good Tweets, featuring @ThomasDrance redefining Ducks

You folks made some good tweets last week. Some real good tweets.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 0, Kings 4

There’s a tendency, with losses like these, to say, “Just throw it in the trash, let it go, and move on to the next game,” but the Canucks can’t afford to do that with this game.

This was the Canucks’ third loss to the Kings this season and they’ve been held to fewer than 20 shots each time. They have two more meetings with the Kings remaining, with the Kings just a point back of the Canucks in the Pacific Division and a threat to knock them out of the playoffs. It’s more likely, however, that both the Kings and Canucks make the playoffs and meet in the first round.

That makes it essential to keep this game, hot garbage though it may have been, out of the trash. They need to remember this game because they need to analyze it and their two other losses to the Kings and figure out just what is going wrong. For whatever reason, the Canucks don’t match up well against the Kings and, with 2-9 games remaining against them, they need to know why.

I also need to know why: why I watched this game.

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Big Numbers: Bo Horvat leads large cohort of Canucks rookies

Every now and then we like to take a break from all the words and just post some numbers. And some words describing the numbers, as otherwise it would just be a whole bunch of numbers with no context, which would be really weird. Big Numbers is a weekly feature on Pass it to Bulis in which we identify the numbers and statistics that really matter or, frequently, the ones that don’t matter at all but are still pretty interesting.

Statistics are gathered from NHL.com, War-on-Ice.com, Puckalytics.com, HockeyAnalysis.com, BehindtheNet.ca, and elsewhere.

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The Prospector: Sven Baertschi says buongiorno to Utica

The Prospector is a semi-regular feature on Pass it to Bulis where we pan the Canucks prospects pool in search of gold.

In this edition, Sven Baertschi makes a good first impression, Alexandre Grenier is running out of time, Cole Cassels will run you over, and Jared McCann has a broken finger.

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What’s the deal with Brandon McMillan?

It sounds like the setup to a bad joke, the kind Jerry Seinfeld would skewer, but it’s simply been a source of confusion for Canucks fans? What is the deal with Brandon McMillan? Why did the Canucks claim him off waivers? Why does he continue to get ice time over, at first, Zack Kassian and, more recently, Ronalds Kenins?

It seems plainly obvious to fans that McMillan contributes very little on the ice: in 6 games with the Canucks so far, he has no points, 5 shots on goal, and is averaging around 11 minutes per game. And yet, Willie Desjardins keeps putting him in the lineup. He was even waived at one point and cleared, but didn’t get sent to Utica. What is he seeing that we’re not?

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 2, Ducks 1

Eddie Eddie Eddie Eddie Eddie Eddie Eddie Eddie Eddie Eddie Eddie Eddie Eddie Eddie Eddie Eddie Eddie Eddie Eddie Eddie EDDIE EDDIE EDDIE EDDIE EDDIE EDDIE EDDIE EDDIE EDDIE EDDIE EDDIE EDDIE EDDIE

I watched this game.

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 24: Tanev’s Return and Starter Pokemon

Arguably the most devastating injury of the Canucks’ season was to Chris Tanev, whose steadying presence on the top pairing with Alex Edler has been sorely missed. Thankfully, he is returning to the lineup and should make a significant impact as the Canucks push to make the playoffs.

We discuss Tanev and the rest of the defence, including the way Yannick Weber filled in for injuries and Luca Sbisa’s decision-making. We then touch on Willie Desjardins’ vocabulary, Ryan Kesler’s article in The Players’ Tribune about his trade out of Vancouver, and whether it was good that the Canucks lost to the Buffalo Sabres and the Arizona Coyotes.

Before all that, however, we talk about which starter Pokemon is their favourite. This is the most important conversation we have ever had on this podcast.

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The Canucks’ injuries on defence could be a lot worse

Yannick Weber left Saturday’s game against the Sharks after getting crushed into the boards. He lost his balance a moment before the hit and was unable to protect himself. To my untrained eyes, it looked like a left shoulder injury, but the Canucks have yet to report on his exact injury.

It’s the latest in a string of injuries for the Canucks on defence, though this one comes at a slightly better time, with Chris Tanev expected to return Monday night against the Ducks.

The Canucks sorely missed Tanev, as well as Alex Edler, who returned last Thursday. The two defencemen have consistently been the Canucks’ best pairing, playing tough minutes and coming out ahead in possession, so losing both of them at the same time, along with Kevin Bieksa, who hasn’t played since January 20th, had a major impact. While the Canucks have been inconsistent of late, with some sketchy defensive efforts, they should be lauded for holding up as well as they have with three of their top-four defencemen out of the lineup.

It made me wonder when was the last time the Canucks faced such a tough string of injuries on defence and my mind immediately turned to one of the most disappointing Canucks’ seasons in recent memory. No, not last season, but the 2007-08 season, when the Canucks finished last in the Northwest Division, missing the playoffs, leading to the firing of Dave Nonis.

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Paper Feature: Ronalds Kenins is an invitee success story for the Canucks

Ronalds Kenins has been a surprise success for the Canucks this season, stepping into a lineup decimated by injuries and immediately finding chemistry with fellow rookie Bo Horvat. The general feeling is that he came out of nowhere, but that’s not exactly true; we know exactly where he came from.

Every summer, after the NHL draft has taken place, the Canucks hold their annual development camp, bringing in their newest draft picks and other prospects to Vancouver to introduce them to the organization and give them some direction for their off-season training.

Along with the signed and/or drafted prospects, the Canucks always invite a few undrafted players to participate in the camp to get a better look at players they have scouted but aren’t sure about just yet. Every so often, one of those invitees will catch the eye of management and earn a contract or, at the very least, an invitation to the prospect camp at the end of the summer.

Every year, Canucks fans raise the question: does anything ever come of these invitees? Do any of them ever even reach the NHL?

After this season, no one should be asking these questions, as Ronalds Kenins was one of those invitees and hasn’t just made the NHL, but has excelled and earned what should be a permanent spot in the lineup. His success brings to mind another former invitee, one who the Canucks let slip through their fingers before he had success elsewhere: Antoine Roussel.

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Ryan Kesler opens up about trade request from the Canucks, sort of

If you listened closely when the trade deadline passed, you could hear the collective sigh of relief from players around the league who were rumoured to be on the trading block. “Still here:)” Eddie Lack happily tweeted after the deadline passed, though “happily” is redundant. Zack Kassian asked reporters multiple times throughout the day if he had been traded, knowing that those with eyes on their smart phones would likely know about a deal before he would, then rejoiced with an optimistic “Let’s go win a cup !” tweet.

This is all because getting traded can be very stressful. This is true even if you requested a trade in the first place. On Friday, Ryan Kesler, or whichever ghostwriter The Players’ Tribune used to pose as Kesler, talked about the process of being traded and joining a new team.

The most interesting part of the article, however, is what was left out.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 2, Coyotes 3 (SO)

The Canucks have a frustrating tendency to play to the level of their opponents. Against top tier teams, the Canucks have pulled out some remarkable performances this season. They’re undefeated against the Blackhawks, Blues, Islanders, Penguins, and Capitals, for example.

And yet, the Canucks have had some of their worst games of the season against some of the worst teams in the league. They lost to the Devils and Sabres on their recent road trip, lost their only meeting with the Maple Leafs, and have lost twice to the Stars.

So, when the Coyotes entered this game on a 10-game losing streak, with Mikkel Boedker and Martin Hanzal on the Injured Reserve list, and Antoine Vermette, Zbynek Michalek, and Keith Yandle plying their trade in other cities after the trade deadline, I was concerned.

My concerns were borne out when I watched this game.

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Stick in Link: Edler and Burrows set to return against throwback jersey-wearing Coyotes

It’s time for “Stick in Link”, the feature where we just plug in a bunch of stuff written by others! Featuring a smattering of links from around the Smylosphere and beyond every Tuesday and Thursday. Warning: our links are so hyper, they change colour when exposed to heat. (Have something for us to share in the next edition? E-mail us at passittobulis@gmail.com, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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Chris Higgins has secretly been a playmaker this season

One of the most popular posts I’ve written on Pass it to Bulis was the straight-forwardly titled “Chris Higgins scores goals, has abs.” I assume the abs are still there, but the goalscoring has all but disappeared.

Higgins has gone 15 games without a goal and has just one goal in his last 28 games. Since joining the Canucks, Higgins has regularly scored at or near a pro-rated 20 goals each season, though never quite hitting that mark due to missed games. This season, he has just 7 goals, on pace for a 9-goal season.

Unsurprisingly, this has led to a fair bit of criticism from Canucks fans, with many calling for him to be traded and questioning why he remains in the lineup when other players get scratched for lack of production.

Here’s the thing: despite the lack of goals, Higgins is still tied for fourth on the Canucks in points, behind only Radim Vrbata and the Sedins. While his goalscoring has dried up, Higgins dug a little deeper and found an untapped well of playmaking this season.

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