I Watched This Game: Canucks 2, Devils 0

Before tonight, Jaromir Jagr had played 1,696 career NHL games, including playoffs. Only 12 of those games have been played in Vancouver. It seems incredible that we’ve only had the chance to see one of the greatest NHL players of all time in our backyard 12 times.

Fortunately, at the age of 42, Jagr is still incredible. He was arguably the Devils’ best player, creating chances out of nothing, pouring on the jets to surprise defenders, and powering through battles in the corners. Even if he’s not the player he once was, it was pretty special to see him in Vancovuer for what may be the last time.

I mean, it’s the last time if he retires after this season, but he might not be retiring any time soon. I hope he plays until he’s 50 so I get the chance to watch him again and again, like I did when I watched this game.

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It’s okay to get a Bo Horvat jersey now; Canucks confirm he’s staying in Vancouver

I was confident that Bo Horvat was sticking around this season after the Canucks’ 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. His line in that game, with Shawn Matthias and Brad Richardson, didn’t start a single shift in the offensive zone and was repeatedly sent out against the Kings’ top forwards. If Horvat was capable of holding his own against the best the Kings’ had to offer, even though it was in a blowout loss, he was NHL-ready and had no business being sent back to Junior.

Sure enough, Willie Desjardins and Jim Benning confirmed that Horvat was going to stick with the Canucks, the morning before he faces the other half of the trade that brought him to the Canucks, Cory Schneider. Before this weekend, however, it was a touch-and-go as to whether Horvat would be here all season.

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The Pass it to Bulis Podcast, Episode 11: Praising Hansen and Remembering Quinn

Jannik Hansen just had the best week of his career, scoring five goals in three games, capping it all off with a hat trick against the Canucks’ bitter rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks. That kind of performance can change people’s opinions in a hurry and Hansen has gone from being dispensable to utterly indispensable in the minds of Canucks fans.

But it’s not just Hansen: with Bo Horvat stepping up as NHL-ready, the fourth line of Hansen, Horvat, and the underrated Derek Dorsett has been very impressive of late. It seems unlikely now that Horvat will get sent back to junior and far more likely that he’ll supplant Brad Richardson as the third line centre.

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Could Dan Hamhuis’s injury mean the return of Sami Salo?

According to reports from the Canadian Press’s Dhiren Mahiban, Dan Hamhuis has a “significant” lower body injury that is expected to keep him out of the Canucks lineup for months, though it is not a season-ending injury. This news is simultaneously devastating and a relief. It’s crushing to know that Hamhuis will be out for months, but it’s good to know that it’s not so serious that he won’t return this season.

This leaves the Canucks in a bit of a predicament. Replacing a top-four defenceman, especially one as good as Hamhuis, isn’t easy. The Canucks have several options available to them, however, and one of those options could see the return of an old fan favourite, with an emphasis on “old”: Sami Salo.

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Real Good Tweets, starring @alixiswright37 as the overprotective team mom

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

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Big Numbers: Vrbata on-pace for 40, Edler plays big minutes

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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Stick in Link: Kellan Lain traded to Oilers for Will Acton; Ryan Kesler’s back in town

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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Remembering Ryan Kesler’s best moments, hours before we boo the crap out of him

Tonight, Ryan Kesler is back in Vancouver for the first time since he demanded a trade to either Chicago or Anaheim, which, when you consider Chicago’s cap situation, was essentially just a demand to go to Anaheim. Why? With his first daughter turning 7 next year, did he want to be closer to Disneyland? Is he a big fan of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? Did he really want to pay more taxes?

Whatever the reason, Canucks fans generally weren’t too happy about their beloved jerk skipping town and he quickly became behated. How will they react to his return? Will they boo him every time he touches the puck or just at the beginning of the game? Will they boo him at all? Will he get a standing ovation and be moved to tears like Vince Carter in Toronto on Wednesday?

Before you decide to jeer or cheer, let’s look back at his time with the Canucks and some of his most memorable moments.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 5, Oilers 4

I don’t meant to alarm you, but Ryan Miller has allowed 16 goals in his last 4 starts. He has a .900 save percentage, 35th in the NHL. Mind you, I’m not a fan of the word “allowed” when it comes to goals against, as it sounds like the goaltender just stood there, letting the other team score, and that was only true of one of Edmonton’s goals in this game.

Plenty of teams have proven that you can win by outscoring your goaltending woes, but those teams usually aren’t paying their number one goaltender $6 million a year.

Fortunately, there’s still plenty of season left and I fully believe that Miller can and will be better for the Canucks as the season progresses. He’s proven that he can still steal a game and his numbers have been skewed by a few ugly games, but the fact remains that those games happened. And so did this game. I watched those games and I watched this game.

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Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa are falling short of expectations

The Canucks have a problem on defence. They’re currently giving up 2.89 goals per game, tied for 12th worst in the NHL. Part of the problem has been their goaltending, which has been outstanding one game, disastrous the next, and mediocre otherwise, with Ryan Miller and Eddie Lack combining for an atrocious .900 save percentage.

But there are defensive issues as well and two players in particular who have underwhelmed in that regard: Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa. For the first time as a Canuck, Hamhuis is a negative possession player, while Bieksa is making a mess of relatively soft minutes.

Both Hamhuis and Bieksa were expected to bounce back from pedestrian seasons under John Tortorella, returning to a partnership that was extremely fruitful as a shutdown pairing under Alain Vigneault. Instead, they’ve struggled and seen their partnership broken up once again. What’s the problem and how can the Canucks fix it?

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Daniel and Henrik Sedin should get into the Hockey Hall of Fame

The 2014 Hockey Hall of Fame inductions happened on Monday, as Peter Forsberg, Dominik Hasek, Mike Modano, and Rob Blake were inducted into the Hall, along with referee Bill McCreary and — finally, belatedly — Pat Burns.

While some pre-NHL Canucks are in the Hall of Fame, just one player who really made his name in Vancouver, Pavel Bure, has been inducted, with other former Canucks, like Cam Neely, Mats Sundin, and He-who-shall-not-be-named, hardly counting. Even Bure is tarnished, in some minds, by how he left the Canucks and a couple of his biggest career accomplishments came outside of Vancouver. Technically, his only Rocket Richard trophies were won with the Florida Panthers, though he also led the league in goals in the 1993-94 season.

It’s entirely possible that the first career Canucks to make it into the Hall of Fame — players who spend their entire career, or at least all of their best seasons, in a Canucks jersey — will be Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

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The Paper Feature: Canucks’ balanced scoring won’t last forever

When Radim Vrbata went down with an injury, Canucks fans were surprised to see Jannik Hansen promoted to play with the Sedins on the top line. While Hansen isn’t as bad with the twins as some seem to think, he’s clearly not the next best option after Vrbata.

That would be Alex Burrows, who transformed from a checking line winger into a consistent scoring threat alongside the twins, who won their respective Art Ross trophies with Burrows on their wing. Burrows was an unconventional choice to play with the Sedins, but an inspired one by Alain Vigneault, as his hard forechecking, grinding style was matched by a surprisingly high hockey IQ and good hands around the net.

There’s just one problem: the second line has been too good.

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 10: Keeping Even-Keeled and Christmas Season

It’s an emotional roller coaster for Canucks fans right now. After the Canucks largely successful road trip through California, fans were jubilant, certain that this was confirmation that this Canucks’ season wouldn’t be as disastrous as the previous one.

It took just one, ugly loss to the sub-.500 Arizona Coyotes to undo all those good feelings and convince those same fans that the end of the world was nigh.

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There’s nothing wrong with Jannik Hansen playing with the Sedins

Radim Vrbata has recovered from his injury and will play tonight against his former team, the Arizona Coyotes of Phoenix in Glendale. He’ll be back on the top line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, looking to improve upon his near point-per-game numbers this season.

This will come as a relief to both the Canucks and their fans, as Vrbata helps make the Sedins a more dangerous line and should also provide a boost to the Canucks’ suddenly ailing power play that hasn’t scored in the last three games.

Vrbata’s return also means that Jannik Hansen won’t be playing with the Sedins, which is an even bigger source of relief for some than Vrbata’s return. The amount of vitriol I saw aimed at Hansen over the last two games was astonishing, amd it wasn’t just the fans. Jason Botchford and Tony Gallagher were nearly apoplectic about Hansen getting top line duty.

To a certain extent, it’s understandable why: Hansen is not a natural finisher, with a career-high of just 16 goals, so the Sedins’ pretty playmaking is sometimes all for naught, dying on Hansen’s stick. Visually, Hansen’s play is unappealing, full of missed chances, sloppy skating, and awkward falls. He just doesn’t pass the eye test.

What he does pass, however, is the numbers test. Despite appearances, Hansen has been one of the Sedins most effective linemates.

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Stick in Link: Sedins don’t want 3-on-3 OT; Green Men off-season training

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 Prospector: Virtanen scores in Super Series, Cassels added to Team OHL, Subban is ridiculous

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, we look at Jake Virtanen, Cole Cassels, Jordan Subban, Patrick McNally, Thatcher Demko, and the rest of the Canucks’ college prospects.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 4, Senators 3 (OT)

The best goalscorers are not always the guys with the best shots, though that certainly helps. Instead, the best goalscorers are the players who can consistently find soft areas on the ice, getting just enough separation from defenders to get a clean shot off. Having a quick release makes it just a little bit easier, as you need less separation.

Brett Hull was a master at this. He was never the best skater or puckhandler, but he could find soft areas, disappearing from a defender’s notice, then suddenly showing up again just in time to one-time a pass into the back of the net.

Those soft areas on the ice tend to be in the slot, between the hashmarks, or at one of the faceoff dots. In this game, Daniel Sedin found an entirely new one: in the corner, along the goal line. It’s the perfect spot. No defender is going to think you’re a scoring threat from there, so you’ll have all kinds of space to get your shot off. The only issue is the razor thin area of the net available for you to shoot at.

No big deal. A wizard did it. I watched this game.

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Are the Canucks good?

I keep seeing something weird when I look at the NHL standings. I see the Canucks in second place in the Pacific Division with the third best record in the entire NHL. I see them tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the most wins so far this season.

This is odd, right?

This off-season, it seemed like you were going out on a limb to suggest that the Canucks might, maybe make the playoffs. Personally, I thought they would, likely in the 7th or 8th spot in the Western Conference, a bubble team boosted by the addition of a legitimate scoring threat to the Sedins’ wing.

But now, here we are, a little over a month into the season, and the Canucks have an 11-5-0 record. The fans who were expecting merely okay or maybe even half-decent, now have to ask themselves, “Are the Canucks good?” Well, are they? Like, actually good?

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Stick in Link: Everyone’s still injured; Remembrance Day memories

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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Tom Sestito sends, then deletes, a tweet: an exhaustive investigation

The road trip through California was supposed to be Tom Sestito’s big chance to prove his worth to the Canucks’ new management and coaching staff. Many thought that Sestito would be useful against the big Californian teams, particularly after the Sharks and Ducks combined for 165 penalty minutes in a game near the end of October, so having a bigger, more physical, and more fight-ready player on the fourth line certainly made sense.

Instead, Sestito got injured in the Canucks last home game before the road trip, sidelining him for at least a week. The Canucks’ big win over the Ducks on Sunday saw two fights, both featuring Canucks’ defencemen instead of the 6’5″ Sestito.

Still, Sestito managed to get involved in the game from a distance, sending out a mysterious tweet during the game, then later deleting it. Now, I’m not one to make mountains out of molehills, but this is a big deal and we must get to the bottom of it.

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The Pass it to Bulis Podcast, Episode 9: Losing California and Karaoke Competitions

Recording prior to the game against Ryan Kesler and the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday, Daniel and Harrison speculate about the result and use that as a springboard to examine how fans have reacted to the Canucks’ strong start to the season.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 1, Kings 5

Canucks fans looked at this road trip through California with some trepidation. After all, California was an unrelenting nightmare last season and the three Californian teams looked once again poised to rule the Pacific Division at the start of the season.

The Canucks’ 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday did little to assuage fans’ concerns. That win just wasn’t winny enough: the Sharks generally outplayed the Canucks, though they didn’t specifically outplay them — Ryan Miller was massively better than Antti Niemi — and the Sharks came a coulomb away from tying the game and sending it to overtime.

The team’s lacklustre performance in San Jose could be easily forgotten if they had put in a better performance against the Los Angeles Kings. Instead they collapsed like a punctured lung, while putting up less resistance than a copper wire. I watched this game.

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Real Good Tweets, starring #boninophone

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

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Spitballin’ on Jensen call-up, Bonino’s hair, and glove antlers

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 quick topics.

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Canucks of the Week, starring Lindenning, Miller, and Drance

Canucks of the Week, written by Kevin Vanstone, examines who and what is keeping hockey in Vancouver interesting these days. That’s right: who and what. It need not only be players. After all, we are all Canucks. All people, places, things, abstract concepts, ideas, emotions — if it’s a noun, proper or common, it’s a Canuck, and it’s eligible to be a Canuck of the week.

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