Stick in Link: Matthias fine with fourth line, Comets clinch, and Desjardins demands discipline

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: Hunter’s on a hot streak; McCann and Cassels lead the way in CHL playoffs

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 talk about Hunter Shinkaruk’s goalscoring streak, Joe Cannata’s opportunity with the Utica Comets, and check in on every Canucks prospect in the CHL playoffs.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 5, Predators 4 (SO)

Let’s get this out of the way right of the top: this game was very poorly refereed. The Canucks got dinged for 39 minutes in penalties, giving the Predators 7 power plays, including a late 5-minute major on Alex Burrows that saw both him and Kevin Bieksa tossed from the game with misconducts.

Meanwhile, Radim Vrbata got hit from behind face first into the dasher by Seth Jones and Filip Forsberg got his stick in Eddie Lack’s mask, with no call on either play. It was infuriating and frustrating, partly because it adds more fuel for those stoking the conspiracy fire. At some point you have to let that thing burn down to embers to properly roast marshmallows.

Yes, there were some soft and some missed calls, but the Canucks also need to be more disciplined even if — especially if — referees really are looking to call penalties on them. Kevin Bieksa hit Viktor Stalberg in the head completely unnecessarily. Henrik took a brutal tripping penalty in the neutral zone, then made no effort to avoid Pekka Rinne on a goaltender interference call, even if he was pushed. Ronalds Kenins punched a player in the face after a goal. Radim Vrbata had no business getting his stick into Roman Josi’s hands in the neutral zone, even if Josi embellished the hook by spinning to the ice.

And yes, Burrows definitely intentionally interfered with Paul Gaustad, even if the resulting 5-minute major and game misconduct was far too harsh. The Canucks have to be more disciplined and can’t use the reffing as an excuse.

Or maybe I have this all wrong: perhaps the Canucks are simply preparing for the playoffs, where whistles tend to get swallowed. You can’t simply flip a switch and start taking liberties as soon as the playoffs start; you have to practice going over the line. so that when penalties stop being called, you can keep committing them.

I watched this game.

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Vrbata scores more with Bonino than with the Sedins

It’s undeniable at this point: Radim Vrbata was one of the best, if not the best, free agent signings of the 2014 off-season. The veteran winger leads the Canucks in goalscoring by 13 goals, turning in the second 30+ goal season of his career. He’s also third on the team in points, just 6 points behind Henrik Sedin, has given the power play a massive boost from last season, and is just a few points away from a career year.

He’s been particularly on fire since the beginning of March, with 18 points in 15 games. He has 11 points in his last 6 games alone. What’s been remarkable, then, is that he’s doing it largely without the Sedins. He was presumably lured to Vancouver by the prospect of playing with the twins on the top line, but he hasn’t been on that line for a while, instead slumming it on what is ostensibly the second line with Nick Bonino and, usually, Chris Higgins.

Heck, depending on the night, Vrbata might not even be the second line, since Desjardins rolls his lines and gives more ice time to whichever line seems to be clicking. At one point Ronalds Kenins was having a poor game and was taken off of his line with Bo Horvat and Jannik Hansen and put with Vrbata and Bonino. This was seen as a demotion.

Getting bumped from the first line may have been a blessing in disguise: he’s been far more productive with Bonino than he has been with the Sedins.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 4, Blues 1

The NHL schedule-makers could not have anticipated this, but their scheduling for today’s games was fantastic. With the Canucks, Flames, and Kings battling for playoff position and all within three points of each other, all three were in action at the same time.

Any combination of results would have been interesting, but only one would truly make Canucks fans happy: wins by the Canucks and Flames and a loss to the Blackhawks by the Kings. That left them in the odd position of rooting for the Flames and Blackhawks.

As of right now, it looks like that ideal is exactly what’s going to happen. Like listening to the Lion King soundtrack, the Canucks got rid of the Blues. Meanwhile, the Flames are currently leading the Stars and the Blackhawks have a two-goal lead on the Kings. Barring a pair of third-period comebacks, the Canucks will have opened up a 5-point gap on the Kings and will still be two points up on the Flames.

These are the thoughts that occur to me now, but I was entirely focussed on the Canucks when I watched this game.

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 27: Playoff Push and Pineapple on Pizza

It’s the home stretch of the season and the Canucks are in a precarious position, with both the Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings right behind them in the playoff race. In an ideal world, the Kings would miss the playoffs entirely and the Canucks would face the Flames in the first round, but it’s possible the Canucks could face the Kings or miss the playoffs entirely.

Daniel and Harrison discuss the possibilities, as well as get into the Canucks’ most recent game against the Dallas Stars, Bo Horvat’s progression this season, Ronalds Kenins usage, Radim Vrbata’s 30-goal season, and give Willie Desjardins some deserved Jack Adams chatter. They also find time to talk about Hanna Barbera cartoons and how some of the funkiest bass lines weren’t played on a bass.

Before all that, however, they have a heated debate as to whether pineapple belongs on pizza.

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Game of the Week: Canucks vs Blackhawks, April 2nd

The Canucks face a tough schedule this week, with four games in 6 nights and three of them against the top-three teams in the ultra-tough Central Division and the fourth against one of the hottest teams in the league.

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Real Good Tweets, starring @alixiswright37 predicting Zayn would leave One Direction

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

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 1, Avalanche 4

Burn the Millionaires jerseys. Burn them all.

Rake up a giant pile of leaves, throw the jerseys in the middle, and light them on fire. Melt them with thermite. Shred the jerseys, mix them up with coffee creamer, and blow them up.

Borrow the US Navy’s laser cannon and use the Millionaires jerseys as target practice. Strand yourself on a deserted island with the jerseys and burn them in a fire to signal for help. Go green by creating a giant magnifying lens and burning them with the power of sunlight alone.

Gather them onto an altar and burn them to appease the hockey gods, who are clearly upset the Canucks are trying to take ownership of a Stanley Cup that doesn’t belong to them.

Just burn them like a maniacal leprechaun ordered you to, because the Canucks can never wear them again. They are cursed and I fear that by watching this game, I too have become cursed. The only way to get rid of the curse is to pass it along to someone else by telling them that I watched this game.

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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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