I Watched This Game: Canucks 3, Sharks 1

After a rough year, the Canucks ended 2014 on a high note — specifically, G6 in standard pitch notation. Sure, there were a few missed notes along the way, but as the many singing competition shows out there have shown us, if you hit that last high note, everyone will cheer.

That said, while we may be at the end of the year, we’re not even halfway through the season, and this isn’t the high note fans are waiting for. Fans seem to be waiting to see if the song remains the same. The Canucks ended 2014 about as well as they’re ending 2015, so it’s easy to understand the hesitation to jump on the bandwagon, grab a trumpet, and play along.

Is a disaster looming? Have the Canucks been lip-syncing the entire time? Will Justin Timberlake rip off a piece of the Canucks bodice on live television, “accidentally” revealing a nipple and cause an outrageous scandal? Will they pull an Axl Rose and no-show, causing a riot? I hope not, because I don’t think we’re ready for riot jokes to make a comeback after they got so overplayed the last time.

Enough worrying about tomorrow: this was a good game and it was enjoyable to watch. I know, because I watched this game.

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Stick in Link: Gulutzan gets PK kudos, Kassian nears a return

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 [...]

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 16: Collapsing Canucks and Christian Music

The Canucks collapsed after the first period against the Anaheim Ducks on the weekend, with only Ryan Miller’s strong performance getting the game to overtime to earn a single point.

We discuss how the holiday break gave the Canucks the “gravy legs”, while Miller himself seemed to be rejuvenated by the rest. After breaking down that game, including Willie Desjardins’ odd decision to put Derek Dorsett on the second line, we discuss the San Jose Sharks, the state of the Pacific Division and the elevated expectations of the Canucks now that they’re second in the Pacific.

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The Paper Feature: 19 New Year’s resolutions made by the Vancouver Canucks

As everyone knows, it’s extremely important to make New Year’s resolutions, as they define everything about your life in the coming year. Without making New Year’s resolutions, you would literally be unable to do anything as soon as the clock strikes midnight on December 31st. That’s why the first resolution you should make is a comprehensive one: “I resolve to continue having normal bodily functions, including, but not limited to, breathing, eating, excreting, and walking.”

For professional hockey players, it’s easy to lose track of time in the middle of the hockey season, which is why the vast majority take a moment during their holiday break to make New Year’s resolutions in advance. The Canucks, for instance, have a game on New Year’s Day, so will likely be going to bed early on New Year’s Eve to keep their usual routine. It would be disastrous if they happened to forget to make resolutions before they hit the hay, without the time-delayed Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest to remind them.

Unsurprisingly, the Canucks organization is diligent in protecting their assets and ensuring that every single player makes their resolutions before the dreaded midnight deadline, coordinating with each player by having them put their resolutions in writing. Thanks to our many, many sources within the Canucks organization, we were able to get ahold of these top-secret resolutions and are here to share them with you.

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Should the Canucks consider signing Cory Sarich?

In case you haven’t noticed, the Canucks’ defence has struggled since losing Dan Hamhuis to injury. The pairing of Luca Sbisa and Kevin Bieksa worked for about two games, but turned disastrous during the team’s 7-game road trip. More recently, they were split up, with Ryan Stanton picking up some extra minutes alongside Kevin Bieksa, leaving Sbisa to play with Yannick Weber.

It remains to be seen how tenable this situation is, as Stanton has struggled all year and Weber isn’t exactly the steadying presence that Sbisa seems to need. The Hamhuis injury has raised questions about defensive depth, and it remains to be seen what might happen if the Canucks suffer another injury on the blue line, with Willie Desjardins hesitant to use Frank Corrado, Alex Biega, and Bobby Sanguinetti during their call-ups from Utica.

There’s currently no official timeline on Hamhuis’s return, though he is back skating. He could be back by mid-January or it could be longer. Either way, it would seem beneficial for the Canucks to address their issues of depth on the back-end. That’s not exactly easy to do, of course. Defencemen are difficult to acquire via trade and the Canucks aren’t in a position to trade away draft picks or prospects for temporary help. Though the word has been banished from fans’ lexicons after the team’s hot start, the Canucks are still working on a soft rebuild.

That leaves one avenue for adding some depth: free agency. As pointed out last month, there are still unrestricted free agent defencemen available, including the much-loved Sami Salo, but another player’s name has come up recently with an intriguing and inspiring story: Cory Sarich.

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 15: Trade Rumours and Baby Announcements

When a team goes through a losing streak like the Canucks just did, it’s understandable that the trade rumours would start flying.

After touching on the Canucks’ two recent games against the Dallas Stars and Calgary Flames (the podcast was recorded prior to the game against the Arizona Coyotes, but technical difficulties preventing it from going up on Monday) and arguing over whether or not Love Actually is a classic Christmas movie, Daniel and Harrison unpack some of those trade rumours and see if they make any sense at all. They also talk about Jannik Hansen’s terrifying collapse on the Canucks bench, what makes something a must-win game, and the upcoming World Junior Championship.

Before all of that, however, Daniel makes a special announcement.

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Big Numbers: Canucks can’t score, but killing it shorthanded

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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I Watched This Game: Canucks 0, Stars 2

I had a soccer game last Sunday and, with our regular goaltender on holiday, I was called upon to play in net. We were short a player, so, playing with only 10 men, I had to make a lot of saves.

I was playing very well, making a diving stop here, a point blank kick save there, giving my team a chance. Then, near the end of the first half, the other team had a corner kick. The player mis-kicked it, sending it too close to the near post. It was easy for me to jump up and grab it before it could go anywhere dangerous. The ball hit my hands and I landed on my feet, ready to send my team the other way.

And the ball slipped out.

I don’t even know how it happened. One moment the ball was in my hands, the next it was on the ground and I was scrambling to grab it, only to have one of their players get his foot in and kick it across the line. It was devastating to have a good performance suddenly turn into a catastrophe. I felt like I let my team down, like all the saves I made in the rest of the game were rendered null and void.

In short, I know exactly how Eddie Lack feels right now. I felt his pain when I watched this game.

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Finding shooting lanes and blocking shots: a breakdown of the Canucks’ possession statistics

An off-handed comment by Steve Burtch, who writes about analytics for Sportsnet and developed dCorsi, got me thinking about how we look at advanced statistics when judging teams. Essentially, he suggested that looking at “combined” statistics like corsi percentage or fenwick percentage was doing a disservice to the data and that it’s more useful to look at a team or player’s corsi for and against separately, as it provides more information.

This seemed to me to be an interesting point, though I still feel there’s value in combining metrics. After all, the point of hockey isn’t to score or prevent goals, but to out-score the opponent, so looking at just for and against by themselves doesn’t capture the entire picture.

It’s useful, though, to see how a team is getting to their totals, whether it’s via low-event, defensive play or high-octane offence, or somewhere in between. So, I decided to look at the Canucks’ corsi and fenwick statistics both for and against and see where they rank league-wide, to see if it would shed some light on the Canucks’ performance this season. Quite frankly, I was surprised by the results.

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Stick in Link: Vrbata rejoins Sedins, Sbisa and Bieksa split

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 14: Assigning Blame and Black Messiah

The Canucks are on a downswing, losing four straight, with their latest loss to the New York Rangers arguably their worst game of the season. This means it’s time to start throwing blame around.

We assign blame to Ryan Miller, Jim Benning, Willie Desjardins, Luca Sbisa, Kevin Bieksa, the defence as a whole, the forwards, and even us. Yes, it’s our fault. We are all Canucks, so we are all equally to blame.

Really, things aren’t quite as bad as they look and, just as we advised caution in getting to excited when the Canucks were at their peak, we advise patience now that they’re in a valley.

Before all that, we talk about D’Angelo’s new album, “Black Messiah”, and the new trend of releasing albums without any hype or buildup.

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No go for Bo; Canucks confirm Horvat won’t be released to play for Team Canada

Three weeks ago, the Canucks let Bo Horvat know he wouldn’t be sent back down to Junior, with Willie Desjardins giving him a literal “Welcome to the NHL” moment. The welcome came just before his ninth game and it must have been a relief for Horvat to know it wouldn’t be his last this season.

There was still a possibility, however, that Horvat wouldn’t play every game for the Canucks; the World Junior Championship is just over a week away and Horvat would be a major addition to Team Canada, potentially even playing with Canucks prospect Jake Virtanen on the second line.

We’ll have to wait until at least next season to see Horvat and Virtanen play together, as the Canucks announced that Horvat will not be released to participate for Team Canada in the World Junior Championship.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 1, Rangers 5

This was truly a night to remember for the Canucks, as it was the shortest game in franchise history, over in less than 7 minutes. Remember this time: 6 minutes and 46 seconds, because that’s when the final horn blew in this game and everyone went home. Those hoping to beat traffic had already left 3 minutes earlier, as it was clear the Canucks weren’t going to get back into this one.

Except for that one piece of trivia that you’ll be able to astound your friends with for years to come, you’ll likely want to forget this game ever happened. As short as it was, it was also incredibly painful to watch. But I watched it, along with the following several hours of dead air the CBC was showing for no reason whatsoever. Yes, I watched this game.

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The Paper Feature: Christmas gift ideas for the Canuck in your life

You have likely already started your Christmas shopping — in fact, you may be almost done — but we all have that one hard-to-shop-for person in our lives. For some of us, it’s that one uncle with ever-changing tastes or a sister who seems to have no discernible hobbies or interests. For others, it’s a member of the Vancouver Canucks.

We can all relate to that, right? What do you get for the man who has everything, including the adoration of hordes of hockey fans and a multi-million dollar contract? Don’t worry, PITB is here for you, with gift ideas for the Canuck on your list.

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Willie Desjardins finally turns on the line blender, because it’s the right time to do so

Through 29 games, Willie Desjardins has been remarkably patient. Even during the pre-season, Desjardins put together line combinations that he thought made sense and stuck with them. Apart from injuries and a few isolated moments when players got bumped up or down lines during a game, the Canucks’ lines have generally remained consistent.

That changed at practice Friday morning, as Desjardins made wholesale changes to the lineup, with only the third line staying the same. His patient approach paid off early in the season, as when one line went cold, another stepped up until it heated up again, but now is certainly the right time to make changes, and not just because the Canucks are coming off a three-game losing streak.

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Stick in Link: Horvat could still play for Team Canada; 7-game road trips are too long

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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Ryan Miller hasn’t been as good (or bad) as people think

Ryan Miller presents a fascinating conundrum for Canucks fans. On the one hand, he’s second in the NHL in wins and has had some truly exceptional games, including three shutouts. On the other hand, he’s had some truly horrible games and his overall numbers are well below league-average.

It’s tough to know what to make of Miller, which has led to arguments among Canucks fans throughout the province and on social media. Just how good has Miller been? It’s hard to complain about a goaltender with a 16-6-0 record, but there’s also no denying that his statistics are a concern.

One reason it’s been difficult to assess Miller is how extreme his results have been. When he’s been good, he’s been very good, but when he’s been bad, he’s been horrible. Those horrible games, therefore, skew his numbers significantly. But, since he’s been good far more often than he’s been bad, there’s an argument to be made that his save percentage doesn’t tell the whole story. After all, what you really want from a goaltender is for him to give your team a chance to win in as many games as possible.

Has Miller given the Canucks a chance to win more often than not? His record suggests yes, but let’s take a closer look at the numbers using a goaltending metric known as Quality Starts.

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The Prospector: Forsling makes Team Sweden roster, Virtanen scores a beautiful goal

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

This time around, we look at Gustav Forsling, Patrick McNally, Jordan Subban, and Jake Virtanen.

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 13: Goaltending Controversies and Christmas Trees

The Canucks headed into this weekend on a high, having just shutout the Pittsburgh Penguins. Then they crashed and burned against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators, causing consternation in Canucks nation.

We discuss those two games, questioning whether Stephane Robidas should have received a suspension for his elbow to the head of Shawn Matthias, Radim Vrbata’s filthy goal on Craig Anderson, Derek Dorsett’s fight against Chris Neil, and Brad Richardson’s unexpected point streak.

We also talk about the elephant in the room: the goaltending. Is it okay to call it a controversy? Should Eddie Lack get more starts? How much leeway should Ryan Miller get for his wins? Is this all just media hype?

Before all that, we share stories of Christmas trees and destroyed ornaments.

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

There are plenty of excuses for the Canucks performance against the Senators. They’re on the sixth game of a seven-game road trip. it’s the second game of back-to-backs. The officiating was lousy. The team is committed to avoiding a goaltending controversy. The forwards stayed up late last night binge-listening to “Serial.” The defence ate some bad chicken before the game. The Canadian Tire Centre is haunted by the ghost of the Sens Spartan.

Some of those excuses are certainly a little more valid than the others. Heck, some of them are even true. But none of them adequately explain just how poor the Canucks were defensively in this game. There’s no getting around it: it was an ugly showing and would have been uglier if Eddie Lack hadn’t stolen a point by making 41 saves in regulation to get the game to overtime.

I got increasingly frustrated when I watched this game.

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Game of the Week: Canucks vs Canadiens, December 9th

A Saturday night game on Hockey Night in Canada against an Original Six franchise is normally something to get excited about and would be an easy pick for Game of the Week. Unfortunately, it’s against the Toronto Maple Leafs and it just hasn’t been easy to get hyped up about a game against the Leafs in recent years.

Even seeing former Canucks on the other side of the ice isn’t as meaningful, as one of them is Mike Santorelli, who didn’t even play a full season in Vancouver, and the other is David Booth, whose fans in Vancouver are few and far between.

There is, however, one matchup against an Original Six franchise this week that holds a little more promise.

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Real Good Tweets, starring @mammamialack and a baby penguin

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

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 3, Penguins 0

Eddie Lack hadn’t started a game since November 20th and had just had a planned start sniped out from under him by Ryan Miller, albeit for supposedly altruistic reasons. That left Lack to make his first start in two weeks against Sidney Crosby and the high-powered Pittsburgh Penguins.

It might have been too much for a goaltender with less mental fortitude, but Lack has never been one to get overwhelmed. Clearly, he was raised right.

Sure enough, Lack’s mother, Mia, showed where her son’s easy sense of humour and calm demeanour came from, tweeting out her encouragement to her son, posting a picture of a baby penguin and saying there’s nothing to be afraid of.”

Adorable. Lack backed up his mamma’s words, proving that penguins are no match for a stork, posting his first shutout of the season. I watched this game.

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Stick in Link: Eddie Lack starts against Penguins; recapping November

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: Identical twin totals and special teams breakdown

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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