I Watched This Game: Canucks 2, Bruins 1

The Canucks had no business winning this game, so they’re extremely fortunate that the mullet is the official haircut of hockey — it’s not all business; there’s plenty of room for a party. And who on the Canucks do you think of when you hear the word “party”? That’s right: Dan Hamhuis.

Wait, that’s not right: it’s Zack Kassian. He’s clearly the partiest member of the Canucks and he continued his goalscoring streak with his 4th goal in 3 games and also his 4th different goal celebration. The goal stood up as the gamewinner thanks to an incredible performance by Eddie Lack. It’s always a party when the Canucks beat the Bruins.

I listened to Andrew W.K. when I watched this game.

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New Van Fan, Season 3 Episode 2: #changeiscoming

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from the New Van Fan folks and this episode makes it incredibly clear why, as we’re introduced to the newest Van Fan: Andreas’s tiny, adorable son.

Only, Dan doesn’t find him so adorable. In fact, he suggests that he resembles the absolutely worst possible person a Canucks’ fan could imagine. Is this the end of their friendship? Of New Van Fan?

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Stick in Link: Bonino expected to return, Canucks weathering injuries

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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Spitballin’ on Miller’s injury, Sestito’s departure, and Henrik’s 8-point week

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.

In this edition, Ryan Miller is out long-term, meaning Eddie Lack needs to step up, Tom Sestito parts ways with the Canucks and Comets, and Henrik Sedin earns second star of the week honours from the NHL.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 4 – Islanders 0

It’s time for another goaltending controversy! No, we’re not going to argue about whether Ryan Miller or Eddie Lack should be the number one goaltender or discuss which goalie might get traded either at the deadline or the draft.

No, this isn’t about Miller versus Lack. This is about Miller or Lack versus Miller and Lack.

Miller was perfect to start the game, but left early in the second period after a collision with Jannik Hansen and Lack stepped in and continued the perfection. The duo combined for a shutout against one of the top-scoring teams in the NHL, so it’s clear what the Canucks need to do going forward: Lack is no longer the backup, he’s the bullpen.

With two goaltenders of seemingly equal ability, it seems like a waste to have one sitting on the bench for the entire game, so it’s definitely time for them to stop splitting starts and begin splitting games. If fatigue is an issue for Miller, have the veteran start the game to set the tone, then bring in Lack’s fresh legs halfway through the second period. It’s a brilliant idea with no possible downsides whatsoever!

One issue: it looks like Miller might be out for quite a while with a knee injury, so they’ll have to wait before putting this perfect plan into action. I watched this game.

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Canucks of the Week, in which Ryan Miller is refreshingly honest

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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The Paper Feature: A guide to rumours at the NHL trade deadline

The NHL trade deadline is just over a week away, which means it’s prime time for trade rumours. But how can you tell which rumours are reliable and who you should listen to? With so many rumours flying about from so many sources, it can be hard to keep track.

Don’t worry: Pass it to Bulis is here to help with our handy-dandy trade rumour guide.

Say you hear the following rumour: “I’m hearing the Vancouver Canucks and Tampa Bay Lightning are getting close on a deal that would send Zack Kassian, a prospect, and a first-round pick to the Lightning for Steven Stamkos.” How much credence should you give such a rumour? It would all depend on the source.

Here are 5 possible sources for trade rumours, along with how reliable each of them are.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 2, Devils 4

The saying is, “I hate to say I told you so” but let’s face facts: no one hates saying that. Getting a chance to legitimately say “I told you so” is a rare delight. The only reason people claim to hate saying it is to be humble and not rudely rub their rightness in anyone’s face.

But let’s face it: Canucks fans aren’t exactly known for their polite and reserved nature, so you will hear “I told you so” echoing throughout the province, all across sports talk radio, and cascading down the threads and comments sections of innumerable message boards and blogs.

For in this game, Willie Desjardins placed Zack Kassian on a line with the Sedins and he responded with 2 goals, a game-high 5 shots, and the second best corsi on the team behind Henrik Sedin. Kassian went from a prospective healthy scratch to the first line and, lo and behold, it worked. Tony Gallagher is going to be insufferable for weeks.

I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 5 – Rangers 4 (SO)

On February 14th, against the Arizona Coyotes of Phoenix in Glendale, Alain Vigneault won his 500th career game as an NHL head coach, becoming the 21st in league history to do so. He added one more win on the Rangers’ road trip, then came back to new York. This was his first home game since accomplishing the feat and the Rangers had a brief tribute to Vigneault during the first period.

It seemed only fitting that a convenient convergence of events brought the Vancouver Canucks, with whom Vigneault recorded 313 of those wins, to Madison Square Gardens to be a part of that moment. It was pretty neat.

It was also pretty neat that the Canucks prevented Vigneault from getting his 502nd career win when I watched this game.

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Stick in Link: Burrows calls Horvat a young Toews; Kenins’ journey to the NHL

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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Did the Canucks fail to follow concussion protocol with Chris Tanev?

With Alex Edler already out for who-knows-how-long, the last thing the Canucks need is the other half of their top pair to miss any significant time with an injury. Of course, since it’s the Canucks, the last thing they need is exactly what they got.

Chris Tanev has already missed one game and isn’t accompanying the Canucks on their current road trip, which suggests he’ll be out for at least five more games unless he joins them mid-trip.

This is both surprising and worrisome, as Tanev practiced with the team on Monday after his head crashed into the post on Saturday, and looked to be good to go against the Wild, but was a late scratch, forcing Alex Biega into the game. While that worked out all right for the Canucks, you have to wonder what changed for Tanev.

Jim Benning said in an interview during the game against the Wild that Tanev “didn’t feel good after” the morning skate, so here’s where the speculation begins. Concussion symptoms can take days to appear and it’s hard to avoid jumping to a concussion conclusion after seeing a player hit his head, appear fine, then suddenly miss a whole bunch of games because he doesn’t “feel good.”

That raises the question: why didn’t Chris Tanev go to the quiet room and undergo the NHL’s concussion protocol after hitting his head on Saturday?

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Bo Horvat lives in front of the net

Bo Horvat is on quite the run offensively in February. He’s currently on a 4-game point streak and has 4 goals and 8 points in his last 10 games. With his boost in production has come a boost in playing time, to the point that it’s safe to call him the third-line centre.

It helps Horvat’s case for more ice time that two centres ahead of him on the depth chart, Brad Richardson and Nick Bonino, are currently injured, but Horvat has earned it as well, with his underlying possession statistics also steadily improving over the last couple months. It wouldn’t even be surprising to see him retain the third-line role once Richardson and Bonino return, with Bonino slotting back in on the second line and Richardson moving to the fourth, allowing Linden Vey and Shawn Matthias to go back to the wings.

What is most encouraging is that most of Horvat’s goals have come from the kind of thankless hard work that you might not expect from a rookie. The majority of his goals have come from going hard to the net, staying there and accepting punishment, and depositing a rebound.

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 22: Alex Edler Injury and Hot Dog Sandwiches

The Canucks have weathered all sorts of injuries this season, largely because of the dependability of their top defence pairing of Alex Edler and Chris Tanev. Now Edler is injured and out for an undetermined length of time, leaving the defence in disarray and the Canucks’ season in jeopardy.

Daniel and Harrison discuss how Edler being out of the lineup will impact the Canucks, as well as the Canucks’ playoff hopes, where they make the startling discovery that the Canucks actually have a legitimate chance at finishing second in the Pacific Division.

They also talk about the recent uptick in scoring, particularly from the new look second line of Chris Higgins, Linden Vey, and Radim Vrbata, as well as Zack Kassian, Ronalds Kenins, and Bo Horvat. Then they get into the goaltending situation and wonder which of Ryan Miller, Eddie Lack, and Jacob Markstrom might get traded, whether at the trade deadline or later.

But before all that, they ponder the most important question in the history of mankind: is a hot dog a sandwich?

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Game of the Week: Canucks vs Wild, February 16th

Am I crazy? Of all the games this coming week — which include an important divisional game against the Calgary Flames and visits to Alain Vigneault’s New York Rangers and Cory Schneider’s New Jersey Devils — I picked the game against the Minnesota Wild as PITB’s game of the week. Who would voluntarily watch a game against the Wild?

Yes, games against the Wild have historically been painful to watch. Yes, the Canucks have lost twice to the Wild in the past two weeks. Yes, their most recent loss to the Wild was embarrassing, with the 5-3 score not accurately reflecting how soundly the Canucks lost. Yes, it’s annoying when Wild fans expect Canucks fans to treat the Wild like legitimate rivals when there wasn’t a real rivalry in the first place and, if there was, it’s been dead for a long time.

And yet, I’m strangely looking forward to their next meeting on Monday.

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Real Good Tweets, starring @wholegrainne’s Canucks Valentines

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

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Big Numbers: Vrbata’s point streak, Daniel passes Linden

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 5, Blackhawks 4 (OT)

In a recent podcast, Harrison and I discussed whether hockey fans really like exciting hockey or if they just like to see winning hockey. This game came incredibly close to being a test case for that question.

This was an incredibly thrilling game, full of high-tempo, back-and-forth action, with the Canucks playing some of their best hockey of the season against the best team in the league through the first two periods. Then the Blackhawks showed why they’re the best team in the league, mounting a late comeback in the third period and pushing the game to a white-knuckling, edge-of-your-seat overtime.

If the Canucks had lost that game in overtime, I have a feeling that many fans would deride it as a terrible game, when, no matter the result, it really wasn’t. It was a fun, entertaining, exciting game that showed the Canucks can compete against any team in the NHL when they’re playing well.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to confront any tough questions about the entertainment value of a loss when I watched this game.

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I Find This Photo Odd: Eddie Lack has had it with authority

There are just 30 games left in the regular season for the Vancouver Canucks, which means it’s time to start watching the standings in earnest. The Canucks are barely hanging on to the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, though it’s not all doom and gloom. They’re still just two points back of the Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks in the Pacific Division, with games in hand on both of them.

Here’s the thing, though: the Canucks need to actually win a couple of those games-in-hand for them to matter. At this point, every game is going to make a difference in the standings, which is why it’s interesting to see Eddie Lack get the start against the Chicago Blackhawks. Willie Desjardins has made it clear all season that Ryan Miller is his number one goaltender, and this kind of marquee matchup doesn’t usually go to the backup.

At this point, goalie controversies don’t matter; wins matter. As the Canucks continue to cede ground to the teams behind them, there may be an opportunity for Lack to steal more starts down the stretch.

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Stick in Link: A history of Sedin linemates and a mic’d up Alex Burrows

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 21: Entertaining Kassian and Beck’s Best Album

The Canucks’ dominant win over the Pittsburgh Penguins was nearly overshadowed by a couple moments featuring Zack Kassian: the broadcast’s bench cam showing him staring at his hands and the massive ovation he received from the Rogers Arena crowd after his goal.

We talk about the entertainment value Kassian brings to the Canucks and how badly Canucks fans want to see him succeed, but also get into Bo Horvat’s strong game against the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Daniel Sedin breaking his slump on the power play.

Before all that, however, we talk about Beck beating Beyonce for the Best Album Grammy and how Midnite Vultures is great. It’s so great, you guys.

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10 things Zack Kassian is thinking as he stares at his hands

Sportsnet has experimented with a number of different camera angles this season, with mixed results. The novelty wore off the ref cam pretty quickly, but the sky cam is a nice addition, showing more of the ice surface and positioning of the players. Their attempts at bench cameras have generally been a bust, rarely catching anything of interest.

The “spy cam” positioned among the water bottles on the bench during the game between the Canucks and Penguins, however, caught a few good moments, including Doug Lidster coaching Adam Clendenning and Radim Vrbata looking worn out and potty-mouthed after a long shift.

That was all overshadowed by an incredibly odd moment with Zack Kassian, as he stared at his hands like he’d never seen them before.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 5, Penguins 0

After an ugly, dispiriting loss to the San Jose Sharks, the Canucks needed some sign of positivity to end their home stand. Willie Desjardins preached intensity at practice and the team responded, jumping all over the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins early, driving the net, drawing penalties, and, most importantly, actually scoring goals.

It was one of the strongest performances of the season for the Canucks, one that could quiet concerns in the room and among the fans, but it unfortunately came with a quiver of caveats that might burst some bubbles.

The Penguins were playing on the second night of a back-to-back and their third game in four nights, while starting their backup goaltender, and at times looked as tired as the Michelin Man. This was an eminently beatable team.

That said, the Canucks have specialized this season in making mediocre goaltenders look like all-stars and have made a habit of losing to top-tier teams of late and, this time, they didn’t do that. Instead, they took control of the game early, built up an insurmountable lead, then didn’t let the Penguins surmount it.

I saw the Canucks score 5 goals with my own eyes when I watched this game.

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Paper Feature: Six ways to get through to Zack Kassian

This was supposed to be Zack Kassian’s breakout season. He started to put it all together at the end of last season, rattling off 10 points in 10 games as the Canucks played out the stretch, and the battle for a second line spot was wide open heading into training camp. It was hoped that Kassian would take hold of the opportunity, impress his new head coach and general manager, and be a consistent second line presence in the lineup.

Regrettably, it hasn’t panned out. While he’s shown flashes of the player he could be, he hasn’t been consistent enough to earn Willie Desjardins’ trust, and has spent most of the season on the third or fourth line. At least, that’s where he’s played when he’s been in the lineup.

Thursday’s game against the San Jose Sharks was Kassian’s third straight game in the press box as a healthy scratch and it’s become a familiar place for him. Understandably, he’s been frustrated and confused, as he had a strong game against Buffalo just prior to this string of scratches and has been a lot better this season than his detractors might think.

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Willie Desjardins’ clipboard gives us a sneak peek at his shootout lineup

The Canucks haven’t seen much of the shootout. Most of their games that have gone past regulation have ended in overtime, with just three of their games this season reaching the shootout, the lowest total in the NHL.

It’s a shame, really, because some of the changes the Canucks made in the off-season significantly improved their chances of winning shootouts. The addition of Ryan Miller, Radim Vrbata, and Nick Bonino gives the Canucks a legitimate boost in the post-game skills contest, but we’ve barely had a chance to see them in action.

Willie Desjardins, however, is always prepared, and a brief glimpse at his ubiquitous clipboard during Thursday night’s game against the Sharks revealed that he has his shooters selected well in advance, despite those selections being needed so rarely.

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Chris Tanev is injured, which means Luca Sbisa is on the top pairing against the Sharks

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