Watch the Utica Comets clinch a berth in the AHL’s Conference Finals [VIDEO]

Congratulations are in order, and not just to the Utica Comets who beat the Oklahoma City Barons in Wednesday night’s Game 7 to advance to the AHL’s Western Conference Finals, but also to me. Why, just yesterday morning, in setting up the big contest, I said this: “Like all Game 7s, this will probably be a goaltender’s duel.” I said that! Me! And it has quotation marks on either side of it! That’s a direct quote. I am so knowledgeable.

Yes, Game 7 between the Comets and Barons was a goaltender’s duel, as the two netminders combined to make 74 saves on 75 shots, keeping the game scoreless until well into the third period, no doubt terrified to give up the first goal. After all, since 1992, teams that have scored first in the AHL Game sevens have gone 47-13.

The only thing worse than giving up the first goal is surrendering the only goal, however, and that’s what poor Richard Bachman did at 7:11 of the final frame. The hero was Alexandre Grenier, who, I should note, got a mention in my write-up yesterday as a potential hero. It is as though I am some sort of hockey genius. And the Toronto Maple Leafs still have an open GM chair…

I’m just kidding. You couldn’t pay me enough to do that job, and I say that even after seeing what they gave Mike Babcock.

Anyway. Here are your game highlights.

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Five things to know about the Utica Comets’ big Game 7

It seems like only just yesterday we were touting a big playoff matchup between a Canucks prospect and a (highly probable) Oilers prospect. But it wasn’t. It was last week, when Cole Cassels may not have shut down future Oiler Connor McDavid, but at least outproduced him.

And now, once again, future Oilers and future Canucks will be going head-to-head, albeit in a game of modern hockey, and not the Plutonian hockey that the Canucks and the Oilers of the future will be playing. (That’s too far in the future. By the time the NHL moves its base of operations to the icy reaches of Pluto, one imagines the likes of Sven Baertschi and Darnell Nurse will be long gone.) Down in the AHL, the Oklahoma City Barons and Utica Comets, Edmonton and Vancouver’s farm teams, respectively, will be doing battle in a Game 7 Wednesday night with a trip to the Western Conference Finals on the line.

Here are five things to know about this matchup.

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Stick in Link: Canucks prospect awards; Bonino leads USA to bronze

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 once or twice a week during the off-season. 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 theme songs, a villain’s lifelong dream, and Tony Gallagher’s dystopian future

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 still have no idea what to do about Eddie Lack

Eddie Lack should have been in goal for the Canucks’ final game of the postseason.

I think even the Canucks braintrust would admit that, provided they didn’t have to do so on the record. Not only was Lack healthier, which should be the end of the conversation, but Lack was also the better netminder this season, according to the hard statistical evidence.

Sadly, everybody knows that hard evidence only wins one-third of the time. In the rock-paper-scissors of belief, hard evidence is scissors: incisive and able to cut through guesswork, which is as flimsy and unsupported as paper. But hard evidence can’t handle opinion, which is as immoveable as rock. Fortunately, opinion (rock) can always be clouded, and often shrouded, by insane guesswork (paper), since the moment you toss out evidence, you leave yourself vulnerable to some truly wacko ideation.

So it doesn’t really matter that Lack posted a .921 save percentage to Ryan Miller’s .911, or that he’s trending up while Miller is trending down, career-wise, so long as the Canucks’ braintrust continues to hold the opinion that Miller is better. And they might. They’re not sure yet.

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Five ways the Canucks can improve their forward corps this summer

It’s going to be yet another long offseason for the Vancouver Canucks, who bowed out of Stanley Cup contention in mid-April, and won’t be back in pursuit of the elusive trophy until next October. But that’s okay. Even the most encouraged of Vancouver fans knows that, while this season was a step in the right direction, there’s still a lot to do.

And we want to help. Pass it to Bulis is more than just a fan blog. We’re an idea factory, like 3m Innovation, or that part of Science World where you get to play with Lego, or the Family Guy writers’ room. So, over the next several weeks, we’ll be laying out a plan for offseason action that will see the Canucks get bigger, stronger, faster, younger, smarter, fitter, happier, more productive, better-smelling, and, of course, more competitive. We’ll begin with forwards, and our four-part plan:

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Stick in Link: Cole Cassels is so happening (he is the only thing happening)

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 once or twice a week during the off-season. 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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Losing to Ryan Kesler would have been way worse than losing to the Flames

Perhaps you’re well on your way to moving on. The Vancouver Canucks have been out of the playoffs now for longer than they were ever in them; we imagine you’re mostly over it by now.

But if you need another little push towards closure, boy oh boy, do I have one for you this morning. With the Flames now joining the Canucks on the golf course after a swift, five-game elimination at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks, I can’t help but think that their playoff victory, unideal as it was, saved Vancouver fans from defeat at the hands of someone we hate far more: Ryan Kesler.

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Canucks prospect Cole Cassels vs. the best player in 30 years: who ya got?

The Canucks may be done for the season, but there are still some good Canucks-related storylines to follow. A few levels down, for instance, the OHL championship is set to kick off Friday. It’s the Oshawa Generals versus the Erie Otters, who employ a much-ballyhooed wunderkind named Connor McDavid. McDavid has 42 points in 15 playoff games so far, which is downright stupid. It goes without saying that shutting him down — or at least limiting his damage — is the key to the series.

That tall order has been farmed out to the Generals’ shutdown centre, Canucks’ 2013 third-round pick Cole Cassels, who’s looking more and more like a pretty good selection. Not Connor McDavid good, mind you. But who is? Wayne Gretzky said McDavid was “the best player to come into the league in the last 30 years.” Lemieux good. Crosby good.

Anyway, Cole Cassels, who was drafted 85th overall, just has to beat him.

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This Canucks season was a success disguised as a failure

In storming back from a three-goal deficit to eventually defeat the Canucks in Game 6 and eliminate them from the Stanley Cup playoffs, you’d have thought the Flames blew up Alderaan: millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.

That was Canuck nation shutting it down for the year. The journalists went on vacation. The Smylosphere went into hibernation. The fans went outside. (The summer sun arrived right around the same time. Vancouver is awesome. We only have two seasons: hockey and summer, and both are six months long.)

It happened quickly. Too quickly. Rather than winding down, paying close attention to the locker clean-outs, speculating wildly about stuff that won’t happen for months, and weaning ourselves off the product, the fans this year just turned it all off when the final horn sounded on Game 6.

I suspect it’s because we’re upset. After all, the Canucks blew it. The Flames were beatable, and the Canucks let them off the hook. I’ve heard some say they choked, they failed. And I’d argue it’s become the majority opinion: this season was a failure.

It’s not an unfair comment. But I think it just misses the mark. This season was a failure. Which makes it a huge success.

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Conspiracy Watch: Canucks’ emphasis on integrity, character cost them a playoff series

Conspiracy Watch is the official PITB home for the tinfoil-hatters, a large demographic in Vancouver that deserves to have its voice heard. Every Friday, Kevin Vanstone will espouse and catalog insane conspiracy theories no one else will validate, probably because they’re too true.

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The Paper Feature: Six ways to survive another long Canucks offseason

The Vancouver Canucks couldn’t have picked a worse time to get eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They were winning 3-0, after all. What a time to throw in the towel.

Plus it happened just as we were catching full-blown Canuck fever, an epidemic that’s been going around Vancouver since the Canucks Jenny-McCarthy’d us all by making the playoffs. So now we have it, and the Canucks are gone until September. That’s a problem.

Getting through this stretch can be tough. But it’s not impossible, especially if you can find another outlet for all your hockey fan needs. Here are some tips to survive the offseason:

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Gregor Robertson pays up on mayor bet, reads horrible, pro-Flames poem

We don’t often talk about the mayor here on PITB. That’s largely because the B doesn’t stand for bolitics. But it’s also because we’re simply not informed enough. For instance, I only just now learned that it’s pronounced politics.

I digress. The mayor doesn’t come up much around these parts because it’s rare that his rampage of bike lane installation intersects with the local hockey franchise. But it does happen, such as when he and precocious Internet-era mayor supreme Naheed Nenshi made a friendly wager on the first-round playoff series between the Canucks and Flames.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 4, Flames 7

Had there been a Game 7, you could have expected much of the talk leading up to it to be about 1994, believed by many to be the only year in Canucks’ history. But instead, Saturday’s Game 6 had more in common, to these eyes, with the Vancouver-Calgary series that came 10 years later, in 2004.

Game 6 in that series saw the Canucks go way in front early, only to crumble and let the Flames back in it. It was a classic game, and normally I wouldn’t mind being reminded of it. Why the Canucks had to restage it with a crappier ending, however, is beyond me. But I didn’t write this game. I just watched this game.

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The Paper Feature: The Sedins are old, and it’s helping

Asked whether he planned to make an emotional pregame speech in advance of a must-win Game 5, Henrik Sedin provided only snark. “You want me to cry?” he quipped, shutting down that line of questioning on sight.

Henrik was feeling particularly cranky before Game 5, which is fair. He’s old, and it was the mid-afternoon, which is naptime. Asked what needed to happen offensively for the Canucks, he responded, “We’re trying to shoot the puck past Hiller, their goalie.” Asked to elaborate, the captain doubled down: “You just try to shoot the puck past him over the goal line.” He was in some kind of mood.

Of course, Henrik wasn’t just being a jerk for no reason. (He and his brother aren’t the sort, and if you need proof, consider the Vine making the rounds in which Deryk Engelland loses his stick shoving Daniel Sedin after a whistle, and Daniel helpfully picks it up for him while Engelland looks on, confused.) He was deflecting, because he didn’t want to give anything away.

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Conspiracy Watch: Are Linden and Benning recreating 1994, beat by beat?

Conspiracy Watch is the official PITB home for the tinfoil-hatters, a large demographic in Vancouver that deserves to have its voice heard. Every Friday, Kevin Vanstone will espouse and catalog insane conspiracy theories no one else will validate, probably because they’re too true.

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Stick in Link: Game 5 in review; Nick Bonino did a thing

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 three times a week. 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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Ten reasons for optimism as the Canucks return home for Game 5

There are reasons for optimism as the Canucks and Flames return to Rogers Arena for Game 5. Sure, the Canucks are on the brink, but this is a franchise that thrives on the brink. Is it any wonder that they’re based in Vancouver, which is on the brink of North America? Of course not. The brink is Vancouver’s ally, which explains why the Canucks are 3-5 in series where they’ve fallen behind three games to one. You think the brink is your ally? You merely adopted the brink. The Canucks were born in it, moulded by it.

But it’s not just the franchise’s considerable experience with falling into holes like Atari’s E.T. — there’s another reason to feel good about Game 5: home-ice advantage. The Canucks have it, and here’s what that means for them:

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The Canucks have solved Jonas Hiller

Heading into Thursday night’s all-important Game 5, much of the focus is on the Canucks’ net, where Ryan Miller will draw in for Eddie Lack in hopes of turning the Canucks’ fortunes around.

It’s a move borne of desperation, mostly. But it may also be because the Canucks need goaltending like the Flames are getting, and what better way to do that than starting a guy whose name sounds almost identical?

That said, it doesn’t sound like Hiller will be the problem in Game 5 that he’s been in the previous four. The Canucks have figured him out.

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Ryan Miller returns to Canucks’ net just in time to take the blame

Facing elimination in Game 5 their first-round series with the Calgary Flames, the Vancouver Canucks will turn to Ryan Miller. The news, first reported by Irfaan Gaffar on Wednesday night, was formally confirmed by coach Willie Desjardins Thursday afternoon.

It’s Miller time in Game 5, and let’s hope that Miller’s knees are up to it, and he doesn’t wind up looking like a beer-leaguer that declared the beginning of Miller time three hours before puck drop.

How was this decision made? Did the Canucks weigh Miller’s experience? Did his mammoth contract, which looks more and more unmovable as his starter’s job slips away amid Eddie Lack’s superior numbers, come into it?

Nah. The Canucks made the decision based on what happened in Game 4. “I thought he looked really sharp in the game in Calgary,” Desjardins explained to the assembled media.

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Stick in Link: Everything sucks right now; are the Sedins playoff busts?

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 three times a week. 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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I Watched This Game: Canucks 1, Flames 3

The Canucks had nothing in Game 4. Possession-wise, they dominated from start to finish, but it was a little like how the toddler always dominates possession during road hockey games in the cul-de-sac. Sure, he has the puck a lot, but that’s mostly because he’s among friends, and nobody has the heart to take it from him. He’s five. Does he really need to know his motor skills are pure crap? Just let him carry it around for awhile. Eventually he’ll pull a Luca Sbisa and just bobble it away for no good reason, and then the game can continue.

But while the Canucks looked like a bunch of toddlers out there, they also looked like a bunch of dads. Old. Slow. Not particularly interested in winning anymore. Which is crazy. Unless a witch turned the entire Canucks roster into slugs sometime between Game 3 and Game 4, there’s simply no excuse for them to be this sluggish in a game they needed to have that badly. Heck, even then it would be hard to defend the way they played tonight. Oh, a witch turned you into slugs? Tough. That’s just playoff hockey. Now go out there and show some flippin’ heart, you pack of stinking gastropods. I watched this game.

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Spitballin’ on more Sedinery, Zack Kassian’s back, and a house fight

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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Alex Burrows taken to hospital after suffering broken rib at Canucks practice

The Canucks will be without Alex Burrows for Tuesday night’s Game 4 after the right winger left practice at the Scotiabank Saddledome on a stretcher.

Information at this point is scarce. According to some reports, Burrows left the ice saying “help”, and appeared to be favouring his wrist. He was followed by the training staff.

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Concourse brawl, fight with security already among Canucks fan playoff lowlights

If you’ve been following the Vancouver Canucks’ first round series with the Calgary Flames, and you’re not Steve Simmons, you know that the last couple of contests have not exactly ended in a dignified manner.

Both Games 2 and 3 have ended in line brawls, with the losing team opting to “send a message”. That’s hockeyspeak for “be a sore loser”, by the by, in much the same way “climate change” is used to downplay “global warming” or “planet wrecking”.

But the bad behaviour hasn’t just been restricted to the ice.

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