Is Ryan Miller really a Game 1 option for the Canucks?

It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where Ryan Miller gets the start in Game 1 between the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames. Here’s one: in an attempt to have “one last adventure” as before starting his first NHL playoff game, Eddie Lack goes parachuting, and winds up getting stuck in a tree. With no other options, the Canucks turn to Miller.

But let’s be honest: unless Lack repeats Uncle Jesse’s mistake from classic Full House season 4 two-parter “The Wedding”, he’ll be the man between the posts on Wednesday, as the returning Ryan Miller remains, by his own admission, a work in progress. Which is why it was so strange to hear Desjardins pump both goalies’ tires in front of the media on Monday afternoon.

“I believe both goaltenders are ready,” Desjardins said, somehow managing to stifle a laugh. (Maybe he hid it behind his moustache, which has been cultivated specifically to complement his poker face?)

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Spitballin’ on trolling the Flames, the real MVPs, and the crap mantle

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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Stick in Link: Canucks-Flames trash talk; Chris Higgins begins fatherhood

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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The Paper Feature: Please remember that playoff hockey is a wholly different thing

I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but I have it on very good authority that the NHL will be shutting down 14 of its 30 teams, in advance of something called “the playoffs”.

My understanding is that the playoffs are like the NHL regular-season, except a great deal more serious. And to show how much more serious things are, the league will split nearly in half, losing all the teams the NHL felt just weren’t taking the game seriously enough. Frivolous teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres, who have shown little interest in winning this season? They’re out.

But the Canucks are in. Thanks to a newfound commitment to point accrual under the leadership of Jim Benning, Willie Desjardins, and Trevor Linden, Vancouver has made the cut. Next week, they’ll begin their campaign to win the Stanley Cup, or, at the very least, win one playoff game, since the last time they did that was April 18, 2012.

2012 was a long time ago, and even longer ago if we’re talking about the film of the same name, which was released in 2009. But we’re not. I’m not sure why I brought it up. In any case, with such a big gap between playoff action, my concern is that Vancouver hockey fans may not remember what to do when they next see it. And to that end, here’s a quick playoff primer.

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Here’s that entire, incredible Sedin shift from Saturday night [VIDEO]

Once in a great while, you may hear a Canucks fan refer to “the shift”. It’s a piece of typically Vancouver-y hockey lore, starring Daniel and Henrik Sedin in an offensive zone shift so dominant that it earned a place in our memories despite resulting in nothing. (Come to think of it, a lot of our stories are like that.)

But here’s the problem with “the shift”: even though Canucks fans talk about it, no one really remembers which one it was. The Sedins have been at this awhile. There are many shifts that qualify by now, so much so that, if you mention “the shift” in the presence of two Canucks fans, they’ll both go moony at the thought of it, but there’s no guarantee they’ll both picture the same shift.

Until Saturday night, when Daniel and Henrik Sedin staged “the shift” for the umpteenth time. But they outdid themselves with this one, spending 70 dismantling the Edmonton Oilers over and over and over. It’s amazing, and I submit that, from this day forward, this is “the shift”.

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NHL releases playoff schedule: Canucks-Flames begins Wednesday at Rogers Arena

The NHL wasted no time in transitioning to the playoffs. Mere moments after Alex Edler’s overtime winner put a bow on the regular season, the league released has its first round postseason schedule, and wouldn’t you know it — the Canucks are on it.

As was expected the moment Vancouver clinched home ice, the Canucks will open their bid for the Stanley Cup on Wednesday. There really weren’t any other options. Ariana Grande has the place Thursday night, and you don’t mess with Ariana Grande. She was on Sam & Cat. Here’s the full schedule:

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 6, Oilers 5 (OT)

Saturday night’s Canucks season finale had a chance to mean something. Coming into the day, the Canucks had already clinched a playoff berth, and they even had a first-round opponent lined up, but home ice advantage was still up for grabs. Unfortunately, by the time 7pm Pacific rolled around, everything had already been settled, rendering the tilt with the Oilers completely meaningless.

But that’s okay. It made for a poetic close to the Canucks’ 2014-15 season, as the club ended the campaign the same way they opened it: by scoring a bunch of goals on the Edmonton Oilers. I’ll admit it was a little freaky, as I thought, for a moment, that someone had accidentally reset the Canucks’ season and we were back at game 1, especially when I realized Ryan Miller was back in the net, but my friends were able to calm me down and convince me we were in the present as I watched this game.

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Our 15 favourite GIFs of the Canucks regular season

The Vancouver Canucks will play their 82nd game of the regular season Saturday night, signalling the end of the 2014-15 regular season. But wait! There’s more! Turns out this one’s a two-parter, as the Canucks have gained entry in the 2015 NHL playoffs, and will kick off the second season on either Thursday or Wednesday of next week, either at home or in Calgary.

Naturally, most people are looking ahead. After all, the Canucks could soon win their first playoff game since 2012, and their first playoff round since 2011. The future is where it’s at. But let’s not be too hasty to relegate this regular-season to the annals of history, especially since it was such a great year for GIFs.

Admittedly, we didn’t get anything up there with “Sedins in Sync” or “Jarkko Ruutu, Huge Jerk”, but there were still plenty of great, loopable moments for the Canucks. Before we turn our attention to the playoffs, let’s look back. Here are our 15 favourite GIFs of the Canucks’ regular season.

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Conspiracy Watch: Did the NHL just give the Calgary Flames a playoff spot?

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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Canucks won their first playoff series by sweeping the Flames, 33 years ago today

It’s amazing how much has fallen into place for the Canucks this season. Sure, the team is vastly improved from last year’s disaster, but that’s hardly the only reason they find themselves in a position to clinch home ice advantage in the first round of the NHL postseason. The Pacific Division going from Marlon Brando tough to Marlon Brando soft played a role as well.

That was best demonstrated Thursday night, as the Canucks walloped the hapless Arizona Coyotes while, one province East, the Calgary Flames were eliminating the Los Angeles Kings from playoff contention and guaranteeing a playoff matchup with Vancouver in the process.

Let’s be honest: that’s actually pretty ridiculous. The Coyotes weren’t supposed to be this terrible. Neither were the Kings. Or the Sharks, for that matter. All three of these teams were supposed to finish ahead of the Flames this season, but they did not, and the Canucks get their ideal first-round playoff opponent (although, in fairness, so do the Flames) as a result.

That’s a good sign for the Canucks. And so is this little nugget: today, April 10, the day after the Flames/Canucks series became official, is the 33rd anniversary of the Canucks’ first playoff series win in franchise history: a sweep of the Calgary Flames.

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Stick in Link: Canucks in the playoffs; Radim Vrbata, elite goal-scorer

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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Overpayments to Sbisa, Dorsett are enough to make one distrustful of entire Canucks’ front office

It’s possible that the contract extensions announced Wednesday for winger Derek Dorsett and defender Luca Sbisa will work out for the Canucks. Heck, they could be deemed as bargains before they even kick in. Imagine a long playoff run, maybe even a successful one, that ends with the Canucks hoisting the Stanley Cup, and role players like Dorsett and Sbisa hailed for their clutch, yeomanly work during the Canucks’ march to a title.

Or maybe it takes a little longer, until sometime next season, for instance. Maybe the 28-year-old Dorsett is a late bloomer with a lot more to give the Canucks. Maybe he really is on the verge of becoming the all-situations player Willie Desjardins — and, as we discovered with his deal, Jim Benning and Trevor Linden — think he is. Maybe Luca Sbisa, too, is about to put it all together and spend his next few seasons as a relatively unassailed member of the Canucks’ top four.

It’s not impossible. But one thing we know for sure is that, in order for Sbisa’s new three-year, $10.8M deal and Dorsett’s four-year, $10.6M deal to ever be seen as anything other than ill-advised, foolish, wasteful contracts, Dorsett and Sbisa are going to have to get better than they currently are.

At the time of this writing, these are bad deals, alarming overpayments that deserve a facepalm at the very least, an apology to Flames fans for mocking the Deryk Engelland signing at the very most, and, somewhere in the middle, maybe even a complete reassessment of the current regime’s ability to run the ship anywhere but aground. Which is amazing, since it comes the day after they clinched an unlikely playoff spot.

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Spitballin’ on the Canucks’ two-headed monster and their fresh new strategy of getting points

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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Who should win the Canucks’ year-end awards?

The Canucks have two games yet to play this regular season, and while a playoff berth has already been clinched, there are still reasons to watch them: love of the game, for one thing. But if that’s not enough for you, there’s the return of Ryan Miller, the quest for home-ice advantage in Round 1, and, of course, the Canucks’ year-end awards ceremony.

Who will take home the Cyclone Taylor (MVP), Babe Pratt (Best Defenceman), Pavel Bure (Most Exciting Player), and Fred J. Hume (Unsung Hero) trophies? Now, this is a question that The Vancouver Sun claims has already been asked and answered by their hockey writers. But we know that’s garbage, since we’re Sun hockey writers and no one frickin’ asked us. Such disrespect.

It’s a shame, too, since we would have brought a little sense to the table. The Sun’s trio of Canuck writers — Iain MacIntyre, Elliott Pap, and Brad Ziemer — all picked Radim Vrbata as their MVP, and we suspect the fans are about to do the same. Unless we can help it. Everybody is wrong. Same for those trumpeting Jannik Hansen as unsung hero. No. Bad. At this point, Hansen has been sung about as often as Stagger Lee.

Here are the correct picks for the Canucks’ year-end awards.

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Canucks clinch a playoff spot with Kings’ loss to Oilers

Just one year after a campaign so disastrous it cost the Canucks their 474-game sellout streak, got a coach fired after just one season (not to mention his President and General Manager), and had most people, including the pundits, writing Vancouver off for this season and, often, the next few as well, the Vancouver Canucks are back in the dance.

The Canucks received their all-important X on Tuesday night, when the Edmonton Oilers proved you can’t spell “playoff spoilers” without “Oilers”, knocking off the Los Angeles Kings in regulation by a score of 4-2. With that, the Kings’ ceiling becomes 97 points, which is, coincidentally, the Canucks’ current number of points. But the Canucks hold the all-important first tiebreaker — regulation and overtime wins — and they will continue to do so even if the Kings win out, so it’s over. The Kings may still get in, but they’re not getting ahead of the Canucks.

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Breakdowning some serious Sedinery versus the L.A. Kings

With time ticking way in the third period versus the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night, the Canucks had to know it was going to take something special to tie things up. The Kings, after all, are the masters of the one-goal affair. “Clutch” may be more of a narrative conceit than a real thing, but if anybody exists as evidence to the contrary, it’s Jonathan Quick, and the players in front of him are committed to keeping the myth alive. The Kings were locked into their game.

Fortunately, so were the Sedins, those wizards, and upon realizing a special goal was the key, the duo went down to the cauldron room and cooked up a little magic.

It’s so fancy. But you already know. Still, a goal this nice deserves to be looked at twice, and perhaps even thrice or frice. Which is why we’re here to break it down. Let us begin.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 2, Kings 1 (SO)

Sweden is a pretty great country. Not only do they remain the world’s largest exporter of blondes — and what the world needs now is blondes, sweet blondes — but they’ve also provided Vancouver a handful of very good hockey players: Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Alex Edler, Eddie Lack. As Monday night’s all-important 2-1 shootout win over the Los Angeles Kings demonstrated, unless there’s an ABBA reunion tour swinging through Rogers Arena, you’re not getting a better Swedish foursome than this one.

Each played a major role in this victory. The Sedins and Edler dragged the game into overtime. Once there, Lack shut the door. The result: two huge points, and while it’s still not a mathematical certainty, the Canucks’ 97 points are more than likely good enough for an unofficial ticket into the 2014-15 Stanley Cup playoffs, where Vancouver will have a chance to bring home their second Stanley Cup in 101 years. I’d say they’re due. And capable, since they certainly seemed like world-beaters when I watched this game.

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How the Canucks could still clinch a playoff spot on Saturday

With just four games remaining in their regular season, the Canucks sit second in the Pacific Division with a four-point cushion on their next-closest rival, the Calgary Flames. Considering how difficult it is to gain ground in the NHL standings, one might be forgiven for assuming the Canucks had a postseason seed all locked up.

Mind you, no true Canucks fan would make that assumption. Anyone who’s been following this team for more than a couple years knows that if you can dream up a doomsday scenario, the Canucks can find a way to make it happen. In this case, a simple, ill-timed losing skid could do it: if the Canucks lose all four of their remaining games, they’ll finish the season at 95 points, which would mathematically allow the Kings, Flames, and Jets to finish ahead of them. It’s highly unlikely, but so was losing 4 of 5 in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. We’re a wounded bunch. We won’t rest until the Canucks have officially clinched.

To that end, some good news: despite what you’ve heard, the Canucks could conceivably do that as early as Saturday. All they need is to beat the Jets, then hope the Flames and Kings lose. That would be enough.

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Canucks of the Week, where Ryan Miller returns, and the Department plays it cool

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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Real Good Tweets, starring a heartbreaking April Fools’ prank

You folks make some good tweets this week. Some real good tweets.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 1, Blackhawks 3

A win Thursday night versus the Chicago Blackhawks would have been the Canucks’ third in a row, a feat that qualifies as what the pundits often call a “winning streak”. Two wins is no streak. Three wins? Welcome to Streaksville, pal. Unfortunately, the Blackhawks stopped the Canucks in their tracks, denying the streak like a skilled window washer.

It’s actually a little bit of a problem. The Canucks have been denied their third win in a row eleven times this season, and as we approach the playoffs, that’s a cause for concern. You can’t keep winning two in a row and then losing one. That’s no formula for postseason success.

Actually, wait. It totally is. Nevermind. I watched this game.

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Big Numbers: Canucks on the verge, thanks to balanced scoring and all those empty nets

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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No suspension for Alex Burrows, unless this is a really cruel April Fool’s joke

Alex Burrows had a very busy third period Tuesday night in Nashville. Early in the final frame, he scored a game-tying shorthanded goal. Ten minutes later, he set up the Canucks’ go-ahead marker. Then, five minutes after that, he collided with Paul Gaustad in the neutral zone, incurring fifteen minutes in penalties — a game misconduct and a five-minute major for interference.

Was it the right call? Some in Vancouver felt the major penalty was harsh, and that it was a mostly accidental collision, with both Burrows and Gaustad watching Kevin Bieksa’s breakout pass right up until the moment of impact. (Disclosure: I’m in Vancouver.) But others, particularly those outside of Vancouver, some of whom hate Burrows with the passion of Paraguay’s national flower, felt the penalty wasn’t enough, and that a zillion-game suspension was warranted.

Nope.

The Department of Player Safety has determined that the Burrows’ crime was sufficiently punished in-game, and there will be no suspension. Either that or we’re being set up for one hell of an April Fool’s Day joke.

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Stick in Link: Henrik Sedin a Masterton nominee; Canucks in Nashville

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

Okay, so there are two ways to look at this one: optimists will celebrate the point the Canucks salvaged when they tied the game late, postponing their loss until overtime. Pessimists, on the other hand, will lament the point the Canucks blew when they allowed Tyler Seguin a third-period breakaway. That’s pretty much the only thing you can’t do versus the Stars.

So where do I stand? I’m pretty happy with how things turned out. The outcome is unfortunate, sure, but how can you complain about a game that gave us this awesome GIF of Trevor Linden and Jim Benning high-fiving like they just became best friends.

Next up: karate in the garage. Anyway. Like a high-fiving Lindenning, except without the high fives and no friends to speak of, I watched this game.

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