I Watched This Game: Canucks 3, Avalanche 7

The Canucks had some trouble with the speed of the Dallas Stars at the beginning of this road trip, so you had to know they were going to struggle to defend against a team that employs both Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene. Those dudes have more speed than Sandra Bullock’s 1990s filmography and, much like diehard fans of Sandra Bullock’s 1990s filmography (such as myself), it’s tough to keep them from The Net.

And so, while the Sedins contributed their usual Practical Magic, the Avalanche’s stars were Forces of Nature that saw a tired Canucks team and decided Friday night was A Time to Kill. Duchene, in particular was a Demolition Man, hopping the boards with a “Who do I Gotta Kill?” look in his eyes, going end to end like a Fire on the Amazon. With his third period goal, he guzzled the Hope Floats of Canuck Nation. Perhaps you, like the Canuck defenders, napped through this one. Well. While You Were Sleeping, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 3, Stars 6

Last time Willie Desjardins was in Texas, he was lifting the Calder Cup as head coach of the AHL champion Texas Stars. His return did not end nearly as well. I would say it was the exact opposite of winning the Calder Cup, but that would be losing a bent, dirty spoon. As poorly as things went, at least the Canucks didn’t lose a spoon.

The best thing that could be said about this game is that at least it was short. This game effectively ended just over a minute into the second period, when the Stars went up 5-0 and Ryan Miller finally, mercifully, was pulled. That’s it, game over.

That also means the Canucks and Stars played a second game that they dominated and won 3-1. I wish I had only watched that game. Instead, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 2, Oilers 0

This was a lose/lose situation for the Canucks. They came into Edmonton to face a team that had yet to record a win this season, was averaging more than 5 goals against per game, and was essentially falling apart at the seams. Failing to defeat this sad-sack Oilers team would be disastrous, but beating them would prove nothing.

At the same time, losing was a very real possibility. The Canucks were stale after a six-day break, while the Oilers were like a hungry dog that would devour anything, no matter how stale. The Oilers are already desperate and desperate teams are dangerous. Some fans were upset that the Canucks needed overtime to beat the Oilers on Saturday; imagine if the Canucks actually lost.

Fortunately, in this lose/lose situation, the Canucks lost, but didn’t literally lose. Instead, they won. I watched them win/lose when I watched this game.

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

This game alone was more exciting than the entire 2013-14 season. It was high-flying, defence-be-damned, entertaining hockey. There were fights — non-staged fights! — hits, goals, saves, controversy, an entirely-too-intense overtime period, and even a shootout for you heathens out there that enjoy that kind of thing.

But the real highlight of this game — the thing that made watching it completely worthwhile — was the Dry Scrape. For the first time this season, we got to see the zambonis come on the ice before overtime, rather than before the shootout, and scrape the ice clean without flooding it so that it didn’t need time to freeze. Truly a momentous occasion.

It was a privilege to witness such an historic event when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Pre-Season Game: Canucks vs Edmonton Oilers, October 4, 2014

It’s tradition in Vancouver to complain about the NHL schedule. Doesn’t matter that our beef is actually with the Atlantic Ocean, whose East Coast Bias runs deeper than any NHL schedulemaker. The transatlantic-migration-and-its-effect-on-population-density argument doesn’t really fly over here. It’s clear the NHL is out to screw us.

But if we’re going to complain about the negatives of the schedule, we should also praise the positives, like how the Canucks got to close their preseason with two games versus the defensively hapless Edmonton Oilers. There’s really no better way to go into the regular season, especially for a team that lost their offensive mojo last season, than by playing the Oilers, who make every NHL team feel like, well, the 1980s Edmonton Oilers. Honestly, playing these Oilers fills you with such a confidence, one wonders if they’re even a real team. Is it possible the Oilers have been inside you all along?

Maybe. But I’m pretty confident they’re real, since they played in this game and I watched this game.

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I Watched This Pre-Season Game: Canucks at Edmonton Oilers, October 2, 2014

I am so, so sorry.

It’s all my fault. When I wrote an article on Wednesday about how the Canucks could use an injury in the pre-season, I only meant that an injury to a veteran depth forward who already had a roster spot sewn up would make it a lot easier for the Canucks to keep one or two of their promising prospects — Nicklas Jensen, Hunter Shinkaruk, and Bo Horvat — in Vancouver.

Clearly, the hockey gods thought I was mocking them and ensured that just one forward left the Canucks game against the Edmonton Oilers: aforementioned promising prospect Bo Horvat.

I did it. Me. I take all the blame. It was incredibly selfish of me to tempt fate like that just to make what I still think is a completely fair point about how difficult the Canucks’ roster decisions are going to be. But it wasn’t worth it. It…wasn’t worth it…

I watched this game.

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I Watched This Pre-Season Game: Canucks at Calgary Flames, September 25, 2014

For the first time ever (at least on TV), Canucks fans got to see Willie Desjardins behind the Canucks bench. Sort of. We didn’t really see him at all, because he didn’t yell and scream, get in his player’s faces, or charge down the halls of the Saddledome to confront Bob Hartley.

I mean, I know this is his first NHL head coaching gig, but it’s like he doesn’t even understand how a head coach is supposed to act. Instead, he got his team to go out on the ice and play hockey, as if this was some sort of game where the objective is to score more goals than the other team.

I watched this game.

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I Watched This Pre-Season Game: Canucks vs San Jose Sharks, September 23, 2014

There’s no denying that the Sharks were the better team in this game. They out-shot the Canucks like crazy, particularly in the ugly second period, when they tallied 18 shots on goal to the Canucks’ 5. But really, in a pre-season game, you’re not necessarily looking at how the team performed as a whole, but instead at how individual players performed in a given role and how they fit with their teammates.

The result itself doesn’t actually matter…oh, who am I kidding. It was satisfying as hell to see the Canucks beat the Sharks, even if it was just in pre-season and even if the Sharks out-shot the Canucks 34-to-20. The Canucks got better as the game went on and they actually scored goals.

Look, I love preseason hockey, because it’s not no hockey. No hockey is dull and boring. No hockey is lame. No hockey is the worst. Give me preseason hockey over no hockey any day of the week, especially this day of the week, because on this day, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Edmonton Oilers, April 12, 2014

As is appropriate for this season, the Canucks earned a moral victory in their final road game. Not only did they lose, thereby giving themselves the opportunity to clinch the 6th overall pick in the upcoming draft with a loss to the Calgary Flames on Sunday (and simultaneously worsening Edmonton’s draft position), but they also managed to get a rival team’s fans to call them classy.

As CBC constantly reminded us all game, this was Ryan Smyth’s final NHL game and, like Jarome Iginla and the Calgary Flames did for Trevor Linden, the Canucks came back out on the ice after the game ended and, led by Henrik Sedin, shook Smyth’s hand and wished him the best.

The reaction was immediate and universal. Even the most ardent Canucks haters could only muster a weak joke about it being the first instance of class ever shown by the Canucks. For one brief moment, Oilers fans were forced to like and respect the Vancouver Canucks. If that’s not a moral victory, what is?

Also, they played something resembling hockey before all of that. I watched this game.

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The Week Ahead: A Northwest Division farewell tour

Every Wednesday we take a look at The Week Ahead to see what storylines we’ll be following, because Wednesday is a day meant for looking ahead to the future. Around here we call Wednesday “Future Day” and we all wear silver jumpsuits and big bubble space helmets. Doesn’t everybody do that?

This week, it’s the end of the season and the Canucks face a trio of former Northwest Division opponents.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Anaheim Ducks, April 8th, 2014

As famed sportswriter Thomas Stearns Eliot wrote about this Canucks season, “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.” A little flowery for my tastes, but his words proved prophetic, as the Canucks looked lame against the Ducks, officially becoming a lame duck for the remainder of the season.

Facing a rookie goaltender in his first NHL game, the Canucks mustered just 18 shots on net. In the second period, they had just 3 shots. In their five power plays, they got the puck on net just 3 times. They were credited with 10 turnovers and it felt like more, giving up multiple breakaways, including the first shot of the game. Not with a bang, but a whimper.

Know who else whimpered? Me, when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs New York Rangers, April 1, 2014

In honour of Alain Vigneault returning to Vancouver for the first time in the regular season since getting the boot last May, I will be using the word “real” throughout this intro, both correctly and incorrectly.

The Canucks were real good in this game, playing with a real intensity as they tried to keep their playoff hopes real alive. They got in on the forecheck real quick and created real scoring chances. They looked like a real hockey team with a real first line and for a real short time it was real exciting.

Unfortunately, it all came crashing down to earth in a real hurry. Even as they looked real good, they still couldn’t put pucks into the net, with the woeful power play giving the Canucks meagre playoff hopes one final kick in teeth, giving up a shorthanded goal to seal the loss. It may seem like this whole season has been a bad dream, but it’s real real. Also real real? The fact I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Colorado Avalanche, March 27, 2014

Heading into this game, Jannik Hansen had 3 goals in his last 33 games. Nicklas Jensen had 3 goals in his last 6 games. One played on a line with Daniel Sedin, the other on a line with Tom Sestito. One played more than 6 minutes in a tied third period. The other was stapled to the bench after the second intermission.

Does John Tortorella hate the happiness of Canucks fans? Jensen’s success since his call-up has been the one thing that all fans can enjoy, the one real ray of sunshine and light in the dreary darkness, but then he got shunted down the lineup. Meanwhile, Hansen, who is having the worst offensive season of his career in terms of points-per-minute, kept getting sent out, despite not registering a single shot attempt and the Canucks getting out-shot 9-4 at even-strength with him on the ice.

Did John Tortorella confuse Hansen for Jensen? Does he think all Danes look alike? If so, that’s pretty racist. He’s lucky there aren’t more Danes in the NHL so this didn’t come up earlier.

Like Jensen, who quietly sat back and let Tortorella call him Jannik all night, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Washington Capitals, March 14, 2014

I don’t really know how to describe this game, only to say that I haven’t seen anything like it for some time. In fact it’s been so long that my vocabulary that I might used to describe it has atrophied. It was…expediting? No, that’s not right. Exfoliating? Nope, that’s not it. Excited? Is that the word?

Exciting! That’s the one. It’s been a long time since I used that word in relation to the Canucks, but it fits this game. The Canucks buzzed around the offensive zone, created scoring chances, and actually capitalized on a few of them. It was bizarre. I mean, they didn’t win, of course. It wasn’t that bizarre. But it was still fun to watch.

I was — what’s the word? — entertained when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Winnipeg Jets, March 12, 2014

Alex Burrows is such a terrible teammate. Having gone 35 games without scoring a single goal this season, Burrows chose to break his drought during Henrik Sedin’s 1000th career game, stealing the spotlight and making the game all about him. Selfish.

To make it even worse, Burrows scored two goals without allowing Henrik to tally an assist, despite playing on the top line with the Canucks captain. And you’ll notice that he scored two goals; why no assists, Burrows? Share the puck, Alex, this is a team game.

In fact, Burrows had a game-high 6 shots, while his other linemate, Nicklas Jensen, had just one, clearly because Burrows is such a puck-hog. Way to provide a toxic environment for the rookie, Burrows. Oh wait, I’m being sarcastic. Creating a toxic environment is a bad thing, Burr.

The final piece of evidence that Burrows was playing for the name on the back of his jersey rather than the logo on the front? He had the opportunity to score in the shootout and didn’t do it, obviously because it wouldn’t have counted for his points this season. He clearly just wanted to boost his personal statistics and didn’t care about getting his team the win. He was just out for number one, who was, in this case, number 14.

Alex Burrows is just the worst. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Calgary Flames, March 8, 2014

The last time the Canucks played the Flames, the game was marred by a linebrawl off the opening faceoff, a crazed John Tortorella attempting to bull rush his way into the Flames locker room during the first intermission, and a total of 188 penalty minutes.

For a moment, it looked like this game might start the same way, as Tom Sestito and Brian McGrattan lined up opposite each other for the opening faceoff and had words. Fortunately, those words appeared to be, “Good day to you, sir” and “God be with ye,” because the two players separated and did a novel thing: they played hockey. Imagine that.

I watched hockey players playing hockey when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Dallas Stars, March 6, 2014

John Tortorella has a 5-year contract with the Vancouver Canucks.

I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Minnesota Wild, February 28, 2014

If you need proof that judging a goaltender by their wins and losses is incredibly stupid, you just have to look at Eddie Lack this season. He has a mediocre 9-8-4 record after this shootout loss to the Wild, but has a .925 save percentage and 2.05 goals against average. Over his last eight starts, he’s allowed more than one goal just twice, but has just two wins.

The Canucks have given Lack less support than the parents of an Art major. By my calculations, Lack should have about 734 wins by now. I think there might be something wrong with my calculator, actually. There’s also something wrong with me, because I watched this game.

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Daniel Sedin breaks goalscoring slump in quarterfinal against Slovenia

Coming into Wednesday’s quarterfinal against Slovenia, Daniel Sedin had gone 22 games without scoring a goal — 19 games for the Canucks and 3 for his home country. His last goal came on December 30th against the Philadelphia Flyers, meaning he had yet to score a goal in 2014, 50 days into the year.

It was getting to the point where we were wondering if he would ever score again. Every great scoring chance that skittered wide or was shot harmlessly into the goaltender’s logo or pads just further cemented the certainty that Daniel was never going to put the puck in the net ever again.

On Wednesday, however, Daniel’s long goalscoring slump finally ended, as he scored his first goal of the Olympics and first goal of 2014 in the third period.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Toronto Maple Leafs, February 8, 2014

It’s over. The long nightmare is over. We don’t have to watch another Canucks game for a whole two-and-a-half weeks.

Like most nightmares, it ends at its scariest moment: the first loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs by a Canucks team in over a decade. It happened in what has become typical fashion for this team: a third period collapse. They’ve become just as predictable as third period comebacks were for the Canucks in 2010-11.

That season, the Canucks scored 100 third period goals, leading the league, and out-scored their opponents by 42 goals. This season: second last in the league and they’ve been out-scored by 15 goals in the third period.

Is it fatigue? Trying to defend a one-goal lead too often? Choking? Or is it a psionic attack that is creating the illusion of a massive, terrifying dragon in the offensive zone in the third period then wiping it from their minds before they can talk about it in the post-game interviews?

I’m going with the dragon thing. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Montreal Canadiens, February 6, 2014

Even when the Canucks are good, they’re not good. The Canucks peppered Carey Price with 44 shots, but the net behind him remained only lightly seasoned. Meanwhile, pucks seemed to find their way behind Roberto Luongo in the most convoluted of ways: bouncing off knees, kicked out from under his glove, and kicked in by his own defenceman.

The out-shot the Canadiens by 15 and out-attempted them by 22, but they weren’t just shots from the outside. By Sportsnet’s count, they out-chanced the Canadiens as well. Basically, the Canucks played better than they have in weeks. They still couldn’t score and they still lost. It’s infuriating.

Thankfully, it all ends on Saturday against the Maple Leafs, giving us a two-and-a-half week break from all of this angst. I felt a mixture of dread, anguish, anxiety, and, perversely, hope when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Detroit Red Wings, February 3, 2014

All the losing the Canucks have been doing this season would be a lot more palatable if they were losing in a more entertaining fashion. Like, what if they did a song-and-dance number during each power play instead of trying to score? We’d likely end up with the same result — no power play goals — but with better choreography and more jazz hands.

Alternatively, the Canucks could replace Jannik Hansen with his Muppet doppelgänger, Beaker, and spend the entire game exploding, shrinking, deflating, and electrocuting him. Or Hansen can just start cross-checking referees again. Either would be more entertaining than seeing Hansen constantly miss the net on scoring chances.

Or, best of all, they could kill two birds with one stone and go the Mighty Ducks route: sign a figure skater or two — Johnny Weir retired a couple months ago — who could show off some flashy, entertaining moves, thereby distracting the opposition and allowing the Canucks to easily score.

Sadly, their was no entertainment to be had in this game. It was the Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 of hockey games. I should have gone to Rotten Tomatoes to check the reviews before I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Winnipeg Jets, January 31, 2014

The Canucks hadn’t visited Winnipeg since 1996, which is also the last time the Canucks won a game. At least, that’s how it feels. They actually won just last week, against the former Winnipeg Jets, the Phoenix Coyotes. With this loss against the Jets, the Canucks have now lost three straight and are officially 4-9-2 in January. There’s no denying it: that’s pretty terrible.

The question now is “Are the Canucks bad now?” No, of course not. There’s essentially no way that the past month is who the Canucks are. That said, there’s no way that December was an accurate depiction of the who the Canucks are either. Essentially, the Canucks appear to now be a mediocre team, aiming to sneak into the playoffs and hope for a miraculous run. Since we’ve seen such fantastic highs recently, this is thoroughly depressing.

It’s all about perspective: Maple Leafs fans nearly held a parade last season for a mediocre team. Oilers fans would sell their souls for a mediocre team right now. Those raucous Jets fans in the building for this game are desperately hoping their team gets to the mediocre heights the Canucks currently occupy. Like those fans, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks, January 29, 2014

The Chicago Blackhawks came into town riding a four-game losing streak. (Well, actually, they flew in on a jet. But you know what I mean.) They were struggling, having recently dropped a 5-4 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames, and through the first period and change of this one, it looked like their struggles were going to continue. They appeared to be exactly what the Canucks needed.

Until they weren’t. Shortly after the Canucks went up 2-0, they turned into exactly what the Blackhawks needed. It was an unfortunate inversion, like when that kid swung over the bar and became Inside-Out Boy. Actually, come to think of it, that kid got special abilities. The Canucks appeared to lose whatever abilities they had. And, unlike Inside-Out Boy, they showed very little guts when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Edmonton Oilers, January 27, 2014

David Perron was drafted 26th overall in 2007, a fact that you probably already knew, since the Canucks had the pick right before that, and chose… poorly. This has a tendency to come up.

It definitely came up on Monday night, when the Canucks lost to the Edmonton Oilers, Perron’s current team (who also had two opportunities to draft him, instead picking Alex Plante and Riley Nash, but that doesn’t fit the narrative, so let us digress). Perron was the difference in this one, registering a hat trick, henceforth known as a Perron cocktail. (HEYO!)

So if you think about it, the Canucks really lost this game in 2007. Why did they even bother showing up for this game? It’s been decided for seven years! And why did I even bother watching this game? We will never know. But I watched this game.

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