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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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Phoenix Coyotes, January 26, 2014

The big story of the game wasn’t the surprising number of goals or the still-struggling power play. It wasn’t Martin Hanzal, who injured three different Canucks with cross-checks in the last game between these two teams, with all three missing this game — Henrik Sedin and Mike Santorelli due to the injuries caused by Hanzal, with David Booth a healthy scratch. The big story wasn’t even the sub-par goaltending from two players heading to Sochi for Team Canada.

Nope, the big story was a smudge on the main camera on Sportsnet Pacific’s broadcast that, although it did not obscure view of the play, was impossible to ignore once you noticed it on your own or it was pointed out by someone else. This small annoyance became a big bother as the game progressed, to the point that Sportsnet Pacific felt the need to tweet out during the first intermission that the smudge had been cleaned.

One problem: it hadn’t. The smudge was still there during the second period and wasn’t cleaned until the second intermission. I spent two-thirds of the time dighting the urge to obsessive-compulsively clean my TV as I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Edmonton Oilers, January 21, 2014

It’s been nearly a decade since the Canucks played a game without Henrik Sedin in the lineup. Henrik’s ironman streak, the 6th longest in NHL history, was broken on Tuesday against the Oilers and Canucks fans were curious to see how the team would perform without their Art Ross and Hart trophy winning first line centre. Thankfully, they were eased into Henrik’s absence with a game against the Edmonton Oilers, the worst team in the Western Conference.

While the Canucks lack of finish kept things close, for the first time in a long while, the Canucks looked like they were fully in control of the direction of a game. Meanwhile, I was fully in control of the direction of my gaze I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Calgary Flames, January 18, 2014

Like the Arcade Fire without their lead vocalist, the Vancouver Canucks came into this game in desperate need of a win. Fortunately, through 48 games, the Calgary Flames are practically a dispensary of wins. You don’t even need a prescription. Their wins are over the counter, like weak codeine products.

The Canucks got what they came for too, although it wasn’t quite as easy as all that. This game was tense. Heck, it was, like the verb “was” itself, past tense. And speaking of proper tense usage, I did not watch this game — I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Los Angeles Kings, January 13, 2014

The big story heading into this game is how the Canucks would respond in their first game against the Los Angeles Kings since Dustin Brown injured Roberto Luongo. I wondered, personally, if the fans were out for more blood than the Canucks themselves, that, perhaps, the Canucks would be more focussed on winning the game (and passing the Kings in the Pacific Division standings), than exacting retribution.

Not so much.

It was clear right from puck drop that this game was about sending a message and establishing an identity as a team that stands up for their teammates, won’t be bullied by physical play, and is difficult to play against. Not a single guff was taken in this game; all guffs remained the possession of their original owners.

Really, it was hardly a hockey game at all. It was an absurd spectacle and a thoroughly entertaining one. I thoroughly enjoyed it when I watched this “game”.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, January 7, 2014

Vancouver led this game 4-2 with only a few minutes to play. They looked on their way to a comfortable victory. And then Daniel Sedin was hit in the genitals with a slapshot.

Let it be henceforth known that hitting Daniel Sedin in the genitals is painfully unlucky — and not just for Daniel Sedin, and his genitals. The entire team looked shell-shocked by the junk shot, and while Daniel would recover, the team never did. Shortly thereafter, the game was tied.

It was impossible not to feel this one. Never has the phrase “We are all Canucks” seemed more apt. We all took one in the beanbags tonight, Vancouver. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Anaheim Ducks, January 5, 2013

Like Bilbo Baggins in the Fellowship of the Ring, the Canucks looked like butter scraped over too much bread. The Canucks appeared to spend all their available energy in the first period and spent the rest of the game making like the Seawall in a windstorm, just sitting there, withstanding wave after wave.

Considering I just compared the Canucks to a tiny hobbit who spent a lot of time being completely invisible and an inanimate object that massive numbers of people walk all over every day, you can probably guess that this game didn’t go too well for Vancouver. It would have gone a lot worse, however, if not for the efforts of Eddie “Electric Sex” Lack, so named because his legs are sexier than a leg lamp with a fishnet stocking on it.

Lack made save after save, but must have forgotten to put in the Konami code at the beginning of the game, as he ran out of saves at the last second. I wish I had played Contra, but instead I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Los Angeles Kings, January 4, 2014

Roberto Luongo wasn’t overly concerned about being rusty in his return versus the Los Angeles Kings, and now we know why: the Canucks had a plan — a plan to put the proverbial white vinegar to Funny Bob right away: get outplayed. Simply put, be awful. By being ineffective with the puck and sloppy enough defensively for the Kings to register a season-high 49 shots, they allowed Luongo to see enough action that, by the second period, he was basically playing his second game back. Clever, clever.

Of course, once it became clear that Luongo was back in form, the Canucks probably should have joined him. But by then they may have just been enjoying the show. Is it their fault that Luongo was the best Canuck tonight? Wait. Actually, it is. My mistake. Like all the guys wearing white sweaters in the Staples Center this evening, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Tampa Bay Lightning, January 1, 2014

If your New Year’s Resolution was to try to be more optimistic about the Canucks, well, their first game of 2014 probably didn’t help at all. The Canucks were, to put it gently, a crap factory versus the Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday night, outplayed in every facet of the game.

John Tortorella called it the club’s worst game of the year. Was it? Yes, because the year is less than a full day old, so they haven’t had time to play any other games. Technically, it was also their best game of the year, and I watched this game.

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