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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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Philadelphia Flyers, December 30, 2013

The Canucks finished 2013 the exact same way they started it: locked in. Wait. That’s not right.

Truthfully, the Canucks were locked in for this one. Focused. Formidable. They looked pretty good out there, registering 44 shots, the most the Flyers have surrendered all season. But it wasn’t enough, because outshooting your opponent by a ratio of nearly 2 to 1 is meaningless when you outscore them by a ratio of 1 to 1. That’s a one-way ticket to the shootout, which, in Vancouver’s case, usually means a one-way ticket to just one point. That held true in this game. And I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Calgary Flames, December 29, 2013

Like Johnny Galecki, the Canucks were a little rusty. The week-long break between games didn’t do the Canucks any favours, as they struggled to dispatch the lowly Flames. Don’t get me wrong, they were never in danger of losing this game, generally dominated puck possession, and were clearly the better team, but they couldn’t get the puck past the mediocre Reto Berra more than twice.

Frankly, this game had no business being as close as it was: the Canucks out-shot the Flames 30-to-18 and were about as smothering as a helicopter parent in the defensive zone, while Lack was perfect in his first game as the number one goaltender with Roberto Luongo injured. Aside from a strong push at the beginning of the third period, the Flames never looked competitive with the Canucks, which is why a 2-0 win is so underwhelming.

That said, the Canucks didn’t get sucked into playing down to the level of an inferior opponent and came away with a win, so it was still relatively satisfying when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Winnipeg Jets, December 22, 2013

‘Twas three nights before Christmas, in Rogers Arena;
Not a creature was stirring, not even Serena,
Assuming there was a Canucks fan, of course
Whose name is Serena asleep on the concourse.

Actually, though I might be delusional,
Rogers Arena was louder than usual.
Jeering the Jets as they came out a’shufflin’,
Including that portly defenceman named Byfuglien.

He isn’t much cared for out here in Vancouver:
When he was a forward hard to outmaneuver,
Too big and too strong to remove from the crease,
He helped give the Canucks two straight playoff defeats

But now Dustin Byfuglien and pal Andrew Ladd
Are skating for Winnipeg’s Jets (who are bad),
So playing against him just isn’t the same
And neither was watching when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Chicago Blackhawks, December 20, 2013

If you only watched the first period of this game, well, that was stupid of you, wasn’t it? That’s like watching Home Alone and shutting it off right around the time Kevin leaves the church after his heart-to-heat with Old Man Marley. I mean, granted, you’ll see the clip from Angels With Filthy Souls, which I guess could be analogous to Chris Higgins’ breakaway chance, but that’s pretty much it for early entertainment in this slow-building holiday classic.

Now, I can see why you might have wanted to turn it off after the first, since the Canucks didn’t turn it on until around then anyway. They were outshot 10-3 by Chicago in the opening twenty, and two of those shots were by Andrew Alberts and Tom Sestito, who are about as threatening a duo as Harry and Marv in Home Alone. But after that, this thing really picked up, with the Canucks turning the tables on the Blackhawks like Kevin turns the table on Harry and Marv in… okay, I’ll stop.

I decided I would be watching Home Alone tonight while I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Dallas Stars, December 19, 2013

Hey, remember when the Canucks were dynamite on the road but they couldn’t seem to win at home? That was a frustrating time. Fortunately, their recent successful homestand suggests that they’ve gotten that sorted out, and I’m happy to report that they aren’t suddenly and inexplicably plagued by an inversion of the same issue.

That’s what someone who didn’t watch this game might say. So I won’t say it, because I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Minnesota Wild, December 17, 2013

You might have expected a letdown after the Canucks’ big victory over the Boston Bruins in their last game, but the Canucks played very well. While it lacked the emotion of the Bruins game, the Canucks still dominated this game at times and it took some outstanding saves from Josh Harding to keep them from also dominating on the scoreboard.

Don’t get me wrong, the game itself was still a massive letdown. It was an exercise in tedium, built on a foundation of silence in the ironically named Xcel Energy Center. Apparently the “State of Hockey” is a state of quiet introspection, as this was one of the most muted hockey arenas I have ever seen and heard.

It was also a letdown in the sense that it wasn’t decided in regulation or overtime and the Canucks are less deadly in a shootout than Marty McFly. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Boston Bruins, December 14, 2013

Like Jenny Shepard and Agent Gibbs, the Canucks and Bruins have history together, so it’s really odd that no one made any mention of it leading up to or during the game. There wasn’t a single reference to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final from CBC’s broadcast, fans on Twitter, or players in the game.

Instead, it was treated like a normal, ordinary game. While it may have lacked drama, emotion, and anything resembling entertainment value, the Canucks were just happy to get the two points with the modest victory.

I became a horrible liar after I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Edmonton Oilers, December 13, 2013

It would have been really easy for the Canucks to overlook this game. They’ve got the Boston Bruins in town gearing up for Saturday night’s big showdown, for one thing, and that’s a pretty big circle on the calendar — the sort of circle that strikes through the dates on either side of it. Plus Beyoncé released an album last night completely out of the blue. How can you think about anything else?

Fortunately, the Canucks didn’t overlook this one at all. Heck, if anyone did, it was the Oilers. At first I thought they, like many of the Rogers Arena faithful, had just been a little confused by the 6pm start. But they never showed up. Like Patrick Bateman, they were simply not there. They were far less menacing and murdery, however. Honestly, I think I posed a greater threat to the Canucks than the Oilers did tonight, and I watched this game.

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Canucks in ugly Christmas sweaters: our ten favourites

The Canucks’ annual Dice and Ice event is always a source of mirth and blog fodder, and this year’s event, held Wednesday night, was no exception. If you haven’t seen the video of the team’s quartet of rookies providing backing vocals for Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You”, for instance, you should probably go ahead and do that.

But the highlight of the evening, in this guy’s opinion, were the ugly Christmas sweaters the Canucks donned for the occasion. A few of the photos made the rounds late last night, thanks to Roberto Luongo and underrated Smylosophere contributor Bure’s Triple Deke.

There were many ugly Christmas sweaters, however — not to mention ugly Christmas vests. The Canucks debuted the whole winter collection in a fashion show and, because there is a God, many photos were taken. On Thursday, the team shared a gallery of promenade. Here are our 10 favourites.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Carolina Hurricanes, December 9, 2013

Mike Gillis has been somewhat justifiably criticized for his drafting record as the Canucks’ GM, with not a single one of his draft picks currently in the lineup. Sure Jordan Schroeder is on the Injured Reserve list, Zack Kassian was acquired for a Gillis pick, and there are numerous promising prospects or more recent mintage on the way, but the fact remains: there are no Gillis draft picks in the current lineup.

Where Gillis has done well, however, is filling in gaps in the prospect pool with free agent signings and two of them made Gillis look good in this game, as Chris Tanev scored early in the first period and Eddie Lack made it stand up as the gamewinner by pitching his first career shutout. I saw a youth movement, of sorts, when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Colorado Avalanche, December 8, 2013

The Canucks haven’t had much luck this season holding on to 1-0 leads in the third period. They’ve been in that situation twice, and they’ve lost both times, surrendering two quick goals to the San Jose Sharks, then surrendering two quicker goals to the Chicago Blackhawks a week later. “I wonder who’s going to score for Colorado”, I found myself thinking when the third period began, “And I wonder who’s going to score for Colorado 10 seconds after that.”

Sure enough, there were two goals scored in the first 10 minutes of the third. But here’s the wacky part: the Canucks scored them both. With the trauma of the worst homestand ever still fresh in my mind, I was pleasantly surprised when I watched this game.

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