I Watched This Game: Canucks at Philadelphia Flyers, October 15, 2013

The Canucks have come from behind in every single one of their victories this season, which is simultaneously encouraging and frightening. After all, it’s great to see that the Canucks aren’t down and out whenever they go down by a goal or two, but it’s disconcerting to see them down by a goal or two so often.

This game was true to form, as the Canucks only had the lead for two-and-a-half minutes. Fortunately, those two-and-a-half minutes were at the end of the game, which are the most important two-and-a-half minutes. I watched those minutes, along with all the other ones, when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Montreal Canadiens, October 12, 2013

Saturday night’s affair between the Canucks and the Canadiens is all the evidence we needed that Vancouver is superior to Montreal. Not the hockey teams, mind you — not after this debacle. The cities. How else to explain all the Habs fans in Vancouver? How else to explain why the lower-bowl was more red than blue for this one? If the city of Montreal was so great, their fans would have stayed there.

That’s about the only positive I could mine from this game, which was about as painful to watch as the Flaman Fitness commercials that aired during it. Trust me. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs San Jose Sharks, October 10, 2013

So the Sharks are apparently going to be pretty decent this season. One game removed from destroying Alain Vigneault’s New York Rangers, 9-2, it’s understandable that they would be a little cocky coming into Vancouver. Turns out they had every right to be.

With their 4-1 victory at Rogers Arena, they have now out-scored their opponents 21-5. The Canucks, unfortunately, have been that opponent twice already, leading to some consternation among Canucks fans, particularly since that makes 9 straight losses to the Sharks, 11 if you include the pre-season. In my opinion, though, it’s time to stop worrying about that. Why worry about something inevitable. It’s clear to me that the Sharks are going to go 82-0 this season and will never lose to the Canucks again.

No point fretting about it. Just learn to stop worrying and love the bomb. After all, the Canucks will lose 5 games to the Sharks, but so will the rest of the Pacific Division. No big deal. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs New Jersey Devils, October 8, 2013

This may come as a surprise, but Tuesday’s game at Rogers Arena was not a actually a battle between Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. Unexpectedly, the two goaltenders brought teams with them. Given the hype heading into the game, I was expecting Luongo and Schneider to engage in some sort of 1-on-1 competition. Basketball, maybe?

Instead, they played hockey. And I watched them do so when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Calgary Flames, October 6, 2013

With the Canucks playing their first of 17 (!!!) back-to-backs Sunday night in Calgary, John Tortorella turned, as many coaches do in such situations, to his backup netminder. That meant a couple of firsts for Eddie Lack. His start was the first of any rookie netminder this season, and more importantly, it was also his first ever NHL start. Granted, after hearing Calgary’s in-arena announcer introduce the Scotiabank Saddledome to their 2013-14 Calgary Flames (Ben Street! Lance Bouma! Joe Colborne!), you can understand why it might not have felt like an NHL start.

Fortunately, the Canucks are a tight-knit group. Sensing Lack’s skepticism over the NHL-ness of the Flames’ roster, Henrik, Daniel and the gang committed themselves to making the Flames seem like a truly formidable foe, even placing the outcome of the game entirely in Lack’s hands, and all for his benefit. After two periods of well-meaning listlessness, once they certain Lack would cherish his first start forever, they stormed back and won it for him. It was sweet to see, and I did see, because I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Edmonton Oilers, October 5, 2013

We saw some changes this offseason, but one thing remains the same as it ever was: if the Canucks are the late game and the Leafs are the early game, the Leafs game is going to go to a shootout. Sure enough, we missed the Kypreos intro, the debut of the weird lightsaber stanchions, and the anthem as the Leafs and the Senators went to penalty shots to decide the second point. It never fails. Infuriating.

Finally, Hockey Night in Canada turned things over to Vancouver. Three minutes later, Ladislav Smid had bowled over both Sedins with one check, Jeff Petry had burned by Alex Edler then beaten Roberto Luongo with a bad angle shot, and Kevin Bieksa had lost an edge, inadvertently tripped David Perron as he was falling, and put the Oilers a powerplay goal from a two-goal lead. Go back, I screamed. Go back right now. Fortunately, the Canucks recovered from that rough start in a hurry, putting together a pretty decent first home game. And I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at San Jose Sharks, October 3, 2013

When the first game of the regular season is a loss, it’s tempting to keep talking about the process, individual performances, and positive signs like it’s still the pre-season. After all, it’s a long season with plenty of time for the Canucks to adjust to a new system and for the roster to evolve into its final form. Like a Pokemon, it takes a lot of battles, a trade, or…uh, an elemental stone. Okay, the metaphor breaks down a little.

In any case, I say forget being level-headed. This is the first game in months where the result actually matters. I say we revel in this loss. Let it hurt. Get upset. Allow the loss to get under your skin and piss you off. You can wait until tomorrow to realize that it’s just one game out of 82. For now, let this game matter, because games that matter are way more fun than games that don’t matter.

This game? The one that mattered? I watched this game.

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I Watched This (Pre-Season) Game: Canucks vs New York Rangers, September 26, 2013

When an old flame comes back to town, you want to make them miss you. You want to show them how much worse off they are without you. You want to make them regret that break-up.

That’s what the Canucks did Thursday. With Alain Vigneault back in Rogers Arena for the first time since his dismissal, with his new flame, the New York Rangers, in tow, the Canucks got all done up and they flaunted their goods. They made the Rangers, that hussy, look silly. They strutted their stuff. They flexed their game. And I watched this game.

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I Watched This (Pre-Season) Game: Canucks at San Jose Sharks, September 24, 2013

In many ways, the pre-season is about finding out what doesn’t work. You find out which prospects aren’t ready for the NHL just yet, you find out which line combinations are unlikely to gel, and you find out which defencemen should never, ever, ever be paired together.

In this game, we got the latter. Andrew Alberts and Yannick Weber are, individually, reasonable depth options on defence: not NHL regulars, but players that can cycle in and out of the bottom pairing as needed. Together, they are an endless void of despair and suffering. I was provoked to hyperbole when I watched this game.

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I Watched This (Pre-season) Game: Canucks vs Phoenix Coyotes, September 23, 2013

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I was really looking forward to Monday night’s preseason game. I know, I know. Exhibition games aren’t something one generally looks forward to (unless you have tickets and they were cheap), what with their absence of things like meaning, effort, or good hockey players. But after the shenanigans that spilled out of Saturday’s game versus the Oilers and filled the last two days with bickering and suspensions — after 48 hours of hearing from Edmonton fans with nauseating regularity — I was glad to see the puck drop on a new game.

As it turns out, my optimism was warranted. For the first time this preseason, the Canucks showed up, scoring six goals, and looking like a team that, at the very least, can beat up on a mixed roster of Phoenix Coyotes and non-NHLers wearing Phoenix Coyotes uniforms. And I watched this game.

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I Watched This (Pre-season) Game: Canucks at Edmonton Oilers, September 21, 2013

When we here at PITB first exhorted Canucks fans to avoid “flipping the pool,” as it were, it was on the eve of the 2011 playoffs. We encouraged fans to keep from panicking in case of a post-season loss that could not be explained in light of the Canucks’ dominant regular season. Don’t panic! Don’t freak out! Don’t flip the pool!

An early round exit from the playoffs after a Presidents’ Trophy-winning season? That might be a reason to flip a pool. And yet, just a couple years later, we’re saying the exact same thing just a few games into the pre-season. It seems like Canucks’ fans threshold for panic has been significantly lowered as the Canucks’ perceived Stanley Cup window has begun to close. The Canucks are 0-3 in the pre-season and there are actually people worried about it.

Look: the Canucks need to play better. A good start would be better players, such as a veteran top-six forward or six. The Canucks didn’t bring the Sedins, Kesler, Burrows, Hamhuis, Bieksa, Garrison, or Luongo. The Oilers had Hemsky, Hall, Eberle, Gagner, Smyth, and Yakupov. Don’t flip the pool.

I watched this game.

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I Watched This (Pre-season) Game: Canucks vs Edmonton Oilers, September 18, 2013

I hate to say it, you guys, but it’s over. It’s done.

I’m not talking about Wednesday night’s hockey game. It’s over and done too, of course, but that’s a good thing. I celebrate it’s completion, as this was preseason hockey at its finest, which is to say that it was particularly not fine. What I am talking about is the Canucks’ 2013-14 season. It’s done. Finished. I’m calling it right now.

The Canucks are now 0-2 in the preseason, leaving them in serious danger of not making the regular season, and I think it’s safe to say that the John Tortorella experiment is a wash, the kids aren’t all right, the Sedins have lost a step, and it’s time to blow it up. All of these things were evident when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Playoff Game: Canucks at San Jose Sharks, May 7, 2013

Trailing by a goal and facing elimination heading into the third period, Ryan Kesler made it very clear what the Vancouver Canucks needed to do to keep their scant playoff hopes alive. “We just got to go out,” he told Farhan Lalji, all fiery determination and temerity, “and compete like bastards.”

Now, admittedly, I’m not entirely sure how a bastard competes. Did he mean the Jon Snow type of bastard? Or the Inglourious, Nazi-killing type of basterd? Personally, I would have appreciated Kesler spelling it out loud instead of just saying it.

Either way, the Canucks did indeed come out in the third period like a group of lovechildren and, by the eleven-minute mark, they had turned a one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead. Unfortunately, Kesler’s speech had also inspired the officials to officiate like bastards. Two illegitimate powerplay goals against later, the Vancouver Canucks were eliminated. For the last time in 2013, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Playoff Game: Canucks at San Jose Sharks, May 5, 2013

While Roberto Luongo played very well through the first two games of the series and wasn’t to blame for either loss, you had to know he wasn’t happy about giving up three goals in each game and particularly one in the final minute in game two to send it to overtime. You had to know that he would go into game three hungry to improve upon his performance.

He absolutely succeeded, shutting out the Sharks, looking as confident and collected as ever. He finished with 10 saves and…wait. 10 saves? That can’t be right. Surely the Sharks weren’t held to just 10 shots in a playoff game. And what’s this about the Sharks being up 3-0 in the series? Something’s not right here.

Oh. Luongo didn’t start. I swear, I was paying attention when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Playoff Game: Canucks vs San Jose Sharks, May 3, 2013

One day while growing up on my parents’ farm, I was playing outside with a couple friends. It was summer and were having a water fight, running through the fields. The sun was shining, birds were singing, and I was laughing. Life could not have been better.

Then I ran full-speed, directly into an electric fence along the cattle run. It hit me directly in the gut, simultaneously taking my feet out from under me and shocking me. Normally when you get shocked by an electric fence, you pull away immediately. Since I was running, I couldn’t pull away from the wire. Also, I was wet from the water fight. I went from joyful laughing to dry heaving in an instant. It felt like I had been punched in the gut and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get enough oxygen in my lungs.

The end of this game was like an electric wire to the gut of the Canucks, except it wasn’t a fence built for cows — it was one of the fences from Jurassic Park. I needed Dr. Alan Grant to perform CPR after I watched this game.

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I Watched This Playoff Game: Canucks vs San Jose Sharks, May 1, 2013

The playoffs didn’t exactly open the way that the Canucks hoped they would. What they wanted, and what most in Vancouver wanted, I think, was for the Canucks to kick off the 2013 postseason with 16 consecutive wins. Instead, they started with one loss, meaning it will take them 17 games at least to win the Stanley Cup. Nuts. So close.

What went wrong in this one? Nothing whatsoever, if you completely discount the 3rd period, where everything went wrong. If the game were 20 minutes (and it started after a 20 minute warm-up period) the Canucks win this game. Unfortunately, playing 60 minutes is one of the rules of NHL hockey — even in the playoffs, when a bunch of other rules are abandoned — so the Canucks lost this game. And I watched this game.

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2013 Playoff Preview: Round One, Canucks vs Sharks

In the wild, orca whales tend to kill and eat sharks, including great white sharks. In the battle of Free Willy versus Jaws, Willy would win.

On the ice, however, it’s a lot tougher to call. The Vancouver Canucks will face the San Jose Sharks in round one of the playoffs, with the first game starting in just a couple hours. Normally, this is when we’d look at the season series to see how the two teams match up, but the season series isn’t particularly useful this time around.

Sure, the Sharks won all three of their meetings this season, but those games came before Derek Roy and Ryan Kesler were in the lineup and only one of those games featured the Sharks’ Brent Burns at forward, where he’s excelled. Also, Cory Schneider started all three of those games and he won’t be in net for game one of the playoffs, with Roberto Luongo slated to start with Schneider our due to injury.

The two teams have changed significantly throughout the season, with the Sharks shedding multiple players before the trade deadline and the Canucks continually rotating injured players in and out of the lineup. So, what can we expect from these two teams? How do they matchup? Let’s break it down as best we can:

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Hot or Cold: who’s streaking into the playoffs?

It’s not always the best team that wins in the playoffs, but the hottest team. If the best team in the NHL always went on to win the Stanley Cup, we wouldn’t bother with the playoffs and we would replace the Presidents’ Trophy with the Cup. After all, 82 games (or even 48) should be enough to separate the wheat from the chaff and decide who is the best in the league.

Let’s face it, very few people truly believe that. In hockey, we celebrate difficulty. To win the Stanley Cup, you have to go through the long grind of the playoffs and survive, facing the top teams in the league night after night and proving that you’re better than they are.

The team that survives isn’t always the most talented team or the most well-built team. It’s the team that hits a hot streak at the right time, avoids injuries, and takes advantage of their chances. Some teams ride a hot goaltender all the way to the Cup. Others have their offence click into place and light up their opposition. With that in mind, we’re going to look at who on the Canucks is on a streak heading into the playoffs, hot or cold. But we can’t do it alone (particularly since we barely believe such streaks matter), so we’ve enlisted some help.

In honour of NHL 94′s 20th anniversary, we’re please to bring in special guest analyst (and noted streak fetishist), Ron Barr.*

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Edmonton Oilers, April 27, 2013

The Canucks closed out the 48-game 2013 regular season the same way it began: by surrendering seven goals in a humiliating loss. Now, granted, this one isn’t quite as concerning as the season-opener against the Anaheim Ducks, which featured the full Canucks lineup, save Ryan Kesler. This time around, the Canucks flipped the script, icing a lineup that featured Ryan Kesler and little else. Jason Garrison, Dan Hamhuis, Alex Edler, Alex Burrows, and Daniel Sedin all sat this one out.

So did Henrik Sedin, although not officially. The Canucks’ captain started this game between Steve Pinizzotto and Dale Weise, and we were excited to watch him spend the whole game there before demanding a trade to Buffalo, as one does after such deployment. But instead, Henrik just left the game. As it turned out, he was only dressed so as to protect his iron man streak, and once he had done what he needed with one shift, he promptly suited up and called it a night. Like Henrik Sedin, I watched this game.

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Canucks get Round 1 date with San Jose Sharks, who are, we remind you, bad

With their loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, the Sharks close out the 2013 season as the sixth seed in the Western Conference. This means a first-round playoff date with the third seed, your Vancouver Canucks.

We’ll have plenty of coverage leading up to this series (as well as during it), just as we always do, but for tonight, we would simply like to remind you of something.

This post originally appeared on May 13, 2011, in advance of the Canucks’ Western Conference Final series versus the Sharks two years ago. It was true then and it’s true now: the San Jose Sharks are bad.

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Last-minute cramming: a 2013 Canucks season review

In a sense, it’s been a long season. But in another sense (the literal sense), it’s been a short season, a whirlwind. It’s possible that you missed it all. But now the playoffs are here and we’d hate for you to be so far behind you can’t enjoy them. Here’s a quick review of the 2013 season.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Anaheim Ducks, April 26, 2013

If this was Roberto Luongo’s last hurrah in Vancouver, it wasn’t a particularly good one. After playing their best game of the season against their hated rival, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Canucks settled in and played a thoroughly mediocre game against their mildly-disliked non-rival, the Anaheim Ducks. With both teams stuck in their positions in the Western Conference, with no way to improve or injure their place in the standings, neither team had much to play for.

Still, it’s entirely possible that this was Luongo’s last start as a Canuck in Vancouver, which should have been some motivation. While the Canucks seemed to wake up in the third period and made a concerted effort to win the game for Luongo, by then it was too little, too late, two-one. And then three-one. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks, April 22, 2013

There’s a lot to take away from this game, but let’s begin this recap with something no one can EVER take away: with the win versus the Chicago Blackhwks, the Canucks clinched their fifth consecutive Northwest Division title! Five in a row, baby!

Say what you will about the division title. Sure, it’s as easy to get as your first Pokemon. But the Canucks were the 1956-1960 Montreal Canadiens of the Northwest Division: that’s a half-decade of pure, uncut domination. I watched the Canucks cement a mother-flipping dynasty when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Detroit Red Wings, April 20, 2013

Throughout the past few months, we have generally emphasized process over results. In the middle of the season, the Canucks were generally outplaying their opponents, but couldn’t string wins together, leading to all sorts of consternation among Canucks nation. We counselled patience, as the Canucks’ process seemed to be sounds, producing positive puck possession, even as it didn’t produce results.

Over the last month, however, the process has been questionable at best. The Canucks have been outshot by some pretty terrible teams, looked lackadaisical in their own end, and struggled to create quality scoring chances. And, of course, now they’re getting the results.

I give up. Nothing makes sense anymore. Heck, the Red Wings might miss the playoffs while the Blue Jackets get in. Up is down, left is right, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria. The only thing that hasn’t changed: I watched this game.

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Canucks to host one of six outdoor games next season in NHL’s stadium series

When the Vancouver Canucks debuted their Vancouver Millionaires jerseys back in March, we wondered aloud if the original plan had been to debut the historic duds versus the Ottawa Senators, the team the Millionaires defeated back in 1915 for Vancouver’s lone Stanley Cup.

No, we were told when asked (proving the worst thing you can ever do is ask), that had never been the plan.

That said, if the Canucks did want to sport their heritage jerseys versus the Senators, it would appear that next March will yield a golden opportunity. According to multiple reports, the league is planning to go from one outdoor game to six in 2013-14, with the sixth and final game in what’s being called a stadium series happening just next door to Rogers Arena in BC Place. Vancouver will obviously be one of the two teams. The other club: the Ottawa Senators, who have been sore about the way we stole Cyclone Taylor and then their Stanley Cup for 99 long years.

GRUDGE MATCH.

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