I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Phoenix Coyotes, December 6, 2013

The Canucks and the NHL spent most of this week making a big promotional push for the upcoming Heritage Classic. That in mind, we probably should have expected the first game after tickets became available to continue the promotional push. Back at Rogers Arena after a successful road trip, the Canucks did everything short of giving away the win to make fans rue their homecoming. They played a snoozefest of a game in the building, then reminded fans of the last brutal homestand by squandering a two-goal lead late before gutting out the win in overtime.

It was yet another reminder that, for whatever reason, this team isn’t very good at Rogers Arena. If only there was another building… Say! There is! And on March 3, the Canucks will be there. It’ll be like an away game, but at home! Tickets are still available. I watched this [Heritage Classic commercial] game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Nashville Predators, December 3, 2013

It’s amazing how first impressions work. The first period of this game was as dull as a pencil at a poorly maintained mini-golf course. It was just plain unexciting hockey, with little energy, few scoring chances, and just 13 shots on goal between the two teams. That lacklustre start coloured the rest of the game in my eyes, perhaps unfairly.

After all, both teams mustered 30+ shots, there were some fine saves, and the Canucks put together some offence and earned the win, so the game couldn’t have been all bad. But that first period convinced me that I was in for a tedious time and confirmation bias set in: I expected tedium and I received it.

As Harvey Danger reminded us in the late 90′s, if you’re bored, then you’re boring. Well then, I was really, really boring when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Carolina Hurricanes, December 1, 2013

From how the season has gone so far, it would seem that the Canucks have angered the hockey gods, who appear to be an ill-tempered and vengeful pantheon. They also appear to be old-school gods, who require sacrifice in order to be appeased.

Fortunately, the Canucks seemed to finally figure this out against the Hurricanes. They sacrificed their bodies on the altars of the hockey gods and were rewarded with three goals and a win. Even more fortunately, the hockey gods didn’t require anyone actually die and every injured Canuck returned to and finished the game. I also finished the game, when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at New York Rangers, November 30, 2013

In the classic Simpsons episode, “Cape Feare”, there is a sequence wherein Sideshow Bob steps on a series of rakes that repeatedly whack him in the face. Just rake after rake after rake, met with shuddering and a despairing groan.

I think you can see where I’m going with this. Against the Rangers, the Canucks just kept stepping on rakes, long after it had stopped being funny. Some gags get funnier with repetition, but the Canucks’ tendency to give up the first goal and inability to score goals of their own is getting old and tired. Time for some new material, guys. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks, November 23, 2013

This game featured 5 fewer goals than the previous night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets and was simultaneously 5 times more exciting to watch. The game had an insane tempo, like John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”, with both teams flying, particularly in the first period. It was fast-paced fun, like Contra, but with an even less satisfying ending.

Once again, the Canucks played well, out-shooting the Blackhawks 36-29, but just couldn’t score more than one goal. That said, the “played well, didn’t win” narrative isn’t a particularly fun one to reiterate again and again. I could go for a few “played terribly, got lucky” games any day now. I was entertained, but disappointed, when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Florida Panthers, November 19, 2013

Well, that game was lousier than a kid with pediculosis capitis. The Canucks started poorly, were mediocre in the middle, then just plain awful at the end. They were bad and they should feel bad. They sucked harder than someone trying to drink a Slurpee through an 11 kilometre long straw.

The Canucks came out flatter than Wayne Knight’s character in Space Jam. Or Michael Jordan’s acting in Space Jam, for that matter. Regrettably, unlike in Space Jam, Bill Murray didn’t show up out of nowhere to save the day. I wish I had watched Space Jam, but, instead, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs San Jose Sharks, November 14, 2013

Some losses hurt just a little: a tiny pinch that lasts a split second, then is gone. Other losses, the blowouts, are more of a dull ache that can be pushed aside with a little effort. But then there are the truly painful losses: the ones that never should have happened. That was this one, as the Canucks were the better team for the vast majority of the game, but uncaring fate snatched the game out of their hands.

This game was more painful than a window factory. It was more painful than that pun. Trips to the dentist hurt less, because they at least give you a sticker, a toothbrush, and your pick from the treasure chest at the end of your visit. Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt” hurt more — because, dude, it’s the man in black — but this game came close. I put on “Someone Like You” by Adele and cried after I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Anaheim Ducks, November 10, 2013

The Canucks’ California road trip started out strong, not unlike Kevin McAllister’s trip to New York in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Like Kevin, who made quick work of the bumbling staff of that upscale hotel using his handy-dandy recorder and visited a pretty sweet toy store, they had some fun early on. But then, just like Kevin, they ran into two familiar foes halfway through the trip and suddenly the whole thing went to crap.

But unlike Kevin McAllister in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, the Canucks’ foes were not bumbling, and they weren’t played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern; the Canucks were unable to bait these foes into a house of horrors, where they were free to pelt them with bricks and make them fall several stories through unexplained holes in the floor; and neither were they able to get any help from the creepy pigeon lady in the park. As you can tell, I have watched that movie several times. I also watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Los Angeles Kings, November 9, 2013

If you’ve been wondering what it would take for John Tortorella to refrain from giving the Sedins 20+ minutes a night, we found out the answer in this game. All it took was for the Canucks to be down 4 goals heading into the third period with no hope whatsoever of coming back to win on the first night of back-to-back games against divisional rivals. So, maybe don’t expect it to happen too often.

This was the first time this season that Daniel Sedin has played fewer than 20 minutes and only the second time for Henrik. The Sedins played just two shifts in the third period, with only one of those shifts played together. Essentially, a few minutes into the third period, Tortorella quite understandably gave up on this game and began looking ahead to Sunday’s meeting with the Anaheim Ducks. I wish I could have done the same, but then I wouldn’t be able to truthfully say, “I watched this game.”

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

The Vancouver Canucks went into San Jose eager to halt their nine-game losing streak to the Sharks. At the same time, Henrik Sedin was looking to keep his 12-game point streak rolling. With the Canucks loading up their top line, it seemed likely that they wouldn’t be able to break the former streak without continuing the latter.

Surprisingly, that wasn’t the case. The secondary and tertiary scoring came through for the Canucks, with two goals each from the second and third lines, while the primary scoring took a break. Henrik failed to register a point for only the second time this season, but the Canucks still beat the Sharks handily, ending both streaks.

My streak of watching games, however, remains unbroken, mainly because I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Toronto Maple Leafs, November 2, 2013

Pavel Bure scored 27 goals in 35 career games against the Toronto Maple Leafs, so the highlight video played prior to his number getting retired was littered with goals against the Buds. The Canucks were inspired, taking it to the Leafs right from puck drop with one of their most complete efforts of the season. It was a fitting tribute to the Russian Rocket, making for a memorable evening for Canucks fans.

Leafs fans, on the other hand, will be doing their best to forget, particularly the ones that spent hard-earned cash on tickets to see the game in-person. You may know such a fan: they were likely talking a lot of smack heading into the weekend about how the Leafs were first in the Eastern Division and were going to destroy the Canucks. They’re the ones who will be sneaking into work quietly on monday, eating lunch in their cubicle, and waiting until everyone else leaves before heading home.

Make sure you to ask these people pointed questions about their experience at the game and e-mail them YouTube links to every Canucks goal, asking if they can point out where in the crowd they are. I saw some sad Leafs fans when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Washington Capitals, October 28, 2013

Here’s what some idiot had to say about this game when he was previewing it in last Wednesday’s Vancouver Sun: “If you skip just one game this year, I’d make it this one. Teams tend to be at their absolute worst right after they return from lengthy road trips, and with the Canucks facing the high-flying, Alex Ovechkin-led Washington Capitals, this is probably your most likely candidate for an embarrassing, early-season blowout.”

Well then. That is most definitely not what happened in this one. Instead, we got a dominant performance from the Canucks and one of the most entertaining games of the year. I sincerely hope you didn’t listen to this idiot, and what an idiot he is. Does he even watch the games? The answer is yes, because that idiot was me a week ago, and boy did I feel like an idiot when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at St. Louis Blues, October 25, 2013

Even before this game started, the Canucks had already had the most successful 7-game road trip in franchise history, with a 4-1-1 record. Sure, two of those games came after regulation, but it’s still an impressive record, considering the 7 games of the trip came in the space of just 11 days.

As a result, a loss against the Blues wouldn’t just be unsurprising, it would be borderline acceptable. This was the second game of a back-to-back, with significant travel in-between those two games, while facing several injuries, with the backup goaltender in net, and multiple AHL-level players in the lineup. To top it off, the Blues are a very good team, off to a 5-1-1 start, and were well-rested to boot, as it had been a week since their last game.

Even getting a point out of this game would have been an accomplishment. Somehow, the Canucks managed to extract two. I was pleasantly surprised when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at New Jersey Devils, October 24, 2013

You had to know that at some point on this road trip, the Vancouver Canucks were going to hit a serious wall, and the quality of their play would suffer. After all, you can only play so many bad teams before you forget how to be good.

Sure enough, that’s what happened Thursday night versus the New Jersey Devils. For two periods, the Canucks hung in there, clinging to the memory of a decent hockey club. But in the third period, visits to Buffalo, Columbus, Philadelphia, and now New Jersey finally caught up with them, and they just forgot how to do hockey. It was bad. Fortunately, Roberto Luongo was there to bail them out, shutting the door the rest of the way to salvage the two points this type of hockey normally fails to yield. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at New York Islanders, October 22, 2013

After an incredibly entertaining game in Pittsburgh, Sunday’s game in Columbus was a bit of a snooze fest. Fortunately, the Canucks and Islanders apparently got together before Tuesday’s game in Long Island and decided that sanity is overrated, because this game was crazy in the coconut.

This game was more cray-cray than a pair of Cray supercomputers. If this game had membranes, they would be locked up in an insane asylum. It was more screwball than Hitchcock’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Even Bonkers D. Bobcat thought this game was a little much. I lost 1d4 Sanity Points when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Pittsburgh Penguins, October 19, 2013

The Canucks have looked quite good at times this season. The only problem is those times have generally been at the same time they’ve been facing some of their weakest competition. Their wins have come against weaker teams — the Oilers, Flames, Devils, Flyers, and Sabres — while they’ve lost twice to the powerhouse Sharks and couldn’t stick with the Canadiens after an embarrassing own goal.

The Canucks have faced legitimate questions about whether they can keep up with the stronger teams in the league, but this game against the Penguins, despite the end result, proved that they can. This was, by far, the most entertaining game of the season, even though it was obscenely early in the morning for a Saturday. Yes, 10 am is early for me. I’m a night owl.

Thankfully, the Canucks and Penguins kept me awake and alert when I watched this game.

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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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