Spitballin’ on breakaways, breakouts, and All-Star breaks

Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few quick topics.

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Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa are falling short of expectations

The Canucks have a problem on defence. They’re currently giving up 2.89 goals per game, tied for 12th worst in the NHL. Part of the problem has been their goaltending, which has been outstanding one game, disastrous the next, and mediocre otherwise, with Ryan Miller and Eddie Lack combining for an atrocious .900 save percentage.

But there are defensive issues as well and two players in particular who have underwhelmed in that regard: Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa. For the first time as a Canuck, Hamhuis is a negative possession player, while Bieksa is making a mess of relatively soft minutes.

Both Hamhuis and Bieksa were expected to bounce back from pedestrian seasons under John Tortorella, returning to a partnership that was extremely fruitful as a shutdown pairing under Alain Vigneault. Instead, they’ve struggled and seen their partnership broken up once again. What’s the problem and how can the Canucks fix it?

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Big Numbers: Last chance to see Selanne; Kassian tallies assists, Hamhuis draws penalties

Every now and then we like to take a break from all the words and just post some numbers. And some words describing the numbers, as otherwise it would just be a whole bunch of numbers with no context, which would be really weird. Big Numbers is a weekly feature on Pass it to Bulis in which we identify the numbers and statistics that really matter or, frequently, the ones that don’t matter at all but are still pretty interesting.

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When and where you can watch the Vancouver Canucks during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi

During the men’s hockey tournament at the Olympics, most Vancouver Canucks fans will be cheering for Team Canada, since most Canucks fans are Canadian. With that said, while fans generally side with their country, some loyalty still remains to the club, and many fans will want to keep an eye on the five Canucks players (and one prospect) playing for other countries.

Fortunately for those in Canada, almost every game of the men’s tournament will be televised live, with games featuring Team Canada getting replayed later in the day. It can, however, be tough to figure out exactly when these games will be and on what channel.

Thankfully for you, were here at Pass it to Zamuner have done the legwork for you. Here are all of the preliminary round games for Canada, USA, Sweden, Switzerland, and Latvia, along with the channel and time they will be shown in the Pacific timezone. Take a look to see when you will be waking up early, staying up late, or setting your PVR.

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Ryan Kesler moves to the point on Canucks first power play unit

On Thursday, I wrote about the Canucks’ odd penchant for using Dan Hamhuis on the first power play unit. Considering Hamhuis has never been known for his power play prowess and the power play has just one goal in 7 games, from Brad Richardson, it seemed high time for a change.

While Hamhuis is one of the best Canucks at getting his shot on net through traffic, he doesn’t have the power on his shot to make it a dangerous weapon on the power play and he’s not right-handed, preventing him from capitalizing on one-timer opportunities at the left point. I noted at the end of the article that Yannick Weber has been able to get his shot to the net at the same rate as Hamhuis, albeit in a smaller sample size, is right-handed, and is a noted power play specialist, making him a good candidate to take Hamhuis’s spot on the top unit in the future.

There was another option, however, that I originally included in the article but cut as the post was getting too long. This option would also add a powerful right-handed shot to the point from a player who is one of the best power play point producers on the team. The only difference is that player is a forward: Ryan Kesler.

At practice on Friday, the Canucks took the second option, moving Kesler to the left point and adding Chris Higgins to the first power play unit as a net front presence.

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Thoughts on shots: one possible reason why Dan Hamhuis gets so much power play time

After a string of success, the Canucks’ power play is back to its early season struggles, with just one goal with the man advantage in the last seven games. That one goal hardly counts, as it was scored by Brad Richardson as a power play expired. The actual power play units haven’t produced a goal in their last 19 opportunities.

Unsurprisingly, Canucks fans have turned to armchair coaching, with one of the main targets being the presence of Dan Hamhuis on the first unit. Everything else about that unit makes perfect sense: the Sedins provide the playmaking, Jason Garrison has the big shot from the point, and Ryan Kesler can be a trigger man or provide a screen in front.

The only player that doesn’t seem to fit is Hamhuis, who has never put up much in the way of points on the power play in his career and is neither a quarterback nor a cannon on the blue line. Compounding matters, he’s yet another left-handed shot, with many of the Sedins creative plays coming to a screeching halt without a right-handed shot available for the one-timer at the left point.

While Hamhuis has many strengths, the power play just doesn’t seem to be one of them, but John Tortorella and Mike Sullivan seem intent on using him there. While doing some analysis on individual shot totals for the Canucks, I stumbled across an interesting statistic that may help explain why.

You see, while Dan Hamhuis does not have the most powerful shot, he is the most effective at getting his shot on net among Canucks’ defencemen.

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Breakdowning Daniel Sedin’s wizardous goal against the Washington Capitals

As soon as Daniel Sedin scored the gamewinning goal on Monday against the Capitals, we were inundated with requests on Twitter to breakdown the goal in our typical Breakdowning fashion. They weren’t the only ones: as soon as I saw the goal, I wanted to break it down, because it was just so perfectly representative of Wizardous Sedinery. The Canucks kept the puck in the offensive zone for a full 51 seconds, dizzying the Capitals with their cycle game before a couple short passes and a subtle move by Daniel created a wide open scoring chance.

We intended to have a Breakdowning post up on Tuesday, but circumstances kept pushing it back. Fortunately, three days since it was scored, the goal is still just as gorgeous and absurd. Let’s break it down to see exactly how it came about.

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Breakdowning Lars Eller’s incredible shorthanded goal against the Canucks

The turning point of the 2010-11 season for the Canucks was their lowest moment, an embarrassing 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on November 20th after the Blackhawks had knocked them out of the playoffs two seasons in a row. The Canucks responded with a closed-door players’ meeting and, after losing a close one to the Phoenix Coyotes the next game, went on to win 18 of their next 22 games, including a statement 3-0 victory over the Blackhawks.

After that loss to the Blackhawks, the Canucks only lost 13 of their remaining 63 games, cruising to the first Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history, finishing ahead of the Washington Capitals by a whopping 10 points.

This season, the Canucks decided to get their low point out of the way early on Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens. In front of a national Hockey Night in Canada audience, they scored one of the most bizarre and embarrassing own goals in NHL history. Now it’s time to break it down.

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How big a role will Frank Corrado play for the Canucks this season?

One of the main concerns I’ve heard from Canucks fans about Frank Corrado starting the season in the NHL is what it will do to his development. The thinking is that Corrado would be better served playing 20+ minutes per night in the AHL with the Comets than playing third-pairing minutes with the Canucks.

It’s an understandable concern, particularly when you look at how John Tortorella deployed his defencemen in New York. His top defenceman — Michael Del Zotto, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, and Marc Staal when he was healthy — played big minutes, averaging 23+ minutes per night. His bottom pairing, however, saw far fewer minutes. While Anton Stralman oscillated between 10 and 20 minutes throughout the season, the Rangers other defenceman averaged under 13 minutes per game.

With Corrado assumed to be sixth at best on the depth chart, he might end up with minimal minutes in his first professional season, which would be far from ideal. But there’s reason to believe that Tortorella won’t be deploying the defence in the same way he did with the Rangers and, if Corrado makes the opening night roster, he may be in for a lot more ice time than expected.

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Every Goal, 2012-13: Dan Hamhuis

Dan Hamhuis is hardly a flashy player, more dedicated to quietly shutting down the opposition than dazzling with his mad, sweet dangles. His inclusion on Team Canada’s Olympic Orientation camp was, thusly, a bit of a head-scratcher for some. After all, you’d hardly put Hamhuis in the same class of defenceman as, say, P.K. Subban, Shea Weber, Drew Doughty, and the like. But Steve Yzerman made it very clear: he wasn’t building an All-Star team, and while there going to be some natural goal-scorers on the Canadian blueline, there was room the Dan Hamhuises of this world as well — reliable defensive defencemen more concerned with goal prevention than goal production.

Although Hamhuis does score on occasion. In the shortened 2012-13 season, he scored three times, and was credited for four goals. That fourth goal was typical Hamhuis — a small defensive contribution leading to the moment that cemented the game. Let’s take a look at Hamhuis’s goals from last season.

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Watch Dan Hamhuis spring Steven Stamkos with long-bomb pass for Team Canada OT winner [VIDEO]

Immediately after the Canucks were eliminated from the postseason, Dan Hamhuis, along with the Canucks’ swedish contingent and Nicklas Jensen, accepted the invitation to World Hockey Championships in Stockholm.

Steve Yzerman and Lindy Ruff, Team Canada’s GM and head coach, respectively, must think highly of Hamhuis. With his arrival, Yzerman all but declared his team-building job complete, despite P.K. Subban becoming available. And as for Ruff, he handed Hamhuis huge minutes in his debut: The Canucks’ defenceman led all Team Canada skaters with 22:38 of ice time in a 2-1 win over the Czech Republic. (One suspects this was either Ruff playing his best all-around veteran defenceman in a tight game, or this was an otherwise unemployed Lindy Ruff trying to show Mike Gillis, who may or may not be looking for a new coach, how well he gets along with Dan Hamhuis. But I digress.)

Hamhuis was even more impactful in his second game, a 4-3 overtime win over Slovenia. The Smithers native was on the ice for just two goals in Canada’s come-from-behind victory: Team Canada’s first goal and Team Canada’s last goal.

On their last, the Community Man pitched in in a big way, making a beautiful pass to Steven Stamkos, the best guy to pass it to, for the overtime winner.

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Sedins, Edler, Jensen, Hamhuis off to Worlds, just like they probably wanted all along

Considering how short the Vancouver Canucks’ 2012-2013 season was in the end — with 34 games lopped off the front part and a piddly, depressing 4 added to the back part — one can understand why a few might be happy to join their respective national teams at the World Championships. These guys were hoping to play somewhere in the vicinity of 100 games this year. Instead, they played about half that.

And thus, it’s off to Scandinavia for several Canucks.

Denmark will get Nicklas Jensen, but not Jannik Hansen, who stays home to recover from an injury. It’s a bummer. They could have used Hansen, especially since he becomes insane the moment he sets foot on international ice. Meanwhile, Team Sweden will get the largest contingent, as you might expect since the Canucks have a lot of Swedes: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, and Alex Edler flew home Friday to don the Tre kronor.

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Big Numbers: Freaky Sedins, Offensive Hamhuis and Identical Goaltenders

Every now and then we like to take a break from all the words and just post some numbers. And some words describing the numbers, as otherwise it would just be a whole bunch of numbers with no context, which would be really weird. Here are some odd and interesting numbers and statistics from the Canucks season so far.

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How long will the Canucks’ current defence pairings last?

Alain Vigneault has the tendency to shuffle his forward lines like a magician shuffles cards: most of it is sleight-of-hand and nothing really changes in the end. He and Rick Bowness have frequently done the same with defence pairings in the past over the last couple seasons, but certain pairings tended to stick together and avoid the juggling.

When Christian Ehrhoff was with the Canucks, he was all-but-inseparable from Alex Edler. At one point, Kevin Bieksa only hit the ice when Willie Mitchell was at his side. Over the last couple seasons, it’s been Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis who have been attached at the hip. Other pairings were malleable, but those pairings were, at the very least, semi-permanent.

Heading into this season, the pairing of Bieksa and Hamhuis, affectionately and disgustingly known as HamJuice, were a given. Keith Ballard and Chris Tanev, who performed well when paired together in the previous season, were assumed to be the bottom pairing. That left the newly-arrive Jason Garrison to play with Edler, something I had been anticipating ever since he signed with the Canucks.

It looked like the defence pairings were about as set in stone as they could possibly be. But it took just 5 games for those stones to be thrown to the ground and broken up like the Ten Commandments.

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The 10 best pictures of Canucks as kids

There is no better hockey-related Tumblr account in the entire world than NHL Players as Kids. Seeing pictures of big and tough hockey players as adorable, cherub-faced children is inherently hilarious. Making it even better is how many of them haven’t changed in the slightest and look almost exactly the same as they did when they were kids.

There are several Canucks represented on NHL Players as Kids and many of their pictures are awesome and need to be shared. So here I am, sharing them with you. That’s just how we roll here at PITB.

Without further ado, here are the 10 best pictures of current and former Canucks as kids:

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Spitballin’ on stolen ice time, charitable giving addict Dan Hamhuis, and snubbing Jan Bulis

Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few quick topics.

Continue Reading —›
Every Goal, 2011-12: Dan Hamhuis

Dan Hamhuis is the Betty Draper of the Canucks’ shutdown pairing, what with his penchant for staying at home while Kevin Bieksa engages in all sorts of Don Draper-esque sexy plays and offensive dalliances. But, just like Betty Draper, Hamhuis can score (and he wears a 50s house dress like a boss).

Of course, as you’d expect from a guy nicknamed “Community Man”, Hamhuis is more prone to helpers than he is goals, but occasionally, the most helpful thing he can do is score the goal. Three of the four goals he scored in 2011-12 occur when Hamhuis capitalized on a Sedin play gone awry, converting their magical misfire so smoothly that you wonder if they meant to set him up like that. That’s Hamhuis for you, the consummate teammate. He makes everyone else look good. I mean, is it any wonder the postseason ended when Hamhuis got stripped trying to go it alone? That’s not his way.

But let’s not dwell on Hamhuis’s big error from last year. Let’s dwell on those times he lit the lamp. Enjoy every goal Dan Hamhuis scored last season.

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One of the biggest questions heading into this season for the Canucks was how they were going to replace the scoring of Christian Ehrhoff. The German blueliner had a career-high 50 points in 2010-11, leading all Canucks defencemen in scoring by a margin of 17 points.

Many worried that Ehrhoff’s absence would be gravely missed, particularly since the Canucks didn’t acquire anyone to replace him. Back in September, we noted that while the Canucks would miss his potent offensive talents, they would be able to replace his production from within, and they wouldn’t miss his defensive lapses. Henrik suggested they wouldn’t miss Ehrhoff at all, saying “I don’t think we lost anything,” which seemed a bit strong at the time.

Turns out, he might have been right.

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