On Remembrance Day, on the lightness of our being

This article originally appeared on the blog on November 11, 2010, back when PITB was in its infancy. Because its message still applies, however, we thought we’d share it with you once again (with minor alterations for topicality). Please take a moment on this Remembrance Day to appreciate that the life you have is the result of others sacrificing theirs.

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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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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Anaheim Ducks, December 29, 2011

Just like last season, the Canucks opened their California road trip a perfect 2-0 and, just like last season, the second win came over the Anaheim Ducks on the second night of a back-to-back. But the similarities don’t end there.

In both Anaheim games, Cory Schneider got the start and the win, the Canucks scored the first goal a minute in, and Daniel Sedin scored the final Vancouver goal, beating Dan Ellis and stretching the lead to three. Of course, there were some differences. For instance: I attended last year’s game. I watched this game.

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The referees got both disallowed goals right

Saturday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs was thoroughly entertaining, complete with stupendous saves, wizardous passes, sick snipes, and gorgeous individual efforts, but it was not without controversy. After exchanging goals in the first 4 minutes, both teams seemed to pot their second goals of the game, only to have both of them immediately disallowed.

Predictably, Canucks fans were upset that Keith Ballard’s goal was disallowed and Toronto fans were upset that Phil Kessel’s goal was disallowed. While this is not an unexpected reaction, both groups of fans seemed to have a case.

Ballard’s goal was disallowed because Ryan Kesler was ruled to have interfered with goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, preventing him from making the save. It appeared, however, that the contact was initiated by Gustavsson while Kesler was outside the crease and some even argued that the puck went in prior to the contact.

As for Kessel’s goal, it was disallowed because the net was dislodged. It was dislodged by Dan Hamhuis, however, and the NHL rulebook says that if a defending player dislodges the net, the goal should be allowed.

It seems that I’m going to have to be the one with the unpopular opinion that the referees actually got both calls right.

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Weird Crafts: Hand-painted Canucks tree ornaments

Christmas is only 10 days away, which is absolutely crazy to me. While Christmas frequently sneaks up on me, it seemed especially ninja-like this year. Maybe it’s because I’ve been distracted by the birth of my son, Ozymandias, or maybe I don’t get out of the house as much now that I’m a full-time blogger.

In any case, when my wife came in with our two-and-a-half week old son dressed in a green-and-white striped sleeper with reindeer on the feet, I was a little puzzled. She said she dressed him up so he would look festive while we put up Christmas decorations. I was thinking, hey, there’s no rush. Christmas is ages away.

Nope. Less than two weeks.

I noticed, however, that we don’t have any Canucks-themed Christmas decorations. We don’t have any Canucks ornaments to go on our tree that we haven’t bought yet. A quick perusal of NHL.com’s online shop reveals three uninspiring ornament options: a chubby light-up snowman with a puck for a body, a creepy glass hockey player whose eyebrows make him look like a no-name brand Alex Burrows, and an uninspired glass ball featuring the Canucks logo surrounded by clip-art snowflakes.

Those options aren’t exactly inspiring and the prices they’re asking for a piece of Canucks kitsch are a little off-putting. Fortunately, there’s another option: handpaint your own glass ball Christmas ornaments.

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Alain Vigneault is about as clever as Dave Bolland

If your main source of Canucks news is Pass it to Bulis, you’re probably under the impression that the Canucks are incredibly witty, clever, and fond of silly jokes. After all, the Canucks give silly animal nicknames to each other, photoshop each other naked, and ruin each others’ interviews. Meanwhile, Kevin Bieksa is one of the best quotes in the NHL and Keith Ballard has unparalleled self-deprecating dry wit, and Roberto Luongo is surprisingly willing to joke around.

Since Alex Burrows and Maxim Lapierre are two of the best chirpers on the team, it would be completely understandable if you thought that all French Canadians are great at chirping. Unfortunately, Alain Vigneault proved that wrong.

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Well, that was unpleasant. On Tuesday, the Canucks faced the team with the worst record in the NHL and were outplayed through the first period. Then they were unable to score on Steve Mason, arguably the worst starting goaltender in the NHL. Then, after stopping all 3 shootout attempts in Montreal last Thursday, Luongo failed to stop a single Columbus shooter in the shootout.

On the plus side, by losing to the Blue Jackets, the Canucks helped them to the second worst record in the NHL, so the Canucks didn’t technically lose to the worst team in the NHL. I had to work really hard to find a silver lining; in order to do so, I watched this game.

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Spitballin’ on Don calling out Ron, Henrik the goon, Luongo stretching

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 topics that deserve mention.

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Breaking down Ryan Kesler’s second goal from the 4-1 victory in Ottawa

In the postgame scrum following the Canucks’ 4-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators, Alain Vigneault described Dale Weise’s end-to-end rush as “phenomenal,” and while I don’t disagree that it was an impressive individual effort, it wasn’t my favourite goal of the game.

Nice as it was, I was far more taken with the one that preceded it: Ryan Kesler’s second goal of the game, which stretched the lead to 3-0. It was both a fantastic example of the strengths of the Canucks’ first powerplay unit and a comedy of errors for the Ottawa penalty kill. Let’s break it down.

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There’s no rush for Cody Hodgson to return

It was an extremely frightening sight: Cody Hodgson, while attempting to cut into the middle of the ice to avoid a Nick Foligno hit, toe-picked and tripped right into the oncoming Foligno, taking the full force of the hit directly to the head. Hodgson attempted to get to his feet, but seemed to skate like the ice wasn’t quite where he thought it should be, all with a giant smile on his face.

Though he was not knocked unconscious on the play, everything else about it screamed concussion. Hodgson had to be helped off the ice and didn’t return to the game, causing fans to fear the worst.

After the game, however, Alain Vigneault claimed that the young forward was “fine” and that “he wanted to play.” But he continued, “Our medical staff wanted to be extra careful.”

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Early in Saturday night’s affair, it was clear that the Ottawa Senators had heard the rumours that the Canucks wilted at physical play, and playing rough appeared to be their strategy from the outset. Unfortunately, when your strategy involves giving Chris Neil more icetime than any other forward, it’s probably not going to win you many games.

What people don’t seem to realize is that it wasn’t the Boston Bruins’ toughness that won them the Stanley Cup Final — it was their skill. It’s just that their skill happened to also be tough. Anybody that thinks you can beat the Canucks by gooning it up with less skilled players will see results like this game — results that I saw as well, because I watched this game.

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It was clear that Roberto Luongo felt bad for his hometown Montreal Canadiens, who had only one win in their last six games going into their Thursday game against the Canucks, so he decided to spot them a three-goal lead. While charity in the NHL is appreciated when it’s the Sedins donating to BC Children’s Hospital or Paul Bissonnette taking homeless families to hockey games, it’s significantly less awesome when it’s helping out the already-privileged.

Fortunately, Luongo read some Ayn Rand during the second intermission and forswore charity in favour of the virtue of selfishness. I watched the Canucks come back like Dagny Taggart when I watched this game.

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If you want to defend Daniel Sedin, you’re going to need a stick

The Canucks scored a number of pretty goals during Tuesday night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. From Jannik Hansen taking out two players with a single dangle to the perfect passing of the Sedins and Burrows, it was a good night for aesthetically pleasing plays.

The goal that I found most interesting, however, was Daniel Sedin’s second of the night, where he got the chance to show off his league-best accuracy by beating Semyon Varlamov gloveside with a wicked wrist shot. The question is, how in the world did he end up with so much room in the slot in the first place? Most teams in the NHL work pretty dang hard to keep guys like Daniel out of that area of the ice and especially hard to give them no time whatsoever if they happen to get there.

The answer is that rookie defenceman Stefan Elliott had an absolute gong show of a shift that resulted in him trying to defend last season’s Art Ross winner without a stick. It does not go well for him.

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Looking at it, it’s kind of remarkable that the Canucks won Tuesday night. They were outshot by a 2-1 margin for the first and second periods and 33-23 overall. They were outhit 40-18. They won only 18 of 40 faceoffs. By the end of the first, they were without both of their second-line wingers, and by the end of the second they had lost their starting goaltender.

And yet, despite all of this, when the final horn sounded, they hadn’t just eked out a victory — they’d cruised to a 6-0 drubbing of the Colorado Avalanche. How the what? I honestly have no idea what I saw. All I know is I saw it. Because I watched this game.

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Chris Higgins loses his new female fanbase with gross swollen foot

Two weeks ago, Chris Higgins thrilled female (and certain male) Canucks fans by wiping his nose. While clearing nostrils of snot is not normally considered sexy – though there’s a fetish for everything I suppose – it was what he used to blow his nose and what he revealed in the process that got people excited. Higgins used the bottom of his jersey, revealing that he doesn’t wear a shirt underneath his jersey.

He also revealed that he works out.

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Ryan Kesler on Blake Comeau: Canuck hit of the year?

One of the loveliest moments of the Canucks’ performance Sunday night versus the Flames was Ryan Kesler’s thundering open-ice hit on Blake Comeau. Midway through the first period, with the Canucks on a powerplay, the puck came to Comeau at the side boards, and he attempted to clear the zone. Unfortunately, only a split second after the puck arrived, Ryan Kesler did as well. He absolutely flattened Comeau.

Now Before you say “Not sure what Comeau’s so upset about”, keep in mind that, clean as this hit was, Comeau probably still didn’t enjoy it all that much. Canuck fans likely did, however, especially since, with Raffi Torres now in Phoenix, these hits are a little less frequent than they were last year. But don’t be misled: this wasn’t the only one. Hit of the year though it might have been, there are indeed other candidates. Here are five.

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Mason Raymond finally played his first game since having his back broken in last season’s Stanley Cup Final. He returned one-game later than intended after a paperwork error kept him out of Thursday’s game against the Nashville Predators and unwittingly unleashed the dreaded thirteenth forward curse on Aaron Volpatti.

In response to his return, the Flames panicked and started their backup, Henrik Karlsson, in place of Miikka Kiprusoff, who was the goaltender of record for both of Raymond’s two career hat tricks. Clearly, Kiprusoff is scared of Raymond. I’m sure that this game being the second of a back-to-back and the third game in four nights for the Flames had nothing to do with it. I watched this game.

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The best indicator that Alex Ovechkin is struggling is that he is now the best anti-fantasy pick from the “Art Ross Candidates” pool of players. Corey Perry, who long held that distinction, now has 21 points to Ovechkin’s 18. He also now has Ovechkin’s former coach. It’s unclear what impact the coaching changes in Washington and Anaheim will have on these players’ anti-fantasy value, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

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I Find This Photo Odd: Ryan Kesler climbs the net

Thursday night’s 6-5 Canuck loss versus the Nashville Predators was jam-packed with oddities. There was the offensive outburst, as the two teams combined for 11 goals, only three fewer than their entire season series last year. There was the goalie no-show, as Cory Schneider’s hot streak came to a screeching halt with 3 goals on 5 shots and Roberto Luongo only fared marginally better. And, of course, there was that strange little moment when Ryan Kesler scaled the net.

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Wednesday night should have been Mason Raymond’s second big December 1 in a row. A year to the day after scoring a hat trick versus the Calgary Flames, the speedy winger was slated to play his first game since suffering a gruesome back injury that nearly ended his career.

And then there was a setback. No, it had nothing to do with Raymond’s health — he’s still good. It was a paperwork error. The Canucks simply failed to fax the proper forms to the NHL head office in time. Seriously.

As disappointing as this was, it was also hilarious (although we imagine Mason Raymond didn’t think so). Canuck fans immediately took to Twitter to make jokes at the Canucks’ expense, many of which were laugh-out-loud funny. What follows are our 20 favourite.

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Clearly drawing some inspiration from the fact that the Grey Cup was in the building, the Canucks and Predators played to the first touchdown, giving us the most unexpected 6-5 game of the year. Seriously, hands up if you thought Nashville and Vancouver were going to combine for 11 goals.

How to explain this? It can only be the hand of God. One assumes that the good Lord was as sick of the Canucks’ goaltending controversy (such as it was), as we were, and perhaps just as tired of hearing about how Cory Schneider was the second coming of his beloved son. Thus, he intervened, rendering all goalies incapable of keeping the puck out, save Anders Lindback, whom he clearly prefers. For whatever reason, God made sure Lindback saw everything, much like I saw everything when I watched this game.

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The best thing about this past month is that my son was born on the 26th. But the second best thing was watching hockey games and highlights and seeing moustaches everywhere.

Today is December 1st and Movember – the fantastic charity that raise money and awareness for prostate cancer research through the growing of moustaches – is officially over. This means that a lot of men will be saying goodbye to their lip ticklers for another 11 months. It also means it’s time to take a look at the Vancouver Canucks who participated and judge the quality of their soup strainers.

For fun, I will be doing the judging in the guise of the classic American Idol judging panel: Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell.

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Breaking news! Cory Schneider is pretty good. The redheaded wunderkind affectionately known as Gingerbricks won his fifth straight and has given up only 4 goals in that span. He has stopped 164 of 168 shots in those five games, for an unreal save percentage of .976. The Canucks haven’t seen this kind of goaltending since, well, last season when Luongo won 6 straight starts, stopping 151 of 160 shots. Huh, I guess he’s pretty good too. In this particular game, Cory Schneider set a career-high with 47 saves. I watched every save because I watched this game.

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Cory Schneider will make his sixth straight start Tuesday versus the Columbus Blue Jackets, a fact that he sent many into a tizzy. (Isn’t Roberto Luongo usually the one that starts games? He come he’s not doing that lately?) You probably already know our thoughts on the matter. Yesterday, Daniel looked at the faux goaltending controversy in which the Canucks are currently mired, and I am in full agreement with him. This situation isn’t what it’s being made out to be. No, Roberto Luongo has not lost his starting job. No, the Canucks aren’t suddenly in possession of a backup signed through 2022. No, this isn’t the end of the Roberto Luongo era in Vancouver and Vincent Lecavalier has not been asked to waive his no-movement clause.

Still, while I’m loath to admit it, this is a pretty big story. Prior to this stretch, a healthy Luongo had never played backup for three consecutive games. Now he’s about to spot Schneider his fourth. This is unprecedented, and the unprecedented needs to be examined.

As Daniel said, this has nothing to do with Luongo. But I would add that it’s not even solely about Schneider — it’s about the entire Canucks lineup, all nineteen guys that have played their roles to perfection over this winning streak, none of whom deserve to be plucked from the lineup. This is about Alain Vigneault sending a message to the whole room. That message is: continue playing well enough to win, and you will continue playing.

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Roberto Luongo met with the media after Monday’s practice and everyone was eager to hear what he would have to say about Cory Schneider starting his sixth straight game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. Luongo was unexpectedly poised and prepared, as he has frequently misspoken or said things in interviews that can be misinterpreted in the past. This time, Luongo wisely steered clear of any attempts at jokes and stuck with sincerity.

“The guy’s been working hard for two years and never said a word,” said Luongo, “so he deserves every minute that he’s getting right now and I’m one hundred percent behind him. He’s been behind me since the start and there’s no reason why I wouldn’t be behind him one hundred percent.”

If Schneider continues to play the way he has over his last four starts, Luongo might end up behind him for a while. Oddly enough, that doesn’t mean that he’s no longer the Canucks’ number one goaltender.

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