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 (Pre-season) Game: Canucks vs San Jose Sharks, September 16, 2013

Canucks hockey is back! Sort of!

Preseason hockey gets a lot of flack, but I’m actually a big fan. When the lockout last year cancelled the preseason, I was legitimately upset. It’s a chance to get excited about the potential of young prospect or a fringe NHL player work his tail off to earn a spot on a fourth line. It’s scrappy, awkward, messy hockey, but it’s better than prospect games and scrimmages and it’s worlds better than no hockey whatsoever. I mean, not big worlds. Let’s say Pluto and Mercury. The preseason is Pluto and Mercury better than no hockey.

I thoroughly enjoyed it 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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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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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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I Watched This Game: Canucks at St. Louis Blues, April 16, 2013

It took 65 minutes, but the Canucks finally got some good, clean looks on Brian Elliott. Granted, these looks came in the shootout, where you have to trade good clean looks with the opposition, but still. Let’s call this a moral victory. Considering the difficulty the Canucks had mustering shots on goal, let alone shots from areas where Elliott might have been remotely challenged, we can call breakaways the Blues were forced to allow them after overtime a win.

Granted, it’s a lot harder to call the result of the shootout a win, since the Canucks failed to score on the Blues as many times as the Blues scored on Schneider. Looking at it this way, it’s harder to call the shootout a victory. I’d be tempted to call it a loss, even.

I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Colorado Avalanche, April 13, 2013

The Canucks have struggled versus the Colorado Avalanche for quite some time. No matter what they try, no matter what they do, they can’t seem to not get points. Coming into this game, Vancouver was 18-0-2 in their last 20 versus the Avs, and 10-0-0 in their last 10. You can understand how they might be a little complacent — these days, the Canucks could practically spot the Avalanche two goals and still come away with a win.

Unfortunately, there’s a difference between practically and literally, and the Canucks did it the latter way Saturday afternoon.

Even still, their struggles against Colorado continued — the Canucks still almost won. But, eventually, the Avalanche broke through, taking advantage of the complacency that had cleverly cultured for the last 20 games to finally catch the Canucks unawares. The result: the Avalanche won this game. And I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Calgary Flames, April 10, 2013

In the Muhammad Ali and George Foreman’s classic bout, the Rumble in the Jungle, Ali famously used what came to be called the rope-a-dope strategy. Early in the fight, he provoked Foreman into an all-out attack, but absorbed the blows by leaning against the ropes, allowing their elasticity to distribute the kinetic energy. Once Foreman had tired himself out and began making mistakes, Ali pressed the counter-attack and ended up winning the fight by knockout in the eighth round.

Against the Flames, the Canucks seemed to employ a similar rope-a-dope strategy. In this case, Roberto Luongo was the rope and the Flames were the dopes, as the Canucks coasted through much of the game before seeming to flip a switch in the third period, capitalizing on the Flames’ errors, and scoring three quick goals to win the game.

Unlike the Rumble in the Jungle, this game won’t go down in history as one of the greatest sporting events of all time. Even still, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Phoenix Coyotes, April 8, 2013

The Canucks have been in a lot of low-scoring games lately, but this one felt different. Prior games have been snoozefests — actually, scratch that. A snoozefest sounds amazing. Think about it: an entire festival dedicated to sleeping? That’s a yes. Sleep is fantastic. Snoozefest is the wrong word. But the prior games have been mundane.

This one wasn’t. The Canucks dominated the Coyotes for the majority of the night, peppering Mike Smith like he was a Caesar salad and they were the waiter at an Olive Garden. With a lesser goaltender in the opposition end, this might have been a blowout. But Smith kept the Coyotes close. By the end of the night, Phoenix had come to rely on him so thoroughly that, when he left the goal for the extra attacker, they got confused and scared and scored on themselves. Related: I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Calgary Flames, April 6, 2013

There are two ways for Canuck fans to look at this game: on the one hand, you could be upset with the way the Canucks played, which would be fair since they didn’t play well. They were sloppy from top to bottom, making lazy, easily intercepted outlet passes, surrendering prime scoring chances, and forcing Cory Schneider into a virtuoso performance to preserve the victory.

On the other hand, they still won, and handily. Why? Beecause, as bad as they were, they still weren’t worse than the Calgary Flames on a good night. It’s tougher to be upset with Vancouver when Calgary exists to remind you that it could be much, much worse. With that thought hanging in the back of my mind, I was extremely content when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Edmonton Oilers, April 4, 2013

Don’t let the 4-0 score fool you — this was a very different game than the last time the Canucks faced the Oilers. For one thing, the team that scored four goals was the Canucks, which was nice. For another, Cory Schneider made one save. He didn’t do that last time. He followed it up with several more, too.

But if there’s one stat that really demonstrates how different this one was from last time, consider the following: On Friday night, when the Canucks faced the Oilers, the game was effectively over by 7:15. This time around, the game hadn’t even begun by 7:30. Just think about that. That’s some improvement right there. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at San Jose Sharks, April 1, 2013

The best thing that can be said about this game is that it wasn’t as bad as the last one. Like their game against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, the Canucks got soundly outplayed by the San Jose Sharks and similarly succumbed to their opposition thanks to a flurry of goals in a short period of time.

Unlike their game against the Oilers, however, the Canucks actually showed some gumption, battling back by creating scoring chances, scoring goals, and coming just short of tying the game in the final minutes. Thanks to that, it was a lot more enjoyable when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Edmonton Oilers, March 30, 2013

This game must have been a massive relief to Canucks fans who were tired of the low-scoring, defensive snoozefests that the Canucks have been known for recently. For once, the Canucks didn’t sit on a one-goal lead and bore fans to tears. This game was wide open right from puck drop, with goals galore. Heck, even one of Wayne Gretzky’s seemingly unbreakable records was broken, tonight! What more could you ask for?

Wait, you wanted the Canucks to score? Oh.

Well, crud. That sure didn’t happen. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Columbus Blue Jackets, March 26, 2013

This was easily the worst game of the season. It’s not that the Canucks were bad at all — in fact, they dominated the Blue Jackets from start to finish — but the entertainment value of this game was nearly non-existent. This game was duller than a beach ball. Construction workers had to turn off the game on the radio so that they could operate heavy machinery. It was like Waiting for Godot with less Godot.

I regret to say that I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Colorado Avalanche, March 24, 2013

How undermanned are the Canucks right now? When the announcement was made that Dale Weise had a shoulder injury and wouldn’t play against the Avalanche on Sunday night, it felt like a devastating blow.

Weise joined Ryan Kesler, David Booth, and Zack Kassian on the injured list. Manny Malhotra is done for the season. Steve Pinizzotto is still out with an unknown illness. Alex Edler finished of the second game off his two-game suspension. The Canucks were forced to trot out the absurd third line of Alex Burrows, Andrew Ebbett, and Keith Ballard, placing Chris Higgins with the Sedins.

Yes, Ballard once again needed to play as a forward for the ramshackle Canucks. Fortunately, they were playing the Coloardo Avalanche, the last place team in the Western Conference, who have bigger problems than having to play a defenceman as a forward: at one point in this game, they had Shane O’Brien on their first unit on the powerplay. Yikes. I felt a twinge of sympathy when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Los Angeles Kings, March 23, 2013

On one hand, Alain Vigneault has to be frustrated by the Canucks’ continued struggle to ice something resembling a competitive lineup. Thursday night, the club was so shorthanded they were forced to deploy Keith Ballard as a top-nine forward, and somehow they managed to lose another key component in that one after Alex Edler was suspended two games for colliding with Mike “I step in front of cars and sue the drivers” Smith.

But on the other hand, the shorthandedness of Vigneault’s club means they have no choice but to go into full-blown shutdown mode, and I think we all know that Alain Vigneault descends into hockey vampirism — sucking the life out of games in order to survive — with unbridled, abject glee. The Canucks were unyielding in their defensive posture in this one, scoring early, then nursing a 1-0 lead so completely that, after the game, they had to burp it. I sort of felt like a creep when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Phoenix Coyotes, March 21, 2013

By all accounts, this game should have been a gong show. David Booth joined Ryan Kesler on the Injured Reserve list, Zack Kassian and Steve Pinizzotto didn’t even fly to Phoenix, and Chris Higgins tweaked his back at the morning skate, turning the Canucks’ lineup into the hockey equivalent of Aziz Ansari’s boombox mixtape.

Like that mixtape, the Canucks’ third line seemed to be thrown together at random, with Andrew Ebbett centring Dale Weise and Keith Ballard. Andrew Gordon drew into the lineup for his first game as a Canuck on a fourth line with Maxim Lapierre and Tom Sestito. The haphazardly arranged lineup looked like a disaster on paper, but the Canucks knuckled down and played a simple, hard-working road game.

That isn’t to say it didn’t have its bizarre moments, as it certainly did. At times, this game resembled the Coyotes’ original, seemingly peyote-inspired, jerseys. I reached a higher plane of existence when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs St. Louis Blues, March 19, 2013

For the fourth straight game, the Canucks struggled with their defensive play in the third period, surrendering two goals. That’s the bad news. But the good news is that, for the first time since Nashville, it didn’t affect the final score. Vancouver’s issues closing out games were relatively inconsequential by the time the third rolled around, thanks in large part to strong individual performances in the first and second.

In the first, it was Cory Schneider and only Cory Schneider, who was unbeatable, despite seeing more rubber than Tate Langdon in American Horror Story. In the second, it was Dale mother-flipping Weise. The Flying Dutchman stepped on the clutch and shifted into high gear Tuesday, scoring a highlight-reel goal that turned out to be the game-winner. That’s right: thanks to Weise, the Canucks won this game. And thanks to the innovations of Philo Farnsworth, I watched this game.

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