I Watched This Game: Canucks at Edmonton Oilers, February 19, 2012

Sunday afternoon, it was announced that the Canucks had topped a poll asking NHLers to name the most overrated team in the league. This was just after Vancouver had pulverized Toronto 6-2 and just prior to making short work of Edmonton, 5-2. One wonders: if the Canucks are truly overrated, then how much worse are these teams than they seemed?

Of course, when it comes to polls of this nature, “overrated” is little more than a synonym for “disliked”, which makes sense: the Canucks are, as we know, loathed throughout Canada, and when you consider that they’re 11-2-1 and just spent the weekend batting Toronto and Edmonton around like a ball of yarn, it’s not difficult to understand why. Canada has one good team right now, a fact of which I would bristle at being reminded, were I not a fan of that team. But I am, so I was as bristle-free as a knitted moustache when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Toronto Maple Leafs, February 18, 2012

The Leafs came into Vancouver having lost 9 straight games to the Canucks and were hoping to prove that they’d made the changes necessary to be successful in the West, like the American Office. Instead, they just wound up being awkward and cringe-inducing, like the British office. It was initially exciting to watch the Canucks absolutely dominate an opponent, but by the end of the game I just wanted to look away. This game was executive-produced by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Colorado Avalanche, February 15, 2012

It’s been a month since the Canucks lost a game in regulation but, going into Wednesday night, it had also been 3 weeks since the Canucks won a game in regulation at home. The Canucks had gone to overtime in 4 straight home games, seemingly intent on giving their home fans more than their money’s worth.

Not in this game. Against the Avalanche, the Canucks stiffed their home crowd by only giving a 60-minute effort. Even worse, one of those minutes came after the Canucks extended their lead to two with an empty net goal, meaning Canucks fans only got to watch 59 minutes of meaningful hockey. Really, we should complain.

I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Phoenix Coyotes, February 13, 2012

It’s been said that the first game back from a road trip is really better considered the last game of the road trip, that it’s not a true home game if you still spend time on a plane the day prior. There was certainly evidence to this theory Monday night, as the Canucks’ first contest in Rogers Arena since the second of February bore an eerie resemblance to the games they played abroad during the 10 days between.

Sure, they were in their home blues, they went home to their own beds, and they were the team surrendering the late, game-tying goal, but everything else about the song remained the same — tight game, sloppy defensive zone breakouts, the absence of Sedinery and, for the fifth time in six outings, a shootout. By now, we’re beginning to wonder if the Canucks are addicted to shootouts. Do they get irritable after regulation victories? Is there a patch or a gum to help ease the cravings? These are the questions I was left with after I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Calgary Flames, February 11, 2012

Going into this game, the Canucks hadn’t lost in regulation in 8 games and had gone to overtime in 5 of their last 6 games. According to their record over their last 10 games, the Canucks were the hottest team in the NHL. According to anyone who actually watched those games, the Canucks were playing some of their worst hockey of the season.

Hey, I watched those games. Then I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Minnesota Wild, February 9, 2012

Leave it to the Minnesota Wild to put everything into perspective. The Canucks were 7-1-2 in their last 10 games heading into Thursday’s contest — the league’s hottest team — but most Canuck fans would admit that their record was incredibly misleading. Anyone who had actually watched those 10 games could have told you Vancouver had been playing some nigh-unwatchable hockey over that stretch.

Of course, then the Canucks touched town in Minnesota and played some actual unwatchable hockey. My goodness, Canuck nation, are we ever spoiled. For the past 5 games, we’ve griped about the Canucks needing overtime to solve their games, but at least it’s been exciting. Tonight, we were treated to a 60-minute regulation win, and when I say “treated to” I mean “stabbed in the brain with”. Somehow it felt like it lasted twice as long. Seemingly forever, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Nashville Predators, February 7, 2012

Byron Bitz came one element short of a Gordie Howe Hat Trick against the Predators. Surprisingly, that missing element was a fight. Who saw that coming? Other than Alain Vigneault, of course, who started Bitz on a line with Henrik Sedin.

The leading theory was that Vigneault was sending Henrik a message by putting him on a line with the 6’5″ winger; turned out he was just trying to get Henrik going. It worked. Henrik had his first multi-point game since January 10th thanks to a couple nice plays by Bitz. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Colorado Avalanche, February 4, 2012

The Canucks have been absolutely dreadful since the All-Star Break. Sure, they’re riding a 3-game regulation unbeaten streak since reassembling, but they’ve hardly reassembled. This team has been a disorganized mess for all three games, playing ugly hockey at both ends of the ice and allowing their opponents to dominate them consistently. They’ve been outshot 128 to 87 — yes, they’re allowing more than 40 shots per game — over these contests.

So how are they winning? Because life isn’t fair. When Kevin Bieksa scored the game-tying goal with the net empty and only thirty-five seconds remaining in regulation Saturday, all I could think was, if the Canucks manage to win and come away from this 3-game stretch with 5 of 6 points, there is absolutely no justice in the world.

As it would happen, there is no justice in the world. I know this for a fact because I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Detroit Red Wings, February 2, 2012

Most people in the hockey world thought a match-up between the Red Wings and Canucks, the two best teams in the Western Conference, would be the game to watch tonight. Instead, Sam “Him?” Gagner stepped into the spotlight, scoring 8 points against the Chicago Blackhawks and tying Paul Coffey and Wayne Gretzky’s franchise record for most points in a game.

Yeah. Sam Gagner did that.

But I didn’t watch that game. The game I watched was merely okay. What game did I watch? I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks, January 31, 2012

For only the third time this season, the Canucks played an entire sixty-minute game without being given a powerplay but, incredibly, it was the second consecutive time this phenomenon has occurred versus the Chicago Blackhawks. What’s more, this game was called by Ian Walsh, who called the last powerplay-free affair. Is this evidence of some kind of conspiracy?

No. Uncanny though the circumstances may be, there’s no agenda here. The Blackhawks simply played a fabulously disciplined game. Furthermore, while the Canucks may have played an entire sixty-minute game without being given a powerplay, they hardly played a sixty-minute game. You draw penalties by outworking the other team, and frankly, only Cory Schneider seemed interested in doing that for much of this game. So why didn’t he draw any penalties? Well, he was a little busy. So was I. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Edmonton Oilers, January 24, 2012

Last game before the All-Star break. Opponent from the basement of the conference. A busy schedule of community outreach. There were a number of reasons why the Canucks could have been distracted from playing hockey on Tuesday night, but the team seemed entirely focussed on taking care of business.

Far more focussed than I, at least. Through the haze of a nagging cold, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs San Jose Sharks, January 21, 2012

It’s amazing what a three-day break between games will do for a hockey team. For the first time in a while, the Canucks actually looked fresh to start the game. At even-strength, the Canucks dominated possession and out-scored the Sharks 4-1. Unfortunately, the referees called some penalties and Logan Couture plays for the Sharks, scoring a shorthanded and a powerplay goal to keep the game close.

The Canucks at even-strength and special teams were like two different teams playing two different games. I watched both of them when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Los Angeles Kings, January 17, 2012

After a truly terrible effort against he Anaheim Ducks on Sunday, many predicted a strong start from the Canucks in this game against the Kings. Boy, were they wrong. The Canucks were absolutely awful in the first period, getting out-shot, out-chanced, and out-scored. It could have been a lot worse, but Roberto Luongo was phenomenal.

Just like in Luongo’s first season with the team, he stole a point for the Canucks, making 39 saves on 41 shots through regulation and overtime. Like Harrison from the press box, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Anaheim Ducks, January 15, 2012

Once in a great while, the Canucks play a game so indigestible, and so utterly heinous that the only thing the Vancouver hockey fan can do is block it from memory like some great horror. Were Sunday’s game not so fresh in my mind, I’d be at a loss to provide any examples of such a game at all.

Unfortunately, I can’t simply flush Sunday’s loss to the Ducks from my brain; I have to solidify and stabilize it, like any toxic waste. With that, I advise you to please put on your hazmat suits, because I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at St. Louis Blues, January 12, 2012

Last season, the Blues finished 11th in the Western Conference, well outside the playoff picture. Meanwhile, Brian Elliott was arguably the worst single player in the NHL.

Somehow, combining the two has led to tremendous success, as the Blues came into this game second in the West, just behind the Canucks, while Elliott is second in the league in save percentage, goals against average, and shutouts. He went from the worst goaltender in the league to being named to the All-Star Game.

Who would have thought the all-star goaltender in this game wouldn’t be Luongo? On the plus side, the Canucks had four all-stars of their own, three of whom pitched in to put 3 goals past the Blues’ all-star. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Tampa Bay Lightning, January 10, 2012

You had to know the Canucks were going to correct some aspects of their game after the 2-1 loss to Florida on Monday night; it was impossible to come away from that one without having learned a lesson, right? Right. A lesson was indeed learned, and, as best as I can gather, it was as follows: before you quit, score more goals.

Not unlike the game that preceded it, the Canucks jumped out to an early lead and let their opponents back into the game with some sluggish play afterward, but the difference Tuesday was simply that the early lead was bigger, and they sustained it for longer. By the time the Lightning tied tied things up, it was too late to jump ahead, and the Canucks eked out a shootout victory to leave the Sunshine State on a positive note. And as for me, like the few Floridians sick and tired of that infomercial, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Florida Panthers, January 9, 2012

It’s a good thing this game started at 4:30 on the west coast, otherwise I would have fallen asleep. After the pulse-pounding action of Saturday’s victory in Boston, I had to keep my handy-dandy home defibrillator on hand throughout this game to make sure my heart didn’t stop out of sheer boredom.

Thanks to copious amounts of caffeine and and the early start, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Boston Bruins, January 7, 2012

Well. That was fun. Despite claims by both teams to the contrary, Saturday morning’s tilt between the Canucks and the Bruins obviously had a little more riding on it than simply two points. The “This is just one regular-season game” talk was relevant for about four minutes. After that, it was anarchy. Seriously, at one point, someone blew open a wall in Arkham Asylum.

There were two major differences between this game and the ones we saw last June, and the first two involved special teams: the Canucks scored on their powerplays, and Cody Hodgson spearheaded a potent second unit that chipped in when the first unit struggled. Unsurprisingly, this made the Canucks far more successful. Speaking of success, this game lived up to all the hype: it was without a doubt the game of the year. I’m very glad to say I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Minnesota Wild, January 4, 2012

Before we go any further, let us all observe a moment of silence in honour of the Minnesota Wild. (No, not because they lost Wedesday night — that would be silly. As a Northwest Division rival, there should be a celebration any time the Wild lose.) This moment of silence is because, speaking of Northwest Division rivals, the next time the Wild come to town, they won’t be one. This was Minnesota’s last scheduled visit to Vancouver this season. Next year, with realignment kicking in, they’re not in the Canucks’ conference. It’s a cause for celebration.

But first, as I said, a moment of silence. It’s a fitting tribute when you think about it. A moment of silence is an awkward span of time in which nothing at all happens, not unlike a game versus the Minnesota Wild. And I should know. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs San Jose Sharks, January 2, 2012

While the Canucks were outplayed for large portions of this game, you have to keep one thing in mind: 4 days ago, the Canucks were in San Jose defeating the Sharks in a tough overtime game. In between, they had two more games. The Sharks had none. The Sharks were fresher than a perfectly cleaned kitchen where someone is brewing mint tea. The Canucks, on the other hand, just sprayed Febreze everywhere and hoped for the best. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Los Angeles Kings, December 31, 2011

The Canucks need to stop playing games right before holidays. This game fell on New Year’s Eve and it was their worst effort since their game against the Flames just before Christmas. If you have tickets to their game against the Phoenix Coyotes on February 13th, Valentine’s Eve, you’re better off just selling them on Craigslist. And if you’re planning on going to their game against the Calgary Flames on March 31st, better known as April Fool’s Eve, forget it.

Their last game of the regular season falls on April 7th, Easter Eve. Don’t watch that game. Let me watch it for you. Just like I watched this game.

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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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I Watched This Game: Canucks at San Jose Sharks, December 28, 2011

When the NHL announced their plans for realignment, some people (namely us) bemoaned the loss of games against the Chicago Blackhawks, which are always full of emotion and skill. The upshot is that the we’ll get more games between the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks, which are always a highlight of the schedule.

Quite frankly, it would have been disappointing if the Sharks didn’t tie up this game and force it into overtime. Otherwise it would have been just another ho-hum Canucks victory and I would have fallen asleep trying to write about it afterwards. Instead, I’m wide awake because I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Edmonton Oilers, December 26, 2011

After a pre-Christmas performance so stingy and humbugged it would make Ebenezer Scrooge proud (insomuch as that old coot can be proud of anything), the Canucks returned from the break as though they had been visited Christmas night by a trio of ghosts portending doom if they continued to be a team that loses to the Flames.

Here’s how it probably went down: the Ghost of Christmas Past took them to Christmas, 1987, when they were in the midst of a horrible stretch in which they won only once in 10 games. The Ghost of Christmas Present made them watch game tape from Friday night versus Calgary. And the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come showed them a horrifying future in which there is actual debate over whether or not the Sedins’ numbers should be retired.

Needless to say, the Canucks were forever changed by this harrowing experience, and they were thus far more generous versus the Edmonton Oilers, giving fans five goals to cheer about, and even anonymously sending a prize turkey to the Cratchit home. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Calgary Flames, December 23, 2011

I didn’t just watch this game, I was at this game, as my older brother took me to a game as a sort of early Christmas present. Unfortunately, it didn’t come with a gift receipt.

The Canucks played this game like anyone else with one last shift at work before Christmas: they showed up late and mailed it in. The Flames, on the other hand, showed up in Vancouver with the work ethic of Dwight Schrute and dominated. I had to suffer the ignominy of seeing the Canucks perform worse than the Flames in person. As tough as it was, I watched this game.

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