I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Edmonton Oilers, January 20, 2013

On Saturday night, the Hockey Night in Canada crew couldn’t stop debating the debacle in the Canucks’ crease and I repeatedly heard them say that Alain Vigneault should “stick with the gameplan” and start Cory Schneider against the Edmonton Oilers. Vigneault only half-listened. He stuck with the gameplan, which happened to be to start Roberto Luongo on the second night of a back-to-back.

In fact, what if all of this has been the gameplan, a complicated scheme to completely depreciate the trade value of both goaltenders so that Gillis is unable to trade either one this season, thereby giving Vigneault the benefit of two great goaltenders heading into the playoffs. If so, that’s a stupid gameplan and he should stop sticking to it immediately. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Anaheim Ducks, January 19, 2013

As if you didn’t already feel sort of dirty about your unqualified excitement for Game 1 of the Canucks’ season following yet another NHL lockout, consider the following factoid from Matt Baker: the last time the Canucks opened their season against the Ducks was in 1997, in Tokyo, with Mark Messier scoring in a 3-2 win.

Disgusting, right? I mean… Tokyo. I’ve heard it’s very overpopulated.

I kid. Anyway, despite the fact that the Canucks iced Mark Messier, the 1997 home opener was a much more successful outing than this one. If you were, as mentioned, a little uncomfortable with your excitement heading into Saturday night’s affair, the Canucks did their best to stomp all of that passion right out for you, serving up one of the worst stinkers in recent memory. This game was so bad, I almost missed the lockout. Almost. As bad as it was, it was still Canucks hockey. The circumstances could be better, but for the first time in nine months, I’m pleased to say I watched this game:

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I Watched This Charity Game: Bieksa’s Buddies vs UBC Thunderbirds, October 17, 2012

The Bieksa’s Buddies charity game was a massive success for two reasons: first, the event raised $200,000 for Canuck Place, the Canucks Autism Network, and the Canucks Family Education Centre — half of that from ticket sales, the other half when Michael Buble chose to match the total just before the cheque presentation and they had to scratch out the amount on the giant novelty cheque and double it.

The second reason the game was a success: it supplied a brief Canucks fix to the other victims — the poor, hapless fans that have long since forgotten how to spend their free time from October through April. Sure, it was fleeting and essentially meaningless. Bieksa’s Buddies only resembled the Canucks at times (like, say, when Cory Schneider was surrendering 3 goals on 9 shots because that’s what the Canucks’ starting goalie does in October), but it was just enough to scratch the itch. Count me among the scratched. I watched this charity game.

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I Watched This Playoff Game: Canucks vs Los Angeles Kings, April 22, 2012

Though it was a tough way to lose the game, the Canucks can take solace in getting the game to overtime and earning the single point. Wait, what? That’s not how it works in the playoffs? The Canucks have been eliminated? That’s it? It’s over? Oh. I watched this game. Canucks 1 – 2 Kings [...]

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I Watched This Playoff Game: Canucks at Los Angeles Kings, April 18, 2012

It would be tough to overstate the impact that Daniel Sedin had in his return to the lineup Wednesday night, but I’m going to try: Daniel’s impact was the essence of impact itself; by the game’s end, Quebec’s MLS club had changed their name to the Montreal Daniel Sedin.

The guy made a difference, is what I’m saying. In his first game back from a concussion, Daniel had a game-high 11 shots attempted, over 20% of the Canucks’ shot creation. He and Henrik were on the ice for all 3 Vancouver goals, and although they only picked up points on the third, their presence on the ice opened up space for everyone else and gave the entire team a spark. And not just any spark — the Allspark, which gives life to Autobots, Decepticons, and other cold, lifeless mechanisms, such as the Canucks’ powerplay, which came suddenly to life, going 2-for-3 in this game. And I watched this game.

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I Watched This Playoff Game: Canucks at Los Angeles Kings, April 15, 2012

If you want to quibble with definitions, this game wasn’t technically a must-win game. Since the Canucks didn’t win, however, that makes Wednesday’s game an actual must-win game. In order to prevent that from happening, the Canucks needed to win this game, making it a proverbial, but not technical, must-win game. But, as mentioned, they didn’t muster a win.

Now I’m depressed and I think Harrison’s drunk (and he never drinks). On the plus side, all of Vancouver is now too despondent to leave the house, meaning The Bay won’t have to replace all their windows this year. Oh hell, now I’m making riot jokes: this is definitely the lowest of the low. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Playoff Game: Canucks vs Los Angeles Kings, April 13, 2012

After Thursday, many wondered if there was anything on this planet more offensive than the Los Angeles Kings’ official Twitter account. It would appear there is: the Vancouver Canucks’ powerplay, which generated little else but goals against Friday, and cost the team a game 2 in which they otherwise played well.

Now, let’s not panic. Sure, prior to Friday night, the Canucks had never opened a playoff series by losing the first two games at home. But, on the bright side, the Canucks have also never lost a playoff series after losing the first two games at home. So you can understand why I’m so optimistic; I watched this game!

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I Watched This Playoff Game: Canucks vs Los Angeles Kings, April 11, 2012

I was promised prior to tonight’s game that playoff hockey is the best hockey. I don’t know about you, but I thought this particular game was pretty lousy. Now I can never trust again.

It’s difficult for a game to be entertaining when it’s bogged down by constant penalty calls. Approximately half of the first two periods of this game were spent with one of the two teams on the powerplay. It made for an extremely disjointed game that significantly lacked any sense of flow. So, essentially, me when I try to rap.

I watched this game.

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Stanley Cup Playoffs Round One Preview: IWTG Review

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, not Christmas; the Stanley Cup Playoffs. On Wednesday night, the Canucks will begin their potential road to the possibility of hopeful victory. As you might be able to tell, I’m hedging my bets. After last season ended in such bitter disappointment, I’m downgrading my raging-over-the-top optimism to cautious optimism.

The Canucks’ first round opponents are the Los Angeles Kings – who are bad – by virtue (or vice) of losing to the San Jose Sharks on the final day of the season. Considering the Canucks went 3-0-1 against the Sharks and 2-1-1 against the Kings, the Sharks likely would have been a better matchup.

But what were those regular season games really like? We can look back at the boxscore and statistics in order to remember, but that only gives us a partial picture. If only someone watched those games and recorded what they thought about them in an easy to digest, quippy, point-form manner.

Oh wait! We watched those games!

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Edmonton Oilers, April 7, 2012

It wasn’t that long ago that we considered the Canucks to have no chance whatsoever at first place in the Western Conference, let alone the Presidents’ Trophy. On March 20th, for instance, the Canucks were a full 6 points back of the Blues with just 10 games remaining and were coming off their 7th loss [...]

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Calgary Flames, April 5, 2012

With the New York Rangers’ loss in Pittsburgh, the Canucks found themselves in a position to take a stranglehold on the Presidents’ Trophy race with a single point. And, after the second period ended with the boys in blue up one, it looked like they had it in the bag. The last time this team failed to collect at least one point when leading after two periods was in October of 2009.

But the Canucks let the cat out of the bag, allowing three third-period goals and watching their stranglehold evaporate. On the bright side, what were the Canucks doing trying to strangle a cat in a bag? How incredibly inhumane. Gosh, thank goodness the Canucks blew this lead. I’d hate for them to be responsible for the death of a cat. I love cats. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Anaheim Ducks, April 3, 2012

Tonight, the Canucks hosted the Orange County team formerly known as the Mighty Ducks in a game stuffed with hyperbole. The greatest one of all time and space was in attendance (Mooney was there too), there was a first period penalty shot (only the most exciting play in hockey), eight pucks heroically rippled the mesh, Jonas Hiller made several acrobatic glove saves, and Henrik Sedin and the puck played a masterful sixty minute game of Cat’s Cradle.

Oh. And somewhere along the way, the Rogers Arena’ faithful chose to serenade Roberto Luongo with a loud chorus of Luu’s. After all, it’s his birthday! But he’s been so good for so long that the birthday boy deserved the appreciative support of the fans, who gave it to him even though he had a rocky outing. At least I think it was a compassionate, grateful crowd that was Luuu-ing, because anything else wouldn’t make much sense!

As a staunch proponent of hockey math, I usually miss out on this sort of drama. I trust the numbers, so there’s no real need to tune into the contests. Tonight, for Wagner and Mooney, I made a rare exception: I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Calgary Flames, March 31, 2012

If the Canucks had been struggling to find motivation late in this season, there was plenty to be had in Saturday night’s date with the Calgary Flames. First, a victory would allow them to leapfrog the St. Louis Blues and take over sole possession of 1st place in the Western Conference. Second, a victory would officially eliminate the Flames — who objectively suck — from postseason contention. Third, Andrew Ebbett was back. Andrew Ebbett! That dude looks like Chris Martin from Coldplay. How can you not be motivated by that?

Sure enough, the Canucks rode the wave of motivation to a victory, jumping into 1st in the West, banishing the Flames to the irrelevance from whence they came, and letting Andrew Ebbett lead them to victory, like Moses (if Moses looked like Chris Martin from Coldplay). Also, a fourth important thing happened: I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Dallas Stars, March 30, 2012

After two-straight 1-0 shutouts, Canucks fans and media were starting to wonder if the team had completely forgotten how to score. Not me. I was worried that they had forgotten how to allow goals. Fact: no team has won the Stanley Cup without allowing a single goal.

Fortunately, the Canucks eased my concerns by giving up 2 goals to the visiting Dallas Stars. I was relieved when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Colorado Avalanche, March 28, 2012

Something about this game seemed vaguely familiar, like I had watched a carbon copy of it just a couple nights ago… For the second game in a row, the Canucks faced a desperate team on the edge of the playoff bubble, and for the second game in a row, the Canucks shut that team out 1-0.

The biggest difference between the two games, of course, was the goaltender doing the shutting out. On Monday, against the Kings, Roberto Luongo made an early goal by Manny Malhotra stand as the game-winner with 38 saves, including 17 in the third period. In this game, versus the Avalanche, Cory Schneider made an early goal by Chris Higgins stand as the game-winner with 43 saves, including 16 in the third period.

Meanwhile, I looked for changes in the Matrix when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Los Angeles Kings, March 26, 2012

Hey, remember when I said the Canucks would be sashaying into the postseason at half-speed? Yeah, they’re not doing that anymore. With the playoffs now 6 games away and 1st place in the Conference somehow well within reach, the boys in blue have dispensed with the body break and ratcheted up the intensity for the final two weeks, setting their sights on the boys in darker blue.

Suddenly, the Canucks are testing their playoff wheels, embracing activities they’ve spurned over the past month and doing the little things you need to do to win playoff games, such as throwing hits and blocking shots to protect one-goal leads. And what better way to test a team’s ability to protect a one-goal lead than scoring 3 minutes in and spending the next 57 holding on like Wilson Phillips? It may not have been pretty, but if it’s pretty you want, watch that Wilson Phillips music video. As for me, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Colorado Avalanche, March 24, 2012

There was a lot at stake for the Colorado Avalanche heading into this game. With a victory, the Avalanche could leapfrog the Kings and Coyotes in the Western Conference standings to move into playoff position. Colorado is in a tough 4-team battle for the final two playoff spots and have fewer games remaining. They desperately need wins.

As for the Canucks, they clinched the Northwest Division when the Calgary Flames lost to the Dallas Stars earlier in the day, so they had slightly less at stake. Despite the complete lack of urgency, the Canucks showed resilience, heart, character, gumption, and chutzpah in a tough and chippy game that I closely observed when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Dallas Stars, March 22, 2012

With Duncan Keith scheduled to go before the Shanaban committee Friday afternoon for his elbow on Daniel Sedin, the Canucks flew into Dallas on Thursday with one goal and one goal only: play a hapless, soulless, sad-sack game of hockey that underscored just how vital Daniel was to their identity and how badly they missed him.

But, as usual, they choked. Led by a two-point night from Mason Raymond, who can never do anything right, the Canucks scored more goals than the Dallas Stars like idiots, winning the game and giving everyone — the Department of Player Safety included, unfortunately — the impression that they might survive without Daniel in the short-term. It was an unacceptable effort, since the team was supposed to be playing without any effort at all. Instead, they screwed up big-time and played a sound road game. And speaking of sound, I listened to this game. While I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Chicago Blackhawks, March 21, 2012

After a long streak of sub-par play from the Canucks, all the talk leading into this game was regarding whether they would wake up for a meeting with their hated rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks. That likely won’t be discussed as much after this game, where the Canucks put forward a hard-working, physical effort and played with a passion and emotion that hasn’t been seen in some time.

Unfortunately, one of the causes of that emotion was an ugly, ugly elbow by Duncan Keith that knocked Daniel Sedin out of the game. The result: a massive outpouring of concern and vitriol from Canucks fans, an entertaining game on the ice, and a certain suspension for Keith. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Minnesota Wild, March 19, 2012

Let us take heart. Tonight was not the worst Vancouver Canucks/Minnesota Wild game ever played. Admittedly, that’s like saying, “This isn’t the most awful Land Before Time sequel ever” or “I’ve seen worse Star Wars prequels,” but still, it’s a little perspective.

So there’s your silver lining, Canuck fans: as low as the entertainment value at the Xcel Energy Center was this evening, as much as this game was to the soul as Coke is to a molar, it could have been far worse: this game could have featured both Ducky the Dinosaur and Jar Jar Binks. Thankfully, it had neither, a fact with which I consoled myself while I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Columbus Blue Jackets, March 17, 2012

The Columbus Blue Jackets are like Dan from Dan in Real Life (or any other advice columnist from the movies): they can help everyone but themselves. Are your superstars struggling to score? Has it been awhile since your best defenceman wowed everyone? Has your team looked listless for weeks? Well, then you’re in luck, because the Blue Jackets are in town to get your game back on track. They’ll encourage you, set you up to succeed, and even play alongside you, gosh darn it — they want you to do well.

Columbus was exactly what Vancouver needed Saturday night: a beatable opponent. Granted, the Canucks still weren’t perfect, but if there’s one thing you don’t have to be to beat the Blue Jackets, it’s perfect. In the end, the secret to beating Columbus is simply to “score one more goal than them,” as Kevin Bieksa so succinctly put it in the postgame scrum. And that’s what the Canucks did. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Phoenix Coyotes, March 14, 2012

Lovers of high-tempo, offensive hockey were dreading this game, considering the two previous meetings between these teams were 1-1 affairs that both went to the shootout. Those who were not anticipating offence may have forgotten that Phoenix and Vancouver combined for 75 shots in their last matchup and a combination of stellar goaltending and bad bounces were the only reason 9 goals weren’t scored.

But 9 goals were scored in this game, meaning that the goaltending wasn’t stellar and the bounces weren’t bad. Unless you recently travelled forward through time from the 80′s, in which case I mean the bounces were bad. They were the baddest. Totally tubular, in fact. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Montreal Canadiens, March 10, 2012

The Canucks had a strong first period in this one, outshooting the Montreal Canadiens by a margin of 15-5. Unfortunately, Carey Price held his team in the game, stopping all 15 shots. If he hadn’t done so, this game would have been very different, most notably because Vancouver would have gone into the second intermission with a 15-goal lead.

That would have been a fun “I Watched This Game” to write. But, sadly, that’s not how this game went down. Instead, this “I Watched This Game” tells of a game in which the Canucks scored 14 fewer goals. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Winnipeg Jets, March 8, 2012

This game was like the spaces favoured by The Dixie Chicks: wide open. There were 77 shots on net between the two teams, with another 43 shots blocked, and 21 missed shots. That’s a grand total of 141 attempted shots or, as the stats nerds would say, 141 Corsi events.

It’s a lot easier to understand now how the Jets were involved in a 9-8 slugfest with the Philadelphia Flyers earlier this season. The only reason this game didn’t devolve into similar silliness was the seriousness of Cory Schneider and Ondrej Pavelec, who combined for 72 saves. That’s still less than 77, which explains why goals were scored. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Dallas Stars, March 6, 2012

The Canucks were bad Tuesday night, and not the Michael Jackson kind of Bad, which is good. Rather, they were the Colour Me Badd kind of bad, which is so bad it transcends regular badness and bleeds over into “baddness.” (My wife: do they really spell it with two Ds? Oh, that’s bad. No, honey. It’s badd.)

Versus the Stars, the Canucks were badd. They flubbed passes, left massive defensive gaps, squandered powerplays, and generated next to nothing at even-strength. To make matters worse, they were rewarded zero points for their efforts, which, while an appropriate reward for zero effort, marks the second consecutive game they’ve walked away with nothing. It was the first time they’ve suffered back-to-back regulation losses since November 4th. I remember that game. I watched it. Also, I watched this game.

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