I Watched This Game: Canucks at Chicago Blackhawks, December 20, 2013

If you only watched the first period of this game, well, that was stupid of you, wasn’t it? That’s like watching Home Alone and shutting it off right around the time Kevin leaves the church after his heart-to-heat with Old Man Marley. I mean, granted, you’ll see the clip from Angels With Filthy Souls, which I guess could be analogous to Chris Higgins’ breakaway chance, but that’s pretty much it for early entertainment in this slow-building holiday classic.

Now, I can see why you might have wanted to turn it off after the first, since the Canucks didn’t turn it on until around then anyway. They were outshot 10-3 by Chicago in the opening twenty, and two of those shots were by Andrew Alberts and Tom Sestito, who are about as threatening a duo as Harry and Marv in Home Alone. But after that, this thing really picked up, with the Canucks turning the tables on the Blackhawks like Kevin turns the table on Harry and Marv in… okay, I’ll stop.

I decided I would be watching Home Alone tonight while I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Philadelphia Flyers, October 15, 2013

The Canucks have come from behind in every single one of their victories this season, which is simultaneously encouraging and frightening. After all, it’s great to see that the Canucks aren’t down and out whenever they go down by a goal or two, but it’s disconcerting to see them down by a goal or two so often.

This game was true to form, as the Canucks only had the lead for two-and-a-half minutes. Fortunately, those two-and-a-half minutes were at the end of the game, which are the most important two-and-a-half minutes. I watched those minutes, along with all the other ones, when 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 Nashville Predators, March 14, 2013

You could be forgiven if you expected a meeting between the struggling Canucks and the goal-starved Predators to be a boring, defensive affair. After all, the Canucks hadn’t scored more than 2 goals since March 2nd against the Kings and the Predators were missing Colin Wilson, their leading scorer. The last meeting between these two teams ended 1-0 thanks to a lucky bounce that gave Dale “The Flying Dutchman” Weise a wide open net. The two teams are 12th and 29th in goals-per-game. Clearly, this wasn’t going to be a high-scoring game.

Oh how wrong you were, hypothetical cynic. The Canucks and Predators combined for 11 goals in an offensive slug-fest, which is fortunately not a festival for slugs as that would have left the ice a gross, slimy mess. Other than slugs, this game had it all. I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Dallas Stars, February 15, 2013

If it was a Hollywood movie, this game would have gone very differently. First of all, Henrik’s franchise record-setting point would have come in the dying seconds of overtime, with his record-tying point tying the game with 0.1 seconds left in regulation. Also, the Sedins would look like the guy who played the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network. The Canucks would have won this game against all odds and an important lesson about perseverance would have been learned. Henrik would have been carried off the ice on the shoulders of his teammates, while he was simultaneously carrying the Stanley Cup, because it would have been game seven of the Finals.

Alas, Hollywood doesn’t make movies about freakishly consistent Swedish twins who break franchise records for Canadian hockey teams, particularly ones that are not underdogs. No marketability. Since I couldn’t watch a movie with a tear-jerking, inspirational ending, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Minnesota Wild, February 12, 2013

Games against the Minnesota Wild used to be an interminable bore. They still are, but they used to be too.

It was hoped by many that this would be the game that Henrik Sedin tied and then surpassed Markus Naslund’s franchise record in points. It was not to be, as the Wild were intent on making this game a slog with minimal scoring chances and little end-to-end play. While the Sedins dominated the offensive zone, they just couldn’t get the puck past Darcy Kuemper, who was starting his first ever NHL game. As per usual, however, the Canucks found a way to win thanks to great goaltending, secondary scoring, and offensive contributions from the defence.

Frankly, I have no idea why anyone would want Henrik to break the record against the Wild. I would be okay with him going on a brief cold streak, then breaking the franchise record against the Chicago Blackhawks next Tuesday, which would be much more satisfying. So, honestly, I’m kind of glad that Henrik didn’t get a point when I watched this game.

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10 of the best and most surprising moments from Canucks Superskills 2013

One of my favourite events during the Canucks’ season is the Canucks for Kids Fund Superskills Competition. It’s fun to see the Canucks in a loose, carefree setting, and the lower price point is great for families that might not be able to get out to Rogers Arena to see the team otherwise. It also helps raise money for a fantastic cause. The work that the Canucks for Kids Fund does in British Columbia is invaluable, doing everything from supporting BC Children’s Hospital to launching Mindcheck.ca in memory of Rick Rypien.

I’ve been to several of these events and the Canucks tend to put on a good show, as it’s one of the few times when the Canucks can really let their personalities and fun side show on the ice. While I wasn’t able to make it out to Rogers Arena on Sunday for the 2013 edition, the Canucks were kind enough to stream the event live on YouTube and, sure enough, it provided plenty of fun and surprises.

For instance, did you know that Cam Barker is actually on the Canucks? That’s right, his signing wasn’t a hoax. But that was just the first of many surprises to come. Here are 10 of my favourite moments:

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Minnesota Wild, February 7, 2013

Somehow, Cory Schneider getting the start in this game became just as controversial as him not getting the start in the previous three games, which is pretty silly. It also overshadowed some of the other storylines heading into this game, such as Jordan Schroeder playing in his home-state for the first time as a Canuck, Daniel Sedin not scoring a goal in 5 games straight, or Alex Burrows returning to the top line.

The storyline that most interested me is whether the Minnesota Wild are still as terrible as they were last year. How much of a difference would the addition of Zach “RZA” Parise and Ryan “Roto-Rooter” Suter make? Turns out, not much. The Canucks came out and dominated the first period, setting the stage for a fairly easy road victory. While there were bumps along that road, the Canucks ran over the Wild like they were talking on a cell phone. And, like a rubber-necker driving past a car accident, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks, February 1, 2013

There were plenty of reasons to get excited for this game. The storylines! The drama! The controversy! It was Duncan Keith’s first game against the Canucks since he concussed Daniel Sedin with a dirty cheap shot last season. It was Roberto Luongo’s third straight start despite Cory Schneider supposedly being the number one guy heading into the season. It was the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks against the water-treading Vancouver Canucks, in the first game of the season between these two rivals.

Yes, there was a lot of hype heading into this game, and none of it paid off.

It seemed pretty clear that both coaches wanted their players to avoid the emotional rollercoaster like we saw when Buffalo played Boston the game after Milan Lucic took out Ryan Miller. Both teams played a controlled, defensive style and there were minimal post-whistle scrums and such that we’d see in even a normal game between these two teams. Luongo played well, easily justifying Vigneault’s decision. It was disappointing.

Well, it was disappointing to anyone who actually believed the hype. While it wasn’t the prettiest game, it’s always nice to watch a win, which I managed to do when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs. Colorado Avalanche, January 30, 2013

Alain Vigneault shocked the city of Vancouver Wednesday morning when he announced that Roberto Luongo would get the start versus the Colorado Avalanche. The controversial decision led to a boatload of speculation on what it meant. Was Vigneault simply riding the hot hand? Had Luongo reclaimed the starter’s job? Or maybe the Canucks were playing him against an inferior opponents in the Avalanche in order to showcase him to potential trade partners?

Nevermind that the showcase theory makes no sense whatsoever. Roberto Luongo has been in the NHL for more than a decade. He’s played 730 NHL games — 789 if you count the playoffs. Speaking of the playoffs, he’s gone to the Stanley Cup Final. He’s played in the Olympics. If you’re in charge of making roster moves for an NHL team and you aren’t sure who Roberto Luongo is and what he’s about in 2013, then you shouldn’t be in charge of making roster moves for an NHL team.

But if there really is a General Manager out there so braindead and incompetent that he needs to be reminded Roberto Luongo plays goal and does so fairly effectively, I’m sure he was pleased with what he saw when he, just as I, watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at San Jose Sharks, January 27, 2013

The Canucks beat the Ducks on Friday, despite getting outplayed at even-strength, by essentially being jerks: they earned powerplays and cashed in with the man-advantage. You could tell right off the opening puck drop, or rather, before the opening puck drop, that they were going to try to do the same thing against the Sharks.

It half-worked: the Canucks did get outplayed at even-strength. Unfortunately, the powerplay floundered, fizzled, sputtered, and misfired, getting only 7 shots on 7 opportunities and Cory Schneider couldn’t bail the team out fast enough when the defence shot holes in the boat. I watched their gameplan fall apart when I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Anaheim Ducks, January 25, 2013

The Ducks spoiled the Canucks’ home opener and Schneider’s first start as the Canucks’ new number one goaltender, thumping them 7-3. It caused endless bellyaching in Vancouver and reignited the goalie controversy, so it was only fair that the Canucks return the favour, spoiling the Ducks’ home opener.

I pointed out earlier today that it would be foolish to panic this early in the season, particularly because the Canucks had the possibility of moving up to first in the Northwest Division with a win and a Minnesota Wild loss. 10 hours later, the Canucks are first in the Northwest Division and Cory Schneider has a shutout to his credit. Panic over. Goalie controversy over.

At least until Sunday, when the Canucks could conceivably drop to fourth in the division, Schneider could give up a soft goal or two, and we’ll be back where we started. Sigh. I watched this game.

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Hungry like the Wolves: Get out of the kitchen

Hungry like the Wolves is an ongoing feature on Pass it to Bulis during the lockout, wherein we keep an eye on the Canucks prospects and property currently playing for the Chicago Wolves as it’s the closest thing we’re going to get to Canucks hockey for quite some time.

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Hungry like the Wolves: Beating the Heat

Hungry like the Wolves is an ongoing feature on Pass it to Bulis during the lockout, wherein we keep an eye on the Canucks prospects and property currently playing for the Chicago Wolves as it’s the closest thing we’re going to get to Canucks hockey for quite some time. When the Canucks’ AHL affiliate flies [...]

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Hungry like the Wolves: Taking down the IceHogs

Hungry like the Wolves is an ongoing feature on Pass it to Bulis during the lockout, wherein we keep an eye on the Canucks prospects and property currently playing for the Wolves as it’s the closest thing we’re going to get to Canucks hockey for quite some time.

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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 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 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. Buffalo Sabres, March 3, 2012

There were a number of storylines heading into Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada match-up versus the Buffalo Sabres. There was the obvious one, as Cody Hodgson returned to Vancouver less than one week after being traded to Buffalo, but there was also the undercard of the Olympic re-match between Roberto Luongo and Ryan Miller in the same building where Team Canada won the gold medal two years ago.

Oh yeah, and Christian Ehrhoff returning to Vancouver for the first time since leaving for a bigger contract in the summer. And Alex Sulzer was there.

But it turned out the real storyline was a desperate team battling for a playoff spot coming out firing on all cylinders against a complacent team sitting comfortably in first place. The game was essentially over after 5 minutes, but my job wasn’t. I didn’t just watch the first period, I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Phoenix Coyotes, February 28, 2012

For the second time in as many weeks, the Canucks faced a fellow Western Conference division leader, though this meeting was a little less hyped than the previous one. Last week, the Canucks visited the leaders of the Central Division, the Detroit Red Wings, in a game that was everything a fan could ask for in terms of entertainment. This week, they faced the Pacific Division leading Phoenix Coyotes. The Coyotes are like a magic trick with just a pledge and a turn: no prestige.

That said, the Coyotes entered the game as the hottest team in the league, with a 10-0-1 record in their last 11, making them a tough test for the road-weary Canucks. There was also the intrigue of seeing the newly acquired Sami Pahlsson and Zack Kassian wear the Scowling Orca for the first time. I watched this game.

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