I Watched This Game: Canucks at Nashville Predators, December 3, 2013

It’s amazing how first impressions work. The first period of this game was as dull as a pencil at a poorly maintained mini-golf course. It was just plain unexciting hockey, with little energy, few scoring chances, and just 13 shots on goal between the two teams. That lacklustre start coloured the rest of the game in my eyes, perhaps unfairly.

After all, both teams mustered 30+ shots, there were some fine saves, and the Canucks put together some offence and earned the win, so the game couldn’t have been all bad. But that first period convinced me that I was in for a tedious time and confirmation bias set in: I expected tedium and I received it.

As Harvey Danger reminded us in the late 90′s, if you’re bored, then you’re boring. Well then, I was really, really boring when I watched this game.

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Breakdowning Derek Roy’s first goal as a Canuck

Canuck fans didn’t quite know what to make of Alain Vigneault’s decision to play Ryan Kesler and Derek Roy on the same line in Nashville. If the acquisition of Roy was motivated by a desire to make the Canucks deeper down the middle, playing a member of Vancouver’s recently upgraded stable of centres on the wing doesn’t exactly jibe with that plan.

That said, you can see why Vigneault might want to try it now. With 10 games to go in the regular season, he was handed the tall task of trying to get familiar with a team that suddenly had Derek Roy and a rebuilt Ryan Kesler on it. The addition of these two gives him a lot to assess in a short time, and on Monday, he began an assessment of the potential chemistry between the pair, with Kesler in the middle between Roy and Jannik Hansen.

Five minutes into the game, the chemistry experiment paid off as Derek Roy got his first as a Canuck to push the club’s early lead to two. But make no mistake — it wasn’t exactly chemistry that led to this goal. It was the only thing better than chemistry: terrible, terrible defensive coverage. Take a look:

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Nashville Predators, April 15, 2013

The big story heading into this game was Ryan Kesler getting moved to the wing alongside Derek Roy in order to load up the top-six with offensive talent. It turned out that story was a big, fat lie and everyone who told that story was just a big, fat liar and a generally terrible person. Just awful.

What actually happened was that Derek Roy moved to the wing alongside Ryan Kesler. Completely different.

Some chemistry experiments lead to a slow descent into moral ambiguity. Thankfully, the chemistry experiment that threw Kesler and Roy together produced offence instead of methamphetamine. Still, I suffered from withdrawal symptoms after I watched this game.

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Breakdowning Mason Raymond’s first period goal against the Nashville Predators

When the Canucks score 7 goals in a game, it’s tough to know which one to break down. We even had calls on Twitter to break down Henrik Sedin’s gorgeous penalty shot goal or Maxim Lapierre’s slick breakaway marker. As nice as those goals were, it’s more than a little difficult to break down a goal when it’s just one skater and a goalie. It would just be one screen shot with the breathtaking analysis of, “Well, you see, he did something the goalie didn’t expect him to do and the puck…well, it went in.”

It seemed obvious to me which one needed the full Breakdowning treatment: Mason Raymond’s seventh goal of the season, which came on a beautiful passing play that incorporated every single Canucks skater on the ice.

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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 at Nashville Predators, February 22, 2013

During the broadcast of this game, Dan Murphy pointed out that it’s been over a year since the Canucks last played the Predators, which is crazy. It had been 366 days since they last met, but there’s more alarming news. The Canucks haven’t beaten the Predators in regulation since 2011. That almost makes it seem like it’s been two years! We should definitely be concerned.

Fortunately, the Canucks finally broke the streak, by beating the Predators at their own game, namely hockey. Defensive and boring hockey, to be specific. I nearly fell asleep when I watched this game.

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Breakdowning: Fire drill on the penalty kill in Nashville

The Nashville Predators don’t seem like an offensively-gifted hockey team. Built from the net out with an emphasis on defence and one of the lowest payrolls in the league, they simply haven’t sunk a lot of money into big offensive talent. You would think this lack of high-end scoring punch would be especially apparent on the powerplay.

Nope. The Predators have the second best powerplay in the NHL, behind only the Vancouver Canucks. And, given the way the Canuck powerplay has performed recently, the Predators might actually be the best team in the league with the man advantage these days. On Tuesday, they showed exactly why that might be the case, making one of the best penalty kill units on one the best penalty-killing teams look completely foolish.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Nashville Predators, February 21, 2012

This game was meant to be all about Alex Burrows, as it was the 500th game of his career. For someone who started his professional career scoring just 32 points in 66 games in the ECHL, it’s a tremendous achievement. He worked his way into the Canucks lineup by being an agitating checker, but has become a sparkplug, top-line forward alongside the Sedins.

The Predators ruined everything, however, by not letting Burrows score 5 goals so someone could win Safeway’s Million Dollar Score and Win. So Burrows instead celebrated by getting under an All-Star’s skin, just like old times, taking Shea Weber off the ice with a coincidental roughing minor when the Canucks were down by one. It was a savvy move, but his teammates couldn’t take advantage. His 500th game was ruined, but I still watched it. 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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Why Shea Weber to Vancouver makes a lot of sense (and no sense whatsoever)

While British Columbia is a hotbed for silly homegrown-star-wants-to-come-home pipe dreams — the foremost of these being the annual “Joe Sakic to finish his career in Vancouver” rumours of yore — it should be noted that sometimes these dreams do come true.

In 2006, fans coveted unrestricted free agent Willie Mitchell of Port McNeill, and he took a little less to play here. Then, when he left town in 2010, the Canucks replaced him in free agency with the equally coveted Dan Hamhuis of Smithers, who also took less.

In short, there’s precedent for the “Shea Weber to Vancouver” murmurs. But there isn’t much reason to them.

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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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Vancouver scored five goals in four regular-season games versus the Nashville Predators last season, so it’s safe to say that nobody was expecting a blowout tonight. But that’s what we got. Rather than allow the visitors to showcase their superstar netminder for the second game in a row, the Canucks chased him in twenty minutes this time around, scoring four goals on sixteen shots and rendering the second and third period of the game a relative formality. And, like Pekka Rinne in the final forty minutes, I watched this game.

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Tonight we saw the importance of a two-goal lead. In the first period, completely against the flow of play, the Canucks opened the scoring. They then took advantage of an odd penalty call to get an almost unprecedented two-goal lead. Then, in the second period, a familiar sight: on a shot from behind the goal line, the puck takes an odd bounce and slips in behind Luongo. Without a two-goal lead, that’s the tying goal and the game takes on a completely different complexion. Instead, the Canucks proceeded to make the final 36-and-a-half minutes of the game deathly boring, shutting down the Predators, the game, and the pleasure centers of the viewers’ brains. It is extremely fortunate that they don’t award style points in hockey (Note: if they start awarding style points, the Canucks need to sign Patrick Chan immediately). Still, while it wasn’t pretty, it was a Canucks game. I tend to watch Canucks games. It should not come as a surprise, then, that I watched this game.

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It takes 12 wins to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. Bearing this in mind, after exactly 12 games, why aren’t the Canucks there yet? Why, I ask you, are they still toiling away in the second round, a round they could have completed as many as four games ago? The answer is simple: because Daniel and Henrik Sedin are a combined minus-14.

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A day after San Jose failed to sweep their series with Detroit, giving Vancouver the glorious chance to get at least a day’s more rest with a game five series win on home ice, the Canucks failed to capitalize, frittering away the opportunity with a night full of uncharacteristic blunders. Brutal blunders, like turning the puck over, giving up a shorthanded goal, or making Joel Ward’s July 1st price tag skyrocket. As Roberto Luongo said, “[Nashville] didn’t do anything special tonight. Whatever they got, we gave them.” He is correct. The Canucks outplayed the Predators in nearly every facet of the game, generating more chances, and even outscoring the visitors four to three. Problem was, some of those chances came in front of Roberto Luongo, and one of those four goals was scored into the wrong net. Like I said, blunders a go-go, all of which Alain Vigneault would probably classify as real bad. Blech. My mouth tastes sour, either because of the adverb abuse in the previous sentence, or because I watched this game.

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You see, sometimes when you take a quote out of context it has a different meaning than originally intended. It’s funny. It’s frequently juvenile. Just go with it.

In this edition, Barry Trotz gets personal.

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Going into the third period of last night’s contest, I began to wonder if these two teams were stuck in some sort of Groundhog Day (or classic X-Files episode “Monday”)-style time loop, fated to repeat game one over and over again, until they got it right. Everything was just a little too familiar: Vancouver’s inability to put distance between themselves and Nashville, Ryan Kesler’s dominance, the one-goal lead heading into the third period. I soon suspected that Barry Trotz’s trap wasn’t a neutral zone trap at all, but rather, a time trap, where time just reset itself after undesirable outcomes. It was terrifying to consider the possibilities of a coach that could manipulate time, but it might explain why Trotz had retained his NHL coaching job for an absurd 11 years– David Poile still thinks this is Nashville’s debut season. Thankfully, however, Ryan “Timecop” Kesler broke through the time trap with a Van Dammean solo dash, preserving both the win and the natural progression of time. Yeah, I watched that movie. I also watched this game.

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So maybe you’re afraid to leave the house. It happens, don’t beat yourself up about it. Some pretty accomplished people are agoraphobes, such as Kim Basinger, Woody Allen, and Paula Deen. Paula Deen!

Anyway. If, for whatever reason you’re at home for game 7 tonight, craving the social interaction you also fear, get into the Vancouver Sun liveblog, featuring Sun sports editor Scott Brown, those of us who write for Pass it to Bulis, and perhaps others. We’re all agoraphobes too! (Just kidding, only you are. We’re all sitting in a room together, drinking sparkling wine.)

We’ll talk Canucks. We’ll riff. We’ll go way off topic. We’ll forget there’s a game on and start making art from punctuation marks. It’s gonna be sweet.

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In case you haven’t heard, there are is a tiny group of people who feel the Canucks embellished a few calls in Tuesday night’s win over the Nashville Predators.

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Despite what Alain Vigneault said to the contrary, it was not ideal for his Canucks to begin round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs less than 48 hours after they had closed out round 1. Though they showed no signs of fatigue in the opening game of the series, they were listless in game 2, after which Vigneault all but admitted that his team may have relished some time off after all. Heading into the two-day break before game three, he conceded, “the series against Chicago was physical and emotional and we’ll be able to re-charge our batteries and get going here.” In other words: so tired.

In the postseason, the choice between rest and no rest will always be rest. It’s the greatest intangible in the playoffs, where injuries and fatigue are played through, undisclosed, and accrued with regularity.

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I have a very simple request of the Canucks, for the sake of my health and the health of all Canucks fans: no more one-goal games. I don’t think my heart can take it any more. The stress of knowing that one bad bounce can tie the game and send it to overtime causes severe heart palpitations. While I have heard many people claim that the two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey, I prefer it to the one-goal lead. If the Canucks give up another tying goal in the back half of the third period I am afraid my heart might blow up and kill this man. Do you want my death to be on your hands, Canucks? Do you?

That said, I much prefer one-goal games that the Canucks win. While a broken heart is not as immediately life-threatening as a stress-induced heart attack, the long-term effects can be devastating on their own. Thankfully, the Canucks avoided the heartbreak of two straight overtime losses. Despite my doctor’s advice, I watched this game.

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Through the first two games of this series, Pekka Rinne has seemed as unbeatable as Contra without the Konami Code. His Halak-ian performance has Canucks fans flipping pools, pressing panic buttons, and somehow blaming Luongo. With only two goals against the Finnish sensation, the Canucks are likely scratching their heads trying to figure out what it takes to get past his event horizon glove. They don’t need to look far. In round one, Rinne was more sieve than sensation, as the Anaheim Ducks scored 20 goals in their 6 game series, averaging 3.33 goals per game. Rinne’s save percentage was an unflattering .883. How did they do it? Through the magic of online highlights, I can show you!

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If you watched Game 2 of the Canucks-Predators series last Saturday night on CBC, you no doubt caught Glenn Healy’s sudden tirade about the Green Men, whom he hates. You’d be forgiven for assuming he mistakenly believed they had orchestrated 9/11; he seethes at their very mention. One imagines that, if the league were indeed to ban these two, Healy would head up an impromptu celebration outside the NHL head offices in New York.

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Game 2 of the Canucks match-up against the Nashville Predators bore a superficial resemblance to game 1, in that the Canucks got a 1-goal lead and held it. It would seem that the only difference between the two games was that Nashville managed to tie up the game in the dying minutes and win it in overtime. Watching the game, however, painted a different picture. While the Canucks were dominant in game 1, controlling the play and imposing their will on what appeared to be a significantly weaker opponent, the Predators controlled game 2, out-hitting and out-shooting the Canucks and winning puck battles and faceoffs throughout the night. Still, it took an unlucky bounce for the Predators to tie the game and some unreal goaltending from Pekka Rinne to earn the Predators the win. I noticed these differences for one simple reason: I watched this game.

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Coming into tonight’s game, much of the setup focused on the potential for an emotional letdown for the Canucks, following the emotional high of Tuesday night’s Game 7 thriller. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Instead, we got an old-fashioned regular letdown; this game was flat-out boring. That said, maybe it’s what we needed. Could we have handled another crazy game? I’ve been drinking Gatordade since Tuesday just to get my electrolytes back up. Thanks to Nashville for giving my heart the night off. If the last playoff contest had make-you-sick-to-your-stomach intensity, this game was the Pepto-Bismol of hockey games. I watched this game.

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