I Didn’t Watch This Game: Canucks vs Tampa Bay Lightning, October 28, 2012

That’s it: now I’m mad. Up until now, I’ve been remarkably blasé about the lockout. I mean, it’s upsetting that the games have been cancelled, but I’ve been filling my time with Abbotsford Heat games, more time spent with my family, and the baseball playoffs. As long as the entire season isn’t cancelled, I told myself, I could live with it.

But now? Now the lockout has taken away Sami Salo. And that’s just too much to handle.

While I was fine with Salo signing with the Lightning from a rational perspective, from an emotional perspective, it was a kick in the teeth. Salo, with his humble attitude and continual persistence in coming back from injury after injury, was one of my favourite Canucks of the last decade.

I didn’t get to see his return to Vancouver, because I didn’t watch this game.

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Farewell to a fan favourite: Salo signs with Tampa Bay

Sami Salo has been one of the best Canucks defencemen for a full decade. He joined the Canucks in 2002 in a trade with the Senators for Peter Schaeffer. While he battled injuries and never played a full 82-game regular season, he was a steady, reliable presence with a howitzer of a slap shot, who made the team better when he was in the lineup. He was also a humble guy with a great sense of humour and incredible character. In coming back from injuries that would have ended the career of a lesser man, he was an inspiration to his teammates and his fans.

Salo was one of my favourite players and he just signed a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He won’t be retiring a Canuck.

And it’s okay.

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Spitballin’ on sweeping Kings, Kesler’s shoulder, and Skittle Burrows

Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few quick topics.

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Drance Numbers: Did the Canucks really change after the Boston game?

There were plenty of interesting statements in Mike Gillis’s epic season wrapup press conference Tuesday morning, but one of the most jarring came in response to the very first question posed to him by the press. To kick things off, David Ebner of The Globe & Mail asked Gillis when the “issues” that ultimately led to the Canucks’ early exit first began to surface.

As a disciple of the extremist “Church of Hockey Math” (trademark, Blake Price), I’m always skeptical of a statement that lends this much power to an “intangible” force like “collective team emotion.” It’s a pretty dubious claim when you stop to think about it: a veteran team, one of the league’s best over the past two seasons, saw their season derailed by a regular-season win in early January?

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I Find This Photo Odd: The zombie Canucks devour a linesman

Earlier this season, Chris Higgins missed time with a mysterious infection of some sort, and we at PITB immediately screamed “Zombie bite.” Of course, no one takes our opinions seriously (which is probably a good thing), so our suggestion was ignored.

But then the infection struck again, and Higgins missed even more time. A highly-resist strain of infection? Definitely zombiism, which isn’t just highly-resistant, it’s potentially virulent.

And yet still, we were ignored. Eventually, Higgins was brought back to health with antibiotics and rest and returned to the lineup, where we have secretly feared that he would pass the infection onto his teammates ever since. And, judging from this photo from the Canucks’ tilt with the Phoenix Coyotes, it would appear that our concerns were justified. I’m not sure how this isn’t a bigger story, but on Wednesday night, Chris Tanev and Sami Salo ate an official.

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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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Breakdowning Sami Salo’s 5-1 goal versus the Toronto Maple Leafs

It’s not hard to spot the big mistake the Toronto Maple Leafs made in allowing Sami Salo’s 5-1 goal midway through the second period of Saturday’s game in Vancouver. With the Canucks on the powerplay, James Reimer makes a save on an Alex Edler shot, and the rebound bounces into the slot, where Matthew Lombardi has a chance to fire it the length of the ice. He whiffs on the clear, however, instead putting the puck right back on the stick of Edler at the point. The next time the Leafs touch the puck, they’re fishing it out of their net.

It was one of a salad bar of errors the Leafs served up to the Canucks.

It’s not difficult to see why many in the Toronto media call for Ron Wilson’s head on a regular basis: his team is abysmal defensively. All six Maple Leaf goals against Saturday were the result of defensive errors. Furthermore, four were the direct result of a senseless turnover, and two of those four were the result of a series of defensive errors after a senseless turnover.

Salo’s goal falls into the final category. Lombardi’s failure to ice the puck is one of two mistakes he makes on this play. Furthermore, while the flubbed clear undoubtedly enables a goal, it’s not the mistake that eventually causes it. Let’s take another look at this one:

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Is this Sami Salo’s final season?

After Sami Salo successfully defended his hardest shot title at Canucks Superskills on Sunday, there was some confusion over just what he said to Dan Murphy in the ensuing interview. “Alex Edler has won this event the last couple of times,” Murphy asked, “Did you feel it was time to take it back?”

“I think he gave it back,” Salo said, smiling. “My career is ending, so he wanted to make me feel good.”

Salo’s words raised a number of eyebrows. Did he just announce his retirement?

Yes and no. No, he didn’t retire then and there, and Salo reiterated and softened the quote after the event, telling the media, “Alex knows I’m close to the end of my career so I think he gave it to me.” In short, this wasn’t an official announcement of any sort, especially since Salo’s healthy and will be in the lineup for Tuesday night’s tilt with the Edmonton Oilers.

However, it was a hint that this will more than likely be Salo’s last year in the NHL, something that can hardly be a secret inside the room. When it comes to the 2011-12 season, make no mistake: this one’s for Sami.

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Should Cody Hodgson be on the first unit powerplay?

The Vancouver Canucks have the best powerplay in the NHL, but you wouldn’t know it from their last 15 games. The Canucks have gone 9-for-55 in that span for a percentage of 16.4%. That’s including the game against Boston when they went 4-for-11. Take that game out of the equation and you get some ugly-looking math.

While Sami Salo’s injury against Boston hasn’t helped, the Canucks powerplay was struggling even before he got injured. While his victory in the hardest shot competition in the Canucks Superskills on Sunday may be an indication that Salo is close to returning to the lineup, the Canucks need to consider all options to fix the ailing powerplay.

One of those options should be promoting Cody Hodgson to the first unit.

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Expectations are high for Chris Tanev, especially within Canucks’ management

Chris Tanev burst onto the scene during the Canucks injury plague of 2010-11. He showed himself capable of playing quiet, steady hockey in some high-pressure situations (including Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final) and looked poised to establish himself as staple of the Canucks’ blueline in seasons to come.

After he made the team out of training camp in September, Tanev appeared to be on track. Then, was sent down to the AHL after playing only three games. What gave?

Two things: the return of the injured Aaron Rome put the Canucks over the 23-man roster limit and necessitated a move of some sort. With the team unwilling to sacrifice depth on the waiver wire, Tanev’s waiver exemption made him the ideal candidate to go elsewhere for the time being. The second, which no doubt justified the first, was that, while Tanev had indeed proven himself capable of handling a bottom pairing role, he was clearly capable of more. The Canucks hoped that a little time with the Wolves would afford Tanev some powerplay, penalty-kill, and offensive zone experience.

Wednesday afternoon, Tanev was recalled, much to the delight of Canuck fans.

In a sense, you have to feel for the kid. He doesn’t join the team as a raw prospect looking to prove he can play. That he already did. This time around, Tanev joins the team as a proven prospect expected to be better than he was last time, maybe even capable of a top-four role.

And I’m not talking about the expectations of Canuck fans here — I’m talking about the coaching and management staff. For Tanev, this is a massive tryout.

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Brad Marchand gets five games for hit on Salo; ‘Predatory’, according to Shanahan

Despite taking their sweet time and backing the announcement right up to Canucks’ game time, the department of player safety has finally issued a verdict regarding Brad Marchand’s low bridge on Sami Salo from Saturday’s match between the Canucks and Bruins. Canuck fans will probably like how it all shook out: the Bruins’ pest has been suspended a whopping five games for the hit, the maximum amount he could be given without flying to New York for an in-person hearing.

Why so many games? As usual with Shanahan, Marchand’s repeat offender status plays into the decision, as does the fact that Salo suffered a concussion on the play. But those are secondary factors. The primary one, simply put, is that Brendan Shanahan and company saw the incident as “predatory”.

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Bruins’ Brad Marchand’s claim that he was just protecting himself is nonsense

It was interesting to hear Brad Marchand speak to Boston Bruins TV about his low-bridge on Sami Salo from the second period of Saturday’s matinee game between the Bruins and the Canucks. Granted, I wasn’t expecting him to admit to any wrongdoing, but I was amused when he painted the incident as little more than a reaction play. In his own words:

“I was kind of looking over my shoulder and saw Salo coming in and I just kind of went down. You look up and see a guy that’s 6’4″, 6’5″ coming in on you and your instincts are to protect yourself. It’s very unfortunate that he was hurt on the play.”

Salo was indeed hurt, by the way. If it wasn’t clear from the sudden, alarmingly out-of-character bout of stick-throwing rage from the demure Fin, he wasn’t quite himself, having suffered a concussion on the play. This was confirmed Sunday morning when he woke up with a headache.

Was Salo’s brain trauma, as Marchand indicated, just the result of a hockey play gone wrong? Was he merely a Suntot trying to protect himself from an oncoming Smoggie, a hobbit afeared of Orc aggression? No. That’s a blatant falsehood, especially if you watch what led up to the play.

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I Find This Video Odd: Henrik catches Salo’s flying stick

Normally, we at PITB are pretty good at catching the odd little moments that happen during Canuck games. That in mind, we’re ashamed to admit that we missed this one. Granted, with everything else that was happening in Vancouver’s 5-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, it’s somewhat understandable something might slip past us, but this is awesome. I can’t believe I didn’t see it until now.

Late in the first period, Tim Connolly puts a pass off Clarke MacArthur’s skate and, as MacArthur turns back to recover the puck, he chops Sami Salo’s stick right out of his hands. The stick goes flying.

And then Henrik Sedin casually snatches it out of mid-air.

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Video: I kid you not, there is footage of Sami Salo hooting like an owl

Friday morning, Kevin Bieksa appeared on the Team 1040, presumably to talk about the Canucks’ 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens the night before. However, despite the win coming in the form of a very memorable comeback, most fans were far more interested in what Bieksa had to say about David Booth’s “Whitetail” nickname for Mason Raymond, revealed in a postgame tweet.

Lamentably, Bieksa pooh-poohed the moniker. But the segment wasn’t a total letdown — he also threw a bone to Canuck fans desperate for a new animal nickname, disclosing that Sami Salo is “Owl.”

How long has Salo had this nickname? If this video of him hooting after a postseason victory is any indication, at least since last May.

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Two weeks ago, PITB unveiled its largest contest to date, the Salo is Your Palo-T shirt design contest. The rules were simple: design a shirt featuring the contest slogan, and send it to us by Sunday, November 20. From there, we would put the entries before our star-studded panel of judges (myself, Daniel Wagner, Jeff Marek, Greg Wyshynski, Katie Baker, Cam Cole, Jason Botchford, Mark Spector, and Derek Jory), and choose five winners to receive fabulous prizes.

The judges are currently deliberating, and we’ll let you know who the winners are later this week. But, in the meantime, it would be unfair to withhold from the masses what it is we’re deliberating on.

With that in mind, we present to you the Salo is your Pal-o gallery.

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Pass it to Comics: Alex Edler and Sami Salo are a perfect match

Pass it to Comics is a biweekly collaboration between PITB and cartoonist Chloe Ezra. It will run on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the season. Today, Alex Edler with Sami Salo just works.

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Spitballin’ on happy Weise, super Sami, Canuck Halloween costumes

Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few topics that deserve mention.

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It’s very easy to look at the Canucks’ 2-3-1 start and place a large portion of blame on their goaltender, Roberto Luongo. After all, his 3.70 GAA and .856 SV% places him near the bottom of the league. This is one of those cases, however, where the stats don’t tell the whole story. The defensive breakdowns in front of the Canucks’ goaltenders have been a major contributor to the Canucks’ struggles so far and it’s clear that the coaching staff is thinking the same thing.

The juggling of defence pairings has begun in earnest, as even last season’s stalwart duo of Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa, or HamJuice as they’re affectionately known, have been split up. The reasoning is simple: the Canucks just don’t have enough right side defencemen.

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You fine folks may remember the above image from a couple days back, when it inspired us to launch a Sami Salo photoshop contest. Well, the entries are in, and we thought we’d share them with you. A winner has yet to be picked, so if you want to have a say in the matter, please mosey on over to the comments and tell us what our opinion should be. In the meantime, here are 10 photos of Sami Salo, lustily licking his lips.

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Today in the Every Goal series, we look at defenseman Sami Salo and his three goals. Yes, three. You may recall that Salo’s season was severely shortened by a torn achilles tendon he suffered playing floorball in the summer. (Having played floorball, I can tell you that the risk of injury is probably higher playing backgammon, but leave it to Sami Salo to find a way.)

At his age, and considering the severity of his injury, it was downright courageous of Salo to work back into playing shape instead of just calling it a career. Truth is, as frustrated as Canuck nation was with yet another freak Salo injury, he had to be even moreso. While the fans suffer the annoyance of watching Salo injure himself again and again, Salo suffers the slightly higher annoyance of feeling these frequent injuries, and the discouragement that comes with them. That Salo has an entry in this series at all is admirable.

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Did you know that Sami Salo eats gloves? Yeah. He totally does. It’s a nerves thing. Don’t believe me? I have proof. Here’s a photo of Sami Salo in which, if I’m reading his facial expression correctly, he finds his gloves tantalizingly delicious-looking. They call to him. “Put me in your belly,” they say, and he is powerless to resist their call. I heard that, sometimes, at Christmas parties, Sami Salo steals into the coatroom, and when he comes back, there are bits of yarn in his teeth.

I’m not really sure there’s any other explanation for this photo, which I find exceedingly odd. Unless, maybe, he thinks his gloves are fondant-lidded sprinkle-sided vanilla lemon cakes? That’s a common mistake, right?

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You have to feel a little bit for Mike Gillis: while the players were clearing out their lockers and conducting final interviews with the press, Gillis was already back at work. The NHL Entry Draft is this Friday and free agency opens up on July 1st. Before then, Gillis will need to figure out what [...]

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Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few topics that deserve mention.

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Following a tough loss to the Sharks on Friday, the Canucks played this game like they had a lot to prove. After giving up 5 goals on their first five penalty kills in the series, they made sure to take five straight penalties just to prove that they could kill them. Having struggled on 5-on-3 powerplays all season and failing to score on two on Friday, they slyly goaded the Sharks into three such situations just to prove that they could take advantage of them. And finally, to avoid any accusations that they were only winning because the Sharks were choking in the third period, they wanted to prove that they could win a game despite being outscored in the final frame. I, too, had something to prove: could I watch this game? Yes. Yes, I could. It wasn’t that difficult. I’m not even sure why I questioned myself. I watched this game.

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Quick Hits (From Behind) is an irregular feature on Pass it To Bulis, wherein two hockey fans chip in their thoughts on current hockey news and get assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Hi there! Do you like links? Because PITB’s got a handful of good reads to help you with your chronic [...]

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