On Remembrance Day, on the lightness of our being

This article originally appeared on the blog on November 11, 2010, back when PITB was in its infancy. Because its message still applies, however, we thought we’d share it with you once again (with minor alterations for topicality). Please take a moment on this Remembrance Day to appreciate that the life you have is the result of others sacrificing theirs.

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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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Early in Saturday night’s affair, it was clear that the Ottawa Senators had heard the rumours that the Canucks wilted at physical play, and playing rough appeared to be their strategy from the outset. Unfortunately, when your strategy involves giving Chris Neil more icetime than any other forward, it’s probably not going to win you many games.

What people don’t seem to realize is that it wasn’t the Boston Bruins’ toughness that won them the Stanley Cup Final — it was their skill. It’s just that their skill happened to also be tough. Anybody that thinks you can beat the Canucks by gooning it up with less skilled players will see results like this game — results that I saw as well, because I watched this game.

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Looking at it, it’s kind of remarkable that the Canucks won Tuesday night. They were outshot by a 2-1 margin for the first and second periods and 33-23 overall. They were outhit 40-18. They won only 18 of 40 faceoffs. By the end of the first, they were without both of their second-line wingers, and by the end of the second they had lost their starting goaltender.

And yet, despite all of this, when the final horn sounded, they hadn’t just eked out a victory — they’d cruised to a 6-0 drubbing of the Colorado Avalanche. How the what? I honestly have no idea what I saw. All I know is I saw it. Because I watched this game.

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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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Cory Schneider will make his sixth straight start Tuesday versus the Columbus Blue Jackets, a fact that he sent many into a tizzy. (Isn’t Roberto Luongo usually the one that starts games? He come he’s not doing that lately?) You probably already know our thoughts on the matter. Yesterday, Daniel looked at the faux goaltending controversy in which the Canucks are currently mired, and I am in full agreement with him. This situation isn’t what it’s being made out to be. No, Roberto Luongo has not lost his starting job. No, the Canucks aren’t suddenly in possession of a backup signed through 2022. No, this isn’t the end of the Roberto Luongo era in Vancouver and Vincent Lecavalier has not been asked to waive his no-movement clause.

Still, while I’m loath to admit it, this is a pretty big story. Prior to this stretch, a healthy Luongo had never played backup for three consecutive games. Now he’s about to spot Schneider his fourth. This is unprecedented, and the unprecedented needs to be examined.

As Daniel said, this has nothing to do with Luongo. But I would add that it’s not even solely about Schneider — it’s about the entire Canucks lineup, all nineteen guys that have played their roles to perfection over this winning streak, none of whom deserve to be plucked from the lineup. This is about Alain Vigneault sending a message to the whole room. That message is: continue playing well enough to win, and you will continue playing.

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After rediscovering even-strength scoring like Josiah, the boy king, stumbling across the Talmud in the treasure room of the temple, the Canucks stormed into Phoenix intent on proving that they had truly dispensed with their wicked powerplay-idolizing ways, and returned to the righteous 5-on-5 domination for which they once lived. Five even-strength goals later, it was clear they had indeed repented, and thank God. Suffice it to say, the Canuck team that dominates at even-strength is a much more entertaining watch, and I should know, because I watched this game.

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Drance Numbers is the silly research wing of PITB. While Messrs. Wagner and Mooney blog nationally and solve mysteries, Drance Numbers will look into the minutiae of quantifiable NHL data and bore you with it every Friday. Today, Drance looks at Ryan Kesler’s remarkable special teams contributions.

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For the past few seasons, there have been two surefire cure-alls for Vancouver struggles: the month of November and the Calgary Flames. Lucky for the Canucks, they kicked off thirty days of the former with sixty minutes of the latter, and the result was that always enjoyable category of game we like to call the laugher. The Canucks ran away with this one early, jumping out to a 3-0 lead with a 14-shot first period, then adding two more in the second while Calgary briefly debated responding. They really never did. Like the Calgary Flames that played in this game, I watched this game.

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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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Drance Numbers is the silly research wing of PITB. While Messrs. Wagner and Mooney blog nationally and solve mysteries, Drance Numbers will look into the minutiae of quantifiable NHL data and bore you with it every Friday. Today, Drance looks at the shooting percentage of Sedin linemates.

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Tuesday night, just after the Edmonton Oilers scored three goals in the opening half of the second period, Alain Vigneault abandoned the defense pairings with which he had begun the game in favour of two familiar duos.

Kevin Bieksa, who had started the game alongside Keith Ballard, was returned to last season’s standout pairing with Dan Hamhuis. Alex Edler, who had begun the game with Dan Hamhuis, was reunited with Sami Salo, the blueliner with whom Edler played in the Canucks’ top pairing two seasons ago.

Immediately, the Canuck defense improved. It was a noticeable enough difference to make one wonder why the Canucks hadn’t stuck with these pairings before. The past two seasons have provided ample evidence that each worked, and yet, for whatever reason, the Canucks were averse to sticking with them. Early in the Canucks’ contest with the Blues, even, Edler saw a few shifts with Kevin Bieksa. What are the Canucks up to?

Blame Alex Edler.

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Tonight was a tale of two games. In the one game, which took place in the first period, the back half of the second period, and the entirety of the third period, the Canucks defeated the Oilers by a score of 2-0. In the other game, which took place in the first ten minutes of the second period, the Oilers defeated the Canucks by a score of 3-0. Unfortunately for Vancouver, there was also a third, larger game, which was decided by combining scores of the other two games. Hence, the Oilers won this game as well. I watched this game.

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Yesterday, as David Booth was surrounded by a massive horde of hockey writers cramming cameras and microphones into his face like grandmas with spoons full of pudding, Canucks’ coach Alain Vigneault walked past and said with a chuckle, “Welcome to Vancouver.”

Yes, things are a little different here. While I won’t go as far as to say that no one cares about hockey in Florida — although, when an infomercial outrates your live game telecasts, um, the point sort of makes itself — it’s safe to say that the editorial board of the Miami Herald isn’t suggesting roster moves. No, that only happens here.

Pretty much everything David Booth does now is a story, and if there’s a way to turn it into a controversy, you’d better believe somebody’s on it. For instance, had Booth chosen to sit out Tuesday morning’s optional game day skate on the morning of his debut — a reasonable option, since it was optional, and he’s probably exhausted — it would have been a story.

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Yesterday, we broke down a Province news editorial that espoused a trade sending Roberto Luongo to the Tampa Bay Lighting for Vincent Lecavalier.

It was an odd thing, this unexpected newspaper-endorsed trade proposal, and not just because a paper’s editorial board doesn’t usually weigh in on rosters like they were playing “Fantasy GM mode” in NHL 12: it was also just a bad trade. Either the editorial board’s hockey knowledge is scant, Mike Milbury is on said board, or both. One assumes that, if the Province were an Ottawa-based newspaper, they would have espoused keeping Redden over Chara, too.

Needless to say, we didn’t like it.

It turns out we weren’t alone, however, as Mike Gillis unexpectedly called in to the Team 1040 Friday afternoon like he was freaking Troy from White Rock in order to express his dislike for the piece.

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There are a number of reasons that I’d be bummed if Roberto Luongo left town, but chief amongst them is the fact that I would no longer be able to witness firsthand his amazing tendency to make a great joke at the absolutely wrong time.

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Drance Numbers is the silly research wing of PITB. While Messrs. Wagner and Mooney blog nationally and solve mysteries, Drance Numbers will look into the minutiae of quantifiable NHL data and bore you with it every Friday. Today, Drance discusses PDO. This ain’t your daddy’s statistic!

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If you picked up yesterday’s edition of The Province, I’m obligated to advise that you bought the wrong paper. Also, you might have seen an editorial about a proposed solution to the well-publicized relationship problems between Roberto Luongo and a certain segment of the Canucks fanbase. If not, you can still read the editorial on The Province’s website. I encourage you to do so, if only to marvel at the absurdity.

This is a news editorial by “The Province”, not a columnist’s take. It represents the paper, not one particular thinker, which basically means I’m going to hold all of them responsible, particularly since it uses plural personal pronouns throughout: “Here’s our solution” and “we need a power forward.” So what’s their solution? What power forward are they targeting? Their proposal:

Trade Luongo straight up for Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Let’s ignore for the moment that it seems incredibly inappropriate for a mainstream media source to call for a trade, let alone a very specific trade. In fact, let’s not even address this as a newspaper article, especially since it barely manages to rise above the level of a hastily thrown together and ill-considered blog post. So let’s judge it at that level: as a blog post.

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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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The last time the Canucks lost 4-0 and were shut out by a seemingly unbeatable Eastern Conference goaltender wearing number thirty, the city skyline was on fire within minutes. That in mind, Tuesday night could have gone a whole lot worse.
Of course, it also could have gone a whole lot better, say, if the Canucks hadn’t completely fallen apart in the third period. Or, say, if the Canucks could have capitalized on one of the seven consecutive powerplays they were gifted by an undisciplined Rangers team. Ideally, Vancouver could have headed into the third with a lead rather than being locked in a scoreless draw, especially since they outshot New York 28-9 through two. Heck, had they managed to put any one of their forty shots on goal past Henrik Lundqvist, this would be a much more joyous recap.

Unfortunately, the Canucks did none of these things, and as a result, they lost this game. Also unfortunately, I watched this game.

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What is clipping and why does Keith Ballard keep getting called for it?

With Monday morning’s report that Keith Ballard will be a member of the Canucks’ defensive top four for the second game in a row Tuesday (as well that suspicious @Keith_Ballard4 Twitter account that has yet to tweet but is being followed by both Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa), it seems reasonable to assume that we’re going to see a lot more of the hipcheck-happy left side defenseman this season.

And, if that’s the case, knowing Ballard as we do, we should probably get ready to see a few more plays blown down for that rarest of rare penalties the league calls “clipping,” a banned action that, up until last May, many Canuck fans didn’t even know existed.

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Alex Burrows just got Keslurked

We’ve been a little spoiled by the level to which Ryan Kesler has taken the Keslurking meme of late, what with the Canucks’ centre going meta and victimizing his own interviews and family photos. With the level to which our expectations have risen, it stands to reason that an old-school, subtle Keslurk — the sort in which the man is hardly noticeable — might go unnoticed.

That’s what happened last night, during Alex Burrows’s Hockey Night in Canada postgame interview. Rather than dominating the frame, Kesler’s interview bomb involves little else but a barely perceptible peer from behind a curtain.

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After three straight outings in which the Canucks failed to put in a complete performance, tonight’s game versus the Detroit Red Wings had all the makings of an antidote. Vancouver always seems to get up for Detroit, and tonight was no exception, at least at first. The Canucks finally broke the trend of coming out half-asleep, outshooting the Red Wings 12-9 in the opening frame and even drawing the first powerplay. Unfortunately, their second period — in which the Wings outshot the Canucks 24-8 and scored the only two goals on the night — indicated that the team hadn’t relegated the poor starts to the past, but rather, the future. I’ll tell you what has been relegated to the past, though: this game, which happened hours ago. Back then, I watched this game.

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And Cody Hodgson makes five: how last season’s best faceoff team got better

With Maxim Lapierre retained and Manny Malhotra back to full health this season, the Canucks will now be four-deep at centre for the next two years. But they may actually be five-deep, because Cody Hodgson is beginning to prove that he’s not too bad in the circle either.

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Pass it to Comics: Roberto Luongo eats well on the road

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, we look at the bright side of Roberto Luongo’s bad habits.

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