I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Minnesota Wild, February 28, 2014

If you need proof that judging a goaltender by their wins and losses is incredibly stupid, you just have to look at Eddie Lack this season. He has a mediocre 9-8-4 record after this shootout loss to the Wild, but has a .925 save percentage and 2.05 goals against average. Over his last eight starts, he’s allowed more than one goal just twice, but has just two wins.

The Canucks have given Lack less support than the parents of an Art major. By my calculations, Lack should have about 734 wins by now. I think there might be something wrong with my calculator, actually. There’s also something wrong with me, because I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks at Minnesota Wild, December 17, 2013

You might have expected a letdown after the Canucks’ big victory over the Boston Bruins in their last game, but the Canucks played very well. While it lacked the emotion of the Bruins game, the Canucks still dominated this game at times and it took some outstanding saves from Josh Harding to keep them from also dominating on the scoreboard.

Don’t get me wrong, the game itself was still a massive letdown. It was an exercise in tedium, built on a foundation of silence in the ironically named Xcel Energy Center. Apparently the “State of Hockey” is a state of quiet introspection, as this was one of the most muted hockey arenas I have ever seen and heard.

It was also a letdown in the sense that it wasn’t decided in regulation or overtime and the Canucks are less deadly in a shootout than Marty McFly. I watched this game.

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Who would the Canucks rather face in the playoffs?

With 8 games remaining in the regular season, it seems fairly certain that the Canucks will once again win the Northwest division. The Canucks are trending in the right direction with the addition of Derek Roy and the return of Ryan Kesler and are now six points up on the second place Minnesota Wild, who have lost four of their last five games.

Since the Canucks aren’t likely to catch the Anaheim Ducks, who are seven points ahead, in the standings, the Canucks will finish as the third seed in the Western Conference and face the sixth seed in the first round of the playoffs. At this point, any one of six teams could finish sixth in the West: the Kings, Sharks, Blues, Wild, Red Wings, and Coyotes, with the outside possibility of the Stars or Blue Jackets.

So, which of those teams would the Canucks rather play in the first round? Who would they rather avoid?

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Minnesota Wild, March 18, 2013

I’m not panicking yet. I’m far too level-headed to go off the deep end for a loss in which the Canucks soundly outplayed their opponent for the majority of the game, not even when that loss is their 8th in their last 11 games and puts the Canucks at the edge of the playoff picture in the Western Conference, not when there are still 20 games left to be played in the season. No, I’m not panicking.

But I will admit to being concerned. I’m concerned because I know it’s possible, however unlikely, to flip a coin and have it land on heads 100 times in a row. I know that for all of the underlying possession statistics that indicate the Canucks are better than their record indicates, it’s possible that things never turn around this season.

It’s possible that the next 20 games will be exactly like this one: the Canucks outplaying, out-shooting, and out-chancing their opponent, but not out-scoring them, with the Canucks failing to capitalize on their opponent’s mistakes, and their opponents making the Canucks pay for every mistake they make. In which case, I won’t need to watch those games, because I watched this game.

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I Watched this Game: Canucks at Minnesota Wild, March 10, 2013

Prior to this game, the Canucks were first place in the Northwest Division. I wish that hadn’t changed. But they came into Minnesota to play for first place and put in one of their ugliest efforts of the season. It was the kind of disastrous game that leads to player’s only meetings that last longer than five minutes. Now the Wild are first place in the Northwest and they’re terrible. I thought the Canucks were supposed to beat up on the weak Northwest Division, not be a reason why the Northwest is so weak.

Prior to this game, I hadn’t watched this game. That’s another thing that I wish hadn’t changed. Instead, 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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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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The Canucks need a strong Northwest Division

Technically, the Colorado Avalanche are still in playoff contention, but their chances are slimmer than a Slim Jim. They currently sit in 10th place, 2 points out of the playoffs, with only two games remaining on their schedule. All four teams ahead of them that they could conceivably catch have three games left. It doesn’t help that all three games the San Jose Sharks have remaining are against other teams battling for those same playoff spots, guaranteeing that the Avalanche will have even more ground to make up.

If the Avalanche fail to make the playoffs, the Vancouver Canucks will be the only team from the Northwest Division in the postseason for the second straight year. The competitive imbalance in the Northwest isn’t good for the team or the fans.

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The viciousness of Daniel Sedin’s slash depends entirely on the camera angle

The only goal scored on a goaltender in Monday night’s game between the Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota Wild came on a powerplay that was, according to Canucks fans, a trifle controversial. After Dany Heatley shoved Daniel Sedin near the benches, Alex Burrows rushed in to defend his Swedish semi-sibling, leading to a veritable brouhaha that included a donnybrook between Kevin Bieksa and the Wild’s Nick Johnson.

When the dust settled, Bieksa and Johnson received fighting majors and Burrows received the extra minor for roughing, putting the Wild on the powerplay. Heatley escaped entirely unharmed, receiving neither a penalty nor a punch in the face, both of which he arguably deserved.

To Wild fans and media, however, a much bigger concern was that Daniel Sedin almost removed Dany Heatley’s head with a vicious slash.

Wait, what?

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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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Breakdowning Alex Burrows’ 3-0 goal against the Wild

Monday night’s game against the Minnesota Wild was rife with wizardry, as the Sedins were in on three goals during the game, each of them magical. The first was a give-and-go that incredibly used the entire width of the ice and the second was off a sweet little tape-to-tape saucer pass from behind the net.

My favourite of the three, however, was the third goal, as it also involved the Sedins’ wizardous apprentice, Alex Burrows. The three of them managed to bewitch the Wild players into doing exactly what they wanted them to do, leading to a gorgeous goal by Burrows that sent Niklas Backstrom’s water bottle flying.

But why, exactly, were the Wild so befuddled? How did the Sedins and Burrows manage to score this fantastic goal?

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Minnesota Wild, December 19, 2011

After 5 games on the road, the Canucks returned to the cozy confines of Rogers Arena with some concern that there might be a letdown with all of the travel. Sure enough, the Canucks were outshot by the perpetually-low-shooting Minnesota Wild in the first period and had 7 giveaways. They looked blunt, dull, or flat: in any case, not sharp. They were not, however, outscored or outgoaltended. Roberto Luongo stopped all 13 shots he faced in the first period, then proceeded to stop every other shot as well, earning his first shutout of the season. I watched the Canucks finish strong because I watched this game.

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For those that thought the Canucks were in the clear the moment the clock struck November, that, perhaps, all that spotty play was exclusive to October, I submit tonight’s game as evidence to the contrary. Don’t let the early goal fool you — this was the polar opposite of a sixty-minute effort, an utter bedwetting, the worst thing to happen in Minnesota since Morris Day steals Apollonia in Purple Rain. Of course, unlike that film, tonight’s game was unwatchable, and I should know, because I watched this game.

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One day removed from Mark Spector (not to be confused with Marc Spector, Moon Knight) implying that “Danes and Swedes” are the source of Vancouver’s issues, the Canucks defeated the Minnesota Wild, getting goals from a Dane, a Swede, and a Finn. Minnesota’s two goals from good ol’ Canadian boys weren’t enough to defeat the European onslaught.

Of course, then Mike Gillis traded a Swede and a German for an American and a Canadian, so maybe Spector was right. Or maybe we should judge players on how they actually play instead of their nationality. Crazy idea, I know, but it just might work. I watched this game.

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