The top 50 Vancouver Canucks goals of 2011 (40-31)

Welcome to Day 2 of PITB’s countdown of the top 50 goals the Vancouver Canucks scored in 2011. This afternoon you’ll be treated to a Daniel Sedin hat trick, a brilliant Ryan Kesler power move, and the bowling ball that is Raffi Torres.

There’s also a hat tip to what was a very common theme in the year that was: the victimization of the Pacific Division, as both San Jose and Dallas get burned multiple times. Provided you’re neither a Sharks fan nor a Stars fan, you’ll probably enjoy today’s goals.

Like life (according to John Lennon), we begin at 40.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Edmonton Oilers, December 26, 2011

After a pre-Christmas performance so stingy and humbugged it would make Ebenezer Scrooge proud (insomuch as that old coot can be proud of anything), the Canucks returned from the break as though they had been visited Christmas night by a trio of ghosts portending doom if they continued to be a team that loses to the Flames.

Here’s how it probably went down: the Ghost of Christmas Past took them to Christmas, 1987, when they were in the midst of a horrible stretch in which they won only once in 10 games. The Ghost of Christmas Present made them watch game tape from Friday night versus Calgary. And the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come showed them a horrifying future in which there is actual debate over whether or not the Sedins’ numbers should be retired.

Needless to say, the Canucks were forever changed by this harrowing experience, and they were thus far more generous versus the Edmonton Oilers, giving fans five goals to cheer about, and even anonymously sending a prize turkey to the Cratchit home. I watched this game.

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The top 50 Vancouver Canucks goals of 2011 (50-41)

2011 was a fabulous year for Canucks hockey. Sure, the Stanley Cup Final may not have ended quite the way Vancouver fans wanted it to, but the Canucks were still in it, and that’s a rarity deserving of some serious appreciation.

If you ask me, so was the 2011 team in its entirety. Between the wizardry of the Sedins, the raw power of Ryan Kesler, the stable of offensive-minded defensemen, the occasional flashes of brilliance from the skilled corps of middle wingers, and the gaggle of set plays the team employs, the fans in this city are spoiled right now. We may never see another team like this one again.

With that in mind, it would be crazy to let this year in Canucks hockey lapse without looking back at some of its incredible goals. What follows is a countdown of our favourite 50, which will run Monday through Friday at 9am sharp. Please feel free to disagree with this highly subjective list in the comments.

So it begins.

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Breakdowning Henrik Sedin’s 1-0 goal versus the Wild

PITB’s list of the top 50 Canuck goals of 2011 begins next Monday, and you can rest assured that at least two of the goals the Canucks potted last night are going to be on that list: Henrik Sedin’s 1-0 goal and Alex Burrows’s 3-0 goal.

Now, Daniel already broke down the third goal, which is about as full of wizardry as Waverly Place, but with many raving about the wonders of Sedins’ first tally instead, I thought I’d take a closer look at that one as well.

The secret to defending the Sedins is very simple: don’t make any mistakes ever. If you leave a guy open for even a moment while they’re on the ice, there’s a pretty good chance that one of them will find him.

That’s how most of their goals are scored. Very rarely do they try to muscle their way to the net. They’re more content to move the puck around, forcing defenders to adjust to new alignments and, hopefully exposing, a new seam through which they can thread a pass. That’s what happens on this long give-and-go.

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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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Was Daniel Sedin’s hat trick versus Colorado the prettiest of his career?

Daniel Sedin’s trio of goals was an obscenely beautiful hat trick. It was so gorgeous that, immediately after the third goal of the suite, I declared it the most beautiful hat trick I’d ever seen.

But this may have been in haste. Immediately after I said it, a number of people countered with the hat trick that Daniel potted versus the Calgary Flames on April 10, 2010. You may recall that that hat trick featured the between-the-legs capper that is widely considered the finest goal in Sedin history. Is it possible that Tuesday’s hat trick wasn’t even the most beautiful of Daniel’s career?

Daniel Sedin has produced two remarkable hat tricks in the last 18 months. Which is lovelier? Let’s investigate.

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Mason Raymond finally played his first game since having his back broken in last season’s Stanley Cup Final. He returned one-game later than intended after a paperwork error kept him out of Thursday’s game against the Nashville Predators and unwittingly unleashed the dreaded thirteenth forward curse on Aaron Volpatti.

In response to his return, the Flames panicked and started their backup, Henrik Karlsson, in place of Miikka Kiprusoff, who was the goaltender of record for both of Raymond’s two career hat tricks. Clearly, Kiprusoff is scared of Raymond. I’m sure that this game being the second of a back-to-back and the third game in four nights for the Flames had nothing to do with it. I watched this game.

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For the first time this season, the Canucks’ defence looked calm, composed, and organized in their own end. Is it a coincidence that this was also Aaron Rome’s first game in the lineup? Of course not. Like a book under a wonky table leg, Rome is a steadying influence. Rome did it all tonight, seeing icetime in all situations, and scoring the first powerplay goal of his career. With that goal, Rome is on pace for 67 goals this season. Is it too early to start the Rome for Norris talk? If anything, it’s too late. Norris buzz needs to start in the pre-season. 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 the shooting percentage of Sedin linemates.

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That is not the Vancouver Canucks hockey that fans are used to from last season and I sincerely doubt that it is the Vancouver Canucks hockey that we see throughout the rest of the season. While certainly a fun game to watch with plenty of excitement, it was not good hockey. It wasn’t just the Canucks either, as both teams played irresponsible hockey full of consistently bad reads leading to defensive breakdowns, leaving both goaltenders helpless to stop the wide-open scoring chances that developed. Nine goals were scored on 67 shots in this game and I saw every single one, because I watched this game.

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These final 11 goals of Daniel’s regular season are some of his prettiest, showcasing his accurate shot and knack for finding open ice to use it. While many of his other goals featured simple tap-ins after pretty passing plays, these goals show a lot more of Daniel’s skill with the puck and are a great reminder why he won the Ted Lindsay Award as voted by his peers. Many of his peers saw firsthand what he was capable of and many of them were victimized by those capabilities. Sure, there are a couple lucky bounces tossed in, but luck doesn’t happen on its own. These goals demonstrate how hard work creates the opportunities for good fortune to occur.

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I have to be exceptionally careful while writing Daniel Sedin’s Every Goal for 2010-11. So many of his goals came off remarkable passing plays that I start to become desensitized to the Wizardous Sedinerie on display. I see yet another cross-ice, three-foot-high saucer pass over the sticks of two defenders and I scoff: “Pfft, he was totally looking at his brother when he made that pass. Wake me up when he does that blindfolded while freeing himself from a straitjacket.” Sometimes I have to slow down and take the time to appreciate each moment of wizardry. I encourage you to do the same: parcel out your viewing throughout the day. Watch each goal a few times, perhaps more if it’s a particularly pretty one. Also, tell someone you care about how much you love them. Never a bad time for that.

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The best examples of Wizardous Sedinerie are rarely about the finish, which is usually just a tap-in into an open net. Because of this, many of Daniel’s 41 goals make his job look easy. All he has to do is corral the blind, backhand, spin-o-rama, cross-ice saucer pass from Henrik and direct it at the open 6′ x 4′ cage, but that underplays his contribution. Daniel’s ability to find open ice and anticipate Henrik’s passes is almost as impressive as the passes themselves. The fact that Daniel also makes those types of passes himself (as on display in other iterations of this year’s Every Goal series) is incredible.

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Last week was Ryan Kesler Week, as we examined all 41 goals scored by the Canucks’ second-line center. How can we follow up on that? With Daniel Sedin Week, where we examine all 41 goals scored by the Canucks’ first-line left winger.

In case you haven’t heard, Daniel Sedin had a pretty good season in 2010-11. In the previous season, his brother picked up the Art Ross and the Hart trophies in 2009-10 and snidely remarked on-stage at the awards show in Las Vegas that he was better than Daniel. Essentially. Understandably, this set Daniel on edge and he was clearly out for blood. He got it. There was blood all over the ice, spurting from multiple wounds in the goal line, spraying all over opposition goaltenders. Every Canucks game was like an episode of True Blood in which a vampire gets staked.

Daniel led the NHL in scoring, winning the Art Ross trophy and the Ted Lindsay award. He finished 4th in goals scored, with 41, and led the league in powerplay goals with 18. And we’re about to recap every single one of those 41 goals. Here are goals 1-10. Expect wizardry. And blood. Perhaps some blood magic.

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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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Welcome to the back half of Alex Burrows’ entry in the PITB Every Goal series. Yesterday we looked at goals 1-13 in Burrows’s 2010-11 season. Today we’ll look at goals 14 – 26, and you’ll see all sorts of crazy things: ridiculous passing plays, odd-man rushes, that backhand move that always works for some reason, more hustle than a Cassidy video, and empty net goals galore. Galore! And if, for whatever reason, you don’t fully understand what Alex Burrows brings to the Canucks, you’ll have a pretty good idea by the time you’re finished.

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Alex Burrows had a fabulous season, and he didn’t get enough credit for it. Though he failed to top his career-high 35 goals from the season prior, he still potted an impressive 26 goals in a shortened season after missing the entire preseason and the first 10 games of the regular season while recovering from shoulder surgery. Granted, Burrows’s totals were overshadowed by the 41-goal seasons put up by both Ryan Kesler and Daniel Sedin, but it’s important to note that Alex Burrows did his damage without powerplay time: his 24 even-strength goals, one more than either Kesler or Daniel, led the Canucks.

One misconception that I hope to clear up during Alex Burrows’s entry in the Every Goal series is the notion that anybody could do Burrows’s job. It’s a cushy gig, to be sure, but a lot of guys have flunked out of it because it’s not an easy one to keep. In order to make himself a consistent passing option, Burrows has to stay one step ahead of the Sedins. Were this a simple task, there would be no such thing as Sedinery. Burr works his tail off to be in the right place at the right time, reading plays, fighting for space, going hard into corners and even harder to the net. In short: sure, his stat line benefits from the Sedins’ fabulous playmaking skills, but he makes things as easy for them as they do for him. Take in every goal Alex Burrows scored in 2010-11 and you’re sure to notice that.

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Though Henrik Sedin had a slight statistical regression from his Hart and Art Ross trophy winning season in 2010-11, registering 94 points a year after a career-high 112, you’d be hard-pressed to say last season was a step backwards for the elder twin. On opening night of the regular season, Henrik was named the captain of the Vancouver Canucks, a position Roberto Luongo had relinquished during the offseason. Anointed as the head of a revamped leadership corps, Henrik had a pretty good first year with the new patch, leading the Canucks to within one win of the Stanley Cup.

With his brother healthy for the entire season, Henrik also returned to his primary role as Daniel’s setup man (and, seeing as his brother won the Art Ross and the Lindsay, he was clearly a pretty effective setup man). Henrik scored 10 fewer goals than the season prior, finishing one goal short of his third 20-goal season. That said, 19 goals are nothing to sneeze at, especially when they come paired with a league-leading 75 assists and 94 points total. Trust me: while Henrik isn’t an elite goalscorer, per se, Henrik Sedin is an elite playmaker and that, more than anything else, is evident during this compilation of every goal he scored in 2010-11. I assure you, it’s the best one yet.

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On May 24th, 1994, Greg Adams scored in double overtime of Game 5 of the Western Conference Final to take the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final. Tonight, exactly 17 years later, Kevin Bieksa did the same. For only the third time in their 40-year history, the Vancouver Canucks are going to the Stanley Cup Final. After winning Round One in 7 games, Round Two in 6, and Round Three in 5, are the Canucks destined to sweep the Eastern Conference Champions? Is this the (Stanley Cup) Final Countdown? 7-6-5-4. It has a nice ring to it. But before we look to the future, let’s reminisce about the past. The recent past. The Canucks just won a hockey game. I watched this game.

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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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For many, the big story of Game 1 will be the return of the Sedins, who broke out in a big way, leading the Canucks to a third period comeback with two huge goals. It’s true — this was a big deal. That said, I’m more excited about the return of something else: blown coverage. Defensive lapses! Odd-man rushes! Sweet, sweet space! After the Nashville series, which was tighter than a hipster’s trousers, I had forgotten how much fun it could to be to watch the Canucks versus a team that can blow an assignment. It’s downright refreshing. All three Vancouver goals tonight came off defensive errors, one on each San Jose D-pairing’s watch. Oh, and speaking of watches, I watched this game:

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Here’s the NHL’s latest ad in the “History Will Be Made” series, starring stickhandling wizard Daniel Sedin, and if last Friday’s game-winner didn’t give you the warm fuzzies in real time, it definitely does when slowed down. Mind you, almost anything is inspirational if you slow it down and set it to piano noodling, but it helps when your source material is this beautiful.

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Welcome to the back half of the Best of the Sedins countdown, the top 5 plays the Canucks’ top line orchestrated this year. Before we go any further, let me say that this list is far from definitive, and I’d be interested to hear your contrary opinions in the comments.

And, if you’re planning to happen by the comments, here’s something for you to ponder: are the Sedins the greatest players in Vancouver Canucks history? I think they are. I watched Pavel Bure; I watched the West Coast Express, too. For me, what the Sedins do night after night simply wins out. The way they move the puck, the meticulous way they break apart a defense, the casual way they do the incredible–it’s unlike and above any other superstars Vancouver has ever had.

You want proof? I submit, for the record, exhibits 5 through 1:

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PITB’s first post ever was a top 5 countdown of the best Sedin goals of last season, posted exactly a year ago today. We thought, in honour of our first birthday, and the fact that the Sedins are totally balls, it was time to return to our roots. What are blogs for if not for lists?

Unlike last year, there is no de facto number one, but there are about fifteen plays worthy of a spot in the top five. As a result, we’ve doubled the list, and will now be counting down the top ten Sedin plays of 2010-11. Be warned: this list is highly subjective. Last week’s post, in which we shared 12 wizardous candidates, proved consensus on Sedin-ranking to be impossible. As a result, we just decided to go with our gut, which I can safely say has never steered me wrong, save last week, when it asked for a bacon sundae. Anyway. Here are plays 10 – 6.

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