Canucks of the Week, starring an honest, critical Ryan Miller

Canucks of the Week, written by Kevin Vanstone, examines who and what is keeping hockey in Vancouver interesting these days. That’s right: who and what. It need not only be players. After all, we are all Canucks. All people, places, things, abstract concepts, ideas, emotions — if it’s a noun, proper or common, it’s a Canuck, and it’s eligible to be a Canuck of the week.

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The Paper Feature: Seven surefire ways to fix what ails the Canucks

It goes without saying that the Vancouver Canucks have been crummy for a while now, but since it’s my job, I’ll say it anyway: crummy, crummy, crummy. Wednesday night’s loss to the Dallas Stars pushed the club’s losing streak to five games, and left the club scrambling for answers.

And we have them. With two games remaining before the Christmas break and the swing through California that will immediately follow, it’s imperative the Canucks gets things turned around immediately, and we have a few suggestions that should help them to do just that. Admittedly, we’re hardly experts here, but I think even the most experienced hockey mind will be able to see that our ideas will lead this team back to the path they were on to start the season.

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Hidden Easter eggs and unexpected cameos in the Canucks holiday fireplace video

If you’re such a diehard Canucks fan that you can’t even light the fireplace without ruminating on your devotion to the home team, we at PITB sincerely hope you’ve stumbled across the Vancouver Canucks 2014 holiday fireplace, an hour of crackling fire, surrounded by Canucks paraphernalia such as a Fin plushie, four Orca stockings, and even the leg lamp from A Christmas Story done up in a Canucks sock and a skate.

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Big Numbers: Canucks can’t score, but killing it shorthanded

Every now and then we like to take a break from all the words and just post some numbers. And some words describing the numbers, as otherwise it would just be a whole bunch of numbers with no context, which would be really weird. Big Numbers is a weekly feature on Pass it to Bulis in which we identify the numbers and statistics that really matter or, frequently, the ones that don’t matter at all but are still pretty interesting.

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Stick in Link: Bad luck Lack; Canucks looking to move forward(s)?

It’s time for “Stick in Link”, the feature where we just plug in a bunch of stuff written by others! Featuring a smattering of links from around the Smylosphere and beyond every Tuesday and Thursday. Warning: our links are so hyper, they change colour when exposed to heat. (Have something for us to share in [...]

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 0, Stars 2

I had a soccer game last Sunday and, with our regular goaltender on holiday, I was called upon to play in net. We were short a player, so, playing with only 10 men, I had to make a lot of saves.

I was playing very well, making a diving stop here, a point blank kick save there, giving my team a chance. Then, near the end of the first half, the other team had a corner kick. The player mis-kicked it, sending it too close to the near post. It was easy for me to jump up and grab it before it could go anywhere dangerous. The ball hit my hands and I landed on my feet, ready to send my team the other way.

And the ball slipped out.

I don’t even know how it happened. One moment the ball was in my hands, the next it was on the ground and I was scrambling to grab it, only to have one of their players get his foot in and kick it across the line. It was devastating to have a good performance suddenly turn into a catastrophe. I felt like I let my team down, like all the saves I made in the rest of the game were rendered null and void.

In short, I know exactly how Eddie Lack feels right now. I felt his pain when I watched this game.

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Finding shooting lanes and blocking shots: a breakdown of the Canucks’ possession statistics

An off-handed comment by Steve Burtch, who writes about analytics for Sportsnet and developed dCorsi, got me thinking about how we look at advanced statistics when judging teams. Essentially, he suggested that looking at “combined” statistics like corsi percentage or fenwick percentage was doing a disservice to the data and that it’s more useful to look at a team or player’s corsi for and against separately, as it provides more information.

This seemed to me to be an interesting point, though I still feel there’s value in combining metrics. After all, the point of hockey isn’t to score or prevent goals, but to out-score the opponent, so looking at just for and against by themselves doesn’t capture the entire picture.

It’s useful, though, to see how a team is getting to their totals, whether it’s via low-event, defensive play or high-octane offence, or somewhere in between. So, I decided to look at the Canucks’ corsi and fenwick statistics both for and against and see where they rank league-wide, to see if it would shed some light on the Canucks’ performance this season. Quite frankly, I was surprised by the results.

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Eddie Lack starts versus Dallas, as the Canucks gift us something to argue about

After a gruelling, seven-game Eastern road swing that, predictably, saw the Canucks regress into a knockoff version of themselves, with their legs turning to rice noodles and their blood turning to beef broth — in other words, they became the pho-Canucks — the team has a pretty soft schedule this week.

Between appearances on Hockey Night in Canada, the Canucks play just once — Wednesday night versus Dallas. It’s great for them. Their system needs a tweak. They need a rest. And the whole team could stand to regain their composure a little.

But it’s terrible for those of us who write about them. We need games to fuel us, especially after a four-game losing streak. We’ve already blamed the Sedins and criticized Willie Desjardins for playing Jannik Hansen on their line; Kevin Bieksa and Luca Sbisa are already broken up; we’ve scathed the defence, we’ve cast aspersions on the offence. We’re parched over here. For the love of all that is holy, throw us a bone, Canucks!

“Eddie lack confirms he is starting tonight.”

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Stick in Link: Vrbata rejoins Sedins, Sbisa and Bieksa split

It’s time for “Stick in Link”, the feature where we just plug in a bunch of stuff written by others! Featuring a smattering of links from around the Smylosphere and beyond every Tuesday and Thursday. Warning: our links are so hyper, they change colour when exposed to heat. (Have something for us to share in the next edition? E-mail us at passittobulis@gmail.com, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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Here’s a video of the Canucks holding kittens and talking about Christmas

In the grand scheme of things, the Canucks didn’t deliver last season. (Unless you like that sort of thing. If you’re into frustration and horror, they delivered. They were like The Torsk, the stork’s obsidian-feathered, mythological evil twin that doesn’t serve up babies, but rather a small black bindle that bursts with carpenter ants the moment he alights at your home and places it menacingly in your lap.)

But at Christmas, the Canucks came correct, gifting their fans with an interactive holiday card that included the results of an ugly Christmas sweater photo shoot, and a behind-the-scenes video. It was the best gift we could have asked for, and it helped us through some difficult times. A little under a month later, when John Tortorella was going batcrap in the halls of Rogers Arena, and we went to our happy place, this photo of Alex Burrows was pinned on the wall.

Twelve months later, the season arrived once again, and the Canucks were faced with the Herculean task of topping last year’s goodies. But how?

With kittens. This year’s holiday card is pretty excellent.

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What’s wrong with the Canucks?

The Canucks played one-tenth of a hockey game on Saturday, falling to the New York Rangers in about six minutes, or the time it takes to microwave a Hungry Man Turkey Pot Pie, and I think I speak for all Canucks fans when I say: ridiculous. Pot pies are not meant to be microwaved — unless you like your pie crust soggy instead of flaky and your meaty, saucy, filling tongue-searingly molten hot.

Also the Canucks were terrible.

They’ve been terrible for a few games now, actually. The loss was their fourth in a row, and if that performance was any indication, there are more coming.

But not until Wednesday at the earliest, leaving Canucks fans with several days to wrestle with the question: What’s Wrong With the Canucks? We have some theories.

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 14: Assigning Blame and Black Messiah

The Canucks are on a downswing, losing four straight, with their latest loss to the New York Rangers arguably their worst game of the season. This means it’s time to start throwing blame around.

We assign blame to Ryan Miller, Jim Benning, Willie Desjardins, Luca Sbisa, Kevin Bieksa, the defence as a whole, the forwards, and even us. Yes, it’s our fault. We are all Canucks, so we are all equally to blame.

Really, things aren’t quite as bad as they look and, just as we advised caution in getting to excited when the Canucks were at their peak, we advise patience now that they’re in a valley.

Before all that, we talk about D’Angelo’s new album, “Black Messiah”, and the new trend of releasing albums without any hype or buildup.

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No go for Bo; Canucks confirm Horvat won’t be released to play for Team Canada

Three weeks ago, the Canucks let Bo Horvat know he wouldn’t be sent back down to Junior, with Willie Desjardins giving him a literal “Welcome to the NHL” moment. The welcome came just before his ninth game and it must have been a relief for Horvat to know it wouldn’t be his last this season.

There was still a possibility, however, that Horvat wouldn’t play every game for the Canucks; the World Junior Championship is just over a week away and Horvat would be a major addition to Team Canada, potentially even playing with Canucks prospect Jake Virtanen on the second line.

We’ll have to wait until at least next season to see Horvat and Virtanen play together, as the Canucks announced that Horvat will not be released to participate for Team Canada in the World Junior Championship.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 1, Rangers 5

This was truly a night to remember for the Canucks, as it was the shortest game in franchise history, over in less than 7 minutes. Remember this time: 6 minutes and 46 seconds, because that’s when the final horn blew in this game and everyone went home. Those hoping to beat traffic had already left 3 minutes earlier, as it was clear the Canucks weren’t going to get back into this one.

Except for that one piece of trivia that you’ll be able to astound your friends with for years to come, you’ll likely want to forget this game ever happened. As short as it was, it was also incredibly painful to watch. But I watched it, along with the following several hours of dead air the CBC was showing for no reason whatsoever. Yes, I watched this game.

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Canucks of the Week, starring the Canucks minus hockey

Canucks of the Week, written by Kevin Vanstone, examines who and what is keeping hockey in Vancouver interesting these days. That’s right: who and what. It need not only be players. After all, we are all Canucks. All people, places, things, abstract concepts, ideas, emotions — if it’s a noun, proper or common, it’s a Canuck, and it’s eligible to be a Canuck of the week.

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The Paper Feature: Christmas gift ideas for the Canuck in your life

You have likely already started your Christmas shopping — in fact, you may be almost done — but we all have that one hard-to-shop-for person in our lives. For some of us, it’s that one uncle with ever-changing tastes or a sister who seems to have no discernible hobbies or interests. For others, it’s a member of the Vancouver Canucks.

We can all relate to that, right? What do you get for the man who has everything, including the adoration of hordes of hockey fans and a multi-million dollar contract? Don’t worry, PITB is here for you, with gift ideas for the Canuck on your list.

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Willie Desjardins finally turns on the line blender, because it’s the right time to do so

Through 29 games, Willie Desjardins has been remarkably patient. Even during the pre-season, Desjardins put together line combinations that he thought made sense and stuck with them. Apart from injuries and a few isolated moments when players got bumped up or down lines during a game, the Canucks’ lines have generally remained consistent.

That changed at practice Friday morning, as Desjardins made wholesale changes to the lineup, with only the third line staying the same. His patient approach paid off early in the season, as when one line went cold, another stepped up until it heated up again, but now is certainly the right time to make changes, and not just because the Canucks are coming off a three-game losing streak.

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Real Good Tweets, starring @petbugs13 and things people favourite

You folks made some good tweets last week. Some real good tweets.

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Stick in Link: Horvat could still play for Team Canada; 7-game road trips are too long

It’s time for “Stick in Link”, the feature where we just plug in a bunch of stuff written by others! Featuring a smattering of links from around the Smylosphere and beyond every Tuesday and Thursday. Warning: our links are so hyper, they change colour when exposed to heat. (Have something for us to share in the next edition? E-mail us at passittobulis@gmail.com, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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Big Numbers: Pacific Division is struggling; Chris Tanev, secret goalie

Every now and then we like to take a break from all the words and just post some numbers. And some words describing the numbers, as otherwise it would just be a whole bunch of numbers with no context, which would be really weird. Big Numbers is a weekly feature on Pass it to Bulis in which we identify the numbers and statistics that really matter or, frequently, the ones that don’t matter at all but are still pretty interesting.

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Ryan Miller hasn’t been as good (or bad) as people think

Ryan Miller presents a fascinating conundrum for Canucks fans. On the one hand, he’s second in the NHL in wins and has had some truly exceptional games, including three shutouts. On the other hand, he’s had some truly horrible games and his overall numbers are well below league-average.

It’s tough to know what to make of Miller, which has led to arguments among Canucks fans throughout the province and on social media. Just how good has Miller been? It’s hard to complain about a goaltender with a 16-6-0 record, but there’s also no denying that his statistics are a concern.

One reason it’s been difficult to assess Miller is how extreme his results have been. When he’s been good, he’s been very good, but when he’s been bad, he’s been horrible. Those horrible games, therefore, skew his numbers significantly. But, since he’s been good far more often than he’s been bad, there’s an argument to be made that his save percentage doesn’t tell the whole story. After all, what you really want from a goaltender is for him to give your team a chance to win in as many games as possible.

Has Miller given the Canucks a chance to win more often than not? His record suggests yes, but let’s take a closer look at the numbers using a goaltending metric known as Quality Starts.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 1, Canadiens 3

The Canucks did not play well tonight. Unlike the defensive pairing of Kevin Bieksa and Luca Sbisa, there’s no getting around it. They tested Carey Price just 16 times, which isn’t nearly enough, and they were out-attempted by a staggering margin of 68 to 29.

And yet, with five minutes remaining, they were still in the game, because hockey is funny. Then, with four minutes remaining, right when we began to wonder if they might steal a point, the Canadiens scored, because hockey is the cruel kind of funny. On the bright side, this is the first time I’ve ever felt like I could have been out there on the ice and fit right in. I felt like a real, honest-to-goodness Vancouver Canuck when I watched this game.

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The Prospector: Forsling makes Team Sweden roster, Virtanen scores a beautiful goal

The Prospector is a semi-regular feature on Pass it to Bulis where we pan the Canucks prospects pool in search of gold.

This time around, we look at Gustav Forsling, Patrick McNally, Jordan Subban, and Jake Virtanen.

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Stick in Link: Burrows on Beliveau; are the Canucks collapse-proof?

It’s time for “Stick in Link”, the feature where we just plug in a bunch of stuff written by others! Featuring a smattering of links from around the Smylosphere and beyond every Tuesday and Thursday. Warning: our links are so hyper, they change colour when exposed to heat. (Have something for us to share in the next edition? E-mail us at passittobulis@gmail.com, tweet us @passittobulis, or just come over and write your link on a pad of paper, I guess.)

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 13: Goaltending Controversies and Christmas Trees

The Canucks headed into this weekend on a high, having just shutout the Pittsburgh Penguins. Then they crashed and burned against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators, causing consternation in Canucks nation.

We discuss those two games, questioning whether Stephane Robidas should have received a suspension for his elbow to the head of Shawn Matthias, Radim Vrbata’s filthy goal on Craig Anderson, Derek Dorsett’s fight against Chris Neil, and Brad Richardson’s unexpected point streak.

We also talk about the elephant in the room: the goaltending. Is it okay to call it a controversy? Should Eddie Lack get more starts? How much leeway should Ryan Miller get for his wins? Is this all just media hype?

Before all that, we share stories of Christmas trees and destroyed ornaments.

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