Conspiracy Watch: Canucks’ emphasis on integrity, character cost them a playoff series

Conspiracy Watch is the official PITB home for the tinfoil-hatters, a large demographic in Vancouver that deserves to have its voice heard. Every Friday, Kevin Vanstone will espouse and catalog insane conspiracy theories no one else will validate, probably because they’re too true.

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Player to Watch: Shawn Matthias, as he rides off into the sunset

Roberto Luongo is the best goaltender in Canucks history, so it was disappointing that the only players that came back in his trade to the Florida Panthers were Shawn Matthias and Jacob Markstrom. Sure, Matthias has shown flashes of being a legitimate power forward and Markstrom had a stellar season for the Utica Comets, but Canucks fans were certainly hoping for something a little more significant.

It’s even more disappointing when you consider that both could be gone this off-season, just over one full season after the trade.

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The Paper Feature: Six ways to survive another long Canucks offseason

The Vancouver Canucks couldn’t have picked a worse time to get eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They were winning 3-0, after all. What a time to throw in the towel.

Plus it happened just as we were catching full-blown Canuck fever, an epidemic that’s been going around Vancouver since the Canucks Jenny-McCarthy’d us all by making the playoffs. So now we have it, and the Canucks are gone until September. That’s a problem.

Getting through this stretch can be tough. But it’s not impossible, especially if you can find another outlet for all your hockey fan needs. Here are some tips to survive the offseason:

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The Prospector: Comets need overtime, Virtanen coming back from headshot suspension

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

This week, we look at the Utica Comets in the Calder Cup playoffs, Jared McCann, Cole Cassels, and Miles Liberati in the OHL playoffs, a suspension for Jake Virtanen, and the signing of Joseph LaBate.

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Guest Post: The monogamous Canucks fan’s guide to round 2

So, in the past week, you’ve gone through your annual 5 stages of hockey-related grief. You’ve accepted that the Canucks have fallen short for the 44th consecutive time. But there’s still a lot of hockey to be played this spring, and your heart isn’t in it anymore. You can’t get excited about other Canadian cities or an ex-coach in New York or a White Rock-born ex-Canuck in Tampa Bay. You’re just a one-team kind of fan.

No problem. You can cheer for the Canucks’ future right now.

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Big Numbers: Long off-season ahead, limited capspace to spend

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.

Statistics are gathered from NHL.com, War-on-Ice.com, Puckalytics.com, HockeyAnalysis.com, BehindtheNet.ca, and elsewhere.

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Gregor Robertson pays up on mayor bet, reads horrible, pro-Flames poem

We don’t often talk about the mayor here on PITB. That’s largely because the B doesn’t stand for bolitics. But it’s also because we’re simply not informed enough. For instance, I only just now learned that it’s pronounced politics.

I digress. The mayor doesn’t come up much around these parts because it’s rare that his rampage of bike lane installation intersects with the local hockey franchise. But it does happen, such as when he and precocious Internet-era mayor supreme Naheed Nenshi made a friendly wager on the first-round playoff series between the Canucks and Flames.

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The Canucks were not a four-line team

When Jim Benning and Trevor Linden took over the Canucks, they made a commitment to rolling four lines, and Willie Desjardins carried out that commitment. Not a single player who played more than five games with the Canucks averaged under ten minutes in ice time per game.

That balanced approach to ice time led to balanced scoring. The Canucks had 11 different forwards with at least 10 goals, the most in the league. Those forwards were spread across multiple lines, so it looked like the Canucks approach to rolling all four lines was working just fine.

Then the playoffs came along and exposed it all for a lie: The Canucks were not a four-line team; they were a one-line team masquerading as a four-line team.

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Stick in Link: Hamhuis, Bonino to Worlds; sober reflection on a confusing season

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 three times a week. 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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Multiple choice: What should the Canucks do this off-season?

Pop quiz, hotshot: you’ve just seen an entire season of Canucks hockey culminate in a disappointing first round exit. You’re wearing Jim Benning’s shoes, because you’re Jim Benning. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 31: Pondering What-Ifs and New Refused

The Canucks season is over and all that’s left is to ponder what might have been. What if Willie Desjardins had given the Sedins more ice time earlier in the season? What if Eddie Lack had been brought in for Game 6? What if Desjardins’ counter-intuitive lineup decisions had paid off?

We look back at the Canucks’ playoff series against the Flames and break down some of the crucial decisions and plays that cost the Canucks. We also discuss some of the great moments that have been overshadowed by the loss, particularly the performance of rookie Bo Horvat.

Before all of that, however, we talk about the new album from legendary hardcore punk band Refused, their first album in 17 years.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 4, Flames 7

Had there been a Game 7, you could have expected much of the talk leading up to it to be about 1994, believed by many to be the only year in Canucks’ history. But instead, Saturday’s Game 6 had more in common, to these eyes, with the Vancouver-Calgary series that came 10 years later, in 2004.

Game 6 in that series saw the Canucks go way in front early, only to crumble and let the Flames back in it. It was a classic game, and normally I wouldn’t mind being reminded of it. Why the Canucks had to restage it with a crappier ending, however, is beyond me. But I didn’t write this game. I just watched this game.

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Player to Watch: Radim Vrbata, who is due

I have to admit, there’s a lot of hope and optimism in the choosing of this week’s Player to Watch.

Despite his 3 points in 5 games, Radim Vrbata has been severely criticized for his performance in this series, partly because his one goal came into an empty net. Vrbata was the team’s leading goalscorer during the regular season and was voted the team’s MVP, but he’s been largely invisible in this series.

Sometimes, however, that’s his greatest weapon, as he excels at finding soft spots in defensive coverage by evading notice. Vrbata’s contributions when he’s not scoring are a little more subtle than others. He doesn’t throw hits or make big, noticeable defensive plays, but he’s still a strong possession player who has been getting better throughout the series.

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The Paper Feature: The Sedins are old, and it’s helping

Asked whether he planned to make an emotional pregame speech in advance of a must-win Game 5, Henrik Sedin provided only snark. “You want me to cry?” he quipped, shutting down that line of questioning on sight.

Henrik was feeling particularly cranky before Game 5, which is fair. He’s old, and it was the mid-afternoon, which is naptime. Asked what needed to happen offensively for the Canucks, he responded, “We’re trying to shoot the puck past Hiller, their goalie.” Asked to elaborate, the captain doubled down: “You just try to shoot the puck past him over the goal line.” He was in some kind of mood.

Of course, Henrik wasn’t just being a jerk for no reason. (He and his brother aren’t the sort, and if you need proof, consider the Vine making the rounds in which Deryk Engelland loses his stick shoving Daniel Sedin after a whistle, and Daniel helpfully picks it up for him while Engelland looks on, confused.) He was deflecting, because he didn’t want to give anything away.

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Conspiracy Watch: Are Linden and Benning recreating 1994, beat by beat?

Conspiracy Watch is the official PITB home for the tinfoil-hatters, a large demographic in Vancouver that deserves to have its voice heard. Every Friday, Kevin Vanstone will espouse and catalog insane conspiracy theories no one else will validate, probably because they’re too true.

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Real Good Tweets, starring the 34-year-old Sedin twins

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

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Big Numbers: Sedins dominate possession, Bo Horvat is pretty great

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.

Statistics are gathered from NHL.com, War-on-Ice.com, Puckalytics.com, HockeyAnalysis.com, BehindtheNet.ca, and elsewhere.

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Stick in Link: Game 5 in review; Nick Bonino did a thing

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 three times a week. 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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I Watched This Game: Canucks 2, Flames 1

That game was like going camping with a miniature drill: a little bit intense. And if you think that joke was painful, it pales in comparison to watching the Canucks up by one goal take two penalties in the third period against a Flames team that has racked up the power play goals in this series.

The Canucks were on the edge, so they busted out The Edge, bringing back “Where the Streets Have No Name” when they skated onto the ice. Did they use that music in the other two home playoff games? I don’t know and I don’t care. All I know is that it worked tonight, as U2 made the Flames want to run and hide, if by “run and hide” you mean battle hard all game and give me heart palpitations.

I redefined the phrase “resting heart rate” when I watched this game.

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The Prospector: Playoff success for Canucks prospects

The Prospector is a semi-regular feature on Pass it to Bulis where we pan the Canucks prospects pool in search of gold. In this edition, we distract ourselves from the Canucks’ playoff woes by looking at players within the organization who are enjoying playoff success.

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Ten reasons for optimism as the Canucks return home for Game 5

There are reasons for optimism as the Canucks and Flames return to Rogers Arena for Game 5. Sure, the Canucks are on the brink, but this is a franchise that thrives on the brink. Is it any wonder that they’re based in Vancouver, which is on the brink of North America? Of course not. The brink is Vancouver’s ally, which explains why the Canucks are 3-5 in series where they’ve fallen behind three games to one. You think the brink is your ally? You merely adopted the brink. The Canucks were born in it, moulded by it.

But it’s not just the franchise’s considerable experience with falling into holes like Atari’s E.T. — there’s another reason to feel good about Game 5: home-ice advantage. The Canucks have it, and here’s what that means for them:

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The Canucks have solved Jonas Hiller

Heading into Thursday night’s all-important Game 5, much of the focus is on the Canucks’ net, where Ryan Miller will draw in for Eddie Lack in hopes of turning the Canucks’ fortunes around.

It’s a move borne of desperation, mostly. But it may also be because the Canucks need goaltending like the Flames are getting, and what better way to do that than starting a guy whose name sounds almost identical?

That said, it doesn’t sound like Hiller will be the problem in Game 5 that he’s been in the previous four. The Canucks have figured him out.

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Ryan Miller returns to Canucks’ net just in time to take the blame

Facing elimination in Game 5 their first-round series with the Calgary Flames, the Vancouver Canucks will turn to Ryan Miller. The news, first reported by Irfaan Gaffar on Wednesday night, was formally confirmed by coach Willie Desjardins Thursday afternoon.

It’s Miller time in Game 5, and let’s hope that Miller’s knees are up to it, and he doesn’t wind up looking like a beer-leaguer that declared the beginning of Miller time three hours before puck drop.

How was this decision made? Did the Canucks weigh Miller’s experience? Did his mammoth contract, which looks more and more unmovable as his starter’s job slips away amid Eddie Lack’s superior numbers, come into it?

Nah. The Canucks made the decision based on what happened in Game 4. “I thought he looked really sharp in the game in Calgary,” Desjardins explained to the assembled media.

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Willie Desjardins has lost the benefit of the doubt

Canucks fans, in general, liked Willie Desjardins a lot during the regular season. He was calm and patient with his roster, showed a commitment to rolling all four lines, and returned the Canucks to the playoffs after the John Tortorella disaster.

The default assumption during the regular season was that Desjardins knew what he was doing. When he scratched Zack Kassian, for instance, it was assumed that it was to send a message about defensive responsibility and Kassian’s excellent play once he got back into the lineup was used as proof that Desjardins’ decision was the right one.

Desjardins is making many of the same decisions he did during the regular season, but in the playoffs the stakes are higher and the spotlight a little brighter. A lot of the assumptions we made during the regular season have been proven false or called into question. The biggest issue: the Canucks are losing. If they were winning, all of these decisions would be seen in the best light possible.

Willie Desjardins is losing the series, but he’s already lost the benefit of the doubt.

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Stick in Link: Everything sucks right now; are the Sedins playoff busts?

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 three times a week. 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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