I Watched This Game: Canucks 3, Wild 2

You had to know the Canucks were going to win this one. The team has made a habit in recent weeks of defying our expectations, marching past the Bruins, Blackhawks and Penguins in a seven-day span while also managing to inexplicably squeeze in a loss to the Minnesota Wild. So of course, in a rematch with those same Wild, the only difference being that half the Canucks’ defence is hurt now, they were going to come out on top.

Not to mention Vancouver is completely incapable of putting together a streak right now — in either direction. They can’t win consecutive games. They can’t lose consecutive games. So it doesn’t even matter that they were without their top pairing, the co-MVPs up to this point. They’re nothing if not inconsistent, and that meant following up Saturday’s loss with a win. There was really nothing the Wild could do. I was pleased with the Canucks’ predictable unpredictability when I watched this game.

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 22: Alex Edler Injury and Hot Dog Sandwiches

The Canucks have weathered all sorts of injuries this season, largely because of the dependability of their top defence pairing of Alex Edler and Chris Tanev. Now Edler is injured and out for an undetermined length of time, leaving the defence in disarray and the Canucks’ season in jeopardy.

Daniel and Harrison discuss how Edler being out of the lineup will impact the Canucks, as well as the Canucks’ playoff hopes, where they make the startling discovery that the Canucks actually have a legitimate chance at finishing second in the Pacific Division.

They also talk about the recent uptick in scoring, particularly from the new look second line of Chris Higgins, Linden Vey, and Radim Vrbata, as well as Zack Kassian, Ronalds Kenins, and Bo Horvat. Then they get into the goaltending situation and wonder which of Ryan Miller, Eddie Lack, and Jacob Markstrom might get traded, whether at the trade deadline or later.

But before all that, they ponder the most important question in the history of mankind: is a hot dog a sandwich?

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 2, Flames 3

It’s Valentine’s Day, the day when you cozy up to that special person in your life and offer up the romantic gestures that you’re obligated to do on this most romantic of occasions. But what if you don’t have someone special? Why, then you check in with your old flames, in the hopes that one of them doesn’t either and they need someone with whom to commiserate.

That’s essentially what the Canucks did tonight, hooking up with one of their old Flames, the old Flames — the Flames who played meaningful games against them in February, games with playoff implications and the like. It’s been a while since the Canucks and Flames last hooked up for a game like this. But it felt so familiar, so comfortable. Maybe they’ll get back together? The old chemistry is still there, that’s for sure. That’s what I noticed when I watched this game.

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Game of the Week: Canucks vs Wild, February 16th

Am I crazy? Of all the games this coming week — which include an important divisional game against the Calgary Flames and visits to Alain Vigneault’s New York Rangers and Cory Schneider’s New Jersey Devils — I picked the game against the Minnesota Wild as PITB’s game of the week. Who would voluntarily watch a game against the Wild?

Yes, games against the Wild have historically been painful to watch. Yes, the Canucks have lost twice to the Wild in the past two weeks. Yes, their most recent loss to the Wild was embarrassing, with the 5-3 score not accurately reflecting how soundly the Canucks lost. Yes, it’s annoying when Wild fans expect Canucks fans to treat the Wild like legitimate rivals when there wasn’t a real rivalry in the first place and, if there was, it’s been dead for a long time.

And yet, I’m strangely looking forward to their next meeting on Monday.

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The Paper Feature: What should the Canucks do at the trade deadline?

We’ve spent much of this season trying to determine what, exactly, these Vancouver Canucks are. A contender? A pretender? A third thing that fits the rhyme scheme? It’s been hard to say, especially as the Canucks continue to match last season’s point totals.

But the team is finally beginning to stray from the 2013-14 script, albeit not in a way that really helps to sort out whether they’re good or bad. At the time of this writing, they’re 5-5-0 in their last ten, and they’ve been alternating wins and losses for eight straight. What are we to make of a team that hands the Pittsburgh Penguins their collective butt, then goes to Minnesota and lets the Wild hand-deliver their collective butt? Are the Canucks butt-handers or butt-handees?

Fortunately, as fans, we can continue to debate this ad infinitum, without consequence. If I say aloud that the Canucks are bona fide contenders, the worst that will happen to me is someone will tweet nastily in my direction, and that’s going to happen regardless. But for the Canucks’ front-office, they actually need to make an assessment.

And quickly. The NHL trade deadline is under three weeks away now, and what Vancouver does will hinge on what their GM, president, and coach think of their ability to hold onto a playoff spot down the stretch and potentially compete once there. Do they add? Do they subtract? Do they… I dunno, multiply? Let’s examine their trade deadline options.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 5, Bruins 2

On the eve of Valentine’s Day, only hours before puck drop, Shawn Matthias sat down with his beloved.

“Love bug,” he said, “Of all the gifts, what most would you like to be gifted this Valentine’s?”

“500 hats,” she said, greedily. “Like Bartholomew Cubbins.”

“Nerts!” Matthias said quietly to himself. “It’s the day before Valentine’s and I have a game in three hours! How will I ever get 500 hats, of varying shapes, sizes and colours, on such short notice?”

And then he had an idea.

I watched this game.

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Breakdowning Daniel Sedin’s dizzying overtime goal versus the Blackhawks

Say what you will about the Sedins’ gradually declining five-on-five effectiveness, but I’d still take them over just about any other duo four-on-four. With more room to operate, the Sedins hit peak Sedin, and the result tends to be magic.

Which is likely why Daniel Sedin is the Canucks’ franchise leader in overtime goals, with 12, and why, on Wednesday, Daniel became just the fourth NHLer to score his third overtime tally this season — the others being John Tavares, Sean Monahan, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

The goal is vintage Sedins, so vintage Main Street hipsters have been wearing it like a coat ever since. The Sedins cycle the puck in the corner until the Blackhawks are dizzied, then, in a flash, they bring the puck to the net with one well-placed saucer pass, and the next thing you know, the game is over.

That’s the short breakdown. But this one is too pretty for just a passing glance. Let’s dig into it a little bit.

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Canucks of the Week, in which John Tortorella returns

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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John Tortorella breaks the silence, says he deserved to get fired, which, yeah

You might remember John Tortorella from such Vancouver Canucks eras as the Torts-ture Era, a brief blip on the franchise’s radar in 2013-14 in which they played sorta well, then really poorly, then so disastrously poorly that Tortorella became the first Canucks head coach to be sacked before his 100th game since Bill LaForge’s 20-game stint in 1985.

We haven’t heard much from Tortorella since then, but on Friday, he emerged from his Tortress of Solitude to do a radio appearance on Tampa Bay’s 620 WDAF. Unsurprisingly, since these guys know what’s up, he was asked for his thoughts on his ugly run in Vancouver.

Among the quotes you should expect to see floating around today: ““Quite honestly, I deserved to be fired after that second half of the year,” Tortorella said, correctly.

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Real Good Tweets, starring @wholegrainne’s Canucks Valentines

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

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Big Numbers: Vrbata’s point streak, Daniel passes Linden

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: Canucks claim McMillan; Yannick Weber bring special celebrity dad on road trip

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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I Watched This Game: Canucks 5, Blackhawks 4 (OT)

In a recent podcast, Harrison and I discussed whether hockey fans really like exciting hockey or if they just like to see winning hockey. This game came incredibly close to being a test case for that question.

This was an incredibly thrilling game, full of high-tempo, back-and-forth action, with the Canucks playing some of their best hockey of the season against the best team in the league through the first two periods. Then the Blackhawks showed why they’re the best team in the league, mounting a late comeback in the third period and pushing the game to a white-knuckling, edge-of-your-seat overtime.

If the Canucks had lost that game in overtime, I have a feeling that many fans would deride it as a terrible game, when, no matter the result, it really wasn’t. It was a fun, entertaining, exciting game that showed the Canucks can compete against any team in the NHL when they’re playing well.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to confront any tough questions about the entertainment value of a loss when I watched this game.

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Winnipeg Jets and the blockbustery day: Canucks were never really in the running for Kane

For the second time in the last 45 years (it’s becoming an alarming pattern!), the Buffalo Sabres have taken that which is rightfully ours.

Not unlike when they stole the 1st overall pick from the Canucks in the 1970 draft by means of witchcraft, the Sabres made a massive trade splash on Tuesday, snatching up disgruntled hometown boy Evander Kane right from under the Canucks’ nose in a blockbuster deal.

Heading to Buffalo: Evander Kane, defenseman Zach Bogosian and goalie Jason Kasdorf. Headed to Winnipeg: Tyler Myers, winger Drew Stafford, prospects Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux and one of the innumerable 2015 first-round picks the Sabres turned up as they continue to scrape the bottom of the barrel.

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I Find This Photo Odd: Eddie Lack has had it with authority

There are just 30 games left in the regular season for the Vancouver Canucks, which means it’s time to start watching the standings in earnest. The Canucks are barely hanging on to the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, though it’s not all doom and gloom. They’re still just two points back of the Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks in the Pacific Division, with games in hand on both of them.

Here’s the thing, though: the Canucks need to actually win a couple of those games-in-hand for them to matter. At this point, every game is going to make a difference in the standings, which is why it’s interesting to see Eddie Lack get the start against the Chicago Blackhawks. Willie Desjardins has made it clear all season that Ryan Miller is his number one goaltender, and this kind of marquee matchup doesn’t usually go to the backup.

At this point, goalie controversies don’t matter; wins matter. As the Canucks continue to cede ground to the teams behind them, there may be an opportunity for Lack to steal more starts down the stretch.

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Sedins get apology from Stars’ Jamie Benn, the end

Let’s be honest: nobody wanted to talk about that awful Minnesota Wild game. So it was an infuriating blessing when Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin’s comments on a jocky Dallas radio station, in which the duo played along with a riff on the Sedins that suggested some pretty offensive and crude things, came to light. The city of Vancouver talked mostly about that yesterday instead. Wild game? What Wild game?

But with the Canucks playing the Blackhawks on Wednesday evening, it’s time to retire this story, and wouldn’t you know it, right on cue, it received the ending it deserves, with Jamie Benn doing his captainly duty and reaching out to the Sedins to apologize.

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Stick in Link: A history of Sedin linemates and a mic’d up Alex Burrows

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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Stars’ Seguin, Benn disrespect, insult Sedins on Bad Radio [AUDIO]

There was a time when one could argue that Daniel and Henrik Sedin were the most dynamic and dominant duo in the Western Conference. That time is probably over, mind you, what with the Sedins aging, and their speed of attack and point totals dropping in what one suspects is a correlative relationship.

Meanwhile, as they get older, the young stars of the game stay the same age. These days, one could probably point to, say, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars as the most dangerous one-two punch in the West. They’re faster, more dynamic, and younger.

Of course, with age comes maturity, so while you might take Benn and Seguin on the ice right now, in a broadcast studio, I’ll take the veteran, intelligent Sedins and their ability to know when a conversation is veering into dumb and offensive territory and either steer it back towards reason or shut it down. This is a skill that Benn and Seguin have yet to master, as evidenced by a recent appearance on The Bob and Dan Show (which is also aptly called BaD Radio).

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 3, Wild 5

What’s worse? Watching this game, or watching this game two nights after watching the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins — a win so convincing you wondered if embarrassing evenings like this loss were in the past? It’s sort of amazing. If this loss to the Minnesota Wild had followed the loss to the Sharks, it might have been met with a collective shrug, as everybody acknowledged that this is just who the Canucks are right now. We were already on our way to accepting that, after all.

the Penguins’ game left us wondering if, perhaps, that’s who the Canucks were, and maybe it was the Sharks game that was an aberration. It turned us around. And then — and maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think I’m alone here — the frustration that followed this loss was exacerbated by a sense of naivete, like it was silly to think the Canucks would be able to pick up where they left off versus Pittsburgh. The joke was on me when I watched this game.

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 21: Entertaining Kassian and Beck’s Best Album

The Canucks’ dominant win over the Pittsburgh Penguins was nearly overshadowed by a couple moments featuring Zack Kassian: the broadcast’s bench cam showing him staring at his hands and the massive ovation he received from the Rogers Arena crowd after his goal.

We talk about the entertainment value Kassian brings to the Canucks and how badly Canucks fans want to see him succeed, but also get into Bo Horvat’s strong game against the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Daniel Sedin breaking his slump on the power play.

Before all that, however, we talk about Beck beating Beyonce for the Best Album Grammy and how Midnite Vultures is great. It’s so great, you guys.

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10 things Zack Kassian is thinking as he stares at his hands

Sportsnet has experimented with a number of different camera angles this season, with mixed results. The novelty wore off the ref cam pretty quickly, but the sky cam is a nice addition, showing more of the ice surface and positioning of the players. Their attempts at bench cameras have generally been a bust, rarely catching anything of interest.

The “spy cam” positioned among the water bottles on the bench during the game between the Canucks and Penguins, however, caught a few good moments, including Doug Lidster coaching Adam Clendenning and Radim Vrbata looking worn out and potty-mouthed after a long shift.

That was all overshadowed by an incredibly odd moment with Zack Kassian, as he stared at his hands like he’d never seen them before.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 5, Penguins 0

After an ugly, dispiriting loss to the San Jose Sharks, the Canucks needed some sign of positivity to end their home stand. Willie Desjardins preached intensity at practice and the team responded, jumping all over the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins early, driving the net, drawing penalties, and, most importantly, actually scoring goals.

It was one of the strongest performances of the season for the Canucks, one that could quiet concerns in the room and among the fans, but it unfortunately came with a quiver of caveats that might burst some bubbles.

The Penguins were playing on the second night of a back-to-back and their third game in four nights, while starting their backup goaltender, and at times looked as tired as the Michelin Man. This was an eminently beatable team.

That said, the Canucks have specialized this season in making mediocre goaltenders look like all-stars and have made a habit of losing to top-tier teams of late and, this time, they didn’t do that. Instead, they took control of the game early, built up an insurmountable lead, then didn’t let the Penguins surmount it.

I saw the Canucks score 5 goals with my own eyes when I watched this game.

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Paper Feature: Six ways to get through to Zack Kassian

This was supposed to be Zack Kassian’s breakout season. He started to put it all together at the end of last season, rattling off 10 points in 10 games as the Canucks played out the stretch, and the battle for a second line spot was wide open heading into training camp. It was hoped that Kassian would take hold of the opportunity, impress his new head coach and general manager, and be a consistent second line presence in the lineup.

Regrettably, it hasn’t panned out. While he’s shown flashes of the player he could be, he hasn’t been consistent enough to earn Willie Desjardins’ trust, and has spent most of the season on the third or fourth line. At least, that’s where he’s played when he’s been in the lineup.

Thursday’s game against the San Jose Sharks was Kassian’s third straight game in the press box as a healthy scratch and it’s become a familiar place for him. Understandably, he’s been frustrated and confused, as he had a strong game against Buffalo just prior to this string of scratches and has been a lot better this season than his detractors might think.

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Game of the Week: Canucks vs Bruins, February 13, 2015

Is there really any other way to go this week than the visit from the Boston Bruins?

It’s sure not going to be the trip to Minnesota. Watching the Canucks play the Wild, even now, long after the end of the Jacques Lemaire era, is like popping a couple melatonin and sitting down to watch an episode of “Criminal Minds”. Instant slumber. Plus they played the Wild last week. And they play the Wild again next week.

You could pick the Blackhawks, I guess, but speaking of sleep, that rivalry sort of feels like it’s gone dormant. The Blackhawks remain one of the league’s best teams. The Canucks do not. So it’s hardly a meeting of rivals anymore. It’s more of a measure-up game. Can the Canucks still hang with the Blackhawks?

The Bruins, on the other hand…

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Willie Desjardins’ clipboard gives us a sneak peek at his shootout lineup

The Canucks haven’t seen much of the shootout. Most of their games that have gone past regulation have ended in overtime, with just three of their games this season reaching the shootout, the lowest total in the NHL.

It’s a shame, really, because some of the changes the Canucks made in the off-season significantly improved their chances of winning shootouts. The addition of Ryan Miller, Radim Vrbata, and Nick Bonino gives the Canucks a legitimate boost in the post-game skills contest, but we’ve barely had a chance to see them in action.

Willie Desjardins, however, is always prepared, and a brief glimpse at his ubiquitous clipboard during Thursday night’s game against the Sharks revealed that he has his shooters selected well in advance, despite those selections being needed so rarely.

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