The PITB Podcast, Episode 10: Keeping Even-Keeled and Christmas Season

It’s an emotional roller coaster for Canucks fans right now. After the Canucks largely successful road trip through California, fans were jubilant, certain that this was confirmation that this Canucks’ season wouldn’t be as disastrous as the previous one.

It took just one, ugly loss to the sub-.500 Arizona Coyotes to undo all those good feelings and convince those same fans that the end of the world was nigh.

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Canucks of the Week, starring Pat O’Neill, and the unstoppable Martin Hanzal

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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Game of the Week: Canucks vs Ducks, November 20th

Only two games to choose from this week and it’s a tough one. On the one hand, we have the Canucks’ sixth — SIXTH!! — meeting with the Edmonton Oilers, and I think I speak for all of us when I say I simply can’t wait to see these guys again. After all, while the Canucks may have won the previous five meetings, I think they still have a lot left to prove, like, uh, whether or not they can win six.

I don’t know. I’d complain about the Oilers-heavy schedule, but 1) the first two games were preseason, which hardly counts, and 2) the Canucks have had a hot start to the year, and part of me wonders whether the confidence boost a club gets from playing Edmonton isn’t part of it.

Anyway. We’ll pick the other game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 0, Coyotes 5

We should probably have seen this coming. After surviving the California trip, after that exciting OT win versus Ottawa, after stoking the fanbase with some wins and a brief dance with Lady First-In-The-West, that minx, the Canucks were due for a letdown. Cue the Arizona Coyotes of Phoenix in Glendale.

There are nights when I feel lucky to have this job. Then there are other nights, when I realize the game is over, but there’s still another period to go, and I have to watch it, I have to, or I’m finished. Nights like this one. I… I watched this game.

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There’s nothing wrong with Jannik Hansen playing with the Sedins

Radim Vrbata has recovered from his injury and will play tonight against his former team, the Arizona Coyotes of Phoenix in Glendale. He’ll be back on the top line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, looking to improve upon his near point-per-game numbers this season.

This will come as a relief to both the Canucks and their fans, as Vrbata helps make the Sedins a more dangerous line and should also provide a boost to the Canucks’ suddenly ailing power play that hasn’t scored in the last three games.

Vrbata’s return also means that Jannik Hansen won’t be playing with the Sedins, which is an even bigger source of relief for some than Vrbata’s return. The amount of vitriol I saw aimed at Hansen over the last two games was astonishing, amd it wasn’t just the fans. Jason Botchford and Tony Gallagher were nearly apoplectic about Hansen getting top line duty.

To a certain extent, it’s understandable why: Hansen is not a natural finisher, with a career-high of just 16 goals, so the Sedins’ pretty playmaking is sometimes all for naught, dying on Hansen’s stick. Visually, Hansen’s play is unappealing, full of missed chances, sloppy skating, and awkward falls. He just doesn’t pass the eye test.

What he does pass, however, is the numbers test. Despite appearances, Hansen has been one of the Sedins most effective linemates.

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Stick in Link: Sedins don’t want 3-on-3 OT; Green Men off-season training

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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Real good tweets, starring @mammamialack, Eddie Lack’s proud mother

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

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Big Numbers: Juice served cold; Horvat draws in

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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The Prospector: Virtanen scores in Super Series, Cassels added to Team OHL, Subban is ridiculous

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 look at Jake Virtanen, Cole Cassels, Jordan Subban, Patrick McNally, Thatcher Demko, and the rest of the Canucks’ college prospects.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 4, Senators 3 (OT)

The best goalscorers are not always the guys with the best shots, though that certainly helps. Instead, the best goalscorers are the players who can consistently find soft areas on the ice, getting just enough separation from defenders to get a clean shot off. Having a quick release makes it just a little bit easier, as you need less separation.

Brett Hull was a master at this. He was never the best skater or puckhandler, but he could find soft areas, disappearing from a defender’s notice, then suddenly showing up again just in time to one-time a pass into the back of the net.

Those soft areas on the ice tend to be in the slot, between the hashmarks, or at one of the faceoff dots. In this game, Daniel Sedin found an entirely new one: in the corner, along the goal line. It’s the perfect spot. No defender is going to think you’re a scoring threat from there, so you’ll have all kinds of space to get your shot off. The only issue is the razor thin area of the net available for you to shoot at.

No big deal. A wizard did it. I watched this game.

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Are the Canucks good?

I keep seeing something weird when I look at the NHL standings. I see the Canucks in second place in the Pacific Division with the third best record in the entire NHL. I see them tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the most wins so far this season.

This is odd, right?

This off-season, it seemed like you were going out on a limb to suggest that the Canucks might, maybe make the playoffs. Personally, I thought they would, likely in the 7th or 8th spot in the Western Conference, a bubble team boosted by the addition of a legitimate scoring threat to the Sedins’ wing.

But now, here we are, a little over a month into the season, and the Canucks have an 11-5-0 record. The fans who were expecting merely okay or maybe even half-decent, now have to ask themselves, “Are the Canucks good?” Well, are they? Like, actually good?

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Stick in Link: Everyone’s still injured; Remembrance Day memories

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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Tom Sestito sends, then deletes, a tweet: an exhaustive investigation

The road trip through California was supposed to be Tom Sestito’s big chance to prove his worth to the Canucks’ new management and coaching staff. Many thought that Sestito would be useful against the big Californian teams, particularly after the Sharks and Ducks combined for 165 penalty minutes in a game near the end of October, so having a bigger, more physical, and more fight-ready player on the fourth line certainly made sense.

Instead, Sestito got injured in the Canucks last home game before the road trip, sidelining him for at least a week. The Canucks’ big win over the Ducks on Sunday saw two fights, both featuring Canucks’ defencemen instead of the 6’5″ Sestito.

Still, Sestito managed to get involved in the game from a distance, sending out a mysterious tweet during the game, then later deleting it. Now, I’m not one to make mountains out of molehills, but this is a big deal and we must get to the bottom of it.

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The Pass it to Bulis Podcast, Episode 9: Losing California and Karaoke Competitions

Recording prior to the game against Ryan Kesler and the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday, Daniel and Harrison speculate about the result and use that as a springboard to examine how fans have reacted to the Canucks’ strong start to the season.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 2, Ducks 1 (SO)

As 16th games of the season go, this was a pretty big one. After a brutal performance in San Jose that somehow resulted in a win, the Canucks headed into Los Angeles apparently thinking they’d stumbled onto a low-key, low-effort recipe for victory. But it was the Kings who made a meal of the Canucks’ recipe, giving Vancouver their just desserts. (Man, am I hungry.)

That pumped a fresh angle into the bus to Anaheim. Not only was this a reunion with ex-flame Ryan Kesler (not to be confused with ex-Flame Tim Jackman), but now the result of this game would characterize the whole trip. A third poor outing would suggest the Canucks still can’t hang with The Californians, and likely rattle loose the sky. But a win? Well, it’d be tough to argue with a 3-1 road trip, so I definitely won’t, because I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 1, Kings 5

Canucks fans looked at this road trip through California with some trepidation. After all, California was an unrelenting nightmare last season and the three Californian teams looked once again poised to rule the Pacific Division at the start of the season.

The Canucks’ 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday did little to assuage fans’ concerns. That win just wasn’t winny enough: the Sharks generally outplayed the Canucks, though they didn’t specifically outplay them — Ryan Miller was massively better than Antti Niemi — and the Sharks came a coulomb away from tying the game and sending it to overtime.

The team’s lacklustre performance in San Jose could be easily forgotten if they had put in a better performance against the Los Angeles Kings. Instead they collapsed like a punctured lung, while putting up less resistance than a copper wire. I watched this game.

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Real Good Tweets, starring #boninophone

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

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The Paper Feature: Tips to throw the Kings and Ducks off their game

It’s possible the Canucks’ trip to California this weekend has been overhyped.

After all, the Kings have already lost to both the Arizona Coyotes and the Carolina Hurricanes this season, so it’s probably safe to say that taking two points from them doesn’t automatically mean you’re a great team.

Still, considering what happened last year, it’s easy to understand why people are making such a big deal about this weekend’s back-to-back. Under John Tortorella, watching the Canucks play Los Angeles or Anaheim was like watching an eight-year-old go one-on-one with his dad in a game of basketball. Sure, sometimes it was close, but only because the dad was kind, and wanted his son to feel like winning was a possibility. In the final moments, the competitive spirit would always take over, and the dad would crush his son, as a reminder that being eight years old still makes you functionally useless in the grown-up world.

Men against boys, in other words.

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Spitballin’ on Jensen call-up, Bonino’s hair, and glove antlers

Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few quick topics.

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Canucks of the Week, starring Lindenning, Miller, and Drance

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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I Watched This Game: Canucks 3, Sharks 2

The Canucks had this one circled on the calendar. After having about as much success in California last season as the Joad family, the club was hellbent on preventing this season from becoming The Grapes of Wrath II: The Wrathening. And that mission began Thursday night in San Jose, as the Canucks looked to prove they could hang with their Pacific Division rivals. Did they succeed? Well. Sort of.

The Canucks were thoroughly outplayed in San Jose. Outshot 37-19, and out-attempted a whopping 80-23. They blocked more shots than they attempted. In terms of possession, it wasn’t close. And yet they won. It’s the most undeserved W since the word “wrong”, as in, “the Canucks leaving San Jose with two points tonight just seems wrong.” But it happened. I saw it. I watched this game.

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Stick in Link: Burrows in, Horvat out; Sedins told Vrbata to shoot more without a hint of self-awareness

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: Bonino puts up points, everybody scores goals

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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Seven forwards who could come out of the lineup to make room for Alex Burrows

Alex Burrows’ three-game suspension is over, and the Canuck winger is set to return Thursday night in San Jose. But this poses a problem: in order for Burrows to come in, someone is going to have to come out, and with the way the Canucks are clicking, especially after Tuesday night in Colorado, it’s tough to justify any subtractions from their current group of 12.

Sometimes it’s easy. For instance, if you’re feeling frugal this Christmas, spare your love the ten lords a-leaping. No one needs that many jumpy landowners. And it was pretty clear that Judas was the disciple that needed to go. But this duodecad is proving more difficult to trim down. Who comes out? Shawn Matthias? Matthias, after all, was the name of the disciple that replaced Judas, so he’s a natural odd man out. Jannik Hansen? Most other teams in the NHL are surviving without a Danish player.

Those two would have been the most likely forwards until Tuesday, when both played pivotal roles in the come-from-behind win. Matthias scored his first of the season, and Hansen played his best game of the year, arguably, helping to create the tide-shifting 2-1 goal for Vancouver.

So it’s tough. But in the interest of helping out the coaching staff, I’ve put together a list of seven forwards that could easily be benched, with airtight justifications for each.

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Shift-by-shift: Bo Horvat’s NHL debut

Bo Horvat’s first career NHL game wasn’t one for the ages. It won’t make any top-10 lists for great debuts. All the same, it was a solid start for the 19-year-old and certainly something on which to build.

He had just under 9 minutes in ice time over 16 shifts and had a relatively empty stat line: plus-1, with one shot and one blocked shot. He did go 9-for-13 on faceoffs, but the boxscore even underplayed that, crediting his first career faceoff win to Henrik Sedin.

Delving into the advanced statistics for the game gives us a little bit more information: the Canucks out-shot the Avalanche 6-to-2 when he was on the ice at even-strength and were 8-5 in shot attempts. That’s good, but it’s worth noting that the entire team had great possession numbers because the Avalanche are not particularly good at puck possession.

It’s also worth noting that Horvat started a fair amount in the defensive zone: of his 13 faceoffs, 5 of them were in the defensive zone, 7 in the neutral zone, and just 1 in the offensive zone. Of those 5 defensive zone faceoffs, Horvat won 4 of them, only losing to Ryan O’Reilly.

He wasn’t exactly sheltered either. The three Avalanche forwards he faced the most were Jamie McGinn, Ryan O’Reilly, and Matt Duchene, all staples of Colorado’s top-six.

That’s about all we can decipher from the statistics we have available and it paints a pretty unspectacular but promising picture. But I wanted to know more. So, like I’ve done for the debuts of other Canucks rookies, I looked at Horvat’s game shift-by-shift.

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