I Watched This Game: Canucks 4, Jets 5

The Winnipeg Jets played some desperate hockey in this game and it’s understandable why. The Jets entered the game tied at 90 points with the Los Angeles Kings for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference, with the Kings holding the tiebreaker.

So, when the Jets came out flying like, er, jets, in the first period, the Canucks, who have struggled with their starts for most of the season, couldn’t keep pace. The Jets jumped out to a quick two-goal lead and the Canucks were chasing for the rest of the game.

On the plus side, there is now a greater probability that the Kings miss the playoffs, putting the puck largely in the Canucks hands as they face the Kings on Monday. Depending on other results, the Canucks could clinch the playoffs and keep the Kings on the outside looking in.

I saw silver linings when I watched this game.

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The Paper Feature: Alex Burrows is the scum/salt of the earth

Alex Burrows is the scum of the earth: a dirty, headhunting, moustache-twirling villain, who only leaves his secret volcano-island lair to bite fingers, pull hair, or, worse, embellish a penalty. He’s exactly the type of player the NHL wants out of the game.

Alex Burrows is the salt of the earth: a hard-working, blue-collar player, who battled his way up from being an undrafted ECHLer all the way to the top line of a Presidents’ Trophy winner. He’s the buster of slumps and the slayer of dragons. The NHL could use more players like him.

How can one player inspire such opposing reactions?

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How the Canucks could still clinch a playoff spot on Saturday

With just four games remaining in their regular season, the Canucks sit second in the Pacific Division with a four-point cushion on their next-closest rival, the Calgary Flames. Considering how difficult it is to gain ground in the NHL standings, one might be forgiven for assuming the Canucks had a postseason seed all locked up.

Mind you, no true Canucks fan would make that assumption. Anyone who’s been following this team for more than a couple years knows that if you can dream up a doomsday scenario, the Canucks can find a way to make it happen. In this case, a simple, ill-timed losing skid could do it: if the Canucks lose all four of their remaining games, they’ll finish the season at 95 points, which would mathematically allow the Kings, Flames, and Jets to finish ahead of them. It’s highly unlikely, but so was losing 4 of 5 in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. We’re a wounded bunch. We won’t rest until the Canucks have officially clinched.

To that end, some good news: despite what you’ve heard, the Canucks could conceivably do that as early as Saturday. All they need is to beat the Jets, then hope the Flames and Kings lose. That would be enough.

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Canucks of the Week, where Ryan Miller returns, and the Department plays it cool

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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Canucks call up Sven Baertschi; where does he fit in the lineup?

Ever since the Canucks acquired Sven Baertschi from the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline, he has been tearing things up with the Utica Comets. Baertschi was once the most highly hyped prospect in the Flames organization and his hot start in Utica has earned him some fresh hype.

The 22-year-old winger has 7 goals and 13 points in 12 games with the Comets, so it’s understandable that the Canucks would want to see what he can do with the Canucks. But where does he fit? What line does he play on? Who comes out of the lineup?

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Real Good Tweets, starring a heartbreaking April Fools’ prank

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

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 1, Blackhawks 3

A win Thursday night versus the Chicago Blackhawks would have been the Canucks’ third in a row, a feat that qualifies as what the pundits often call a “winning streak”. Two wins is no streak. Three wins? Welcome to Streaksville, pal. Unfortunately, the Blackhawks stopped the Canucks in their tracks, denying the streak like a skilled window washer.

It’s actually a little bit of a problem. The Canucks have been denied their third win in a row eleven times this season, and as we approach the playoffs, that’s a cause for concern. You can’t keep winning two in a row and then losing one. That’s no formula for postseason success.

Actually, wait. It totally is. Nevermind. I watched this game.

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Stick in Link: Matthias fine with fourth line, Comets clinch, and Desjardins demands discipline

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: Canucks on the verge, thanks to balanced scoring and all those empty nets

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: Hunter’s on a hot streak; McCann and Cassels lead the way in CHL playoffs

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 talk about Hunter Shinkaruk’s goalscoring streak, Joe Cannata’s opportunity with the Utica Comets, and check in on every Canucks prospect in the CHL playoffs.

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No suspension for Alex Burrows, unless this is a really cruel April Fool’s joke

Alex Burrows had a very busy third period Tuesday night in Nashville. Early in the final frame, he scored a game-tying shorthanded goal. Ten minutes later, he set up the Canucks’ go-ahead marker. Then, five minutes after that, he collided with Paul Gaustad in the neutral zone, incurring fifteen minutes in penalties — a game misconduct and a five-minute major for interference.

Was it the right call? Some in Vancouver felt the major penalty was harsh, and that it was a mostly accidental collision, with both Burrows and Gaustad watching Kevin Bieksa’s breakout pass right up until the moment of impact. (Disclosure: I’m in Vancouver.) But others, particularly those outside of Vancouver, some of whom hate Burrows with the passion of Paraguay’s national flower, felt the penalty wasn’t enough, and that a zillion-game suspension was warranted.

Nope.

The Department of Player Safety has determined that the Burrows’ crime was sufficiently punished in-game, and there will be no suspension. Either that or we’re being set up for one hell of an April Fool’s Day joke.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 5, Predators 4 (SO)

Let’s get this out of the way right of the top: this game was very poorly refereed. The Canucks got dinged for 39 minutes in penalties, giving the Predators 7 power plays, including a late 5-minute major on Alex Burrows that saw both him and Kevin Bieksa tossed from the game with misconducts.

Meanwhile, Radim Vrbata got hit from behind face first into the dasher by Seth Jones and Filip Forsberg got his stick in Eddie Lack’s mask, with no call on either play. It was infuriating and frustrating, partly because it adds more fuel for those stoking the conspiracy fire. At some point you have to let that thing burn down to embers to properly roast marshmallows.

Yes, there were some soft and some missed calls, but the Canucks also need to be more disciplined even if — especially if — referees really are looking to call penalties on them. Kevin Bieksa hit Viktor Stalberg in the head completely unnecessarily. Henrik took a brutal tripping penalty in the neutral zone, then made no effort to avoid Pekka Rinne on a goaltender interference call, even if he was pushed. Ronalds Kenins punched a player in the face after a goal. Radim Vrbata had no business getting his stick into Roman Josi’s hands in the neutral zone, even if Josi embellished the hook by spinning to the ice.

And yes, Burrows definitely intentionally interfered with Paul Gaustad, even if the resulting 5-minute major and game misconduct was far too harsh. The Canucks have to be more disciplined and can’t use the reffing as an excuse.

Or maybe I have this all wrong: perhaps the Canucks are simply preparing for the playoffs, where whistles tend to get swallowed. You can’t simply flip a switch and start taking liberties as soon as the playoffs start; you have to practice going over the line. so that when penalties stop being called, you can keep committing them.

I watched this game.

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Vrbata scores more with Bonino than with the Sedins

It’s undeniable at this point: Radim Vrbata was one of the best, if not the best, free agent signings of the 2014 off-season. The veteran winger leads the Canucks in goalscoring by 13 goals, turning in the second 30+ goal season of his career. He’s also third on the team in points, just 6 points behind Henrik Sedin, has given the power play a massive boost from last season, and is just a few points away from a career year.

He’s been particularly on fire since the beginning of March, with 18 points in 15 games. He has 11 points in his last 6 games alone. What’s been remarkable, then, is that he’s doing it largely without the Sedins. He was presumably lured to Vancouver by the prospect of playing with the twins on the top line, but he hasn’t been on that line for a while, instead slumming it on what is ostensibly the second line with Nick Bonino and, usually, Chris Higgins.

Heck, depending on the night, Vrbata might not even be the second line, since Desjardins rolls his lines and gives more ice time to whichever line seems to be clicking. At one point Ronalds Kenins was having a poor game and was taken off of his line with Bo Horvat and Jannik Hansen and put with Vrbata and Bonino. This was seen as a demotion.

Getting bumped from the first line may have been a blessing in disguise: he’s been far more productive with Bonino than he has been with the Sedins.

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Stick in Link: Henrik Sedin a Masterton nominee; Canucks in Nashville

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 4, Blues 1

The NHL schedule-makers could not have anticipated this, but their scheduling for today’s games was fantastic. With the Canucks, Flames, and Kings battling for playoff position and all within three points of each other, all three were in action at the same time.

Any combination of results would have been interesting, but only one would truly make Canucks fans happy: wins by the Canucks and Flames and a loss to the Blackhawks by the Kings. That left them in the odd position of rooting for the Flames and Blackhawks.

As of right now, it looks like that ideal is exactly what’s going to happen. Like listening to the Lion King soundtrack, the Canucks got rid of the Blues. Meanwhile, the Flames are currently leading the Stars and the Blackhawks have a two-goal lead on the Kings. Barring a pair of third-period comebacks, the Canucks will have opened up a 5-point gap on the Kings and will still be two points up on the Flames.

These are the thoughts that occur to me now, but I was entirely focussed on the Canucks when I watched this game.

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 27: Playoff Push and Pineapple on Pizza

It’s the home stretch of the season and the Canucks are in a precarious position, with both the Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings right behind them in the playoff race. In an ideal world, the Kings would miss the playoffs entirely and the Canucks would face the Flames in the first round, but it’s possible the Canucks could face the Kings or miss the playoffs entirely.

Daniel and Harrison discuss the possibilities, as well as get into the Canucks’ most recent game against the Dallas Stars, Bo Horvat’s progression this season, Ronalds Kenins usage, Radim Vrbata’s 30-goal season, and give Willie Desjardins some deserved Jack Adams chatter. They also find time to talk about Hanna Barbera cartoons and how some of the funkiest bass lines weren’t played on a bass.

Before all that, however, they have a heated debate as to whether pineapple belongs on pizza.

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

Okay, so there are two ways to look at this one: optimists will celebrate the point the Canucks salvaged when they tied the game late, postponing their loss until overtime. Pessimists, on the other hand, will lament the point the Canucks blew when they allowed Tyler Seguin a third-period breakaway. That’s pretty much the only thing you can’t do versus the Stars.

So where do I stand? I’m pretty happy with how things turned out. The outcome is unfortunate, sure, but how can you complain about a game that gave us this awesome GIF of Trevor Linden and Jim Benning high-fiving like they just became best friends.

Next up: karate in the garage. Anyway. Like a high-fiving Lindenning, except without the high fives and no friends to speak of, I watched this game.

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Game of the Week: Canucks vs Blackhawks, April 2nd

The Canucks face a tough schedule this week, with four games in 6 nights and three of them against the top-three teams in the ultra-tough Central Division and the fourth against one of the hottest teams in the league.

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The Paper Feature: John Tortorella still stealing Willie Desjardins’ thunder

The Jack Adams award is purportedly given to the NHL’s best coach, but I think we can all agree that’s hardly the case, and the counterargument need only be one line: Mike Babcock has never won it. If the coach widely-held to be the league’s best has never taken home the hardware, the award probably isn’t what it claims to be.

Fact is, winning a Jack Adams has next to nothing to do with being the best coach. Rather, it’s an award for the best turnaround narrative starring a coach. Call it The Mighty Ducks award. The way to take one home isn’t to coach well — it’s to be at the helm of a team that so exceeds expectations, it’s hardly explainable any other way besides: award-winning coaching.

If that’s the case, though, one wonders why Willie Desjardins appears to be getting no love for the award.

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Real Good Tweets, starring @alixiswright37 predicting Zayn would leave One Direction

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

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Canucks of the Week, now with five more years of Chris Tanev

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 1, Avalanche 4

Burn the Millionaires jerseys. Burn them all.

Rake up a giant pile of leaves, throw the jerseys in the middle, and light them on fire. Melt them with thermite. Shred the jerseys, mix them up with coffee creamer, and blow them up.

Borrow the US Navy’s laser cannon and use the Millionaires jerseys as target practice. Strand yourself on a deserted island with the jerseys and burn them in a fire to signal for help. Go green by creating a giant magnifying lens and burning them with the power of sunlight alone.

Gather them onto an altar and burn them to appease the hockey gods, who are clearly upset the Canucks are trying to take ownership of a Stanley Cup that doesn’t belong to them.

Just burn them like a maniacal leprechaun ordered you to, because the Canucks can never wear them again. They are cursed and I fear that by watching this game, I too have become cursed. The only way to get rid of the curse is to pass it along to someone else by telling them that I watched this game.

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Stick in Link: Chris Tanev is tough, angry Sedins, and behind the scenes with Ben Cooper

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: Empty net goals, Station Wagon line, and power plays

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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Will Canucks look like bums dressed as Millionaires again?

Let’s be honest: the 1915 Vancouver Millionaires are about as valid a Stanley Cup champion as the 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes. Sure, they hoisted the grail, but it was only happening once, as the rest of the eligible teams got their bearings after a slough of rule changes that threw the whole league into disarray.

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the Millionaires’ Cup win, however, it’s still a Cup win, and the only one Vancouver’s ever seen. Which is why, on the hundredth anniversary of it, the Canucks will once again be donning their Millionaires jerseys versus the Colorado Avalanche. Reasonable idea.

But also a terrible idea. It’s been 100 years since the last time Vancouver looked good in those jerseys, and I’m not just talking about maroon being so last century as a colour.

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