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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Have the Canucks set an NHL record for empty net goals?

The Canucks managed to score just two empty net goals all of last season. This season, that’s how many they tend to score in a single game.

With two empty net goals against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night, the Canucks brought their league-leading total to 20, ten times as many as last year. They have five empty net goals in the last three games alone.

The Canucks’ empty net goals represent nearly 10% of their goalscoring this season and it’s one of the reasons they have a 28-1-2 record when leading heading into the third period, which is the 7th best record in the league. Their ability to put the puck into the empty net has helped them close out games that could have otherwise gone to overtime on a single bad bounce.

They also may have set an NHL record for the most empty net goals in a season.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 5, Jets 2

The Winnipeg Jets jumped out to a two-goal lead in Tuesday night’s game, which, as we all know by now, is like reading from the Book of the Dead. It can only end badly. And somebody is definitely getting possessed.

In this case, it was the Canucks, who played like a team possessed from that point forward, snatching the win not just out of Winnipeg’s hands, but also their city name. They’re now known as ipeg, which is hardly a place at all. It sounds more like a wooden leg that plays MP3s. No doubt the Canucks will be loading up the victory playlist on their ipegs after this game. And I will be writing about how I watched this game.

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The PITB Podcast, Episode 26: Tanev Re-Signed and Fast Food Burgers

Chris Tanev is one of the best of the new breed of defensive defencemen, who cannot possibly be described as “stay-at-home.” This season he has proven that he is a top pairing defenceman capable of elevating the play of everyone around him and the Canucks rewarded him with a five-year, $22.25 million contract.

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Losing winnable games may cost the Kings more than the Canucks

There’s been plenty of consternation in Canucks nation over their performance against the worst teams in the NHL this season, giving up key points in recent games against the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Arizona Coyotes, and Columbus Blue Jackets. The Canucks may be second in the Pacific Division, but the Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings are not far behind, so there’s a chance, albeit a slim one, the Canucks could miss the playoffs, with losses in winnable games to blame.

Meanwhile, Canucks fans have a skewed view of the Kings. Up until Saturday’s big win, the Kings had dominated the Canucks, outshooting them 96-54 and outscoring them 12-3. Combine that with the Kings’ reputation for heating up heading into the playoffs and the concern is understandable.

If all you see of the Kings is how they play against the Canucks, they look like a nigh-unstoppable juggernaut, excepting the Canucks’ one win. What you would be missing, however, is that the Kings have struggled just as much as the Canucks, if not more, against the worst teams in the league and it may end up costing them a spot in the playoffs.

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Stick in Link: Kerry Fraser defends Alex Burrows; Chris Tanev uses a pen

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 Find This Photo Odd: Alex Burrows gets DDT’d

Tyler Toffoli and Alex Burrows were both extremely lucky to escape Saturday’s nasty incident — in which Toffoli shoved Burrows into the side boards dangerously from behind — relatively unaffected. Burrows left the ice briefly, but returned unconcussed. Toffoli was ejected, but returned the next game unsuspended, because the Kings were quick to send a basket of muffins to the Department of Player Safety.

But it wasn’t the only incident between Toffoli and Burrows in the game. There was also that moment when the two got tangled up behind the net and Burrows took down Toffoli at the legs. Although that’s not what the photo suggests. Just based on this picture by Aaron Poole, it looks to me like Toffoli won that exchange too:

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Canucks sign Chris Tanev to five-year extension, the weary world rejoices

Elliott Friedman kicked off his latest edition of 30 Thoughts Tuesday with a little bit of news regarding the Canucks and a prominent RFA: “Hearing there’s progress in contract talks between the Vancouver Canucks and Chris Tanev,” he said. “It’s hard to say if it’s imminent, but it’s moving in a positive direction.”

Turns out Elliotte should have gone with his gut. It was totally imminent. Less than two hours later, the Canucks announced a five-year contract extension for Tanev that carries a cap hit of $4.45 million.

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Tyler Toffoli the latest non-suspension to leave Canucks fans shaking their heads

The word came out Sunday morning, with no official pronouncement from the league, just a spattering of tweets from media folk who were asking around: there would be no hearing for Tyler Toffoli for his hit on Alex Burrows, which obviously meant no suspension. The Department of Player Safety looked at the hit and decided the five-minute major and a game misconduct were punishment enough.

Unsurprisingly, this infuriated Canucks fans and gave the conspiracy theorists who suggest the NHL favours big market American teams like the Kings over the Canucks another soap box to pontificate from.

I’m not the type to fashion tinfoil hats — I prefer the classic tinfoil swan — so that’s not what this is about. It’s still incredibly upsetting to see Canucks players repeatedly taking illegal hits with minimal consequences. Toffoli’s hit on Burrows isn’t the first such hit this season and it’s understandable why fans would be outraged.

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Eddie Lack chooses the wrong equipment design again

Never one to shy away from an opportunity to connect with the fans, Eddie Lack has staged yet another equipment design contest. Last year, fans were asked to submit designs for his mask. This year, it was his pads.

And, for the second consecutive year, Lack has chosen the wrong design.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 3, Coyotes 1

After finally standing up to the Los Angeles Kings; after looking at the tyrannosaurus rex gaining in their rearview mirror, fast approaching, and realizing they had no chance of outrunning it, that they had to beat it back, and then somehow, indeed, subduing the charging apex predator, the Canucks faced an even stiffer challenge: a truly crap team.

Sure, this shouldn’t follow. On its face, “beat the Kings, beat the Coyotes” is about as modus ponens as “save the cheerleader, save the world”. But not for these Canucks, who have been standing up to good and playing down to bad of late. Fortunately, they were able to put that aside for one night and actually win a game they were supposed to. And I watched this game.

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 4, Kings 1

In their three previous meetings with the Kings, the Canucks hadn’t managed even 20 shots on goal, totalling just 54 shots. It’s looked like the Canucks don’t even belong in the same league with the Kings, getting outright dominated and outscored 12-3.

That’s why it was incredible to see the Canucks not only compete with the Kings, but for long stretches outplay them, tallying more than 20 shots in the first two periods alone, finishing the game with 42 shots to just 26 for the Kings.

All of that wouldn’t matter if the Canucks didn’t also outscore the Kings, but they did, if only barely, polishing off the win with two empty net goals. It’s a huge win, giving them a four-point cushion over the Kings and, for the moment, keeping them outside the playoff picture. Sure, there’s not much chance the Kings stay outside of that picture, but the Canucks, at least for now, made the possibility of facing the Kings in the playoffs just a little bit less terrifying.

I watched this game.

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Canucks of the Week, where Eddie Lack gets a pass

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: Jannik Hansen back to being an unsung hero

The Fred J. Hume Award has been around for as long as the Canucks have been in the NHL. Named after the former mayor of Vancouver and owner of the WHL Canucks, the award is given out to the team’s unsung hero, a player who doesn’t get enough credit for their contribution on the ice.

The award has never been won by one player more than twice, which makes sense. Even winning it twice seems to be one too many times: after your praises have been sung by winning an award, how can you be an unsung hero? Winning it a third time seems absurd. You’ve already got two hit singles in your discography; you’re no longer a one-hit wonder.

If any player can win this award three times, however, it’s Jannik Hansen.

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Can the schedule help the Canucks hold off the Kings?

You’re likely going to hear a lot of people calling Saturday afternoon’s game between the Canucks and Kings a “must-win” for the Canucks. And it sure is — at least based on the NHL dictionary, where must-win is synonymous with “big”. It’s not so much a literal term. There are no literal terms in hockey.

It’s a massive game, as it comes with one of those four-point swings, where you gain two points and also cause your rival to not get two points, although you still don’t actually get four more points than them. Again, there are no literal terms in hockey. Anyway.

The worst-case scenario for the Canucks here is that, when the buzzer sounds, the Kings are tied with them at 84 points and 11 games to go. Granted, that’s enough for most Vancouver fans to be concerned, as most agree that the Kings are simply a better team than the Canucks. They’re sure to get more points in their final 11 games, no?

Maybe not. All things being equal, they probably should. But all things are not equal. The Kings’ schedule in the final 11 games is far more point-resistant.

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Real Good Tweets, starring Ryan Miller’s corn boat pads

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

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Big Numbers: Just a dozen games remaining; Kings are in trouble

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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I Watched This Game: Canucks 2, Blue Jackets 6

Never has the end result of a game less reflected its beginning. The Canucks were dominant in the first period, firing 20 shots on net. Sure, they couldn’t beat Sergei Bobrovsky, but it looked like it was just a matter of time with how the Canucks were playing.

Then they made a crucial mistake: they took a two-goal lead. The worst lead in hockey lived up to its billing, as the Blue Jackets effortlessly came back, then didn’t make the same mistake as the Canucks, taking a three-goal lead.

A three-goal lead, as we all know, is insurmountable, so Willie Desjardins tried to game the system by going with an empty net with 5 minutes left, clearly hoping the Blue Jackets would take a four-goal lead, which is just two two-goal leads, which should be twice as easy to recover from. Regrettably, they didn’t have enough time to take advantage of it.

Also regrettably, I had enough time to take advantage of my sports cable package when I watched this game.

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Stick in Link: Corrado back to Utica; Canucks a little too healthy, honestly

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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With a healthy defence, what should the Canucks pairings look like?

For a brief period of time, the Canucks defence pairings looked a little like this: Dan Hamhuis and Yannick Weber on the top pairing, with Luca Sbisa and Alex Biega behind them, and Ryan Stanton and Adam Clendening on the third pairing. With injuries to Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Kevin Bieksa, and Frank Corrado all overlapping, that’s the defence that Eddie Lack had in front of him.

Amazingly, the Canucks actually managed to win games with those defence pairings.

Now, though, the Canucks’ defence appears to be completely healthy. Edler, Tanev, Bieksa, and Corrado have all recovered, giving the Canucks nine blueliners on their active roster. That means that three defencemen have to sit as healthy scratches every game. So, who should be playing and how should the defence pairings be arranged?

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I Watched This Game: Canucks 4, Flyers 1

Another day, another game the Canucks absolutely had to win. Not so much for the points, mind you. Not this time. This game was about the late Pat Quinn, who definitely would have appreciated the grand coincidence of the Canucks and Flyers, the team he coached to the Stanley Cup Final and the team that gave him his first coaching job, going head-to-head on St. Patrick’s Day. (You might have heard that Quinn was Irish.)

If Quinn was watching, he probably did so with a smile. Mind you, he probably wasn’t watching, since heaven has wicked fast Go-Karts, according to the Bible, and you don’t have to buy tokens or wait in line or anything. But while Pat Quinn was Go-Karting, I watched this game.

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Stick in Link: Canucks line up Pat Quinn tribute for St. Patrick’s Day

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 25: Doomed Millionaires and Assumed Foursomes

Both times the Canucks have worn their throwback Vancouver Millionaires jerseys, they have suffered embarrassing losses, including the stain of the 2014 Heritage Classic. And yet, the Canucks will be wearing them again next week, this time honouring the 100th anniversary of the Millionaires’ Stanley Cup victory.

We discuss this decision, but also talk about the Canucks’ recent victory over the Leafs, who the Canucks’ unsung hero has been this season, and breakdown the best and worst-case scenarios for potential playoff match-ups, assuming the Canucks hold on to a playoff spot.

Before all that, however, Harrison tells a weird story his friend told him about social awkwardness and bad assumptions.

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Kirk McLean’s former spouse talks hockey wife life, and a certain rumour

Kirk McLean had 10 glorious years of stability as an NHL goaltender. He was the Canucks’ starting netminder from 1987 to 1997, at which point he was dealt by Mike Keenan to the Carolina Hurricanes.

That kicked off a tumultuous period in which he played for four teams in about a year — the Canucks, the Hurricanes, the Florida Panthers, and the New York Rangers, and there’s little doubt that this took a toll. It’s a kind of homelessness, that movement from place to place. It has to be hard to feel grounded or settled.

Which is about what his wife at the time, Jane Macdougall, has to say about it in a piece published on Monday by the National Post.

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