Sunday, February 01, 2015

Ryan Miller, Shawn Matthias and the Canucks' top five plays of January 2015

Miller's 200-minute shutout streak this January is the third-longest in Canucks history.
Flickr: Jerry Meaden

As quickly as Ryan Miller started living up to his $6 million price tag, he's plummeted back into goaltending mediocrity. For a stretch  between December 20 and January 19, Ryan Miller put together a .955 save percentage. That run, which included the longest shutout streak in Canucks history since Roberto Luongo in 2008 -- bumped his save percentage up to a healthy .919.

If not for his struggles around mid-November and early-December, when that percentage hovered around .900 and the bottom of the league, he just might have been a consideration to join Radim Vrbata in Columbus this past month. But since then, the softies have again found ways to squeak through. 

As of today's loss against Minnesota, he ranks 19th in save percentage, putting him in the same range as Jonathan "centre ice" Bernier (.915), Anton Khubodin (.914) and Cam Ward (.913) -- all of whom are goalies on non-playoff teams. Conversely, thanks to back-to-back shutouts this month against Philadelphia and Carolina, Miller ranks second in league shutouts. Which is a perfect representation of the Miller we've come to know in his first year with Vancouver. When he's on -- he's worth all $6 million and more. When he's not -- the thought of possibly dangling Lack as trade bait becomes increasingly frightening.

But such fright has no place in these monthly highlight packages. This is a place where Miller charges Brayden Schenn glove-save-deep in a 200-minute shutout streak. And where Luongo's trade return outperforms Zack Kassian and embarrasses Justin Faulk at every opportunity. That said, here are the top five plays from the Vancouver Canucks this past January.

You saw it here first. A Canucks highlight package that doesn't feature either Sedin. It's not even as if the twins didn't perform this past month. With 9 and 10 points, respectively, Daniel and Henrik led the Canucks in January scoring. Though something tells me that if Shawn Matthias could borrow just the smallest fraction of puck luck or finish around the net, he could have easily tripled or quadrupled his 1 goal and 2 assists this month.

Simply put, Matthias is playing incredible hockey. His effort and playing style is exactly what the Canucks have needed from Kassian. If only some combination of either Matthias developing more of Kassian's raw skill or the latter developing more of the Matthias's determination could come to fruition.

Matthias isn't scoring often, but that's about as pretty a goal as you'll see any of the Canucks score this season.



The Canucks' Top 5 Goals of December 2014
The Canucks' Top 5 Goals of November 2014
Vrbata and Miller: The Canucks' shiniest new toys

Saturday, January 03, 2015

The Canucks' month-in-review and top five goals of December (video)

With 10 points in 11 games, Daniel led all Canucks in scoring this December.

Bless those Canucks for keeping it interesting. Never mind Thursday night's all-too-familiar victimization at the hands of Los Angles. December's back-and-forth 5-4-2 record is a microcosm for everything Canucks fans are wondering about their team right now. The Canucks have dropped in the standings and now that expectations have levelled out in kind, it's been hard to get a proper read on the team mid-season.

On one hand, you have a team that can appropriately dismantle bottom-rung teams like the Arizona Coyotes -- complete with a rousing swan song from Tom "skill-is-overrated" Sestito. The same team that can register a gutsy 3-1 win against the San Jose Sharks on the back of Ryan Miller.

On the other hand, there's the Canucks we've seen this past month that can't time a pinch from any defenceman to save their lives. The same Canucks that gave up a 3-0 lead to the 23rd-place Ottawa Senators. And yes, the most-recent iteration of the Canucks that have been outshot a well-documented 103-51 in their last three games.

But hey. It's the holidays. So while the Canucks' YouTube channel gave you three minutes of feel-good Christmas banter and Luca Sbisa adorably cuddling a BC SPCA kitten, Bure's Triple Deke is here to give you the team's top five goals from the past month.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Bure, Ohlund and Sedin: The World Junior's All-Canucks Team

Mattias Ohlund, Pavel Bure and Daniel Sedin have all
starred in the World Juniors as Canucks prospects.

Until they actually make it to the NHL, the World Juniors is far and away the most closely-scrutinized and highly-celebrated stage for the league's best prospects. And when the average hockey fan is reduced to reading the same cliche scouting reports on their team's draft picks over and over and over, there's nothing like actually watching a player like Jake Virtanen or Thatcher Demko perform at the highest level among their peers.

And every so often, you'll be lucky enough to not only see your team's best prospects play internationally, but watch them absolutely dominate the tournament. A couple of years ago, we highlighted the very best Canadian Junior performances by Canucks prospects of all-time. Cody Hodgson's 16 points in 2008 was there. As was Luc Bourdon's All-Star Team performance at GM Place in 2006.

See also: The All-Time List of Canucks Prospects to Play for Team Canada at the WJC (up to 2013) 

But while Canadian prospects will always get more exposure at this tournament, Vancouver have a long history of drafting top flight international prospects. This year, Canucks fans are spoiled with a United Nations showing of Virtanen (Canada), Demko (USA) and Gustav Forsling (Sweden) playing for their respective countries. (Not to mention Cole Cassels narrowly missing a roster spot with the States.) So with this year's international flavour in mind, we've highlighted the best World Junior performances by Canucks prospects -- Canadian or not -- in the history of the tournament:

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Cole Cassels dual citizenship: Is he competing for a spot on the "wrong" team?

I have no idea which one is Cassels -- but he's somewhere on this
bronze medal-winning Ontario team from the 2012 World U17s.
Image: Hockey Canada

There was considerable surprise when Cole Cassels was named to Team USA's preliminary roster for the 2015 World Juniors. USA Hockey made the announcement just a week after Cassels was handed a 10-game OHL suspension for a hit to the head of Damir Sharipzyanov. (Amazingly, the 18-year-old defenceman didn't miss a game and is currently on Russia's preliminary WJC roster.)

Because the IIHF (strangely) upholds CHL suspensions, Cassels would be ineligible to play the United States' first two games. But for those of you who have been following Cassels' progression this season, he has added to his two-way reputation an offensive upside that -- if not for his current suspension -- would put him among the OHL's top five scorers

It'll be interesting to see whether USA Hockey retains him on their roster. With the United States' second game coming against Germany, they'll only truly miss him for the opener against Finland. And he'll still be able to practice with the team and compete in exhibitions, so it's not as if he'll be coming into the tournament cold.

But the more interesting question is this: If not for his suspension, would the Ohio-born and Connecticut-raised Cassels be competing for a spot on Team Canada instead? Better yet, would he prefer to play for Team Canada?

Monday, December 08, 2014

Watch Radim Vrbata pull off the same ridiculous deke three years apart

Image credit: Canucks YouTube

Besides a point in the standings, if tonight's 4-3 meltdown against the Sens was worth anything, it was bearing witness to Radim Vrbata's outrageous behind-the-net tuck-in on Craig Anderson to open the scoring.

When you're a team whose two offensive stars are playmakers, the highlight reel goals you're used to seeing are typically some sort of tic-tac-toe, no-look-pass wizardry. Enter about every other goal that both Sedins are in on.

Then a natural goal-scorer like Vrbata comes along and for the first time in a long time, you see an individual effort with enough filth to make all the Miley Cyruses among us blush. Yes, Old 17 was also good for the odd solo effort, but his eventual insistence on doing it alone every single rush was so infuriating that the wonder was lost when it actually worked.

After the game, Vrbata told reporters it wasn't the first time he had used that move before.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Vancouver Canucks Top 5 Goals of the Month | November 2014

One of these months I'll actually post these videos in a timely manner. But nonetheless, the Canucks are another month and change into this blissfully surprising season and much like the first month-in-review, this past November was well worth documenting.

Going 9-4-1, the Canucks continued to duke it out with Team Giordano over in Calgary for surprise team of the year. And while the quick start of the first two lines, catalyzed by Vrbata and Bonino, was the story of October, the emergence of the team's bottom six have allowed Willie Desjardins to make good on his promise to roll all four units. It's one thing to do it, but with literally all six current members of the bottom two lines on a 30-plus-point pace, the Canucks have never looked so good in the process.

It makes sense then that in this November's edition of the Top 5 Goals of the Month, all four lines are well-represented. From Hank and Dank's continued dominance in overtime to Bo Horvat's first NHL goal, this one's full of talent, grit and sweet, sweet career milestones:

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Canucks monthly recap [Top 5 Plays of October]

Back in 2013, this blog ran a series of filler monthly Canucks recaps complete with 'top five' videos. And much like the Sedins so far this season, that monthly feature is being officially resurrected. Unfortunately, much like Luca Sbisa on any given shift, the timing is also already just a little bit off. So let's forget that the Canucks are already three games into November and take a look back at the team's best during the first calendar month of the season.

Not a bad start for the new regime. Some quick thoughts: