December 28 2016 11:47PM
Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin - USA TODAY Sports
Playing their first game in four-plus days, the Canucks hosted the visiting Los Angeles Kings for a weeknight affair at Rogers Arena.
The Kings always offer a handful, even when the results don't reflect their merit among the league's premier teams. They're mean, fast and tenacious on the forecheck. Perhaps most importantly, they've had a near monopoly by shot share metrics since Darryl Sutter took over those many years ago.
A few confounding factors were working in the Canucks favour, though. They're getting healthier. Other than Erik Gudbranson and Jannik Hansen, this roster is about as healthy as it's been all season. Opposite them, the Kings played without Jonathan Quick, Tyler Toffoli and Brayden McNabb.
As far as level playing fields go, the Canucks aren't going to find one much better than tonight. And to their credit, they took full advantage. Vancouver built an early lead and battened down the hatches. Loui Eriksson put the Canucks up on the power play in the first; then Henrik Sedin deflected a Troy Stecher shot on a Kings turnover early in the second. Were it not for a poor offside call, Sven Baertschi's deflection in the second would've held up and given the Canucks a 3-1 lead, even.
The Kings pressed, and the Canucks bent but never broke. With some inspired play from Ryan Miller, Vancouver was able to hold the lead and take home the 2-1 victory.
Miller stopped 36 of 37 Kings shots. Peter Budaj stopped 18 of 20 Canucks shots.
December 28 2016 04:55PM
The Canucks aren't mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but that's more of a formality than anything at this point. They're seven points back of the Los Angeles Kings for the eighth place in the Western Conference, and we're on the other side of Christmas.
There's a silver lining to almost everything, though. I tend to think there's one that applies to the rebuilding (sort of rebuilding, anyways) Canucks. Once they're out, they can start to experiment with their roster. Whether that means through trades, call-ups and lineup decisions. The world is their oyster!
With that in mind, what do you want to see from the Canucks down the home stretch? Any trades, roster decisions or lineup changes. Whatever you're feeling, so long as it's mildly realistic.
December 28 2016 03:00PM
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski - USA TODAY Sports
Troy Stecher could have spent this entire season in the AHL, and I'm sure the Canucks wouldn't have batted an eye. So his emergence as a staple on the first pair must feel like something akin to stumbling upon a winning lottery ticket at Pat Quinn Way.
With Stecher, as with any first-year pro, injuries above him helped pave the way for his ascendancy. That much is certain. This didn't happen by accident, though. Stecher did everything in training camp to put himself atop the Canucks recall list, and he's done everything since to keep him from it in perpetuity.
Part of that is opportunity, and Canucks Head Coach Willie Desjardins deserves a fair amount of credit for not shying from offering Stecher more than his fair share. It's not often a player jumps straight from the AHL to the parent team's first pair, but the comfort Stecher displayed with Alexander Edler in the pre-season made clear that was the best position for him to succeed in immediately.
December 28 2016 11:00AM
Photo Credit: Anthony Grupposo - USA TODAY Sports
If the Canucks are going to make a surge to save their season, they'll be doing it without Jannik Hansen.
Speaking to the media after Tuesday's practice, Canucks Head Coach Willie Desjardins revealed Hansen suffered a severe knee injury on December 22nd, and it will keep him from Vancouver's lineup for four-to-six weeks. This after Hansen just returned to the Canucks two weeks prior from a broken collarbone.
The Canucks' first line was supposed to be an area of relative strength. At the very least, one couldn't count it among the multitude question marks hanging over the roster. Whether Loui Eriksson worked out or not, the Sedins moulded Hansen as a safety blanket in their image for the club's cover.
Desjardins has been hesitant to play Eriksson with the twins since October, and Hansen's injury has forced him from the trios refuge for much of the time since. Generally, the club's leaned on Brandon Sutter to fill the void whenever necessary, and suffered that decision accordingly.
The hope in mid-December was Hansen's health would keep Desjardins from having to tussle with this question again. Here we are two weeks later, and it's paramount on the embattled coach's mind as he prepares to face the Los Angeles Kings.
December 27 2016 04:30PM
Before I get into the Canucks and your questions, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and the happiest of holidays.
Thanks so much for continuing to engage this website, whether as a reader, commenter or passerby. I hope you've all had a great time this holiday season and are looking forward to an awesome 2017. It can't be any worse than 2016, right?
Back to the Canucks, though. They play tomorrow night against the Los Angeles Kings. That should be... fun? Onwards to the questions!