April 07 2012 10:45AM
Tonight the Canucks will conclude another banner regular season against the lowly Oilers. The Canucks are set as either the first or second seed in the Western Conference, and it's a fifty-fifty proposition as to where exactly they'll end up in the standings. If they gain a single point, they'll win the West. If they lose and St. Louis wins, they'll finish in second place. If they win and the New York Rangers lose, the Canucks will win their second consecutive President's Trophy. Of course, of late, when the Canucks have played relatively meaningless late season games against the Panzer Tank Oilers, they've had a tendency to drop the ball.
Underlying Numbers, the three keys and more thorough preview past the jump!
April 06 2012 01:57PM
Last night the Canucks had a golden opportunity to position themselves to win a second straight President's Trophy. With a one goal lead in the third period against the Flames, however, they whiffed. Not that it matters - no one holds a parade for the team that wins the President's trophy, and perhaps more importantly for the city of Vancouver, they don't riot if the team falls painfully short either!
Nonetheless, last night's loss was pretty ugly, especially for Henrik Sedin's line, who had been dynamite of late. Marc-Andre Gragnani continued to display some iffy defense, Kesler continued to struggle to produce, and Vancouver's once stellar power-play continued to pack as much punch as a pacifist.
An abbreviated recap, chance data and the statistical three stars after the jump!
April 05 2012 04:11PM
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April 05 2012 01:31PM
With Zack Kassian injured and out of the lineup with the dreaded "upper-body injury," the Canucks called up hulking winger Byron Bitz from Chicago yesterday. Bitz impressed with his pugilism and surprising array of back-hand saucer passes during his eight game call up earlier this season and he'll find himself back in the Canucks lineup tonight. Observers have long expected that Bitz would join the team for the postseason, and now that he has, it'll be very interesting to see how Vigneault handles his fourth line personnel.
Clearly, Gillis prioritized beefing up the fourth line over the past ten months, and while a rash of injuries to the likes of Aaron Volpatti and Steve Pinnozotto derailed that plan somewhat, the team has inarguably shored up the quality of their depth forward group. Between Manny Malhotra, Maxim Lapierre, Zack Kassian (assuming his injury is relatively minor), Byron Bitz, Dale Weise and Andrew Ebbett, the Canucks boast a reasonably impressive stable of forwards who can successfully fill in on the fourth line. It's a bonanza of depth compared to the meagre offerings the team boasted last season when Vigneault's options were limited to the likes of a raw Cody Hodgson, Victor Oreskovich, Jeff "the backchecker" Tambellini, Tanner Glass, a wounded Manny Malhotra in the finals, and Alexandre Bolduc's bionic shoulder.
Read past the jump for more!
April 03 2012 02:53PM
Mason Raymond hasn't been able to find his form this season, and time is running out.
Needless to say, Mason Raymond is not having a particularly good season. Leading up his benching on Saturday against Calgary, Raymond has struggled to drive possession (like he was able to do in the past several seasons), his defensive game has fallen off significantly, and to top it off, he's benefitting from the on-ice bounces and still can't seem to bury his chances. What's worse, quickly glancing over how Raymond's presence impacts his most frequent line-mates (and in particular Ryan Kesler), reveals that Raymond's presence in the top-six may be a drag on the performance of his team-mates.
The Canucks are going to need Raymond's speed in any run they may make deep into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so they need him to find his game. In fact, so much of the way they've handled him of late, he's spent six of the past ten games on the team's top-line for example, strikes me as an effort to rebuild his confidence. Hopefully that effort pays off, because Raymond's contract expires at the end of this season, and if he doesn't pick it up in the postseason, then common sense dictates that the speedy forward will be in serious danger of not even being qualified by the team.
Read on past the jump!