With any luck, this awful pun will land me a job running the @VanCanucks Twitter account.
After their biggest win of the season at home, the Canucks are on the road this week where they’ve been good all year, culminating in a showdown with the Blackhawks at the Mad House.
Here are 10 thoughts for the week, and since this is my last entry before Christmas, I hope everyone enjoys a safe and happy holiday season. Here we go!
1. It’s a week bookended by two games against the team’s most bitter rivals: Boston and Chicago. These are two teams the Canucks have measured themselves against for years, and as if there wasn’t reason enough to do that, they’re the defending Stanely Cup finalists. Vancouver’s blowout win over Boston last Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada felt like a watershed moment for the team this season. Then again, the Buffalo Sabres handled the Bruins 4-2 last night, so pretty much nothing has real meaning anymore.
2. One fascinating wrinkle from the Boston game was the way that John Tortorella handled the Chara/Sedins match-up: he pretty much avoided it (hat tip to our "friends" at Pass it to Bulis for breaking this down nicely). This displays a level of gamesmanship from Tortorella that we never saw — or at leat never noticed, outiside of radical zone deployment — from Alain Vigneault.
3. Prior to last night’s game in Dallas, the Canucks were an identical 10-5-3 at home and on the road this year. Earlier in the year they were road warriors and merely average at home, but that has reversed lately. But overall, I think this speaks to one thing that has jumped out at me early in the Tortorella era: he has his team playing a remarkably consistent style no matter the location, arena or time zone.
4. Both Yannick Weber and Andrew Alberts were in the lineup together for the first time last night, and unsurprisingly the "Yandrew Weberts" era got off to a rough start when the Stars scored 15 seconds apart early. Neither goal was Weberts’ fault directly, but Torts benches his fringe players for farting in the wrong direction, so it didn’t help.
5. Is it possible that John Tortorella’s shootout selections are even worse than Alain Vigneault’s? It looks like it. But it’s also possible that the Canucks as a group are just a bad bunch one-on-one. I don’t think this team goes from bad to good in the shootout with different selections.
6. When Tom Sestito had a minor injury last weekend, the 4th line of Weise-Dalpe-Welsh had a couple strong games against the Oilers and Bruins. But alas, Sestito was back in the lineup Tuesday against Minnesota, and was back to being a Corsi catastrophe. He must give great pep talks or something, because otherwise I can’t figure out why he’s playing, especially when Torts has expressed his desire to ice a 4th line he can trust regularly.
7. One thing we’ve learned with Tortorella is that when he sees fit he’s going to unapologetically play the hell out of his thoroughbreds. We witnessed it last night, with Dan Hamhuis logging 27:55 in a game that was over early in the 3rd period and less than 24 hours before a big match-up with the Hawks.
8. In a game where the Canucks dressed their 7th and 8th defencemen, it’s not surprising to see their best blueliner log a lot of minutes; Torts lives and dies by the select few he knows he can trust. But if you’re Yannick Weber or Andrew Alberts, this begs the question: how do you go about earning that trust given such little opportunity?
9. It’s clear that Torts isn’t willing to give a bubble player much time to figure things out, just as he’s reluctant to give a promising young player ample ice time without earning it first. We first saw this when, by all accounts, Frank Corrado outright earned a roster spot in training camp. Even now with the injuries to Edler and Stanton, I’m doubtful that Corrado will get a shot.
10. It seems likely that Eddie Lack is going to get the start in Chicago tonight. If Torts was undecided prior to the Dallas game, chances are Luongo’s performance swayed him one way or the other. Why not follow up your first shutout with a start against your most hated rival who oh by the way also happens to be the NHL’s best team? Just don’t cramp up, Eddie.