Sunday, November 30, 2008

Rookie Debuts But Nux Can't Get Off The Schneid

Finally, Canuck fans got to see hotshot 2004 1st round draft pick Cory Schneider play for the big club. Making his NHL debut Saturday night in Calgary, Schneider was solid stopping 28 of 31 shots thrown at him.

You're not in the A anymore--close that five hole, Cory

Sadly, the Canucks in front of him had another poor offensive effort firing just 18 shots at Miikka Kiprusoff (who has struggled this and last season, especially vs. Vancouver) and scoring just once in a 3-1 loss to the Flames.

With the Manitoba Moose, Schneider's .945 save percentage and a 10-1 won-loss record placed him among the top '08/09 AHL goaltenders, his time has come even if it has taken a Roberto Luongo injury to get him his start in the NHL.

But be forewarned, success in the AHL more often than not does not equal success on the NHL stage. Of course, the arrival of Carey Price to the #1 spot in Montreal has focused more attention on how young goalies are doing in the A. The trouble is for every Carey Price who takes a team down there to the Calder Cup championship, there are tens of goalies more like Dany Sabourin.

Ex-Canuck and current Pen Sabourin led the AHL in save pct back in 2005/06. He remains little more than a career NHL backup now three seasons later. The list of top AHL goalies from that season reveals no Johnny Bower gem among the lot:

  • David LeNeveau is 25 years old and is currently backing up Jonas Hiller on the Ducks while their #1 goalie J.S. Giguere attends to some family matters in Montreal.
  • Adam Hauser is 28 and now playing in Germany.
  • Wade Flaherty, 40 and another ex-Manitoba Moose goalie, has spent the last seven seasons in the AHL. His last NHL game was a single appearance in '02/03 with Nashville.
  • Josh Harding, 24, is the youngest among the group and is firmly established as the #2 in Minnesota behind Nicklas Backstrom.
Of course, gone are the Original Six days where Hall of Fame goalies remained buried in the AHL for years before getting their full-time (Bower did sneak in a season or so with the New York Rangers in the midst of his lengthy AHL career) NHL shot like Bower did at the age of 34. To be perfectly blunt, most goalies worth their weight in salt, or any other commodity, spend anywhere from a cup of coffee to a light lunch down in the AHL before being called up for good to the NHL.

Luongo played all of 29 regular season GP in the minors. Martin Brodeur had a paltry 32 GP stint. Patrick Roy played a grand total of 1 AHL regular season game.

Carey Price managed a paltry 12 regular season games to go along with his great AHL playoff run in '06/07. Even Conn Smythe Award winner Cam Ward barely noticed Lowell (52 GP) was the birthplace of Jack Kerouac before he was on the road to the Stanley Cup.

So here's hoping Cory is more a Carey (as in Price) than these two versions of his own namesake.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Canucks Wing It In Overtime

The Canucks have sold out the Garage for six zillion straight games...or have they? So far this season there have been single seat sales for all but two games (the first Detroit visit Nov. 2 and, of course, the Make Beliefs' visit Nov. 15). Mainly this Coca-Cola half-price single seat policy that started, I believe, three years ago and would show up maybe six times a year has been expanded for '08/09.

Some kid rockin' a Wings tee

This, of course, meant Johnny Canucklehead and Franz Klammer (part-time ski hero and transplanted hockey fan) could snag a couple of ducats to see the Stanley Cup champions take on the Curtis Sanford. All of this for the price of $59.75 (including ticketmonster and Mats Sundin escrow account fees) is decent...not something I'd pay to watch Columbus or Minnesota but for the Cup champs, I'm there! So here's the view from the last row of the upper bowl right on the blueline (in case the NHL need me to do booth reviews on offside calls).

Starting off, there sure were a lot of GM employees at the game. I thought the company was in dire straits or maybe all the Steve Yzermans, Brendan Shanahans and Nick Libetts took advantage of the half-price sale to show up in their Wings jerseys. The Nux have finally dropped the dated U2 intro music but now opt for what sounds suspiciously like Vangelis's Chariots of Fire theme. Oh well guess we'll be hearing music from 2008 in all probability by 2038.

All of the trees and electricity that have been wasted on what a good game this was, don't believe the hype. Yes, this Canuck team looks like more of a "team" and kudos to Ryan Kesler and Kyle Wellwood for driving the net and creating chances but Pavol Demitra hit the net, please, and Willie Mitchell get rid of that stupid Martin St. Louis long stick you use.

The Wings looked so smooth and in control especially breaking out of their own end. So how did they lose? One intrepid reporter (Tony Gallagher) pointed out they missed Tomas Holmstrom sticking his big butt in the opposing goalie's face. That's probably it as Johan Franzen is more Holmstrom Lite. Given the Wings outshot Vancouver 34-16 through 60 minutes, a good screen or two and it'd have been game over.

Luckily, Daniel Sedin got a bit of a flukey bad hop goal over third base late and the locals woke up. The Nux owned the OT outshooting the Wings 8-0 and Sami Salo scored a beauty on a powerplay to win it. End of story.

Now I'm not sure if the fans razzing Detroit goalie Chris Osgood throughout the game helped but it can't have hurt. Even so, last I looked, Osgood was the starter on two Cup teams so . . . until Roberto Luongo brings the silver chalice home, I'll say Ozzie is not as bad as those long drifters from the past he's let in.

Finally, let's get to my fave timeworn topic--the fans. I thought moving up two price ranges I'd escape the yahoos but let's review. The wannabe gangsta (of course, a white boy with a cheesy Wendy Clark attempt at a 'stache) in front of me started the game off telling us in the row behind him to "get up." Then he attempted to start a "Let's Go Canucks" chant which as the game wore on became a "Let's Go Detroit" chant. I figure the two Detroit babes (and I use that term loosely) next to him convinced Mr. "One Beer And I'm Jello" to switch sides mid-game. Either that or he fell in love with Henrik Zetterberg's sweet Viking beard thinking he'd have a shot at a honey like Henrik's wife, Emma Andersson.

The older couple in Luongo jerseys in my row said nary a peep all game mistaking the Garage for the old days of the Pacific Mausoleum. Glad you could join us.

Then the piece de resistance, an in-game interview with former Nux captain (and recipient of a broken jaw in the '70s courtesy Keith Magnuson) Chris Oddleifson was interviewed on the big screen. This prompted the neighborly stock broker (see, the economic crisis is real if he is sitting in the last row of the upper bowl) next to me to pipe up and say that Chrissy Boy was his fave Canuck. I guess Bryan McSheffrey was taken. He also thought Oddleifson was #6. Dennis Kearns to that, says #14!

Those, my friends, are your Canuck fans. Unless the scoreboard tells them to "Make Some Noise," many of them do become confused by my yelling and screaming at the Sedins to shoot the freakin' puck and enough with the Tour de France. Then again here's comes the Wave--woooo!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Junior Hockey's Millionaires

The Vancouver Giants keep topping themselves. Not only are they mindboggling hot from the start of yet another WHL season, they came out in sartorial splendour wearing 1915 Stanley Cup champion Vancouver Millionaires (next thing you'll tell me is that Cyclone Taylor's is not just another sporting goods store?) uniforms Friday vs. the Kamloops Blazers. The pic to the left does not do the jerseys justice as the deep maroon is a standout, and it's surprising no NHL team has tried this in the modern era. Maybe we can get fashion insider Sean Avery to work on that.

The Vancouver Millionaires Night was another of Giants' owner Ron Toigo's brilliant promotional ideas to honor our city's hockey past. The pre-game cermony saw five ex-NHLers all of whom had won Stanley Cups trotted out accompanied by the G-women cheerleaders with young kids traling the hockey greats carrying replica mini-Stanley Cups. Dave "the Hammer" Schultz in his classic #8 Flyers pumpkin orange jersey walked out first. He was followed by Gerry Cheevers, Johnny Bower and Steve Shutt. So, Shutt with five kids carrying five Stanley Cups was impressive but then out strolls Yvan "the Roadrunner" Cournoyer and ten kids. You do the math but plenty of the uneduacted in the 12,000+ crowd could be heard to gasp. Yep, young 'uns, back in the day before the Interwebs, the Habs won Cup after Cup after Cup.

The game itself was terrific as the G-men overcame a sluggish first period where they fell behind 3-1 to trump the Blazers 6-4. All this without the WHL's leading scorer, Evander Kane, who missed his second game in a row due to injury.

Oh, yeah, the six-goal barrier was hit so everyone exiting the Pacific Coliseum got a coupon for a free appetizer at White Spot. They weren't giving those out in 1915 at the old Denman Arena, I tell you.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

How To Get Things Almost Right

The Canucks revealed their new third jersey this week to be worn fashionably early (4:oo p.m. local start time) tonight as the Make Belief fans invade the Garage for the lone visit of the Leafs this season. So, our beloved Johnny Canuck finally makes it onto the jersey but just as a shoulder patch. This J-Canuck logo has been around a bit and already has shown up on some Canuck souvenirs prior to this season.

The stick-in-rink logo has been revived ever since the Vintage third jersey made an appearance...but the logo has been "rebranded" (translation: it's now features a Kyle Wellwood length stick done at a Cubist angle). There has never really been any love affair with any of the NHL Canucks various logos (except for this crazy Canuck) and although now the stick-in-rink logo has some retro cool cachet, why are the Canucks still so reluctant to go whole hog and bring back the full Johnny Canuck logo? Guess we should not be so surprised as the current "regular" jersey was a lame attempt to ape the WHL era "Canucks" look across the chest.
Mr. Bathgate lookin' good

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Brian Boucher, I'm Coming After You!

Roberto Luongo's third shutout in a row (and the Leos taking down the Green Riders in Regina)...look out, Brian Boucher, your record is in jeopardy. Brian Boucher? Not Patrick Roy? Not Terry Sawchuk? Not Georges Hainsworth? That's right, fans, the NHL record for consecutive shutouts at five is held by a backup goalie who played for the Phoenix Greztkys at the time.

No, that one did not get by you, Bobby Luuuuu!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Let's Play The Feud

This whole Alexander Ovechkin vs. Evgeny Malkin feud is getting very juicy. If you did not catch the game, here's the YouTube clip of the on-ice confrontation Oct. 16 --Ovechkin vs. Malkin: Round 1.

The missed tactical nuclear hit by Ovy may just be the start of what one hopes is the beginning of a great on- and off-ice rivalry between two young teams. After all, the NHL's best recent rivalry betwen the Wings and Avs seems dead in the water now. The strange thing is these two Russian superstars roomed together previously when playing for Russia at the 2006 Olympics. Maybe Malkin snored a lot and Ovcechkin hogged the remote back then.

The feud, if you can read Russian and trust the rumors, is over Ovechkin clocking Malkin's agent at a nightclub in Russia about a year and a half ago. Apparently, said agent made a crack about some model who dated both stars or Ovy's mother (depending on the rumor you believe).

Throw in Alexander Semin's comments on how Sydney Crosby can't hold a candle to Patrick Kane and let's start the feud!

Anyhoo, circle Jan. 14 on your NHL calendar as the teams meet up again for the Russian Rumble: Round Two.