Friday, December 11, 2009

What Is This Team's Identity?

I am now 3-0 on the season for games attended in person and in all three games (vs. the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and last night the Atlanta Thrashers) the Canucks have scored four goals in each game. So, if the team needs scoring, just call me. I definitely am contributing to the crowd mojo for more offence.

Having said that this is a hard team to figure out. The Canucks do a lot of things well. They score (ranking 6th in the NHL), they defend well (7th in goals against), the powerplay is terrific (4th overall) but their achilles heel reared its ugly head at times in this game. That weakness is the propensity for taking bad penalties (the most recent culprit seems to be Mikael Samuelsson) and terrible penalty killing (5th worst in the NHL) is a very bad sign. The teams, namely San Jose and Chicago, that the Nux'll have to beat to get out of the West just destroy teams who take dumb penalties.

The Canucks also tend to take their cue from the Sedins and think they need to pass the puck into the net. Mason Raymond, would you please just shoot the puck. At least Ryan Kesler seems to have gotten his game back on song and is getting loads of chances. He just needs to stop shooting like a Trevor Linden. Lift the puck and put it on net. It isn't rocket science.

Atlanta, on the other hand, are an entertaining team in so many ways. They have high comedy in nets with Ondrej Pavelec a cross between Doug Favell. Pete Peeters and Dominik Hasek. In the first period he put two pucks into his own net with lazy efforts on pucks he had actually stopped. In the third he was all over the net like a Gumby and kept the Thrashers in the game.

Obviously, playing last night in Calgary meant the Nux lucked out in getting a tired team. In the first period, though, the Thrash were buzzing especially Ilya Kovalchuk. This is a guy you just have to love. He is always ready to unload that shot of his, has great moves and is a wood chopper on the level of Steve Yzerman in his prime. Kovalchuk got in a chopping war with Kesler and even slashed Steve Bernier right across the chest at the buzzer as the teams were headed off the ice. I'm sure the tree huggers will whine but Bobby Clarke would have been proud.

Local Vancouver product Evander Kane had a couple of great chances one of which went to video review but he came up empty on the scoresheet. He also got into Kesler's kitchen (what is it with Kesler and whatever it is I like the Linesman rat-like hate teams have for him).

Then there's the sleeping (or comatose) giants on the Thrash. Example one is Nik "no intensity" Antropov. You can definitely see why Toronto lost its patience with this guy. He may put up the points but he should be far harder on the puck. In fact, he looks like an Eric Lindros but palys nothing like him.

Pavel Kubina just looks like a fat Willie Huber now. He's slow. he's not physical. He's has that shot which he never really got off all game.

Then there's 6' 7" 245 lb. Boris Valabik who is a monster and got into a fight in which 5' 11" 190 lb. Rick Rypien TKO-ed, if you can believe that. (The kid next to me kept yelling "in the ass" during the fight. Is this some new UFC fighting technique I don't know about. I know UFC has plenty of guy-on-guy action but this gives a whole new meaning to a low blow.)

Which brings me to the single thing you do notice about the Canucks--they aren't very big nor physical enough. Sure they have a bunch of defensemen over 6' 2" but none you'd really say make other teams' forwards pay. This is fine when they play a softer team like Atlanta but it will be interesting come playoff time. All due respect to the D-corps but other than Shane O'Brien and the one Willie Mitchell hit on Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews, the Canucks lack that scary Zdeno Chara/Chris Pronger edge (sorry, Kevin Bieksa but taking dumb penalties does not scare opponents).

Lastly, a disturbing fan trend started up. Now after each Nux goal a "woo" sound is played over the PA. Throughout the game fans started randomly making this sound, but it comes across more like crazed bird noises. I half expected Tippi Hedren to come running down the aisle screaming with a crow in her hair. Just go to a game and listen. It's like seagulls trying to communicate over English Bay.

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