This day couldn't possibly have taken longer to get here it seems, but at last the Canucks and the rest of the NHL will drop the puck on a new season. Time to put last year away and focus on getting back to finish the job left incomplete in June. A few new faces, some noteworthy ones now gone, and heavy hearts will all be factors tonight as they Canucks begin the 2011-12 season against a team many are crowning champion already, the Pittsburgh Penguins. And let's face it, this is a very talented squad and quite likely could be the team out of the Eastern Conference this year, Sid or no Sid. As you might have seen in our staff predictions post yesterday, I believe this Canucks team can and will win it all. I know the pain lingers, but I am here to tell you that you need to let it go and realize this team is better than last year's squad, if for no other reason than they have been at the gate and know what needs to be done to step through it. Get excited, this will be the year.
The Penguins have made a couple changes themselves, and they're definitely noticeable on the first line, as Evgeni Malkin will have Steve Sullivan on his wing, along with James Neal, who was picked up at the trade deadline last season. Other new faces for the Penguins include Richard Park (yes, that Richard Park), Steve MacIntyre and Boris Valabik, the hulking giant that was thoroughly embarrassed in a fight with Rick Rypien when Valabik was an Atlanta Thrasher.
The Canucks begin the season without Selke award winner Ryan Kesler, though seeing Kes take contact in practice is an encouraging sight. Cody Hodgson will center the second line in his absence with Marco Sturm and Mikael Samuelsson on the wings. A lot of attention will be focused on the Canucks' 4th line tonight as Maxim Lapierre, Aaron Volpatti and newly acquired Dale Weise set out to send a message all season long: Take liberties with this team at your own risk. Okay, Lappy's no fighter, despite holding his own against Theo Peckham the other night (still laughing at Peckham's inability to kick the crap out of Lapierre. What a chump...), but he is good at drawing penalties. The Penguins were the only team better than the Canucks last season on the penalty kill, so a Canucks power play that struggled in the preseason had better be in midseason form if they hope to take advantage of the power plays that are sure to come.
A good deal of attention will be focused on the goaltending matchup tonight, as Roberto Luongo goes head to head with his Team Canada teammate Marc-Andre Fleury. I am hereby announcing a new drinking game for the season: A drink for every time someone refers to Luongo not being able to win big games, and double drink if they make specific references to the Bruins or Blackhawks. Yeah, I am sick to death of the Luongo criticism. If they had crapped out against Chicago, believe me I would be right there with the rest of you torch and pitchfork wielding maniacs (oh knock it off, we can all stop talking about the fucking riot now too. It's over. Move on). But the Luongo haters, Canucks fans or not conveniently move the bar when it comes to him, using the same argument despite the change in parameters. It's dishonest and tiresome. So many of you doubted he could get us out of the second round, hell most of you thought he couldn't beat the Hawks. But he did. The Canucks lost the Stanley Cup finals because the injuries caught up with them and were a shell of the team that won the President's Trophy by the time Game 7 rolled around. He didn't lose the game. The Canucks did.
What, no leftovers?
I love the way the media and fans are fawning over Daniel Carcillo. It will make the inevitability that is his bad decision making, piss poor fighting ability and ill-timed penalties, not to mention embarrassing lack of hockey skills and sense that much better when they realize it. Much is being made of Carcillo once again shooting his mouth off about getting at members of the Canucks. While I would certainly say this is treading in dangerous waters as it begins to look more and more like premeditation every time he opens his fat yap, his behavior is embarrassingly similar to that of a professional wrestler instead of a player in the greatest league of the greatest sport in the world. But hey, the Blackhawks will find out soon enough when Carcillo's ridiculous antics start costing them goals and games that his yapping is best done from the press box, where I bet he spends a good chunk of the season. Two other games to start the season off tonight, as Montreal and Toronto renew their rivalry at the ACC, and those Boston scumbags raise their banner in preparation to get their asses kicked by the Flyers. Bitter? No, just honest about my feelings. Much like the Blackhawks before them, it will be apparent early on there will not be a repeat champion in the NHL this season. Here's to karma catching up with them...
BAND OF THE DAY- MASTODON
With a new album just released, you're sure to hear and see a lot about these guys over the next while. From Late Night with David Letterman last night, here they are performing 'Curl Of The Burl' from the new album 'The Hunter', and the asskicking video they made for it...