If you're looking to wrap up a road trip on a positive note, you can't do much better than the game the Canucks played Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Canucks have beaten the Leafs so many times in a row now it almost feels like it's actually the rule of law. Sure, it will come to an end some day, but few victories feel this good days later. And I am still smiling about the way Jannik Hansen made Dion Phaneuf look absolutely useless, something we've seen many times over the years. That never gets old. And despite the toe-stubbing in Columbus and Carolina, the road trip overall was fairly successful, though I have no doubt the Canucks are happy to be home with three big games this week, starting off with the division-leading Minnesota Wild tonight at Rogers Arena. Yes, they're still leading the division, and it's frustrating that the Canucks blew those games against the Blue Jackets and Hurricanes, but they'll get an opportunity to stick it to the suddenly struggling Wild tonight.
While the hockey world seems split over the Wild's fate this year: some saying this team is the real deal under new coach Mike Yeo, others hold up a mountain of stats, warning of the team's inevitable downfall, I find myself thinking I have seen this before. Last season the Atlanta Thrashers stunned the NHL out of the gate, surging to 1st place in the Southeast Division. After the Christmas break, something happened and they remembered they were the Atlanta Thrashers, and they set about packing up office supplies when they weren't on the ice.
They don't score a lot of goals, have ridden a combination of hot goaltending and stifling defence to get them into extra time. From there, they try and get to the shootout if they can. They, like the Chicago Blackhawks have had 7 shootouts already this season, and both teams have won 4 of them. With the news that they could be without two of their top scorers in Mikko Koivu and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, as well as Devin Setoguchi and Guilliame Latendresse already on injured reserve, the Wild will need to hope that Kyle Brodziak can continue to produce. Not sure if that would fill me with confidence. That's the situation Atlanta found themselves in with Dustin Byfuglien last season, and we all know how that turned out.
Still awaiting lineup announcements, but it's pretty likely we see Roberto Luongo in goal tonight, and Wednesday against Detroit. Luongo has been outstanding since returning from injury in November, putting much of that 'goaltending controversy' nonsense to bed. Apart from Darren Millard and TSN's Off The Record, you don't hear much mention of it now, because everyone realizes the Canucks are moving forward with two number one caliber goaltenders. End of story. **Update** The Canucks D continues to take a pounding, as Aaron Rome is now out 3-4 weeks with a broken thumb from blocking a shot Saturday (Is it possible for the coaching staff to speak with him on the importance of not using one's hands to block shots?) and Keith Ballard apparently slept over at the Sedin's house, he's out tonight with back spasms. Andrew Alberts and Alexander Sulzer will draw in tonight in their place.
While he hasn't been spectacular, he's certainly been solid in his time since being called up, so I would imagine we see Mark Mancari in the lineup again tonight. There's some question about who will drop out to make room for Andrew Ebbett once he's ready to go, my guess would be you're more likely to see Dale Weise sit than Mancari. Other than that, expect no real changes as the Canucks look to win their 9th straight at home against Minnesota. It's funny how this rivalry has been so slanted in favour of the home team. Here's to the status quo...
Chicago took over 1st spot in the West last night with a 4-2 win over the hapless Calgary Flames, but at a cost. The Blackhawks Brent Seabrook got run from behind by Calgary's Rene Bourque in the 1st period of last night's contest, and did not return. Bourque has an in-person meeting with Brendan Shanahan for the hit today. Shanahan will also be on the phone with Boston's Milan Lucic, where the two will no doubt share stories of their favorite things about Christmas, what they like about each other and assorted nonsense before Shanahan wags his finger (which I am certain is very effective over the phone) and sends Lucic off on his merry way to
injure take on the Montreal Canadiens tonight **Updated** Turns out the Habs get a reprieve and Lucic now has a blemish on his record. One game suspension for Looch, and remember this means the next time he does something he is to be referred to as 'repeat offender Milan Lucic'... Speaking of the Habs, they're playing their 2nd game for interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth, and the controversy of his appointment is nearing full boil in La Belle Province. Many groups are outraged that Montreal would dare hire a coach who doesn't speak French. Adding to the mess is word that Patrick Roy is wondering why he never got a call, saying he 'would listen' if they contacted him regarding the coaching vacancy. Perhaps the Habs management would rather take their chances on Anglophone than a whack job like Roy, given his career in coaching thus far. By the way, 16 of Montreal's 24 Cups were won by Anglophone coaches, for what it's worth...
BAND OF THE DAY- EXODUS
With the band making plans to honour former vocalist Paul Baloff on the 10th anniversary of his death next month, I thought it was appropriate to give a shout out to these thrash metal pioneers. There were few bands that could match the ferocity and lunacy of these guys, who partied as hard as they played on stage, and still kick a serious amount of ass. Here's some Exodus classics along with some of their better new stuff...