And so we come to the end of another year. There's a lot of people out there who want to remind you of some things they feel the Canucks should not feel good about. I see Canucks fans still emotionally traumatized whenever they see images of the Boston Bruins raising the Stanley Cup. I'm here to tell you it's time to knock that off. Seriously. The Canucks were one win away from winning the Stanley Cup. Even the most bitter, delusional Canuck hater knows, deep down in his heart that given the chance, they'd trade their team's season for ours in a heartbeat. The whole notion of #EmbraceTheHate was meant to be a way to turn criticism of the Canucks back, to mock those that went out of their way to target the team and their fans, but most of all, to lighten things up a bit. Have fun with it. Hockey's still supposed to be fun. I don't know about you, but over the last couple weeks every time I see someone taking shots at the Canucks, it makes me smile. So much anger, so much effort. Keep talking. The Canucks, they're gonna keep winning. You can be as ridiculous as you want. It doesn't matter anymore. You can't take away what this team did in the last calendar year.
Think about what this team has accomplished during this calendar year? The most points during the regular season games during that time. Awards aplenty. Of course there's one thing missing from that, but it is the height of stupidity that you should somehow feel shame over this. In spite of them coming up one game short, this is a team that wins. A lot. And they've gotten a hell of a lot closer than many of their detractors have. We're blessed to have this team, and they have a lot to be proud of. Focus on the positive. All this hate comes because they're not the doormats they used to be. Hold your heads high and embrace that hate. Stop feeling bad. June is gone, and the team is moving for another assault on the summit of hockey.
It's been a slow process for sure, but I feel (and I have seen it in others) that there's just so much noise about the Canucks and none of it matters. True, false... so what? This team is one of a handful of teams that is going to be there to battle for the Cup. There are subtle changes being made by this Canucks team right now, the team definitely stands up for itself more than it has in the past. While they're stopping short of getting a goon on the 4th line (how's that working out for you, Edmonton?), they are letting other teams know that physicality will be answered with hits of their own. Dale Weise may not be the best fighter in the world, but he's not afraid to throw down. The Canucks likely haven't finished making the changes they will need to make before the playoffs, but it feels like there's an evolution happening as they try to create the formula they will need to complete the task. There's a balance that needs to be considered between toughness and playing ability. The Canucks are moving towards that, no matter what some may try and tell you.
Tonight they wrap up their California road trip with a visit to the Staples Center and the recently revitalized Los Angeles Kings. While I am not going to come right out and give the Kings and new coach Darryl Sutter credit for turning their season around, the Kings are certainly giving themselves a reach-around in the confidence department, which is a step in the right direction. They've managed to get themselves back in the playoff hunt, tied with San Jose for the division lead. It's a combination getting some wins and getting a lot of OT/SO points (3 SO wins and 6 loser points so far), but such is life in Gary Bettman's world of manufactured parity.
The goaltending the Kings have gotten so far is another reason they're still in the thick of things, having allowed just 89 goals thus far. The problem is that they've only scored 82, worst in the Western Conference. With the kind of talent this team has, it's amazing they've got such a lack of zip in the offensive zone. Can we officially call Mike Richards a bust in LA yet? I know the guy missed a few games with a concussion, but you have to think they were expecting more out of him. Add in the lack of production from guys like Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and (before he got hurt) Simon Gagne, and it's no wonder the Kings are struggling.
Should be the same lineup going for the Canucks tonight, as Chris Higgins didn't get flown in to LA. I am sure we will see him back in the lineup Monday against the Sharks. Roberto Luongo will get the start in goal tonight, and we will likely see Jonathan Quick in goal for LA. Quick's most recent outing was a 38 save shutout against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Team Canada's matchup against Team USA tonight was one so many had circled on their calendars. Just a shame that the Americans seemed to forget that they had to actually play the other games. The Americans looked solid against the Danes to open the tournament then just seemed to go into shutdown mode. They stopped scoring, they started making excuses in the press, and for the team many had pencilled in as one of the potential finalists in this tournament, they sure as hell haven't looked the part. Team Canada had some questions heading into this tournament: lack of returning players, Coach Don Hay's insistence on putting together a team with 4 designated role lines as opposed to just adding the best players available, and of course, goaltending. Apart from the loss of Devante Smith-Pelley to a broken ankle in the first game of the tournament, Canada's hardly shown any of these are to be a concern. Of course, apart from the Finns and Czech's, the Canadians haven't faced a stiff test. And despite the fact the Americans are headed for the relegation round, they'll be determined to give them just that tonight.
Scott Wedgewood gets the start in goal for Canada, as they prepare to move into the medal round. Just saw this tweet from Bob McKenzie:
@TSNBobMcKenzie IIHF has now amended their official schedule. CAN will now play winner of A2 (RUS or SWE) vs. B3 (CZE or FIN).
One has to wonder if the supposed 'new era' of NHL discipline under Brendan Shanahan is much of the same as we have seen in the past considering the announcement of three fines but no suspensions from incidents last night. Repeat offender Raffi Torres clear elbow to the head? $2500 fine. Micheal Del Zotto of the Rangers crosschecks Florida's Tomas Kopecky in the head. Kopecky responds with a sucker punch. Both are fined $2500, yet Mike Rupp, who jumps Kopecky and beats him into the ice gets nothing. None of this makes any sense considering the precidents already set in the past year. Shanahan drew praise early on for his tough, no nonsense approach to dirty play early in the season. Now it looks like he's picking and choosing them as much as his predecessor Colin Campbell did during his time as NHL disciplinarian. The whole thing reeks. And we'll likely hear more from Shanny, as Andy Sutton laid out the Islanders' John Tavares with a late, dirty hit in his first game back from an 8 game suspension. That 4-1 loss by the Oilers also saw Ben Eager get tossed from the game. When you look at the Oilers struggling to score goals and the kind of gifted offensive players they have in their system, that they have guys like Eager, Sutton and Darcy Hordichuk taking up roster spots is almost offensive. They seem so determined to not be like Canucks are criticized as being that they are coming close to throwing away their season just to prove that point. The Oilers are getting better, but their use of throwback neanderthals like their 3 stooges is prohibiting their growth.
BAND OF THE DAY- AMORPHIS
From their black metal-ish beginnings to their modern, progressive metal fusion, Finland's Amorphis have altered their style over the years, but never really wavered when it came to quality. Not afraid to experiment, implementing different vocal styles, keyboards and even saxophones, Amorphis remains one of the metal bands out there not afraid to stray from formulas to create memorable metal.