CALGARY, CANADA - FEBRUARY 11: Lance Bouma #57 of the Calgary Flames takes on Mike Duco #79 of the Vancouver Canucks in first period NHL action on February 11, 2012 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Mike Ridewood/Getty Images)
Another game where they certainly could be said to have out played their opposition, yet a complete effort, a hot goalie and some dumb luck saw the Canucks come out of Calgary with just a point Saturday night, giving the anti-Luongo faction some air in their tires and Flamer fans that undeserved sense of accomplishment to start chirping the Canucks from outside the playoff picture. The Canucks may not be back to complete domination, but earlier this season games like this weren't getting into OT, so it's all a matter of perspective, I suppose. Chalk it up to a night that wasn't meant to be theirs and move on. A hot Phoenix team awaits at Rogers Arena tonight, winners of 5 straight. And with the constant specter of the team's future towering over them, the fact that they're keeping their heads above water right now is remarkable. Is it really the best thing for the franchise and the league though?
With daily speculation about a move to either Seattle of Quebec City, no suitable owner in place, and the team losing money (and costing the City of Glendale money as well), the Phoenix situation continues to resemble a project that is more about Gary Bettman refusing to admit defeat than anything else. No one wants to see a city lose their team. You can ask Quebec City (even Seattle, with the Sonics packing up a few years ago), and they will tell you all about how traumatic it can be. And I have no doubt there are some passionate, dedicated hockey fans down there in Arizona. There aren't enough of them, though. And it's not as though the Coyotes and the NHL haven't made it as easy as possible for them to expand their fan base. Years of losing, they can take a toll on even the most solid of markets. And now that the Coyotes seem to have a decent enough team that they can at least make the playoffs (like they have the last couple seasons), you would think a reflection would show at the gate, right? They can't give tickets away a lot of nights, and big crowds only happen when some of the bigger teams come to town, and their fans with them. It's no way to run a team. They've been given chances other teams weren't, and it hasn't gotten any better. Time to move them to Seattle, a city starving for another pro franchise, with a better hockey history than many think and a natural geographical rivalry with the Canucks.
Much like their record over the last few weeks, on paper the month of February doesn't appear to be the cause of much hand wringing. Points in all 5 games, the only losses coming in the shootout. Yet there's still that undercurrent of fear and frustration that the Canucks are mired in a huge slump. One only need to look at Chicago to see the difference. Once again, they're not playing their best hockey, but especially in the last couple games we are starting to see signs of things returning to what we call normal around here.
Roberto Luongo will go again tonight, hoping to end the Coyotes' 2 game win streak at Rogers Arena. Luongo has a miserly 1.50 GAA against Phoenix in his last 6 starts, and with the Coyotes and their stingy (read: it's gonna be a long night, Minnesota-style, y'all) defense, the Canucks will have their work cut out for them against Mike Smith. With Phoenix just 2 points up on the Flames and Avalanche for that last playoff spot, they're going to bring their best effort tonight, but that's something the Canucks are getting used to. Teams get up to play Vancouver, a recognition of their standing as one of the elite teams in the league.
Dale Weise will likely be a gametime decision tonight, and it's pretty unlikely we will see Chris Higgins back from illness just yet so it will be pretty much the same lineup tonight as the one that played against the Flames. Mike Duco looked really good Saturday night, earning the nickname 'Hell On Wheels' from the Province's Jason Botchford. Many were surprised when Duco didn't make the team out of training camp, but that time on the farm seems to have made him even stronger. I would think a couple more nights like this and he may well have played his way into Dale Weise's 4th line spot.
In a week that saw some true head turners, none may be more surprising than the news out of Edmonton that the Oilers have signed Andy Sutton to a 1 year extension. It's just another sign that the braintrust of that franchise really has no clue what's going on... The Detroit Red Wings won their 20th straight home game last night. Whatever... The St. Louis Blues continue to pound out the wins, this time a 3-0 shutout of the San Jose Sharks. Ken Hitchcock has them playing some pretty good hockey right now...
KICKASS METAL SONG OF THE DAY
Their band members hail from Greece, Finland and Sweden and they've gone through a ton of changes, but NIGHTRAGE can still throw down with the best of them. Here's a track with former vocalist Tomas Lindberg (At The Gates/ The Crown/ Lock Up). Seriously one of my favorite riffs of all time in this song, absolutely crushing...