Forward, Not Back

Rich Lam

You'll excuse the management here at NM sometimes. I'd been away for a visit for some early turkey ( always a good thing ) and away from the deadman's switch. Not unlike the Canucks in their confrontation with the Puck God's obviously favorite team. That was an entirely laughable thing to consider, no? We do know they are only 3 and 3 and it is the traditional "freak out" portion of the season for some Canuck fans, right? ;-)

The exact way that you deal with something like the winning goal in Hockey Night in Canada's attempt to get us to like listening to Mark Lee is to just brush it off.  Not the Mr. Lee part, that is entirely their thing anyhow, and who knows if this is the last year of this august enterprise known as Saturday Night Hockey on our national broadcaster anyhow.

There is simply no other way of dealing with such things. It's a strange game sometimes in the enclosed 80 by 200 feet of frozen water.

O am sure Torts and Co found what they needed to upload to I-Pads and personal devices for the plane and hotel.  The Canucks lost 4-1, and lost their perfect PK in a game changing way as well, giving up 2 shorthanded goals.


So, a quick look back at what happened, and then let's take a look at this seven game odyssey that will be looked at as either a "great early season chance to come together as a team" , or "MY GAWD, the Canucks are under .500 on this trip, and THAT IS MIKE GILLIS'S MUSIC!!!!".

Either / Or. You know how it is.


A Look Back At Saturday Night's Being Alright For Something...


- If this was someone's first experience of one of those "arena invasion" games that come from the Canadian Original Six games, you might be startled.  I love them though. If you don't want them to sing and whatnot, then don't let the "visiting" team win the game, right?  I would just like to point out to those folks at HNIC that insist the other Original Six Canadian team go off at a more TV friendly time that the Montreal Canadians both won what was a highly entertaining game, and have NEVER even intimated that such things should occur for the "good of the game".  It was a game full of feeling and emotion, where the home team had 68 shots attempted,( 17 blocked, 21 missed ) and only 1 of 40 on net a success,  while giving up 68 shot attempts ( 14 Hab shots were misses, while the Canucks had 16 blocks ), and only the cruelest stats man in history would have credited the winning goal as a "shot".  Both goalies were pretty good, with one a little better and luckier on the night. S#it happens... ( quick story - there was "one of those" on the train on the way home that night, drunkenly asking everyone how Luongo could have "scored on himself".  Oddly enough, he was with a Habs fan with a fright wig who was more a happy drunk who seemed to enjoy fate by walking up to every person in a Canuck jersey he could find and spreading his arms and smirking at them while saying something happily boastful, I think...in French.  But even HE kept telling his buddy to #STFU and quit blaming the goalie for that ! )

- In all that offense ( and here you can go to find all the numerical data at #extraskater and #shiftchart , and then either dazzle or confuse your friends by mentioning Fenwick Close in the correct context, or who got the most of who when the home coach had the last change ), there were a few anomalies, eye brow raisers, and whatnot.  For instance, Kevin Bieksa had 4 of the 8 giveaways that were credited on the stat sheet ( Canucks lost that stat 8-3, while only getting 4 takeaways to the visitor's 8 ) Yet he was also a +1, had a couple shots, a block, and played second highest, to Jason Garrison ( 26:05 ), at 24 : 06.  Yeah, they missed Alexander Edler a bit.  He was one of the most praiseworthy in the coach's eyes in the early going, often mentioned in a good way.  But everyone else pitched in. Consider that #23 is often the top minute guy, and he was replaced by Yannick Weber's 11:12 TOI.  Guys likeRyan Stanton ( 3 blocks, 2 hits, -1 and 14:25 ) and Chris Tanev ( even, 20:26 TOI, 1 of 2 shot attempts on net, and 4 #TortsScoobySnacks we also call blocks ) can do more, but this is still a pretty solid defense core.

- Yes, even Dan Hamhuis, who's been the victim of some bad luck like tonight, a minor struggle at when to jump up that we all know one of the most cerebral of the Canuck blue liners will figure out ( he was a -1 in the 23:46 TOI, but his usage was also a bit off. I mean, he had 5:28 of special team ice time, but it was 4:16 on the PP and 1:12 on the PK, instead of the other way around! ) the system and his place in it soon.  One guy that deserved the most praise in the game had to be Jason Garrison though. He probably tattooed Carey Price with bruises tonight, with game highs in shots ( 10 of 11 attempts on net, one of which led to an assist on his captain's goal ) and ice time ( 26:05, 4:05 on the PP, and a team high 3:45 on the PK ), with a block and a couple hits, and a takeaway dominating the stat sheet tonight. Torts' teams always seem to have do everything defensemen, and while the coach's early fave is missing for 2 more games, there is still more than a few guys that can get it done there...even if they didn't on this night.

- We didn't even mention Ryan Kesler going 11 of 16 on draws, having 3 shots, 4 blocks and 3 hits in 22:24 of all situation ice time, and getting bitched about again by the wags and pundits as "not enough" ( hell, Botch even said he is "no longer a star" on Twitter! ) or Mike Santorelli and Daniel Sedin each attempting 7 and having 5 shots, with Henrik Sedin's 3 added to an eye popping  one third of all Canuck shots in the game at 13 of 40.  Hell, Daniel even had a block!



On The Road Again...


You may or may not have noticed that divided the Game recaps this year. Sean Larson will be doing all the home games, and your humble scribe with recap the ones in the white uniforms.  Obviously, you'll be with me for the next couple weeks.  Let's take a look forward at the opponents and see if anything pops up.


Flyers on Tues. Oct 15th at 4pm on SNET Pacific : I imagine the folks in Philly must be grinding their teeth at this point.  With the coach being fired after 3 losses, only 1 win in Metropolitan division, only the woeful Sabrespreventing them from being the worst team in the East, and a team with all that on paper "talent" having scored only 8 times in 6 games while giving up 17, this is both a great time to catch them and a dangerous team to get to open a road trip. If Torts can get the guys firing  out and being aggressive against a team he is familiar with ( and one that is without Lecavalier and Hartnell ), the Flyers could be a perfect tonic to start this trip. Player to watch ; Ryan Kesler has 3 goals and 1 assist in 5 games against the team that tried to offer sheet him, and has also tried to maim and injure him! Torts Knows these guys! ; Most of them? You bet.  The Flyers were a definite Eastern rival. Homeriffic Prediction ; Misery continues in Philly, trip starts out positively.


Sabres on Thurs. Oct 17th at 4pm on SNET Pacific : After losing to the Hawks in their last game to continue being one of only two teams ( both in the East, as the Devils also still have the goose egg ) that are winless, Cody Hodgson's current employer is not having a great start either.  They are a -10 ( 6 goals for, 16 against through 6 games ), and while they have a usually loud crowd at home, they only have 1 O/T loss to show for it. Two are better than one ; The Sedins have played 12 games each against the Buffalo team, and have 5 goals ( 2 Hank, 3 Dank ) and 13 assists ( 6 older brother, 7 younger brother ) while both being a +4.  Torts Familiarity Index ; John Tortorella was an assistant in Buffalo for 6 seasons from 89-90 to 94-95!  Is It a Prediction if You're Just Going to Take YOUR Team? ; Come on.  Another struggling team could equal a little something something getting the positives percolating on the road.


Penguins on Sat. Oct 19th at 10am local time on SNET Pacific and NHLN in the US : The marquee on this trip may be this weekend morning matchup.  The Pens are not averse to the same " schedule requests" as the Bruins in this regard, using one of those asks for the team in the middle of a trip from a city 3 time zones away.  They might be already acclimated by this one's non traditional start time. Remember to stretch boys! The Penguins were a conference best 13-2-3 versus the West the last time they played the conference in 2011-12. Who's That You Say? ; Alexander Edler has 3 teams he has not gotten a point against, the Pens in 5 games,  (and the Islanders andRangers in 4 and 5 games respectively.) This would be a good time to break through in his return to the lineup.  And I ReTort ;  Our coach doesn't like this team either, and their "two ****ing stars..." , who he has complained about getting all the calls. And The Two Points Goes To..? ; This one might be tough.  While I'd love an inspiring and positive performance, I'll be ecstatic if there are points gained from this one.


Blue Jackets on Sun. Oct 20th at 3pm on SNET Pacific : Ahhh, the Jackets.  This will be their first game back at home after three on the road against the Wings, Habs, and Capitals ( also on Saturday, so both teams will be on a back to back ), and we know they aren't a soft touch anymore. The BJ's were 24-17-7 against the West teams in their last year in our conference.  Not too shabby.  Him Again? ; Ryan Kesler has played 26 games against this team, and had 8 goals and 20 points. 6 of those tallies were at even strength.  Who The Hell Are These Guys? ; Well, maybe Torts will have little experience against the one time West team, but he'll know Anisimov, Gaborik, Dubinsky and others, and he'll remember Nathan Horton from Boston as well. Well, Who Wins? ; This might be a bit of a trap game, but a result here would mean being over .500 in the middle of an odyssey!  The Jackets always play the Canucks tough though.


Islanders on Tues. Oct 22nd at 4pm on SNET Pacific ( Again! Good thing we love Shorty! ) Another good young team, and a chance for the wags to revisit how Michael Grabner would fit in the current Canuck lineup.  By the time the Canucks meet the Tavares led team, they could be on a roll, as their three games before this one are also at home, and feature the Sabres, Oilers, and Canes, who have, as of this time, a combined 3-10-4 record, with 1 win, 1 win, and 2 wins respectively.  You Know Who To Key On ; In the just three games the two teams have played, John Tavares has 3 goals and 4 assists against the Canucks. Torts Knows New York ; Some of the more intense rivalries Torts had to deal with in the East were the Inter City ones.  I'd imagine he is very familiar.  The Envelope, Please ; I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Luongo gets the shutout in this one, just to act like an insufferable sage if it happens!


Devils on Thurs. Oct 24th at 4pm on SNET ( not sure which channel, could this be a Sportsnet One game? ) : Will the Devils have a win by then?  Sure, they played the Canucks hard on the road, but will face the Sens away, Rangers at home, and Blue Jackets away before hosting the Canucks. None of those are back to backs, so who knows who will be the goalie in this one.  Pulling Them Out of the Hat Yet Dan? ; Well, yes, a bit. Looking up splits is labour intensive and sometimes not rewarding. So, let's say I have a "just a feeling" thought on this one, that both Mike Santorelli and Zack Kassian have big games against some onetime familiar opponents. Torts vs DeBoer Redux ; Who knows? Maybe Torts throws out his 4th line to open the game, and Pete obliges with his facepunchers again too!  Two and Oh Against Schneid's New Team ? ; Yes, the Canucks win this one. Don't be surprised if Eddie Lack gets the win as well, so as to have Luongo go the next day.


Blues on Fri. Oct 25th at 5pm on SNET Pacific : Oh Vey. The only Western team and it comes on a back to back, traveling from New Jersey to St Louis as well?  Did John Davidson remind Gary Bettman about some certain pictures he has when making his "ask" on this part of the sked?  While they may not be unbeaten still when this one rolls around ( the Blues have San Jose on the 15th, at the Hawks on the 17th, and at the Jets on the 18th before getting the Canucks with a full WEEK of rest on the 25th to close out a roadtrip. Wow. Maybe the visitors will be on a roll and catch them early. Keep An Eye Out Roberto Luongo has played the Blues 28 times in his career, with a 15-11-1 record and a respectable .917 save % that mirrors his career average. He DOES have 3 shutouts against them as well. How About You John? ; You can bet if Torts doesn't know this team that well, he has admired them from afar. They play the big boy hockey he likes. Torts is probably more offensively oriented than Hitchcock as well.  Welllll? We're Waiting ; Damn...it's going to be the toughest game of the trip.  The Canucks win if they get a couple early ones and Luongo slams the door shut for 60 minutes.  A tough result for sure.


So, there you go.  They could come out of this one with the city in a hockey induced panic, or everyone calm and serene.  The Canucks have been decent on the road in the last couple years folks.  11-9-4 against just the West without last change, and 24-12-5 in the last year of a full schedule on the road.  That is pretty decent, 35 - 21 - 9 is pretty damn good!

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