Great Series

Posted April 19, 2007 by scottmckenzie
Categories: Canucks, Dallas Stars, hockey, Marty Turco, National Hockey League, NHL, playoffs, Roberto Luongo, Stars, Tippett, Uncategorized, Vigneault

Former Team Canada teammates Roberto Luongo and Marty Turco and now dueling against eachother in the best goalie matchup in the playoffsYes, I’m out of school, and the blog is back and running.

 So. Canucks and Stars, 3-1 Canucks, and a total of 17 combined goals in 22 total periods. Thank God for that first game where there was actually some scoring, right? Wrong.

For fans form both sides, we get to see two fantastic goalies absolutely standing on their head game in game out and get to see chances foiled period by period by stellar goaltending.

And for the hockey fans who know a bit more about the systematical side of the game, we get to see almost mistake free defence being played, with both Alain Vaignealut and Dave Tippett throwing all sorts of different trap strategies and line combinations on the ice that will match every aspect in the quest for defensive perfection.

Even on a defensive breakdown, there’s a huge save made by either Luongo or Turco wo are boasting off the charts goals against averages of 1.49 and 1.67 respectively, with Luongo making a sick 95% of the league leading 160 shots he’s faced in four games, an average of 40 shots a game. Maybe reminiscent of a young Patrick Roy? It’s starting to look that way.

So then there’s the critics who want goals, goals and more goals.

Well, watching the games at are 5-2 or something in that viscinity, the goals just don’t seem that important.

Watching game three of the Dallas/Vancouver series and seeing dallas score after more than half an hour of hockey and seeing Dallas score on a perfect tip-in was better than watching a few meaningless goals. And seeing the Dallas crowd erupt for, which should be unheard of, a 2nd period goal of a hockey game, was great to see.

It’s almost like watching sudden death overtime every single period of hockey they play because every play is so important. So important that the Canucks could easily be swept in four games and out of the playoffs right now, and all it would take is a few bounces Dallas’ way for everyone in Vancouver to be throwing out the car flags.

The Caucks/stars conference quarterfinals has been without a doubt the best series to watch this playoff season, and is the only 3-1 series that actually has a chance to getting to a game seven.

Mike Brophy

Posted March 23, 2007 by scottmckenzie
Categories: Uncategorized

Sportsnet has given me one more reason to switch my primary sports braodcasting channel to TSN, all because of analyst Mike Brophy and his ignorance towards the Canucks, but disguising himself as someone who has actually watched a Canucks game.

Brophy is the typical East coast hockey fan who doesn’t realize that in hockey, stats aren’t everything.

He said last night on Sportsnet Connected that Sidney Crosby deserves the Hart Trophy more than Roberto Luongo does.

Now, when I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion, they should at least back it up with some concrete facts that are actually relevant.

First of all, Brophy pointed out that Crosby is a 19-year-old who has single-handedly taken his team on his back into the playoffs.

I’m not taking anything away from Sid who whs amounted a league leading 108 points, but he did have the help of Evgeni Malkin, who is currently holding down the 17th  spot in the NHL scoring race with 78 points, six more than any Canuck player.

Along with Malkin, Crosby also plays with great veteran experience alongside Gary Roberts, Mark Recchi and John Leclair, then he’s got the league leader in short handed goals in Jordan Staal, and a great young goalie who is turning into a budding star in the league in Marc-Andre Fleury.

So while it’s probably safe to say that Crosby is the most talented player in the league, it’s also safe to say that he hasn’t done it on his own.

So there’s a point Brophy is wrong on.

Then he said it’s not just Roberto Luongo winning games for the Canucks, it’s the great team defence. Wrong again, Brophy.

 Yes, the Canucks played impeccable defence wednesday against Nashville, but earlier in the year the defence has been shotty, and along with that, there hasn’t been much offence. So do you want to know why the Canucks  have been in more one goal games than any other team in the league? It’s because of Luongo’s pure talent and willingness to win games that keeps his team in every contest.

In the few games that Luongo hasn’t played in, the Canucks were only able to win two of them, and in both games Danny Sabourin had to play stellar hockey which was shown in the game against Anaheim where he had to kcik aside 38 shots, further proving how valuable goaltending is to the Canuck.

Then Brophy said that another reason that Luongo shouldn’t win the Hart trophy is that he’s never been in the playoffs, and once again reiterated the fact that Crosby is only 19 and that he brought his junior team to the Memorial Cup finals.

I guess Brophy needs a refresher on the criteria that a player must fulfill to win the Hart Trophy.

It is awarded to the player deemed most valuable to his team than any other player in the league.

Not the most skilled player for his age, not who’s been to the playoffs before, and not who did what in junior. It’s about right now and what the player has does this season.

While Crosby is a very legitimate candidate for MVP, the award is much more sutiable to go to Luongo.

Player Profile: Adam Braidwood

Posted March 22, 2007 by scottmckenzie
Categories: Adam Braidwood, CFL, Defensive End, Draft, NFL

Adam Braidwood of the Edmonton EskimosAdam Braidwood is set to make one of the toughest leaps possible in professional sports, as the Delta native will attempt to make the National Football League.

           

Braidwood, 22, is a six-foot-four 270 pound defensive beast and was the first overall pick in the Canadian Football League’s 2006 entry draft after graduating from Seaquam Secondary School in 2002 where he was named to the provincial all-star team and also took home provincial defensive most valuable player honours in his senior year.

           

After a year of playing defensive end for the Edmonton Eskimos where Braidwood was the lone bright spot on an under-achieving team that failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 27 years, Braidwood feels that only time will tell how long it takes before he goes to “the show.”

           

Playing for the Washington State Huskies division one NCAA team where Braidwood was an All-Pac 10 freshman although he didn’t get a chance to start a game, helped his career extensively because it helped him to learn how to withstand the pressure of pro-football as he played in front of 70,000 fans week after week.

           

“It. was hard. There is no room for weakness down there and they push you really hard to see if you break. There is a pecking order and you have to be tough otherwise you’ll never play. There’s a lot of pressure to succeed,” he said.    

       

Braidwood quickly moulded into a consistent starter by his junior year at Washington State, starting all 11 games for the Huskies.           

In that year, Braidwood received the Tim Petek Strongest Man award and also shared the Leon Bender Defensive Lineman-of-the-Year award with Steve Cook.           

After all of the awards and accolades Braidwood has received, it seems that he would be an early pick in the NFL draft, but that wasn’t the case. 

“The draft was not good either because there were a lot of defensive ends that were supposed to get drafted earlier but didn’t and they took up a lot of free agent spots. Mostly it was bad timing,” said Braidwood.

The other reason that he wasn’t drafted was that he dislocated his elbow and sprained his shoulder in his senior year.

Most of the doctors I talked to said it would be at least an eight month rehab till full recovery but I played eight days later. So I think that hurt me,” he said.

This shows Braidwood’s “laugh now, cry later” attitude that is portrayed by the two skulls tattooed onto his left arm, one of which is laughing, and the other crying. 

Braidwood has his mind set on having a season unlike the last, where he thought there were some bad roster moves and poor locker room chemistry, so he’s taking it upon himself to make the team better. 

“I’ve been training like crazy already so I plan to be a lot faster and more athletic this year so I plan on making a lot more big plays and being more of a factor in the team winning games…next season I should be a contender for the sack leader,” he said.

If Braidwood can improve on his personal success of last season, along with some team improvement, the Eskimos’ management will be hard-pressed to keep him playing north of the border.

  

Building through the draft is a thing of the past

Posted March 21, 2007 by scottmckenzie
Categories: Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Marc-andre Fleury, NHL, Pittsburgh Penguins, Salary Cap, sidney crosby, Uncategorized

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni MalkinThe Pittsburgh Penguins have unveiled the secret to building a good team: play horrible hockey for five years, and build through the draft. But now, in the salary cap era, that plan is bound to be a lost art.

Over the last five years, the Pens have used their first round picks to draft Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jordan Staal and Ryan Whitney. Let’s just say the Pittsburgh fans had to put up with a little more than their share of losses.

But now with two first overall picks, two second overall picks and a fifth overall, Pittsburgh is one of the best teams in the league, especially with their top centre Sidney Crosby being the favourite to win the Hart Trophy, as he has amounted 108 points in 70 games.

But the Penguins are in more trouble than it looks. When contracts start to come up and Crosby, Malkin, Fleury and Staal will all want close to top dollar, meaning around $6.5 million each, and about $8 million for Sid, it’s going to be tough to keep this team of young guns together.

As of right now the Penguins are around $10 million under the cap, but giving those players what they want, along with other youngsters such as Whitney who will want around $2.5 million and Ryan Malone who will want about $1 million, it’s going to be tough to dress a roster with much secondary scoring, core defence and back-up goaltending.

Even if Penguins’ GM Ray Shero can figure out a way to keep all of these players and keep it under the cap, add all of that to the Penguins’ new stadium in the works, and it’s going to be tough to talk ownership into signing all of these top-dollar players.

With all of the superstars the Penguins have, they better win a cup soon, or those five years of horrible hockey to try to build a good team will go to waste.

Different “C”, same problems

Posted March 21, 2007 by scottmckenzie
Categories: NHL, Vancouver Canucks

Last season, the Canucks had their share of well publicized problems in the room, and on the ice.

 This season, it’s a different Canadian team that wheres a “C” on their jerseys that are showing a huge resemblance to last years Canucks, as the Calgary Flames are on the verge of missing the playoffs.

Now, just over two weeks ago, it was a full-blown three-way dogfight for the lead in the Northwest division between Vancouver, Minnesota and Calgary, where the two teams were usually only separated by a point or two.

The top eight seeds in the West were basically set as whoever was in eight, be it the Wild or the Flames, were ten points up on the ninth seeded Colorado Avalanche.

Fast forward two weeks. The Flames have gone 5-4-1 in their last ten, and the Avalanche 8-1-1. This can be partly credited to the Flames’ league worst road record, which has seen them win just nine of a possible 35 games.

The similarities to the 2005/06 Canucks are endless.

Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi were elite players in the league but last year couldn’t even outproduce the Sedins. Calgary has two great hockey players in Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay, along with the likes of newly re-acquired fan favourite Craig Conroy and that’s a pretty solid offence.

On the back end, Vancouver had a great core that just couldn’t get it done. Ed Jovanovski, Matthias Ohlund and Sami Salo should be an air-tight defence and has been in the past, but just wasn’t there last year. When the Flames of last season were a team that allowed the fewest goals of the league, the only way they can go is down, and that’s exactly what they’ve done. That air-tight defence they had last year now has holes big enough to let a bus through.

And with Dion Phaneuf, Robyn Reghere and Roman Hamrlik, that’s just not supposed to happen.

Now to the goalies. Maybe it was that top ranked defence that made Mikka Kiprusoff look so good last season, because he sure hasn’t shown the flashes of brilliance this season that hockey fans have grown used to over the past few years, just like the Canucks depleting goaltending situation of last year.

The rumours that are coming out of the Flames’ locker room are that there is no team chemistry, players are taking sides and almost no one is listening to the new head coach Jim Playfair, maybe out of respect for former coach Sutter.

Seems like yet another similarity to the Canucks of 05/06, who ended up firing their head coach who just wasn’t working with the down-hill bound Canucks.

If all goes as it did last year, the Flames are going to be picking up the golf clubs following the end of the season.

Tootoo many games

Posted March 20, 2007 by scottmckenzie
Categories: NHL

Jordin Tootoo was suspended 5 games TuesdayThe verdict is out on Nashville Predators’ forward Jordin Tootoo who has made a living playing gritty hockey, but NHL executive Colin Campbell thought the “sucker punch” on Stephane Robidas was too much, as Campbell handed Tootoo a five game suspension Tuesday.

Contrary to the beliefs of most hockey analysts, this suspension was far too much, and was handled by Campbell in the wrongest of fashions.

First of all, put yourself in Tootoo’s position. He just laid out Dallas’ star player Mike Modano with a clean hit, and knowing that someone was going to take liberty on him, he defended himself.

That’s the problem with the NHL. If that hit were to be reversed and it was Modano finishing the check on Tootoo, nobody would have come to the aid of Tootoo, just because he doesn’t have the same “legend” status that Modano has.

It’s now embedded in the mindset of NHL players that if they lay a big hit on a star player, then they better get ready because someone is going to make sure that Tootoo doesn’t touch Modano again.

Second of all, when Robidas was stretchered out of the arena after being punched, there isn’t one person that could honestly tell me that it wouldn’t affect the number of games Tootoo would be suspended for.

And who knows, what if Tootoo decided not to punch the first player he saw coming for him? For all we know, Robidas could have lifted his stick up and cross-checked Tootoo in the face? Now we have another Chris Simon on our hands, and now Tootoo is the victim and Robidas is the bad guy.

So Tootoo gets suspended five games for making sure he doesn’t get hurt after laying a clean check on a star player. Doesn’t seem right.After the hit, Robidas had no intention of playing hockey.

All he wanted to do was hurt Tootoo and send him the message that no one touches his star player.

This is because it is Robidas’ so called “job” to defend his teammates. Last time I checked, players are paid to play hockey, and not to make sure nobody touches a single player. Isn’t this what the instigator rule was out in to prevent?

Tootoo had to defend himself for making a clean hit, and that’s what’s wrong with the NHL.

La la la Luongo

Posted March 15, 2007 by scottmckenzie
Categories: NHL, Vancouver Canucks

Roberto LuongoEver since late June of 2006  when it was announced that there was a blockbuster trade between Florida and Vancouver that would send Todd Bertuzzi to the Sunshine State, and Roberto Luongo to the Great Northwest, Luongo has had his doubters, but this has changed since Christmas.

A few years ago, Canucks ex-GM Brian Burke labeled Vancouver a “goalie graveyard,” and rightfully so. Since Kirk Mclean’s departure in 1998, the Canucks have gone through 17 different goaltenders, an average of just under two new goalies every year.

So when the news came that the Team Canada back-up goalie, and arguably the best all-around goalie in the league was going to be a Canuck, Vancouver fans couldn’t be blamed if they were a bit nervous as to Luongo’s lack of playoff experience, or if he would just get hurt, which Canuck fans have seen so often.

For the four months before the season, Luongo was labeled as Vancouver’s “seven million dollar question mark,” which obviously just pumped up the Canadian ‘tender who was happy to finally be playing in Canada, and even more so playing in a hockey city like Vancouver.

Two weeks before the start of the season, the Hockey News came out with its power rankings which saw the Canucks missing the playoffs, finishing in the ninth spot in the West.

Game one of the season saw Luongo facing the rival Detroit Red Wings, who nobody gave the Canucks a chance against. “Bobby Lu,” as Don Taylor calls him, played an absolutely stellar game, making one of the saves of the year as he picked a shot out of the air with his glove that was coming through Kris Draper’s legs. He did let one soft goal in, but that was the only one the Wings could get past the Montreal native.

The radio shows after the game had crazed fans in tears of joy, calls that sounded like Vancouver had just won the Stanley Cup.

“We’ve got a goalie, we’ve got a coach, and we can out work any team in the league! The cup is ours!” said one fan who called in to the TEAM 1040’s post-game show.

The next 15 or so games didn’t go so well.

Luongo was still making stellar saves, but those soft goals were going in game after game, and hockey junkies were talking about how it could have been a mistake trading for Luongo, especially since the offensive output wasn’t there for the Canucks.

Think about it. Luongo and his family come from one of the warmest places in the world, to a place where every day is cloudy, overcast and muggy, days that all Vancouverites know can get you down. His wife didn’t know anyone, his kids had to attempt to make new friends at school, and the Luongo household just wasn’t a happy one. Add that to the intense pressure that the media was putting on him, and he’s bound to be off his game.

But Luongo got used to it.

Since Christmas the Canucks are 24-4-4, and about 22 of those wins, and all of the after-regulation losses, can be credited to the wall that Luongo symbolzies in the Vancouver goal.

All year the Hart Trophy for the player deemed most valuable to his team (not the most valuable player of the league, what the trophy has now become) was supposed to be a runaway for the 19-year-old Sidney Crosby, but Luongo has started to turn some heads, since everyone around the league knows that without Luongo, Vancouver wouldn’t even be close to third place in the West, the spot they currently hold with 14 games to go.

Luongo has proven that he is without a doubt one of the elite goalies in the league, and his competitive drive has left his team very confident that every mistake isn’t going to result in a goal, which is a nice change since the Cloutier era.

“This is my year. Nothing can stop me,” said Luongo in an interview with the Hockey News.

This has got to be the most refreshing quote that we’ve had a Canuck say since I can remember. 

The only doubt left is that Luongo has yet to play a game in the playoffs, as his previous six years in the league were played in Florida, one of the worst teams in the league.

The Canucks will be there this year, and all Luongo has to do is continue his super-human play and the Canucks are going to be serious contenders in the playoffs, since we’ve all seen goalies steal series before.