Well, it’s certainly been exciting this last month and a half of the hockey season in the NHL. Lots going on, and plenty of scoring… if you are in the Eastern Conference, that is!
Those guys have been lighting the lamp with quite a fury of late. According to Canucks coach, Alain Vigneault, it’s supposedly because the eastern teams have to endure far less travel, which is common knowledge. As a result the forwards are SO well rested that they can play 20 to 25 minutes a game, compared to our Western Conference lads who are wearily grinding out 16 to 20 minutes a game for the top-line players.
This results in, on average, up to 20 per cent more ice time (and the consequent delivery of more goals and assists) for those Eastern boys - think Hossa, Kovalchuk, Jagr and our little darling Sid the Kid Crosby. Conspiracy theory? I think not. Some say the goaltending in the east is not as good, therefore the penetration percentage (do you like that?) is higher. Perhaps, this is true; one Brodeur does not equal a Kipper or a Turco or God forbid, a Hasek.
Notice I didn’t mention Luongo in that group? Well, that’s because the jury is still out on him so far. We’re all a little shell-shocked that Robbie has NOT been shell-shocked this season at all (Canucks are second-last in shots against!) yet he has only one shut-out and not the greatest goals against average or save percentage.
So herein lies the oxymoron to end all oxy’s. Luongo plays well with many shots per night; but our defense are doing a great job of holding the opposition to a very few shots per night. Coaches love that, and it may take Roberto a while to get used to it, but he’d better. Concentration, man!
The Timster (my better half – read the H&HH book if you want to know more) says the Canucks are driving him crazy. A knowledgeable fan, he is happy with the lower goals against but equally frustrated by the “two goals per game” maximum that the boys have been achieving so far, 21 games in. “It’s all Ferris Bulis’s fault,” says Timster with a huff. This from a guy who hasn’t forked out money for a ticket since the Coliseum days!
It was refreshing to see a scrap in the last week – first Kesler (he’s got to earn his money somehow; I’ll eat GM Place’s orange-plastic-covered nachos every day for a week if he were to get five goals in a game – you know, the Safeway Score & Win a million bucks contest). There was also a tilt by Kevin Bieksa (a feisty fellow, for sure – I’m rather impressed with him to date).
And then a weak bout by Taylor Pyatt, golden boy and goal scorer, whom I’m hoping doesn’t end up like poor Jason King from a few years back – riding the Sedins like a float at the parade, waving at fans from the convertible, but then the gas runs out and it’s down to the farm for (well, they say conditioning, but really it’s just a form of pergatory).
Anyway, you can’t really say that they’re getting blown out this year, save the one game against Anaheim – was it 7-0? I’ve blocked it out of my mind. They’re having a lot of one-goal differential affairs and soon the tides will turn. After all, if you play enough shifts in this league, something’s bound to go in off your ass at some point.
Hey fans, don’t give up the fight… enjoy your hockey games and to hell with the final score! That includes you, Timster.
P.S. Let it go on public record that I have not, to date this season, made one single wisecrack or deleterious remark pertaining to the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, their on-ice product or their incessantly wretched BC contingent of fans. Not one bad word…