minnesota wild

The Canucks Are Back In The Playoffs; Why I’m WILD About Their Chances

Photo courtesy of The Athletic

REVISION VERSION: In my excitement to write an article, I ran with the idea of a one-game playoff. It’s a five-game series for the first round, ala ALDS.

I apologize. Read it regardless.

 

The NHL and NHLPA have agreed in principle to returning with a 24-team playoff format when hockey resumes. Sure, they’ve essentially adopted the CFL’s model of allowing almost everyone to be a participant, but if you think about it for a second, this could be the beginning of a re-structured playoff format going forward.

Of course, the Vancouver Canucks would then be assured of a one-game play-in versus their heated rivals, the Minnesota Wild. The “purest” fan in me doesn’t love this idea 100% but really what is the big deal? The NHL did have a five-game first-round series format prior to the first lockout… OK, a little before that.

People will argue that it isn’t the playoffs with this proposed idea and to a degree, they’re correct. That being said, the play-in game is one of the most exciting games of the season, case in point the clip below:

The Toronto Blue Jays required a one-game playoff against the Baltimore Orioles in 2016 and in epic fashion, Edwin Encarnacion blasted a three-run homer to send the Jays to the ALDS. It was appointment viewing, especially in Canada where playoff baseball from the only team in the country had eluded its fans for decades.

Every pitch, every hit, every steal was monumental and played out like a high-stakes chess match. It was as playoffs as the playoffs could be.

Prior to the Wild Card game, there have also been a handful of extra games required to even get to the Wild Card game, dubbed Game 163. If teams with identical records were in the same league, a one-game playoff was required to get to the official one-game playoff. Confusing, right?

Baseball has embraced this format for years and it might be time the NHL reworked its playoff structure. Not too long ago, the WHL had its own one-game playoff between the Kelowna Rockets (you didn’t think I wouldn’t mention them, did you?) and the Kamloops Blazers.

Kelowna really had no business being in that game but they made the trek to Kamloops to face their age-old rivals on a heightened Tuesday night matchup to make it to the WHL Playoffs. Kelowna got spanked but the atmosphere was electric even as a fan in the away barn.

Rewind back to the Canucks.

A one-game playoff against the Minnesota Wild doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing in the world but knowing the stakes are so high, it won’t take long to become must-watch television. After all, no one is going to the game anyway.

What I love about this matchup is the opportunity to exorcise the 2003 demons of the Western Conference Semi-Finals. You remember the ones, don’t you?

Wes Walz, Willie Mitchell, and the great Hnat Domenichelli. That team should have lost to Vancouver but it didn’t. This year, the new Canucks can right the wrongs and if they do they get a first-round matchup against, oh crap, the Colorado Avalanche.

I like Vancouver’s chances against Minnesota in a do or die situation. The Canucks are fully healthy and giving Jacob Markstrom the net makes them scary good. I also think this is the kind of game Brock Boeser could put his name back in contention as a star player against the team he grew up watching.

Speaking of Boeser, he hasn’t been the sniper fans, and I’m sure coaches, have wanted him to be but his 200-foot game has turned him into a more complete player. He’s not exactly being placed in situations where he can properly get off the shot that made him famous but maybe he just needs to find a linemate that can set him up.

Boeser also hasn’t scored a goal since he potted a pair Jan. 11 vs. Buffalo. Concerning, for sure. His power-play deployment is also something I’m not thrilled with as it’s beyond predictable of how he’ll get the puck. Anyway, I’m confident Boeser can get back to his scoring ways and this year’s playoff is a great opportunity.

Vancouver hasn’t faired well against the Wild this season and their 2020 has been all over the map. What is certain is that they’ll be healthy when this all returns much like the team they’re trying to forget about at the turn of this century.

This year’s Canuck roster isn’t a juggernaut compared to 2003, stating the obvious, I’m sure.

It still blows my mind that the Canucks never won that ’03 series considering they had one heck of a team and the hottest duo in the league in Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi. They had THE Gatorade spokesman on their team and couldn’t muster one more win. In case you forgot, here’s what I’m talking about:

I am really not a fan of team sports like hockey returning during this point of the pandemic but at the same time, I can’t wait to see my favourite sport return. There are a lot of hoops the NHL will have to jump through to make their official return happen but after watching the UFC on Saturday night, I think it’s possible.

With the NHL bringing in this modified playoff format this year to make it fair to all the teams in the hunt, every one-game playoff will have as much intensity as the regular series themselves. Hockey is ready for a change and this might be the time to alter the game yet again.

They removed the red line, added trapezoids, introduced no-touch icing, and brought in coach’s challenges; the NHL is far from its origins but at the heart of it all, the game is the same.

24 teams with a chance for the Cup? Why not?

The Canucks may have a chance at Lord Stanley this season when only two months ago we were all concerned they would just miss out.

I’ll be here when it returns and I know you will too!

 

Check out the rest of my work over at Canucks Army and my vocal cords as a member of the PP1 Podcast

Jarkko POLO: Kenins, Matt Tricks and Kassians

The new look Jarkko Polo is here! Its pretty much the same stuff with less effort, or more effort, not sure. A lot happened last week and without boring you with all the statistics and details and fancy numbers, I’m going to dumb it down so you basically just have to look at a red balloon flying around and that will make you happy.

One week ago, the Canucks were greeted by the Minnesota Wild who didn’t disappoint, as far as what we expected; they snoozed their way to victory and quite frankly I just hate mentioning the Wild. They smell, they have overpaid greedy americans and ya, we’re still bitter about 2003. A week later as I write this, they just really piss me off.

Here is the new rundown:

The Games We Played (notice the fancy use of caps?)

@ Minnesota Wild – Lost 5-3
RECAP – Former Canuck first rounder Jordan Schroeder put one past Ryan Miller and we all swore at our TV’s. It was one we didn’t want to remember but Zack Kassian netted a beauty far side off the wing and it gave us hope for the young Jedi.

@ Chicago Blackhawks – WON 5-4
RECAP – A true playoff type game ended in heroics from the Sedins. Kassian once again put Canucks fans on notice with his gritty net presence and it paid off with a goal ala Todd Bertuzzi. Bo knows put a beauty rebound past Crawford and the Dads trip sure had some fun attached to it. Side note, Marian Hossa ripped a laser after he skated 200 feet and tied the game up late in the 3rd. Great goal, not gonna lie.

Boston Bruins – made them beg for mercy 5-0!!!
RECAP – You really don’t need to know a lot here. The Canucks out played the Bruins for basically the whole game. Shawn Matthias scored 2 early goals and eventually put up his first career hat trick. It was a special night. Jannik Hansen scored an empty net goal, no breakaway needed.

@ Calgary Flames – Lost 3-2 in a nail biter
RECAP – Somehow when the Canucks face random cold goalies, we lose. Not sure how, we just, lose. The Valentines Day tilt was no different. Even with the loss, the Latvian Lunchbucket Ronalds Kenins scored yet again. It was basically the same goal he has scored every time so you know it was awesome.

Four games in one week? It must be the second half of the season. Feels so good to see hockey every other night even if we forgot they played in some of those games.

The Canucks are going through quite the war of attrition lately with huge losses on the blue line to Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, Frankie Corrado (yo Franky!), Chris Tanev and Sami Salo. Sorry, force of habit. It’s quickly becoming the Utica Comets in Vancouver. That’s actually not a bad thing considering the Comets are the talk of the league down south.

Surprise efforts from Ronalds Kenins and Adam Clendening as well as the mentioned hat trick from Shawn Matthias, Zack Kassian’s recent surge and goaltending we are actually proud of has given the Canucks a chance to stay in the playoff race.

It won’t be a cake walk for the rest of the year so every game will be the ever famous “biggest game of the season”. That does it for the important stuff, time for the rest.

The twitter game sure is strong during the week, new feature

3 things from twitter:

Hopefully that last part becomes a thing.

See ya next week!

Jarkko……POLO!

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Jarkko POLO: Post All Star BLAH

When you come back from your holidays, usually you’re refreshed and ready to tackle that 9 to 5. The Vancouver Canucks do not subscribe to that theory and proved it this past week. The Canucks welcomed Ryan Kesler back to the librar….er Rogers Arena, Cody Hodgson had his normal seat in the press box while Ryan Miller played his former team and to cap it all off, the ever exciting Minnesota Wild came to the wet coast for Super Sunday. All in all, it was sure a post all star blah kinda week and didn’t really put the Canucks in a better position. Jarkko…..Polo time!

I really wish the Canucks were a better team. If they were a better team, the Ducks wouldn’t seem so scary and by scary, I mean that the Canucks could play 60 minutes without wondering why teams skate by them effortlessly. Ryan Kesler was welcomed back to Vancouver last tuesday and wouldn’t ya know it, the fans don’t like him anymore. SHOCKER!! Kesler got the last laugh on this one as his Ducks waxed the Canucks 4 – buzz. Ryan Miller was quite weak and I saw a small child crying outside because the Canucks hurt his feelings. This team looks like it’s sinking, but how far will they sink?

The Buffalo Sabres made their way to Vancouver for their one stop this year and Ryan Miller was jacked! This was a game the Canucks simply could not lose. If you don’t beat a team that potentially will draft Connor McDavid, you need to really look in the mirror. Thankfully, the start of a big sports weekend started with a big Canucks win. Bo Horvat continued his successful first season with a goal in the first period after Buffalo’s Chris Stewart put the first one behind Miller.

Chris Tanev, Chris Higgins and yes, Zack Kassian were all factors in the win, albeit Kassian wasn’t exactly a world beater. On the positive side, he didn’t cross check anyone into the boards this time. Even though Kassian wasn’t his normal snoozer self, he is part of a team that seems to be snoozing on the ice, so much in fact that they aren’t awake enough to see that 6 guys on the ice is too many…..for the 10th game in a row.

Ok, let’s not drag the Canucks through the mud too much, there are some “moral” victories here. Yep, those moral victories are back. Radim Vrbata is still making his name known on the score sheet and even though Ryan Miller is letting in some of THE SOFTEST goals I’ve ever seen, he is doing enough to get the wins, well, when his team scores. BTW, Cody Hodgson was healthy scratched, if anyone cared.

If you in fact caught the Canucks game on Sunday and you love boring hockey, then boy oh boy did the Canucks have a game for you! It was a noon o clock start time so personally, I forgot. There was a semi-important football game later in the afternoon and I’m not gonna lie, that was my priority, let’s be serious.

I was pleasantly surprised that the Canucks actually looked good in this game, from what I saw. It’s a shame they couldn’t capitalize on their early chances in the first, it could have totally changed that game. Quick note, Willie D kept 5 guys on the ice at all times and didn’t take a meaningless too many men penalty. Ryan Miller again let in some pretty weak goals and his overall talent is once again being questioned. After going down 3-0, Vancouver put it’s first in the net. Wearing Andrew Alberts old 41, Ronalds Kenins put home his first ever goal, from who, BRO HORVAT!! New nickname, check it out.

Just so we’re all clear, Ronalds Kenins is one guy; I checked, don’t worry. Shortly after, Daniel Sedin scored a quick one from Vrby and brother Henrik. Could the Canucks actually come back? No, they didn’t. But they gave us hope. The jury is still out on what this team will achieve this year, but there are little things that give me hope that the long haul next year and the year after will have good results.

The Canucks are currently 8th in the West, 3 behind the Winnipeg Jets who coincidentally play the Canucks next. The Jets went from red hot to deathly cold; maybe the Canucks can kick them while their down.

Jarkko…..POLO!!!!

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