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Canucks look for answers on how to beat shootout woes

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Canucks look for answers on how to beat
shootout woes
Ed Willes – The Province | December 19, 2013
DALLAS — In the aftermath of another shootout train wreck, John Tortorella lamented his
team’s inability to execute in the NHL’s skill competition.
And, in the Canucks’ case, there is plenty to lament.
“It’s very difficult to practice the shootout,” Tortorella said after the team’s workout in Dallas on
Wednesday.
“It’s easy to say we need to practice the shootout. But you’re in a practice arena, there are no
fans around, there’s no pressure and no other team.
“It’s very difficult to simulate a shootout. Do players practice it? Absolutely. But you simply
can’t simulate a game situation.”
Which explains some things. But it doesn’t completely explain the Canucks’ abysmal shootout
record.
Tuesday night in Minnesota, Canucks shooters Chris Higgins, Mike Santorelli and Ryan Kesler
all failed miserably in their attempts on Wild goalie Josh Harding.
Santorelli and Kesler missed the net completely. Harding didn’t have to move to stop Higgins.
At the other end, Jason Pominville beat Roberto Luongo on the Wild’s third attempt which, as it
happened. It was all they needed.
The Canucks are now 1-4 in shootouts this season, which is remarkable because they’ve scored
two goals in 18 attempts. Against New Jersey on Oct. 25, Santorelli scored on Cory Schneider,
which gave the Canucks their only shootout win. Alex Burrows also scored.
The Canucks are actually are spectable 6-2-4 in overtime despite their shootout woes. This has
led Tortorella to contemplate a new strategy in extra time.
“We’ve talked about three forwards in the last couple of minutes,” he said. “The shootout isn’t
working, so that could come into play.”
That’s not the only thing he’s thought about. “Should we pull the goalie? You get punished in
this league if you pull the goalie (in overtime). Sometimes I don’t get why we have overtime.
They want us to win the game, but then you get punished if you try to win the game that way.”
Elsewhere with the Canucks, defenceman Ryan Stanton returned to Vancouver on Wednesday to
have his injured left ankle examined. He will be lost for the foreseeable future, which means
Andrew Alberts will be pressed into service on the blueline.
“Andrew’s practised hard with us,” said Tortorella. “He just hasn’t had any game time in any
league. But it is what it is. We’re not going to whine about this. We need to find a way to be the
best we can be.”
Fire and nice: Two sides of Lack
Ed Willes - The Province | December 19, 2013
Backup’s not only been red hot on ice, Swedish meatball has also added colour to lockerroom
For most, New Year’s resolutions involve losing weight or going to the gym more frequently.
Then there’s Eddie Lack. His New Year’s resolution involved oral hygiene.
The Vancouver Canucks goalie, it seems, was given an electric toothbrush some time ago, and as
part of his resolution, immediately committed to a rigorous two-minute, twicea-day brushing
program.
The problem was brushing your teeth for two straight minutes can be boring, and Lack, you need
to know, is bored easily.
He began cutting the sessions short by 30 seconds, then tried to make up the lost time later.
This went on for a while until his schedule grew out of control.
Do I need to add a minute here? Did I already add that minute? What about the next time? After
about three months, Lack aborted his mission and returned to a regular brushing regimen.
He reports all this without a hint of self-consciousness. Eddie Lack is different than most.
For the Vancouver Canucks, that’s a good thing.
“He’s fun to be around,” says Daniel Sedin. “It’s a long season and you need guys who can keep
you loose.”
It was put to Henrik Sedin that Lack doesn’t fit the stereotype of the bland, stoic Swede. “Yes,”
Henrik said. “But he’s a Swedish goalie. That puts him in a different category.”
Lack, as the faithful are aware, stepped into the gaping void created by the off-season trade of
Cory Schneider and filled in admirably as Roberto Luongo’s backup.
In eight games, he’s 4-2 with a 2.08 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage, and the
Canucks — who’ve lived and died with their goaltending the last two seasons — haven’t missed
a beat with the Luongo-Lack tandem.
“I didn’t know who he was when we started,” said head coach John Tortorella. “But he’s been
really good for us. “I think our team plays well in front of him. He’s a confident kid and the team
plays with confidence in front of him.”
That, at least, is the story on the ice. But Lack’s contribution to the greater good can be measured
in other ways. The Canucks’ core — Luongo, the twins, Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, Kevin
Bieksa — has been together for the better part of a decade and the chemistry in the room can get
stale.
Lack, however, is anything but stale.
“When you bring in new, young personalities it creates a vibrancy in the locker-room,” said
Canucks assistant general manager Laurence Gilman. “Eddie’s a colourful character. He’s got a
great sense of humour. He doesn’t take himself seriously, and those traits are important.”
This summer, Gilman and the Canucks signed Lack to a three-year, $3-million deal which
represented a leap of faith for the organization.
The year before, Lack underwent hip surgery and was shut down for the season after playing just
13 games in Chicago.
Yes, he’d put in two successful seasons in the AHL prior to his injury, but he was also stepping
into a crucial role on the team and Plan B — Joacim Eriksson, Joe Cannata — wasn’t an
attractive option.
“We knew he could play,” said Gilman, who admitted Lack’s impending status as a Group-6
unrestricted free agent had a lot to do with the three-year deal. “What we didn’t know was he
would respond after the hip surgery.”
Turns out that wasn’t an issue. Lack doesn’t mind playing the class clown, but he’s deadly
serious about his craft, and as Tortorella said, not lacking in confidence.
“The season has gone the way I thought it would,” he says.
“I’ve played about the number of games I thought I would. I prepared all summer. I think I was
ready for this.”
Along the way, he’s also forged a strong partnership with Luongo.
“Obviously, Eddie and (Schneider) are two different personalities,” Luongo said with a laugh.
“But we had a relationship before this year.
“He’s upbeat and positive. That kind of stuff is contagious. Even though he’s a rookie, you don’t
see him that way.” And he can stop the puck. The wacky personality is one thing, but it doesn’t
mean a whole lot if Lack doesn’t deliver the goods in the net.
As Crash Davis told Nuke Laloosh in Bull Durham: “Win 20 in the show, then you can grow
fungus on your shower shoes. The press will think you’re colourful.”
This season, Lack’s been colourful.
“(The sense of humour) isn’t going to keep you around,” said Daniel. “You’ve got to do your
job.”
But sometimes it helps if you’re having fun while you’re doing it.
Improvement? Or wishful thinking?
Tony Gallagher – The Province | December 19, 2013
Defence, third line and power play is rising, but statistical methodology is never perfect
The Vancouver Canucks plow ahead on this trip having picked up a point in Minny with a lot of
people making a lot of positive observations about the improvement of the team.
But there should be just a little bit of caution when it comes to atleast three of the themes being
stressed, not the least of which is the improvement of the Canucks’ defensive play.
Yes, it has been very good, but is it about to take a big hit with the injury to Ryan Stanton?
At the moment, the plan is to use Andrew Alberts in Stanton’s stead, and we know how coach
John Tortorella feels about his play and how it “scares” him. While it was better the last time he
played, everyone knows he won’t get out much and neither will Yannick Weber.
That leaves the Canucks with two pairings. The diminutive Chris Tanev, who is playing so very
well, will be one of those guys. This is going to leave him more open to getting whacked
himself, and any time the minutes climb on defencemen, the performance tends to slide.
None of the Canucks rearguards are anywhere near the top of the league in time-on-ice
standings, so there is a little leeway to perhaps get away with this short term.
But unless Stanton or Alex Edler get back quickly or the team recalls Frankie Corrado, things
could turn south in a hurry.
Further there is a lot of talk about the emergence of a third line with Mr. Versatile Brad
Richardson, who has been such a pleasant surprise, centring Zack Kassian and David Booth.
Yes, it’s been good for three or four games, but the true Canucks fan is going to want to see a
good deal more before claiming a third line has emerged.
For starters, Richardson doesn’t exactly pass the puck extremely well, with Kassian, in fact, the
best at putting it on somebody’s stick on that unit.
So anticipating consistent offence, which is what every team is looking for from its third unit, is
asking a lot of a group that relies on banging and crashing and being in front to score its goals.
So far it’s been great fun, but what happens when Alexandre Burrows comes back? You don’t
want to touch Ryan Kesler’s line, and Burr has to play with the twins unless Kassian goes there,
which Tortorella is resisting as though it was some sort of blight on every dog in the world.
So does that mean Jannik Hansen drops all the way from the first line to the fourth? Another
injury will almost certainly prevent anyone from ever finding out if that would actually happen,
but if the third line is playing well enough for this to come about, you’ll know you have a
genuinely improving team.
And then we have this theme from those who speak only positive about the team that the power
play is vastly improved.
Fair enough, they are on a statistical run, and as of Wednesday afternoon, they had climbed to
21st in the league standings, which — considering where they had come from — was pretty
impressive. But how realistic is that improvement?
Much of it was over a lights-out homestand against less-than-stellar opposition. Four of the goals
in the run with the man advantage were a bit odd in that two were 5-on-3, one was 4-on-3 and a
fourth was late in the game when the fourth line was out as a sign of mercy, with no real
intention of scoring.
While those stats are always included in a power-play’s performance, a statistical cluster like that
can make it seem like great strides are being made, when that, in fact, may not be the case.
In a game when a power-play goal would have been nice Tuesday night, the Canucks struck out.
But that happens; it’s no big deal.
It was what was going on that was odd. One one shift of the first unit, the Sedins and Dan
Hamhuis passed the puck several times in the offensive zone just to get Henrik to move from the
right-side boards (where he functions best) to the left boards so the one-timer from Jason
Garrison could be set up. That’s what they were doing when nothing was happening and
Garrison went that long stretch without a point.
If Weber was out with the first unit, Henrik would be so much more effective on the right side,
Garrison could be used on the left, and Hamhuis could get a break, something which will be
badly needed given how much ice time he’s going to be logging with the Stanton injury.
At some point, the coaching staff will give it a try, but in the meantime, longtime Canucks fans
need to see more continued success to believe the power play is on its way to respectability.
Torts bubbling bliss for Chris
Brad Ziemer – The Province | December 19, 2013
Tanev’s value to team growing, as are numbers to re- sign him
DALLAS — It figures to be a happy new year for Chris Tanev. Quite likely a prosperous one,
too.
As the Vancouver Canucks defenceman quietly but efficiently establishes himself as one of the
NHL’s top young blue- liners, the clock is ticking on the one- year contract Tanev signed with
the team this past summer.
Tanev inked that deal for $ 1.5 million. You can bet the next one is going to be worth a whole lot
more than that.
Coach John Tortorella was asked the other day about who his most consistent defenceman has
been this season and he did not even hesitate.
“Chris Tanev,” Tortorella said emphatically.
Tortorella has been smitten with Tanev since before he even got the Canuck job. And he has
been singing the praises of the soon- to- be 24- year- old all season.
“I think I told you guys that during the process of my interviews with the team, when I watched
the games he was the one that stood out the most to me on the tape of the eight games that I
watched,” Tortorella said. “I know the story, I know where he has come from. The thing that I
am excited about is that he is getting better. The ice time he gets, he wants more. He is in great
shape and is still learning about his body, he is still a young man.
“You don’t notice him and in that position when you don’t notice him he’s probably playing
really well. I just think he has picked up our concept that we brought here really quickly. That
position, defence, is about positioning. There’s more thinking in playing defence than as a
forward. It is the toughest position to play and I just think he is ahead of the curve as far as
understanding where he needs to be on the ice when the play comes to him. He is not chasing the
play.”
You can almost hear the groans coming from the offices of general manager Mike Gillis and
assistant GM Laurence Gilman, who negotiates player contracts for the Canucks, every time
Tortorella heaps praise on Tanev. It’s a good thing the salary cap is going up next season because
the Canucks are likely going to need a big chunk of that space to sign Tanev.
As a player on a one- year contract, the Canucks cannot attempt to extend Tanev’s contract until
Jan. 1. They will almost certainly try to do that early in the new year. If a deal cannot be struck,
Tanev would have arbitration rights next summer as a restricted free agent.
Tanev said he tries not to think about that kind of stuff, but acknowledged after Wednesday’s
practice in Dallas that he hopes to remain a Canuck long- term.
“I love it here and I’d love to be here for a long period of time,” he said. “Right now, I’m just
focused on playing hockey and winning games. You just keep playing and that stuff will take
care of itself. I’m not really too worried about that, but obviously it is a great organization and,
as I said, if the opportunity is there I’d love to be here for a long period.”
Tanev is averaging 20: 09 minutes a game this season, about three more minutes a game than last
season, and is now being used regularly against some of the opposition’s top players. Tortorella
hates the term shutdown defenceman, but is comfortable using Tanev in any situation.
“We play him against all the top guys,” Tortorella said. “I don’t know where this shutdown guy
language came from. I think everybody needs to play and you are not always going to have the
right matches as you go through a year. But he is a guy who can play against anybody in this
league and we feel very comfortable using him.”
There’s another Tortorella quote that Tanev’s agent Ross Gurney can clip and save.
One of Tanev’s many strengths is his ability to move the puck out of his own end. He seems
unflappable, thinks the game well and uses his great wheels to get out of trouble. He is also
stronger than the skinny kid who first joined the team late in the 2010- 11 season.
Tanev has added about 15 pounds of muscle to his slender frame, although you still worry about
him being snapped in two when he’s occasionally slammed into the end boards by opposition
forwards.
Tanev’s shot remains a work in progress, but he has chipped in 11 points this season and he has
been a big contributor to Vancouver’s excellent penaltykill this season.
What Tanev doesn’t do is talk a lot.
Tanev is something of an emotional flatliner without a lot of highs and lows. He and regular
defensive partner Dan Hamhuis must be one of the NHL’s quietest defensive pairings.
“I am a very competitive guy,” Tanev said. “I might not show it emotionally, but I hate losing.”
“There are so many things to say about him,” Hamhuis said Wednesday.
“His poise with the puck, he is a great team guy, he takes hits to make plays, but he knows the
little things in the game, like how to draw people towards him before passing the puck. It is the
little things like that make it easy to play with him as a D partner.
“And of course his skating and his smarts get him into so many good opportunities and out of
bad situations.”
Spare- part Alberts fitted for D in Big D
Brad Ziemer – The Province | December 19, 2013
DALLAS — Ryan Stanton is in Vancouver and Frank Corrado remains in Utica. That means
Andrew Alberts gets to play tonight in Dallas.
Stanton, who suffered an apparent left ankle injury Tuesday in Minnesota, was shipped home for
further evaluation, coach John Tortorella said after Wednesday’s practice in Dallas.
And with no apparent plans to call up Corrado from the AHL’s Utica Comets, Alberts will get a
chance to play when the Canucks meet the Dallas Stars.
Alberts had an earlier chance to play a couple of weeks ago when Alex Edler went down with a
knee injury and only lasted three games before the Canucks recalled Yannick Weber from the
minors.
Tortorella acknowledged Wednesday he is concerned that Alberts hasn’t played enough to help
the team.
“That is the reason why we have Webs in,” Tortorella said. “He had some game looks in the
minor leagues. Andrew has practised hard with us, but just hasn’t had a lot of game time in any
league.
“But it is what it is, he is going to go in, we are not going to whine about this. All teams go
through it, we just have to find a way to be the best that we can be.”
It has been a difficult season for Alberts, who has played in only six games, averaging less than
six minutes a night.
Alberts is happy to get another chance, but understandably is tired about talking about his
situation. “You obviously want to get more minutes, but it’s the coach’s discretion and they have
got some stuff they want me to work on and that is kind of the holdup,” Alberts said. “Right now
we are just talking about reads and recognizing situations. It’s something we looked at on tape
and that I have been working on in practice. Hopefully I can learn from that, get better every day,
use that in the games and get more minutes.”
Tortorella acknowledged that Stanton is gone at least through the Christmas break and said Edler
is not close to returning.
“He’s still a ways away. I can’t even say day- to- day. It’s after the break and who knows where
from there.”
OH SHOOTOUT: A day after his “we suck in the shootout” comment, Tortorella acknowledged
the team may have to become even more aggressive in overtime to try to win games and avoid
the penaltyshot competition.
The Canucks are 1- 4 in shootouts this season after dropping a 3- 2 decision Tuesday when all
three Vancouver shooters failed to score. The Canucks have scored on only two of 18 shootout
attempts this season.
“We talked about three forwards maybe some time in the last couple of minutes ( of OT),”
Tortorella said. “It certainly isn’t working with the shootouts. That could come into play.”
Tortorella said the possibility of pulling the goalie in OT has also been discussed.
“We were talking about it last night after the game, do you pull your goalie, or something like
that?”
The team did not practise shootouts on Wednesday and Tortorella said there is a reason for that.
“It’s easy to say they can practise the shootout, but you are in a practice arena, no fans around,
no pressure, no other team in there ... it is very difficult to simulate a shootout,” he said.
LETTING GO: The Canucks and minor- league forward Zach Hamill have parted company.
Assistant general manager Laurence Gilman said the Canucks put Hamill on unconditional
waivers after he left the Utica Comets.
This has been brewing for a while. Gilman said he got a call from Hamill’s agent two weeks ago.
“He was out of the lineup, he wasn’t happy and he wanted to leave the team,” Gilman said
Wednesday.
“We asked him to give it 10 more days to see how things progressed. I received a call in
Minnesota on Monday from his agent saying that Zach had enough and was leaving the team.
“We immediately suspended him and notified him that unless he came back we were going to
place him on waivers for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release and if he cleared
waivers we were terminating the contract.”
Hamill, a 25- year- old Port Coquitlam native, was selected eighth overall by the Boston Bruins
in the 2007 draft. He signed as a free agent with the Canucks this past summer. It’s likely that
Hamill will now try to play in Europe.
“As an organization, if players are that unhappy and don’t want to be here then we don’t want
them to be here either,” Gilman said.
Canucks on the road: �We suck in the
shootout’
Dan Murphy – Sportsnet | December 18, 2013, 5:08pm
SHOOTING THEMSELVES IN THE FOOT
“We suck in the shootout. We do. We have to try different people I guess because we stink at it.”
-John Tortorella following 3-2 SO loss to the Wild on Tuesday
Well, Torts isn’t lying: The Canucks do suck in the shootout. And doesn’t that always seem like
it’s been the case? Vancouver play-by-play man and burger aficionado John Shorthouse
reminded me that when the NHL adopted the shootout in 2005, every pre-season game that year
included one regardless of the final score. And you know what? It took the Canucks until their
fifth game to convert on a shootout attempt.
This season the Canucks are two-for-18 in attempts, with Mike Santorelli and Alex Burrows the
only guys to convert. Still, it could be worse—as hard as it is to believe, as of Wednesday
morning there were three teams in the league with worse percentages than Vancouver: Nashville
(0-11), New Jersey (1-17) and Detroit (2-20).
“Should the Canucks be trying new shooters” you ask? I would stick with Santorelli and Higgins
(he’s been unlucky, hitting the post his last two attempts). I think Kesler still needs to be a part of
the equation. After that, why not Kassian or Booth?
MOUNTAIN MAN
By now you’ve probably heard about David Booth’s pre-game “warm up.” It includes skipping,
sprints and plyometrics, among other things. I guarantee you he burns 500 calories before the
game even starts. Last season it got to the point the club asked him to tone it down a bit. The
brass felt he would run out of gas in the later stages of games. Recently I asked him about it and
this was his response:
“We just had a guy (Ed Viesturs) who spoke to us and he has climbed Everest and the tallest
mountains in the world. And he said he was getting to the point where he would climb Everest
and then since he was over there, go climb another 27-thousand foot mountain because he didn’t
need to recover. It takes some people a year to recover. That got me to thinking; like if a guy can
go climb Everest and go climb another mountain, then I think I can work out an extra hour a day
because I don’t think I will take a toll on my body.”
Maybe now that Booth’s minutes are up a bit he’s going to have to rethink that.
LEE F’IN GOREN
I saw Lee Goren briefly following the Canucks loss in Minnesota. Goren, of course, had a brief
stint with the Canucks from 2005-2007 playing a total of 30 games. His last NHL games came
with Vancouver; after that he headed overseas to play six more seasons, before calling it quits
last spring.
My two lasting memories of Goren are:
1) As soon as he had had a few brews, his fake teeth would end up in someone’s glass rather
quickly.
2) In November of 2005 he shot a puck at practice that broke Matt Cooke’s jaw. Cooke, a
valuable member of the team at the time, was a favourite of then–head coach Marc Crawford.
Crawford was obviously displeased when he heard of the extent of the injury and I remember
hearing Crow screaming in his office, “LEE F***ING GOREN? LEE F***ING GOREN? LEE
F***ING GOREN!!!”
Ah, memories.
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