The Flames shakeup their team, The Canucks visit the Habs and everything gets a little murkier.
So for the first time in a while the Canucks failed to steal the headlines as another Northwest Division team decided to take over the spotlight across the league. Although Toronto is getting a lot of attention for what they’ve done, the Flames are the team that is more relevant at this point so let’s start there.
After Burrows clashing with the Hockey Night In Canada crew and Kesler not being shy with what he thinks of Hawks forward Andrew Ladd, it was nice to turn some attention to two pretty sizeable hockey trades. Following Calgary’s 3-0 loss to Philadelphia tonight the Flames completed their second trade in as many days, sending Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust to the Rangers in exchange for Christopher Higgins and Ales Kotalik. This deal was on the table all day, and although there seem to be reasons as to why this deal took until after the game to go through, all reasons I’ve heard are ridiculous. Jokinen played over 20 minutes and didn’t record a shot on a goal in this game. I can’t imagine Olli being too pleased being put into the lineup and asked to perform for 20 minutes knowing he was on the way out and I would imagine he won’t be too pleased with that treatment as he moves on. Regardless the deal is done and 6 new players enter to make them a much deeper team. Keep in mind they are missing 3 regular forwards with injury and once they return this will require even more work for the Sutter clan. In addition to the players they added in the Toronto trade, this team has become very different in a matter of hours and I don’t see it being for the better in the short term.
What this means for the Canucks at this point is pretty much nothing. The Flames didn’t show much emotion in their game against Philly and if their play was any indication it will take some time for it to come together there if it does at all. Keep in mind with under 30 games left, time may be the luxury they can’t afford at this point. The Canucks need to take care of business on their own, and with the monster road trip already underway they can’t get comfortable where they are. With 4 points up on the Avs and 8 up on the Flames, the NW crown is in sight. Memory serves however that the Canucks found themselves low on the food chain last year and vaulted through a 13 point deficit to overtake the Flames. If there is going to be a dogfight in the NW, now is an opportune time for every team not named the Canucks to make their move. With the team finally taking on the road trip, everyone is expecting the team to stumble and it’s all we’ve talked about since the schedule was announced. I’m no better, having just brought it up in my previous blog, but having made up so much ground on home ice made this trip beatable. The pressure is lower than if trying to claw up the NW and unless the team decides to pull a Flames (or is it pull an Oilers) and fall flat the next 13 games, it should leave us still in the top 5 of the West.
With all this fun stuff to look forward to, remember that games are being played on the ice as well. The Hockey Day in Canada game against the Leafs had almost as good a result as was possible. Sure they fell behind 3-0 in the first, Luongo had an off-night, and the defence finally seemed to be bending a bit too much. It could not have worked out better because it grabbed the attention of the national media by having the Leafs dominate one of the hottest teams in hockey and once all the viewers were hooked and excited the Canucks’ top line showed the entire country they mean business. It’s a tough call with the Olympics coming if you want Luongo in net for Canada, but if you are one of the people who don’t want him in there for fear of injury, that might have helped your cause and the Canucks still won. A better effort however will be required against the Canadiens. There are no easy games on the road even if they are eastern teams that the Canucks have historically done well against. The Canucks will be getting some help on defence soon with Sami Salo ready to go, but the Canadiens know there is still a sizeable hole in the Canucks D-line. It should hold for another game against a very inconsistent Montreal team that hasn’t been able to find their identity all year.
Vancouver Canucks @ Montreal Canadiens – Feb 02, 2010 / 4:30 PST (PPV-HD, RDSHD)
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Written by Luke Mirza