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Ten weekly random thoughts: Week 19 – February 3-10

The Canucks had one wacky week this week. The week started with news that Sven Baertschi was being sent home as he was feeling unwell after the game in Colorado last Saturday. The obvious concern was more post-concussion syndrome issues (more on that later). The week’s first game featured a very scary moment as Alex Edler got his stick caught in Flyer’s forward Jakub Voracek skate and ended up slamming his face to the ice, getting knocked unconscious. He was stretchered off and was later diagnosed with a concussion as well as a few broken teeth and lacerations requiring stitches. Thatcher Demko also was injured prior to the game, forcing the emergency recall of Michael Dipietro. It was Jay Beagle’s 500th career game. The Flyers edged the Canucks 2-1. On Tuesday, the Canucks took on the Washington Capitals. Beagle received a heroes welcome from Capitals fans, who clearly missed the Canucks center. This one was wrought with controversy as the winning goal should have been wiped out as Jakub Vrana appeared to knock the puck off the top of the net and miss the puck before it crossed the line. Jacob Markstrom struggled with rebound control, perhaps a sign he should have had the night off. The Canucks capped off the road trip with a game vs. the Blackhawks, who are entrenched, along with half the Western Conference, in a tight battle for the final two wild card spots. The Canucks didn’t do themselves any favors handing the Blackhawks two lengthy two man advantages. The Blackhawks struck twice on the first two man advantage, but they were able to kill off both penalties of the 2nd two man advantage. The Canucks were unable to produce much on their own two man advantage. Credit to the Canucks who came from behind twice and nearly won it in overtime when Jacob Markstrom sprung Elias Pettersson on a clear cut breakaway. Alas, shortly after, Jonathan Toews walked around an exhausted Chris Tanev and beat Markstrom. The week was capped off with a game against the mighty Calgary Flames, who are currently leading the Western Conference and would be the likely opponents for the Canucks if they make the playoffs. Jacob Markstrom absolutely stole this game with 47 saves in the game, including three saves in the shootout. Elias Pettersson also had a strong game with a pair of assists and the winning (and only) goal in the shootout. Pettersson hit the 50 point milestone. Looking at the week ahead, the Canucks have the opportunity to create some separation with the teams around them. On Monday, they face the San Jose Sharks, who shutout out the Canucks 4-0 back on November 23rd. Anders Nilsson was in goal for that one and Erik Karlsson had a three point night, The Sharks are another possible playoff opponent. On Wednesday, the Canucks start a three game road trip in Anaheim, where they will face a Ducks team that has won just twice in their last twenty-one games. Anaheim edged the Canucks 4-3 back on November 21st. Nikolay Goldobin and Bo Horvat had multi-point nights in that game. The next day, the Canucks head to LA to take on a Kings team in a three way tie for last in the Western Conference with Anaheim and Arizona and just four points back of the 2nd wild card spot. That’s how ridiculously tight things are in the west. The Canucks are 1-0-1 against LA so far this season, getting edged 2-1 in overtime November 27th in Vancouver and doubling up on the Kings three days earlier in LA. Adan Gaudette and Sam Gagner each scored in the road game. The week wraps up with a rematch of Monday’s game against the Sharks. Here are ten random thoughts from week 19 of the NHL.

1. There has to be massive concern about the health of Sven Baertschi. The Canucks winger missed 30 games earlier this season after a blindside hit in Vegas October 24th. Baertschi returned to action December 29th vs. Calgary. He played well for the most part for the next month. Then last Saturday in Colorado he was cross-checked during the game and reported to Canucks training staff that he wasn’t feeling well. The team sent him home to be evaluated, initially only saying that it was not believed to be a concussion. However, this past Saturday, it was revealed that Baertschi’s post-concussion syndrome had returned, bur it was not believed to be a new concussion. Baertschi’s  definitely going to have to take a serious think about his future playing in the off-season. He has far more important things to worry about than playing hockey, like caring for his young family (his wife recently gave birth to a daughter in December). It’s especially concerning that Baertschi was injured on a rather innocent looking play in Colorado. Don’t be surprised if he is forced to miss the remainder of the season with post-concussion syndrome.

2. On a related note, and I will not be posting a video of this, Alex Edler’s injury was very scary to watch and could have been much worse. No doubt Edler could miss a good chunk of the remaining games, depending on how his recovery from the concussion goes. Edler was checked out at a local hospital in Philadelphia where facial fractures were ruled out. The injury likely means that Edler won’t be going anywhere at the trade deadline as a contending team might not want to risk him not recovering from the concussion. His absence from the lineup has been very prominent, especially with defensive pairings and the power play. Ben Hutton is simply not as effective on the power play. Chris Tanev has been forced to play on his wrong side, as well as playing extra minutes. Olli Joulevi and Ashton Sautner are both currently unavailable due to injuries. Jet Woo is not yet ready to be recalled and the jury is still out on Guillaume Brisebrois. It is likely the Canucks will re-sign Edler, but first they need him to get healthy.

3. The Canucks have a conundrum in goal. It all started January 2nd when they traded Anders Nilsson to the Ottawa Senators for Mike McKenna, who was going to replace Thatcher Demko as the Utica Comets starting goalie. One problem: the Canucks had to put McKenna on waivers first, and the Flyers claimed him after losing Michal Neuvirth with a lower body injury. The Canucks chose to stick with Ivan Kulakov and Michael Leighton as the goalies in Utica. Neither Kulakov nor Leighton are signed to NHL contracts, meaning they cannot be recalled. Everything was going to plan until Thatcher Demko suffered a strained knee, reportedly brushing his teeth. In the interim, Michael Dipietro has been recalled from the OHL to serve as Markstrom’s backup, but he needs to be sent back to Ottawa as soon as either Demko is healthy again or the Canucks claim a goalie off waivers, which could happen in the coming days with Brian Elliott of the Flyers and Malcolm Subban in Vegas nearing a return to action. It’s possible Dipietro plays his 1st NHL game with a heavy schedule this week. As bizarre as this situation has been, it does not top what happened March 3rd, 2015. In that game, Roberto Luongo was injured in the 1st period after taking a shot off the collarbone. then in the third period, Al Montoya was injured after getting his arm caught making a save. Montoya came back to the game, then incredibly Luongo approached the Panthers training staff and coach and put his gear back on and finished the game.

4. The Western Conference is so wacky at the moment with every team in the hunt for a playoff spot. Anaheim, Arizona and LA are all deadlocked with 51 points apiece in the basement of the Western conference, yet the three Pacific divsion rivals are a mere four points back of the St. Louis Blues for the 2nd wild card spot, The Minnesota Wild are starting to pull away from the pack a bit with a four point cushion for the 1st wild card spot, but they could easily be reined in if they slip a little with an ill-timed losing streak and one of the teams chasing them getting hot at the right time. At the moment, the Blackhawks and Kings appear to be playing the best with identical 6-2-2 records in their last 10 games. On the flip side Anaheim has lost a ridiculous 19 of their last 21 games and the Edmonton Oilers do not appear any better off after firing their GM just before the all-star break. Here’s some food for thought: last season, the 8th place team in the Western Conference, the Colorado Avalanche finished with 95 points and a record of 43-30-9. This season could see the 8th place team have a record of .500, give or take a game. It shows the ineptitude in the Western conference. Hold onto your hats folks, this wild card race is about to get crazy!

5. Meanwhile, the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference is much more clear. The wild card race is essentially coming down between three or four teams. Currently, the Pittsburgh Penguins have a slim one point lead on the Carolina Hurricanes, who are just ahead of the Buffalo Sabres. The Philadelphia Flyers are 5 points back, but they have been red hot since the all-star break and are 9-0-1 in their last ten games. What is bizarre is the Flyers have used SEVEN different goalies this season. Carter Hart, who was a star on Canada’s world junior team just 2 years ago, has caught lightning in a bottle and has been outstanding in goal for the Flyers. The Hurricanes would be an entertaining entry into the playoffs with their entertaining celebrations of victories. Pittsburgh has already made several trades in the past couple of months, which shows a sense of urgency and uncertainty with making the playoffs. Buffalo, unlike the Edmonton Oilers, is reaping the benefits of a few high draft picks, including Rasmus Dahlin, who is currently in the mix for the Calder trophy. If I had to pick a team with the inside track for the 2nd wild card spot in the east, I would have to go with the young and up and coming Carolina Hurricanes. They are a team that is playing loose with few expectations and it’s easy to make up a single point on a team these days.

6. Saturday was Hockey day in Canada, a day to celebrate the game of hockey from its roots. Yours truly has never played hockey on a team, just floor hockey in PE. I like being in goal, and I was pretty good at that position. I got pretty banged up with my knees as I kept going down on my knees to make the save. Actually, I’m a terrible skater, so if I was playing, you’d have to put me in goal and tie me to the net! I asked the group members in Vancouver Knnckleheads about their hockey playing memories. Several responded that they had played shinny games on outdoor rinks. I have lived in the Lower Mainland my whole life and just one day, back in January 2017, did Trout Lake freeze over enough to allow skaters to skate on it. It only stayed that way for a couple of days. Check out the highlights from that day here. One thing that was popular in my neighborhood was steet hockey. We had a perfect roundabout in my old complex that was perfect for street hockey games. A could of the neighborhood kids owned nets and would set them up. We could also play in the visitor’s parking lot or on the basketball court at the top of the complex. The roundabout was the most frequent place for games. I was known to be a hacker and took my fair sharing of slashing penalties. Please comment below with your hockey playing memories.

7. The Canucks face a big contract decision at the end of the season with Brock Boeser’s entry level deal expiring. The Canucks winger has more then proven he deserves a massive raise. He probably compares most to David Pasternack, who is producing at roughly the same rate as Boeser (Brock scores .86 points a game and Pasternack is .87 points a game) and signed as 6 year 6.75Mil. contract. Mitch Marner, who scores .92points per game is projected to receive 10mil. over 5-6 years. I think it’s reasonable to sign Boeser for 5-6 years as opposed to a bridge deal because the price of the next contract would be more expensive. Boeser enjoys playing in Vancouver and with Elias Pettersson, so I can see him cutting the Canucks a bit of a break as the Sedins and several other former Canucks did to allow the team to offer a bigger contract to a free agent like Michael Ferland.

8. The Canucks lost a member of their alumni this week as their first real star Andres Boudrais passed away on Tuesday. The cause of death was not released. Boudrais played for the Canucks from 1970-1976, playing in 458 games, scoring 388 points (121 goals, 267 assists). Also passing away this week was former owner Frank Griffith’s wife Emily Griffith. Rest in peace Emily Griffith and Andre Boudrais.

9. Finally, ex-Canuck Coach Mike Keenan is speaking out after recovering from prostate cancer. Keenan coached 2 seasons for the Canucks and finished with a 36-54-18 record as the Canucks bench boss. He infamously butted heads with Trevor Linden and really didn’t help the Canucks. However, kudos to him for having the courage to fight cancer, a disease I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

10. Canuck of the week:

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