The Vancouver Canucks welcome the New York Islanders and ‘budding superstar’ John Tavares to Vancouver tonight, the first time the two teams will play since the Canucks blew a 3-0 third period lead (and lost 7-4) to the Fisherman last March.
Alex Burrows is expected to line up with old running mates Daniel and Henrik Sedin tonight – formally replacing Radim Vrbata on the Canucks’ top unit for the first time this season.
“I think with other guys I try to make more plays,” Burrows said on Monday. “Whereas with them as soon as I get it, if I can find one of them I try to give them the puck and bring a check with me and go to the net and open some space for them to work their magic.”
It should be noted, Vrbata has excelled on Henrik’s wing, and he leads Vancouver with 16 goals through 37 games this season.
So this isn’t a demotion for Vrbata so much as it’s a credit to him – he’ll be asked to help rejuvenate Vancouver’s sleeping second line of centre Nick Bonino and winger Chris Higgins.
(Burrows has also been a presence on Vancouver’s powerplay, playing with the Sedins and Vrbata, which is ninth in the NHL this season – up from 23rd in 2013-14.)
Some great quotes from the B.C. boys on Canada’s golden World Junior team last night, after their thrilling 5-4 win over Russia…
“People say I’m getting pretty good at it (winning trophies) and I told everybody after the game that my junior career is now complete.
“That was a phenomenal game. It was junior hockey at its finest and there really wasn’t ever any doubt we were going to hold on. The fan support was incredible. That was probably the loudest crowd I’ve ever played in front of.”
“The guys, I don’t think some guys were even lookin’ at the play on the bench… It was heads down, hope for the best, cross your fingers.
“Singing O Canada at the end of the game was unreal, and a moment I’ll never forget.”
Leafs Can Carlyle
The Toronto Maple Leafs have (finally?) fired head coach Randy Carlyle, a somewhat expected mid-season move from the once-again slumping team. The Leafs have been consistently inconsistent during Carlyle’s three-year tenure in Toronto, which began during the 2011-12 season after the Buds fired Ron Wilson.
Hey, here’s a weird quote from general manager Dave Nonis…
“As gruff as you might think he is, (Randy’s) a very intelligent man.”
Well, yeah. (Does Nonis think all gruff guys are stupid?)
But the GM continues, and he starts to make more sense after that, in Tuesday’s presser (video below)…
“He understands the game. He understands our situation and it wasn’t an extremely long conversation but it went as well as you’d expect from someone who has just been let go.
“We need to see some level of consistency. I think we’d all agree that we’ve shown some, we’ve had some good periods, good stretches, but I don’t think I can stand in front of you and say that we’ve been consistent.”
Carlyle won a Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007 and guided the Leafs to their only playoff appearance in the past decade in 2013.
This season, Toronto has gone bogey-birdie-bogey through 40 games. (That’s the consistency issue Nonis kept talking about.)
After humiliating 6-2 and 9-2 losses to Buffalo and Nashville in November, the Leafs rebounded to go on a six-game winning streak in December.
But they’ve now lost seven of their last nine game to nearly fall out of the Eastern Conference’s top eight once again.
It’s almost unfair that Filip Forsberg is a rookie.
He sure doesn’t play like one, and he’s been the Nashville Predators’ best NHL forward this season – a full two years after he was named an all-star at the 2013 World Juniors, playing for Sweden.
Forsberg isn’t just a great rookie, he’s a great player.
But Johnny Gaudreau is a rookie.
At times, he shows those freshman cracks. But that’s what’s made his first NHL season – Gaudreau played just one game for Calgary last year, and scored one goal – even more impressive. The kid’s clipping along with a healthy 31 points through 39 games and, thanks to him and the play of Mark Giordano (among others), the Flames are within earshot of a Western Conference playoff spot.
“Second half of the season is definitely going to be a grind,” Gaudreau said Tuesday. “I have a good off-ice habits. Eatin’ healthy, getting a ton of rest. Just a whole bunch of little things that are going to help me away from the rink and help me eventually on the ice.
“I think that’s pretty crucial for me. Make sure I’m managing my time off the ice and, on the ice, just keep playing the way I’m playing. Keep skating hard and hopefully, I’ll keep going here.”
NOTE: Gaudreau was also named a tournament all-star at the 2013 World Juniors, honoured alongside Forsberg and Canadian Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who made his NHL debut with the Edmonton Oilers in 2011.