Are the Canucks in trouble without Ehrhoff?

ehrhoff2.jpgIf I had to pick a “most resilient” team for the 2009-10 season, it would probably be the Phoenix Coyotes, but the Vancouver Canucks aren’t far behind. They’ve dealt with a historic road trip, the unexpected struggles of their “captain”/goalie Roberto Luongo and the loss of key defenseman Willie Mitchell. But at least one writer – Ian Macintyre of the Vancouver Sun – thinks that an injury to another Canucks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff might be a “fatal” blow to the team’s playoff hopes.

Nearly three months after the hit, Willie Mitchell still has a headache. Now, the Vancouver Canucks have one, too.

Christian Ehrhoff’s sprained knee is a potentially critical blow to the Canucks, who were able to survive the severe concussion suffered by Mitchell on Jan. 16 but are ill-equipped to handle another major injury on their defence. Not with the National Hockey League playoffs starting next Wednesday.

After following his up-and-down years as a member of the San Jose Sharks, it’s baffling to read a Chicken Little article regarding the loss of Ehrhoff. Really, that guy? The one whose scalding slapper was more likely to miss the net/break glass/hit a spectator than create a meaningful scoring chance? The dude who was often clueless in his own end? That Christian Ehrhoff?

To be fair, the German defenseman is playing stunningly well this season (putting up – for him – a typical 43 points with a very atypical +33 after going -12 last year) and Macintyre makes a good argument that the team’s mid-to-lower ranking D guys struggle when given extra minutes. Still, it sounds like the injury isn’t that severe so perhaps it will be a moot point.

Either way, I feel pretty confident that if Vancouver flounders it will be for some other reason. This team has shown some real moxie; it wouldn’t shock me if they ended up raising the Stanley Cup for the first time in their history this summer. No doubt about it, it might be more difficult without Ehrhoff but this team has been scaling some rugged mountains this season.

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    Video: Tyler Bozak with some saucy moves on this goal

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    It’s refreshing that hockey fans have, for the most part, moved on from debating Tyler Bozak‘s merits.

    The general feeling is that the Toronto Maple Leafs use him in appropriate ways these days, so we can simply enjoy his work as a pretty spiffy hockey player.

    Speaking of spiffy, check out the sweet moves he made against the Minnesota Wild for the goal above. Feels like you could dub over a Chris Berman “whoop” or two in there, right?

    (If you’re into that kind of thing.)

    Here’s that gaudy move in isolation and in GIF form:

    WATCH LIVE: Bruins at Capitals – Wednesday Night Rivalry

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    Even with two games in hand, some might be surprised to see the Washington Capitals tied with the Boston Bruins in standings points in early December.

    That’s the case on Wednesday Night Rivalry, as a somewhat up-and-down Capitals team (which is glad to welcome T.J. Oshie back) hosts a Bruins squad that’s riding a three-game winning streak.

    It should be an interesting matchup on NBCSN, which you can also watch online or via the NBC Sports App.

    Click here for the livestream.

    Rangers mostly dodge a bullet: Nash only expected to miss a week

    NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 06: Rick Nash #61 of the New York Rangers moves the puck along the boards during the second period against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on December 6, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    No one wants to hear “It could be worse” when injuries are really piling up, but … uh, it could be worse for the New York Rangers.

    At least, it could have been worse for Rick Nash. The team announced that he’s only expected to miss about a week after undergoing an MRI related to a groin injury.

    It’s been a redemptive season for Nash, so it’s nice to see that it isn’t getting totally derailed. Granted, injuries like these can linger even if a guy returns to the lineup, so we’ll need to see if he gets back to 100 percent.

    The Rangers certainly aren’t at full-strength right now. Their laundry list of injured forwards is quite daunting, even for a team with vaunted depth at that position:

    (It sounds like Pavel Buchnevich is still quite a ways from returning, sadly.)

    Alain Vigneault sells the biggest benefit of these issues: opportunities for other players – including Oscar Lindberg – to step up.

    “I just think this is part of the NHL and it is what it is. It’s there and you deal with it,” Vigneault said . “You get a lot of players at different times that wish that they can get more ice time to prove that they can have a bigger role and that they can do more. Well, no better time than the present for us right now.”

    Double whammy to Habs centers: Galchenyuk, Desharnais out 6-8 weeks

    MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 08:  Alex Galchenyuk #27 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on during the warmup prior to the NHL game against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on November 8, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Boston Bruins 3-2.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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    Thanks to two knee injuries, the Montreal Canadiens suddenly seem pretty slim at center.

    The team announced two unfortunate and strangely similar timelines for important centers: both Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais are expected to miss six-to-eight weeks with their knee issues.

    It will be a challenge for Michel Therrien to make everything work, to the point where you wonder if maybe he’ll move a player from the wing to center (hey, Max Pacioretty DOES want an elevated role, if you believe the rumors about discontent).

    Tomas Plekanec becomes that much more important to the Canadiens, and one might assume that Andrew Shaw may go back to the middle. LNH.com’s Arpon Basu listed some options, in case you’re more of a visual learner:

    Yeah, not ideal.

    The road ahead

    It isn’t all bad news when you look at Montreal’s overall situation.

    For one thing, they gave themselves a nice cushion, as they currently lead the Atlantic Division by five points. With four games in a row and six of seven at home, they may be able to manage these tough losses pretty well in the short-term.

    The real challenges might come late in December and early in January. They play seven road games in a row – though with a break around New Year’s – and nine of 10 away from Montreal from Dec. 23 – Jan. 12.

    While they’ve suffered some minor bumps in the road so far, this is their truest test of 2016-17. It should be interesting to see how they handle this.