Cory Schneider

Canucks’ Schneider: ‘It just seems like a lost year’

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In the wake of an opening-round sweep — and their second opening-round loss in a row — the Canucks are facing many questions about what the future has in store.

One player, though, summed up the present quite succinctly.

“It’s frustrating,” Cory Schneider told the Globe and Mail. “It just seems like a lost year for some of these guys and myself included.”

“Lost year” might be the perfect way to sum up this season, especially in goal.

Schneider spent the first year of his three-year, $12 million deal embroiled in an awkward situation while Roberto Luongo spent his 13th NHL campaign as an overpaid backup, appearing in a career-low 20 contests.

The situation in net overshadowed the entire season and hamstrung the Canucks on a number of fronts.

Not a day passed without questions about the Schneider-Luongo saga, and the financial pinch — the two ate up $9.3 million of cap space — stuck out like a sore thumb.

When looking at the collective age of the club, the “lost year” comment rings especially true, and has to burn.

Core players like Dan Hamhuis, Alex Burrows, Kevin Bieksa, Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin are all now on the wrong side of 30 and, by the start of next season, so too will Chris Higgins.

As such, GM Mike Gillis is receiving a tremendous amount of heat for his decision to stand largely pat (or stubborn, depending on your perspective).

Here’s Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun:

Meanwhile, Canuck management is carrying a plethora of albatrosses into the off-season — roughly $13.8 million worth of wasted contracts with Roberto Luongo twiddling his thumbs, Keith Ballard evidently consigned to the discard heap and the ever-injured, grossly overrated David Booth taking up space — and unless Gillis can go, cap in hand, to owner Francesco Aquilini and ask him to buy out a couple of them, and eat some of Luongo’s salary in order to move him, they will be hamstrung when they try to re-stock the shelves…

…And still we search in vain for the compelling reason to fire Vigneault that’s such a popular theme as this team’s era of excellence winds down, and Gillis’s loyal cornermen try to misdirect the responsibility.

Anyone who thinks that arranging the forward lines differently, or changing the defence pairs, or putting this player or that out on the ice at the end of a game would have made the difference is dreaming in Technicolor.

Should be an interesting offseason in Vancouver.

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.