Sports

Canucks learn to counter-punch 0

GUTS MCTAVISH

The term rope-a-dope was created by an aging Muhammad Ali back in 1974 during his unlikely win versus the much younger and stronger George Foreman. Ali would purposely lean against the ropes and wait for the other fighters to tire and make mistakes, and then counter-punch, making the most of his punches.

The latest Canucks stat sheet shows the team near the league lead in goals for and near the bottom in shots allowed. Like Ali, the Canucks are making the most of their chances as a true counter-punch team.

But be warned, it is like playing with fire, especially when you employ this brand of hockey against the truly disciplined teams like the Wings and Sharks of the world. This rope-a-dope style worked well for Ali for a while but when other boxers tried it the outcome proved to be as unsettling as the term "Mitchell pinches."

Here's the other stat that jumped out at me: The Canucks have eight players on the roster that are all on a 20-something goal pace. Not too shabby, considering the NHL record for 20-plus goal scorers is 11 held by the 1978/79 Boston Bruins. It would be nice, however, if they were like most teams in the NHL who currently have multiple players on 30- and 40-goal paces.

The Canucks are starting to remind me of a young baseball team's pitching. There's no real ace on the staff, which forces the Canucks into getting it done each night by committee. Of course the true ace of the staff is staring at a 2.99 goals against average, which by baseball standards would be about a 5.50 ERA. No Cy Young season here ... just a sigh.

PLUS/MINUS: The Canucks blue-liners still have a terrible habit of retreating back behind their net allowing forecheckers to get in deep and force turnovers. The team is in dire need of a defenceman who is capable of hitting a forward with a 40-foot in-stride tape- to-tape pass. Minus.

See Guts McTavish's Canuck V-blog posted 11 a.m. every game day at vancouver.24hrs.ca/videos


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