Like a sprinter that has come out of the blocks running the 200 metre dash, we stop to have a look at how the Canucks are doing and how they have positioned themselves in this shorten season. As they have reached a little over 1/5 (20.8%) point in the 48 games, the Canucks are right with the front-runners in the Western Conference sitting in third position with 14 points (6-2-2) and lead the Northwest Division by three.
That’s more than a respectable position as one can pace themselves with the teams in front and look to make their move when the time is right. No used to sprint out in front and run out of steam in the final 10-15 games.
As far as the overall league position goes - seventh is not bad either. There goals-for vs. goals-against of +5, ranks them fourth in their conference and ninth overall in the league. Besides that, their four game winning streak is second only to Pittsburgh’s league leading five.
Roberto Luongo – Since the time he arrived in Vancouver (2006) till last season, he has been predominately a slow starter. Mr. October he was not. With a similar number of games that he would have played to start a season, well – you have seen how well he has played. You tell me, is this not the best he has played this early in a season?
Never mind the 1.53 GAA (3rd in NHL) or the .940 save percentage (3rd in NHL), his key stops at the critical point of the games has allowed the Canucks to come away with some very needed points. His positioning is what has caught my eye the most. Known at times for flopping and getting caught out of position, I don’t see much of that any more.
Zack Kassian’s team leading five goals is a pleasant surprise as he has only played 54 NHL games, but his upside is unlimited. I’ll repeat that this gritty power forward type is something the Canucks have lacked since Todd Bertuzzi.
Now that he has started to grasp the mental side of the game, and if he can maintain some consistency, I don’t see why he can’t finish with at least 20 goals this season. As you may have noticed Kassian is also able to play anywhere in the top three lines and contribute.
Mason Raymond’s four goals also surprised me as I didn’t know how he be would do after a couple of disappointing seasons (15 & 10 G). He has started to go to those tough areas which bodes well for the possibility that he too - could reach 20 goals. Now if he can avoid those prolonged slumps, that target should become reality.
Jordan Schroeder – I didn’t think he would be able to compete at this level due to his size. I thought the bigger centres and players would just close the ice space on him, but with his quickness he has been able to create plays and chances for himself.
Once he improves in the face-off circle, he could indeed find himself a permanent third line centre spot. He has yet to score a goal but has two assists and most importantly, his +3, proves that he can be defensively responsible without the puck.
Jannik Hansen – this player is quietly piecing together a foundation for his best scoring on a per game basis. Two goals and four assists has him tied with Henrik Sedin, and a key stat – tied for the best +/- with a plus five.
Cory Schneider – I thought with his new appointed position as the number one goaltender, that he would carry on with his last season excellent display. Who knows except Cory himself whether the pressure of now being the number one in this hockey mad city, has had an effect on his play.
He has played three out of five games very well, pulled his GAA up to 2.66 along with his save percentage to .908, and looks like he is starting to resemble the Schneider of last season.
The next ten games should tell.
Although Daniel Sedin is tied with Alex Edler for the team lead in points with 8 (3G, 5A), and has 2 power-play goals, it’s his brother Henrik that causes concern. No goals as yet to go along with six assists. After 10 games, this just seems strange.
I’m not going to go into each player but the above are just some that stand out to me.
So all looks good as this team is off to a positive start and once they get Ryan Kesler back, this team will start to make a race of the Western Conference 200 metre sprint. Chicago – don’t glance over the wrong shoulder.
Ice Bits – The first fight in last nights game against the Minnesota Wild between Zenon Konopka and Dale Weise was expected. Konopka was trying to ignite a lethargic team. The second one between the same two in the third period with the score 4-0 – proved what?
You could see by Weise’s reaction in the penalty box that he was not happy. To have been goaded into a fight where he could have injured himself was uncalled for. He should have just skated away, but when Konopka grabbed him, what was he suppose to do?
Photo Credits – AP, Getty Images, Google Images and Yahoo Sports!
Video Credits – YouTube
Quote Credits – The Vancouver Sun and Province
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Filed under: Vancouver Canucks