With 42 games played of an 82 game season, the Vancouver Canucks currently sit 2nd overall in the NHL standings, 1 point behind the New York Rangers and leaders of the Western Conference. A far cry from their early season woes, the Canucks have a record of 17 wins, 4 losses and 2 OT losses since the 20th of November, most recently defeating the 2011 Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in a game 7 rematch on January 7th.
The Sedin`s have been dominating as usual with the brothers currently sitting in the top 3 for NHL points scoring, Henrik on 49 and Daniel on 47, with both looking to be on target for another 100 point season. Second line centre-man Ryan Kesler has recovered well from his hip surgery in the summer, his return to form pushing him to the number 3 position in Canucks scoring.
Cody Hodgson is finally proving his potential to the fans that have been loyal to the 21-year-old since being picked 10th overall by the Canucks in 2008. The Toronto native played for the Brampton Battalion in the OHL followed by the former affiliate Manitoba Moose before getting his chance to the crack the Canucks lineup last season, playing in 20 games including 12 in the playoffs. This season Hodgson has played in every game for the Vancouver team, anchoring the 3rd line and contributing 10 goals and 14 assists
Despite remaining on Boston`s Most Wanted list, Alex Burrows has remained Mr. Consistent while playing on the first line with the Sedin`s, grinding around the opposition crease, scoring when needed and making his $2 million a year contract seem laughable. With rumours circling that the Canucks are looking to acquire a power forward in the near future, it would be expected that Burrows would still remain on the first line as coach Vigneault seems to have found the perfect complement to the smooth-passing Sedin`s in the gritty undrafted Montreal native.
Wingers Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen have combined for a total of 46 points on the 2nd and 3rd lines, proving their worth despite their relatively small cap hits of $1.9 million and $1.3 million a season, giving the Canucks much-needed versatility and depth in offense. The return of Mason Raymond was also a welcome addition to the Canucks forward group, his speed and scoring touch a commodity that Canucks were missing in his absence.
On the blue-line, Kevin Bieksa has recovered well from a poor start to 2011/2012 and along with defensive partner Dan Hamhuis has shut-down some of the best offensive lines in the league all-the-while registering 21 assists in the process. Alex Edler, playing in just his 5th full season with the Canucks, has continued his great form into the New Year and currently sits at 4th joint overall in NHL defensive scoring alongside a player that many Canucks fans hope will someday pair with him, Shea Weber.
Roberto Luongo has been in fine form since returning from his upper body injury in November and continues to be the Canucks number one choice despite the impressive goaltending displays from Cory Schneider. Schneider, currently the talking point of Vancouver due to his contract expiring at the end of the season, surprisingly started the recent Canucks revenge game against the Bruins on Jan 7th, putting in a great performance with Luongo watching on from the bench.
With the returns of Aaron Rome and David Booth imminent, the Canucks group will only get stronger and harder to beat. If player injuries remain manageable and the team keeps performing as they have been in the past 2 months, the Canucks should be favourites to head into the NHL All-Star break as Western Conference leaders, a situation that should set them up nicely for another playoff run in mid-2012.