Santorelli Saves the Canucks

Vancouver wrapped up a successful, four point weekend Sunday night by beating the Calgary Flames in overtime 5-4.  The Canucks were coming off one of their most complete performances in a long time in beating Edmonton 6-2, but the first two periods in Calgary were a disaster.  Whether it was the effects of playing back-to-back nights (with a short trip from Vancouver to Calgary in between) or taking the rebuilding Flames for granted, Vancouver was awful for about the first 42 minutes of the game, being outscored 3-1 and outshot 27-14.

But after Sean Monahan’s goal put Calgary up by two, the Canucks came alive, spurred by the splitting up of the Sedins and strong play by some of the Canucks bottom six players.  Two goals by Mike Santorelli, one in the third period and one in overtime, propelled the Canucks to victory and avoided what would have been an embarrassing defeat to a very young Flames’ squad.

Mike Santorelli Saves the Canucks (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)
Mike Santorelli Saves the Canucks (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

Sedin Magic Returns Saturday Night

The stars of the game for Vancouver were decidedly different between the Edmonton and Calgary games.  Against the Oilers, the Canucks’ stars led the way, with the Sedins’ Ryan Kesler, Jason Garrison and Roberto Luongo all submitting impressive performances.  Daniel had a goal, and assist, and six shots of goal, Henrik contributed three assists, Kesler a goal and nine SOGs, Garrison a goal, and assist, and six SOGs, and Luongo a very solid night in goal. The Sedins especially were magnificient, including two classic Sedin passing plays resulting in goals by Daniel and Hansen.

Bottom Six Come Through

The story was much different Sunday night, with many players lower on the depth chart making significant contributions.  Vancouver’s six goals came from Jannik Hansen (currently playing on the first line until Zack Kassian returns), David Booth, Dale Weise and two by Santorelli.  Eddie Lack had a strong performance in his first NHL start, keeping Vancouver in the game while the rest of the team was sleepwalking during the first two periods.

These contributions from other players will be critical to the Canucks’ success.  The Sedins will continue to have amazing performances like they did in the home opener, but they will not always be able to carry the team.  Better performances from players beyond the usual suspects will enable Vancouver to win games when the Sedins are kept off the score sheet.

Who is Mike Santorelli?

The hero of the game Sunday night was Mike Santorelli, a player with whom many casual fans may not be familiar.  Santorelli signed with Vancouver as a free agent in the offseason, after spending last year shuttling between Florida and the AHL San Antonio Rampage and then spending some time in Winnipeg (not to mention a very short stint with Tingsryds AIF in Sweden during the lockout).  He scored two NHL goals last year in 34 games, a figure he has now tied in three games with the Canucks.

Santorelli began his professional career in the Nashville organization as a sixth round draft choice.  He played in Milwaukee for two years, and had some success with the Admirals.  He scored 21 goals in his first pro season, and in his second year scored 27 and added 43 assists.  He played seven games with the Predators that year (2008-09) and 25 in 2009-10.

His first full year in the NHL was in 2010-11 with Florida.  Nashville traded him to the Panthers for a fourth round pick, and Santorelli responded with a solid season, with 20 goals and 21 assists in his first (and only) full season in the league.  Santorelli suffered a shoulder injury in preseason in 2011, and he was unable to return to form.  As a result, he was unable to duplicate this performance, with his totals falling to 9 goals and 2 assists in 2011-12 (in 60 games), and then his two goal season last year.

It is not surprising Santorelli looked to play with Vancouver, as he is a B.C. boy who played some junior hockey in Burnaby, Vernon and Langley before attending Northern Michigan University.

Santorelli can play center or wing, which is the kind of flexibility coaches love at the bottom of them lineup.  He has also had significant success in the shootout, a talent the Canucks could use after posting a 5-6 mark in the skills competition last year and losing one of its better participants, Mason Raymond.

The Canucks head back home now to host Cory Schneider and the New Jersey Devils and then the Montreal Canadians.   Then it is off on the road for seven straight, a grueling test for the team, a time when the depth of the team will be sorely tested.  More performances like the team posted in the third period Sunday night will be needed if this long trek is to be successful.