The Canucks finished the 2010/2011 season with 19 regulation losses, a Herculean effort ensuring Vancouver finished with 10 more points and 5 more wins than any other club in the NHL. This year started as expected for the BC team with a typical poor October pushing the team towards the bottom of the table.
November started with continuous rotating wins and losses until the game that seemed to change the Canucks fortune, a 6-2 win on the 6th of November against the rival Blackhawks at the United Centre. Bouncing back from 2 losses in Minnesota and St Louis, the Canucks dominated Chicago and built some confidence, riding a 6-2 win/loss record since.
Goaltending is the current major issue in Vancouver hockey with Schneider sitting on a 3 game win streak with 2 shut-outs and only 2 goals against. In the past, seeing Schneider starting over a healthy Luongo would have been unheard of but Alain Vigneault mirrored the thoughts of the Vancouver faithful and stuck with the 25-year-old, allowing him to continue on his winning ways, while making hockey fans think of what the future might hold for the Canucks number one goaltending spot.
In defence, Alex Edler is still the
unlikely blue-line points leader with 16 in 23 games, double as many as veteran Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa. Edler and Salo have been the standouts so far with Dan Hamhuis solid when required. Kevin Bieksa has had a disappointing start to the season with a -5 rating in 23 games and only 1 goal to his name.
Aaron Rome has excelled since returning from his injury, registering 5 points in 7 games including 3 goals, increasing his career goal total to 5. Alex Sulzer and Andrew Alberts have been decent as depth defenceman, while Keith Ballard’s days in Vancouver seem to be numbered as he still hasn’t shown what is required of a 4.2 million dollar player. The latest rumours of a Ballard trade adding fuel to the fire of his departure.
The Sedin’s are once again being the Sedin’s, scoring a combined 49 points in 46 games. Not much more needs to be said about them.
The second line is slowly beginning to gel after a poor start to the season during the Kesler injury, with Kesler, Higgins and Burrows all playing well recently for the Canucks. Cody Hodgson is finally proving his top 10 draft pick worth and currently sits in 8th place for Vancouver points scored. David Booth is still being given time and patience to perfect his game but fans are starting to turn up the heat on the 4.25 million forward, expecting a big increase in point production in the near future.
Jannik Hansen has proven his versatility, playing both on the second and third lines as well as on the top line alongside the Sedin twins, scoring 10 points in the process. Manny Malhotra has had a slow start to 2011/12 as he still seems to be recovering from his serious eye injury suffered last late season. Dale Weise looks to be a player with a higher upside than the Victor Oreskovich of old while Aaron Volpatti has provided the Canucks with some much-needed aggression on the 4th line, albeit seeming the obvious choice to be sent back to the AHL affiliate Wolves when Mason Raymond rejoins the squad.
The only problem with Maxim Lapierre is that there is not two of him. Lapierre is currently looking like one of the best bottom 6 forwards the Canucks have had in a long time, showing skill, aggression and determination in every shift on the ice. Lapierre’s troubles of the past seem to be resolved and the current Canucks team would not have the same grit without the 6’2, Quebec native.
The season did not start too well with the Canucks missing 3 regular top 6 players in Kesler, Burrows and Raymond. Kesler and Burrows seem now to have settled back in to the squad and Roberto Luongo is now fully recovered from his upper body injury. Mason Raymond, who is lucky to be walking let alone playing hockey again after suffering a fractured vertebrae last season, is skating well and can be expected to rejoin the team within a few games.
Alex Burrows suffered a finger after being slashed by San Jose’s Joe Thornton on November 26th and may miss a game or two while Alex Edler, who suffered an upper body injury in the same Sharks game, has begun practicing and told the media that is healthy and ready to go for the game against the Blue Jackets on November 29th.
The Canucks will play four games straight at Rogers Arena starting November 29th against Columbus, December 1st vs Nashville, December 4th vs Calgary and December 6th vs Colorado followed by a 5 game road trip against Montreal, Ottawa, Columbus, Carolina and Toronto. On paper, the next 9 games look good for at least a 5 win record but the Canucks have to be careful to ride their current form and not become complacent if they are to even come close to the 54 wins of 2010/2011.