Oh, the winds of change swept through the nation’s capital Friday night, as the league-leading Vancouver Canucks outclassed and outscored last year’s President’s Trophy winning Capitals 4-2 at the Verizon Center.
The way things are going for this Vancouver team, they might as well have taken the trophy on their way out of the building.
With their franchise-record 17-game unbeaten streak snapped the night before in New York, the Canucks quickly got back to their winning ways and continue to assert themselves as the team to beat in this 2010-2011 campaign.
Daniel Sedin scored two more goals to up his total to 27, and Roberto Luongo stepped back in the crease after a night off to stop 25 shots and defeat a Washington team that – despite its struggles this season – had a 15-4-5 home record heading into the game.
“We’re not going to win every game – the important thing is how you respond,” Roberto Luongo told the Washington media post-game. “It wasn’t an easy situation with back-to-back games, coming in and playing a good team like the Capitals. It’s a good effort for us tonight,” said Luongo.
With the win, Vancouver maintains its three-point lead over the Philadelphia Flyers in the overall standings, and extended its lead in the West to four points over the Detroit Red Wings.
Elite company? Yes.
Close company? Not necessarily.
With a little less than half the regular season left, the Canucks are poised to distance themselves further from the pack – and that includes both Detroit and Philly.
This team is healthy, Detroit’s is not. Tomas Holmstrom is the latest Wing to go on the IR after breaking his hand Friday night in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets and is expected to miss four weeks. Starting goalie Jimmy Howard may also miss games after taking a shot to the knee, with third-stringer Joey MacDonald taking the reins.
The mission in Motown for the rest of the season will be to get healthy for a long playoff run, and if past years are any indication – rest key guys down the stretch.
Philadelphia is flying high and will be getting Chris Pronger back, but will have to slug it out too often with the other beasts in the East. Vancouver, on the other hand, will continue to feast on divisional opponents like a killer whale devours plankton. The Canucks are 11-1 against the Northwest, and have another twelve divisional dinners left on the menu.
But most importantly, this is a Canucks team that is playing like it has something to prove after past playoff shortcomings.
“Every game seems like a playoff game right now,” Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said to the Washington media following Friday’s game. “The standings are so tight whether you’re in the east or in the west. We’re trying to put our best game on the ice every night just like every other team. We’re no different.”
As much as Vigneault would like to downplay his team’s view from the top, his game-by-game mentality will ensure they stay there.
So there you have it folks – your 2010-2011 President’s Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks.
Now, about those playoffs…