They have gone from scoring 14 goals in their first five games to scoring 23 goals in their last five games. Non-existent players have evolved into superstars and for the first time this season, the Canucks are starting to look and play like a team.
The first two months of the season were filled with inconsistency and disappointing losses. It was hard to predict the outcome of a Canucks game with all the ups and downs. Then, midway through November, the Canucks experienced déjà vu, as they gave up a bad loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, just like in the 2010-11 season. Last year, that was the turning point for the Canucks. This year, ever since that game, the Canucks have done nothing but score goals. It may just be the turning point for this season as well.
“As a team, we never feel like we’re out of it, no matter how many goals we’re down,” Christopher Higgins told Canucks.com. Higgins has been one of the Canucks best players, with eight goals and 17 points. “We know we have a lot of talent on this team and a lot of ability to score goals. When we’re playing the right way, even if we’re down a couple of goals, we’ll find a way.”
The Canucks have done just that, coming back from one to three goal deficits and shutting out teams despite some lousy periods. Who knows what got them going – maybe it was the line changes, or something Vigneault said or that game against Chicago. All that matters though, is the fact that they are able to make good plays and execute them well, finishing off what they started.
The Canucks are getting contributions from almost every single line, including their defence, which not all teams have been able do. Nine players on the team have 15 or more points. The contribution from the defence has become very significant. Alex Edler is third in points on the team with 20 and Sami Salo has continued to use his slap shot to score important goals from the point. They have also shown that they can score in every situation, which they struggled with for a few games as well. They can score during five-on-five, power play and penalty kill situations, the latter of which they proved on Thursday in Montreal.
Mason Raymond, in his third game of the season scored shorthanded during a Ryan Kesler hooking penalty, and although he may not be Sidney Crosby, his two points in three games are something to be proud of, as well as his speed and plays on the ice.
Also, the Sedins have continued dominating the game. With Daniel third in the league in points and Henrik sixth, they have been making brilliant plays and scoring many goals. Daniel got his fifth career hat trick on Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche, and the goals he scored were not garbage goals. They were cleanly set up and were finished off beautifully.
“Hank’s line, on a couple of occasions, did things on the ice that are just amazing,” head coach Alain Vigneault told the Vancouver Sun. “They make plays that the average players can’t make, or even think about making.”
The Canucks got a bit of a scare when they lost both Higgins and Booth to injuries, but they proved against Montreal that they have no trouble scoring without them. Players like Jannik Hansen and Cody Hodgson, who were barely noticeable on the ice earlier this season, have started to show up and produce goals. Hansen is tied for second on the team in goals with Alex Burrows. They both have nine. Hansen, the player who is known for scoring highlight reel worthy goals in practice has finally started to score those goals in games.
“He has got great speed, he is one of the best forecheckers on our team and he has a real good shot in practice and for some reason he hasn’t got the bounces the last few years to score goals,” Burrows told the Vancouver Sun. “Lately, he is playing with confidence…I wouldn’t be surprised to see him score 20.”
Hansen is in fact on his way to scoring 20 goals. He currently has the same amount of goals he had in the last two seasons and is sure to score many more, reaching a personal best.
Cody Hodgson, despite his little ice time, has also made a large impact on the Canucks’ goal production, which was extremely evident inMontreal. He scored in regular time as well as scoring the shootout winner. His six goals and 15 points have almost all come away from home. It often seems like Vigneault benches Hodgson every time he makes a bad play, but if that is the type of discipline and motivation Vigneault has chosen to use with Hodgson, it sure has paid off. Vigneault is giving Hodgson lots of chances as well, like in the shootout on Thursday.
“I just tried to read it and see what he gave me,” Hodgson told theVancouverSun about his shootout goal on Carey Price. “He’s a world-class goalie and it’s tough to get one by him. I just got lucky, I guess.
But only the good get lucky.
Although Canucks staff and players have insisted that there is no need to critique a win and although the Canucks have been scoring an abundance of goals, there are still aspects of their game that they need to improve on before they can become the championship team they were last year. But for now, I think they will take wins, no matter how messy, close or perfect, over anything else.