It has been obvious over the Canucks’ past four games that something is different – they are on a four game win streak, with their back-up goalie on a roll and a lot of goal production from each line. The biggest difference is that the team is showing up ready to play. They are there physically and mentally, making the right moves and passes and showcasing their skills, playing like the team that the city of Vancouverknows and loves.
There are several players who have shown up to play and have given it their all in pretty much every single game this season. Among them are Chris Higgins, Alex Burrows and Cory Schneider.
Acquired in a trade along with Maxim Lapierre halfway through last season, Higgins has done nothing but improve. With his incredible work ethic, he has 12 points, seven of which are goals. Just before the Canucks’ last game on Saturday he was tied with Burrows and Henrik Sedin for the most goals on the team. He is on pace for scoring at least 27 goals this season and the last time Higgins had that many goals was when he was with the Montreal Canadiens in 2007/08. The Canucks are the fifth team Higgins has played for since 2008, and he is playing his best hockey with them.
“Chris has been one of our really good utility players and I use him everywhere. I use him in major assignments and I always know that I’m going to get a solid effort from him,” head coach Alain Vigneault told the Vancouver Sun.
Higgins’ consistency is obvious everywhere on the ice, as he as been effective during even strength play as well as on the powerplay and the penalty kill.
Alex Burrows is another extremely hard working hockey player, who is often criticized for his “dirty” play. His skill and hard work is often underrated as he is most well known for the Stéphane Auger referee incident and his bite on Patrice Bergeron during the Stanley Cup Finals. However, what he should be most well known for is his work ethic and goal scoring. It is unusual to not see Burrows skating at full speed each shift. Do not forget that he was the player who scored both goals for the Canucks in game seven of round one, including the overtime winner, then 24 hours later witnessed the birth of his first child, something which did not get in the way of his consistency and effort.
On Wednesday November 23, Vigneault put Burrows back on the first line with the Sedins after his short stint with Kesler in an attempt to produce more goals. Burrows and the Sedins have incredible chemistry, and with Burrows’ rough style of play, in which he is almost always in front of the net, the Canucks’ first line is well balanced. His seven goals and 10 points this season have all been on the road.
It is impossible to write about the Canucks right now without mentioning Cory Schneider. “Schneiderman” has two shutouts in his last four games, with a goals against average of 2.02 and a save percentage of 0.931 which rival Luongo’s numbers. He is coming off a fantastic 43 save performance againstSan Joseand is playing what is possibly his best hockey ever, but he continues to remain humble.
“It’s nice they have some faith in me, but again it’s all about my performance. It’s on me to keep playing well and give them that option instead of limiting them to playing Lou,” Schneider told the Vancouver Sun. “The last two games have been more about my team than me, anyway.”
The goalie conspiracy has continued to grow inVancouver as Schneider has now played in 12 games (starting 10) while Luongo has played 13.
“He’s unreal. He’s working so hard in practice and during the games, he just deserves it,” Lapierre told Canucks.com about Schneider. Like Higgins and Burrows, Schneider works hard every game, never failing to make eye-popping saves and provide solid goaltending, the latter of which is a rare thing in the NHL these days.
“He’s been our best player each and every night,” Ryan Kesler said to Canucks.com.
Higgins, Burrows and Schneider all have different roles and bring something different to the Canucks. However, the similarity between them is that they all want to play – Higgins has been playing hard and has proven that he belongs here and that GM Mike Gillis’ trade was worth it. Burrows has been playing hard, which earned him his normal spot back on the first line. Of course, every goalie wants to play, so Schneider’s reason to play hard is self-explanatory. This willingness and determination to play is bringing out the best in these and several other members of the Canucks, and has been evident in their work ethic each and every time they step onto the ice.