Canucks Week in Review
The Canucks won three of four games in a busy week that included a three game road trip. Monday in St. Louis the Canucks bested the Blues 3-1. Wednesday saw the Canucks play Detroit in a battle for first place in the Western conference. Despite holding a late lead, the Canucks lost 5-4 in overtime in a very entertaining game. One night later Vancouver avenged the loss to Detroit, beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 7-1 before heading home for the final game of the week Sunday, a game which saw the Canucks come back from two goals down to beat the Oilers.
The Canucks arrived in St. Louis on Monday riding a three game winning streak. The game remained scoreless throughout the first period, with the Canucks playing very well defensively, holding the Blues to only three shots in the period. Fourth liner Aaron Volpatti scored his first career NHL goal midway through the second period to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead. Vancouver extended the lead just two minutes later when red hot Ryan Kesler netted his 16th goal of the season. The Blues cut the lead to one at 17:57 of the second on an Alex Steen goal, however, that would be the only goal St. Louis would score on the night. Jeff Tambellini scored on the power play late in the third to give the Canucks a 3-1 victory. Solid defense was the key to victory for the Canucks, as they allowed the Blues only 16 shots in the game. The Canucks headed to Detroit for a meeting with the Red Wings on Wednesday in a battle for first overall in the Western Conference.
The highly anticipated game Wednesday versus the Red Wings lived up to its billing as the Canucks and Wings battled in a high scoring game. The Canucks surrendered the first goal of the game for the first time in the last two weeks when Danny Cleary scored on a two on one on a set up by former Canuck Todd Bertuzzi. Henrik Sedin tied the game just 1:11 into the second period on the Canucks top ranked power play before Valtteri Filppula buried an opportunistic rebound off of Roberto Luongo to regain the lead for Detroit. Goals by Daniel Sedin and former Red Wing Mikael Samuelsson gave the Canucks a 3-2 lead heading into the third period. Early in the third Henrik Zetterberg tied the game on a shot from along the goal line that somehow found its way past Roberto Luongo. The game remained tied through the midway point of the third despite both teams generating quality chances before Ryan Kesler set up Jeff Tambellini who fired a laser beam of a wrist shot over the glove of Jimmy Howard giving the Canucks a late 4-3 lead. The lead was short-lived, however, as Alex Burrows took a cross checking penalty with five minutes left in the game. Detroit’s ageless wonder Nick Lidstrom drifted in from the left point and found himself wide open to bury a rebound past Luongo to tie the game and send it into overtime. The teams traded chances in overtime before Alex Edler and Christian Ehrhoff both misplayed the puck in the defensive zone, leading to it ending up on the stick of Henrik Zetterberg who wasted no time putting a slap shot on Luongo that probably should’ve been saved, but wasn’t. The Red Wings won an entertaining game 5-4 and the Canucks would have no time to dwell, playing the next night in Columbus.
Canuck fans had every reason to believe Thursday night’s game in Columbus was a classic example of a “trap” game for the team. Going in to play an opponent they should beat, having played the previous night and having to travel from Detroit to Columbus, the team would surely be tired. There was also the fear of a letdown in play after such an emotional test for the Canucks against another conference power the previous night. The Canucks showed no signs of being anything but focused on the task at hand, laying a beat down on the Blue Jackets. Starting the game with 17 shots in the first before allowing the Blue Jackets any, the Canucks looked angry and motivated by their loss on Wednesday. Three goals in the first (Alex Burrows, Christian Ehrhoff, and Raffi Torres) would be followed by three in the second (Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler, and Henrik Sedin) and the Canucks would find themselves up 6-1 after two periods. Raffi Torres would add the Canucks seventh goal of the night before Columbus scored two late goals on Cory Schneider to make the final 7-3 in a game the Canucks thoroughly dominated to earn five of a possible six points on their three game road trip.
The Oilers paid a visit to Rogers Arena Sunday to close out the week for the Canucks. After a slow start which resulted in two Oiler second period goals the Canucks would slowly start to take over the flow of play. A Jeff Tambellini goal with under a minute remaining in the second period would send the Canucks to the third down and give them the momentum they needed to complete the comeback over their division rivals. Mikael Samuelsson tied the game early in the third before Kevin Bieksa capped off a shift dominated by the Sedin twins with under a minute left in the game, firing home a slap shot from the point and giving the Canucks the 3-2 victory.
The Canucks continued rolling last week, earning points in all four games they played thanks to solid all around play. In St. Louis the defense was key, while in Detroit and Columbus the offense was responsible for the team's collection points before capping off the week with an all around good effort to beat the Oilers. With at least a point in nine consecutive games, Vancouver is the hottest team in the league and will look to keep rolling, entering a week that sees them play three tough games.
The week begins Tuesday for the Canucks, when the Philadelphia Flyers are in town. The Flyers and the Canucks are first and second in the league respectively in league point percentage (percentage of games earning a point). Philadelphia has not lost in Vancouver in over two decades and the Canucks will have to be at their very best to send Philly out of Vancouver with a loss for the first time since 1989. After the Flyers are in town the Canucks head south to face the Dallas Stars. The Stars have been one of the surprising teams this season, sitting second in the Western Conference under former Canucks coach Marc Crawford. The Canucks close out the week Sunday against division rival Colorado. The Avalanche have cooled recently, after staying close to Vancouver for the division lead all season long. The Canucks now boast a four point lead over Colorado in the Northwest division and will look to put the Avalanche further in the rear view mirror.
Game of the week: Tuesday vs. Philadelphia. The Canucks and Flyers are arguably the two best teams in the NHL through a third of the season. This game should prove a measuring stick game for both teams. The Flyers play a physical, high scoring brand of hockey much like the Canucks have done this season and if both teams bring their best; this could be one of the games of the year.
Player to watch: Roberto Luongo. Luongo will get back in the net after back to back Cory Schneider wins the last two games. Luongo has had a stellar December overall, but is coming off a game in Detroit where he let in two bad goals. The Canucks will need Luongo to continue his strong play with the schedule getting tougher in the weeks to come.