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Canucks pick up points despite scoring struggles

The Canucks kicked off their 2010-2011 season Saturday with a 2-1 shootout loss to the LA Kings in a game they should have won had they been able to score a 2-0 goal to put away the Kings in the third period.  Roberto Luongo led the team with his outstanding play which continued into Monday’s 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers – another game in which the offense struggled to find the back of the net.

 The Canucks came out with a strong effort on Saturday, playing a physical game sparked by offseason acquisitions Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhuis.  The game remained scoreless into the second period when Christian Ehrhoff banged home a Daniel Sedin pass on the power play.  The 1-0 lead for the Canucks held up late into the third period when the Canucks inability to cash in on two early period power plays cost them.  Justin Williams scored a garbage goal with under five minutes remaining in the game to send the Canucks season opener to overtime and eventually a shootout.

 In the overtime the flow of play was very fast and both teams traded chances off the rush before much maligned Canucks D man Kevin Bieksa took an untimely interference penalty in the offensive zone.  The Kings maintained possession of the puck in the Canucks zone for the entire duration of the power play and should’ve ended the game if not for the tireless efforts of Keith Ballard and a few massive saves by Luongo.  The Canucks weathered the Kings storm and sent the game to a shootout which they would eventually lose.  Mason Raymond failed to cash in on a deke where he looked to have Jonathan Quick beaten.  LA followed up with an Anze Kopitar goal.  Ryan Kesler could not convert before defenseman Jack Johnson spoiled the Canucks opening night party, winning the game for the Kings with a wrist shot that beat Luongo low blocker side.

 Monday’s game against Florida saw much of the same script as the Los Angeles game, with a different outcome.  The Canucks skated to a 1-0 lead halfway through the first period when Daniel Sedin banged in a rebound off a faceoff won by his brother Henrik.  The Canucks would again carry, but fail to expand on a 1-0 lead before Florida tied the game late in the second period when Rostislav Olesz was credited with a goal that bounced off of Alex Edler’s skate past a helpless Luongo to tie the game. 

 The Canucks came out a little flat in the third period, and were outshot by the Panthers 19-12 in the frame.  Florida had multiple opportunities to take the lead and were continually stonewalled by Luongo who looks to have shaken his previous early season demons.  At 14:52 of the period Daniel Sedin capitalized on a scramble in front, poking home his second goal of the night that would prove to be the game winner, giving the Canucks their first victory on the season.

 The Canucks started the 2010-2011 season a much tighter squad defensively.  They are a more physical team, and Roberto Luongo looks to be on top form.  The questions surrounding the team after the opening weekend lie around the top ranked offense of last season.  Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond have yet to find the score sheet, and the new look third line anchored by Manny Malhotra, while very good defensively, has provided nothing offensively as of yet.  For the Canucks to remain successful they’ll need the Kesler and Malhotra lines to find their offensive stride and start scoring.  Failing that, the Canucks are – as it stands right now – in a similar position to one they found themselves only a couple years prior: with an all star goaltender and a great defensive team that struggles mightily to score goals.  It’s much too early to write off the offense at this point, but following a season where so many forwards put up career numbers; there is reason for concern over whether or not many of those forwards can duplicate those bests.

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