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Canucks week in review

Markus Naslund’s jersey retirement headlined a week that saw the Canucks win two of three games.  Although picking up five out of a possible six points on the week, the Canucks could not earn the victory for their former captain, losing 5-4 in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lightning the same night Naslund’s jersey was raised to the rafters of Rogers Arena alongside Stan Smyl and Trevor Linden.

The week for the Canucks kicked off Wednesday when the Anaheim Ducks visited Rogers Arena.  In what has quickly become a trend when the Canucks and Ducks play, the game was high scoring with the lead changing hands multiple times before the Canucks finally won in a shootout – their first shootout victory of the season.  Corey Perry paced the Ducks to a 1-0 lead early in the first period, before the Canucks responded with goals from Ryan Kesler and Jeff Tambellini only 11 seconds apart to take the lead.  The Ducks would seize the lead back in the second period on goals by Joffery Lupul and ageless Canuck killer Teemu Selanne and entered the third period up by a goal.  Rookie blue liner Cam Fowler would score what looked to be the deciding goal halfway through the third period, giving the Ducks a 4-2 lead, however, Daniel Sedin responded just over a minute later, cutting the Ducks lead to one and giving the Canucks a chance to tie in the final seven minutes of the game.  The Canucks would make good on that chance in the final minute when Ryan Kesler scored while lying on his back, bouncing the puck off of Jonas Hiller’s back with 22 seconds left in the third period, sending the game to overtime.  The extra frame would see chances for both teams, with both goalies having to make many key saves to send the game to the shootout.  Jeff Tambellini would score the only shootout goal for the Canucks, and Roberto Luongo – who has had a great deal of trouble with the shootout over his career – stopped all three Ducks shooters to give the Canucks the 5-4 win in what proved to be a very entertaining game. 

Following a very well done ceremony Saturday that included former teammates Mattias Ohlund, Brendan Morrison, Dan Cloutier, and Trevor Linden among others in attendance, Markus Naslund – with his number 19 in its permanent resting place at Rogers Arena – would watch his former team play one of the brightest young stars in the league in Steven Stamkos and his Tampa Bay Lightning.  The game was a back and forth affair, much like the Anaheim game Wednesday.  The Canucks scored first, to which the Lightning responded with three unanswered goals to take a 3-1 lead early in the second period.  After trading goals in the latter part of the period, the Canucks found themselves battling from two goals down in the final frame for a second straight game, and again would eventually battle back to tie.  Goals from Henrik Sedin and Keith Ballard would see the game go to overtime, however, a Ryan Kesler high sticking penalty late in the third period would mean the Canucks would need to kill off over a minute of Tampa Bay power play time to start overtime.  The Canucks couldn’t get it done in the extra frame, as four skaters on three the Lightning power play set up perfectly when Martin St. Louis drew the Canuck defenders towards him before passing to Steven Stamkos at the blue line who unloaded with an absolute howitzer of a one timer that he has become known for, beating Cory Schneider and spoiling the celebration for the Canucks, giving the Lightning the 5-4 victory.  There wouldn’t be time to dwell on the loss for the Canucks, as they had to hop straight on a plane and fly to Edmonton for a Sunday tilt with the Oilers.

Playing the second night of back to back games with travel between them, it would’ve been understandable for the Canucks to look tired in Edmonton.  That didn’t prove to be the case, however, as they came out attacking and allowed the Oilers a meager twelve shots on the night, picking up a 2-1 victory.  Alex Burrows opened the scoring in the first, finishing a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play that he and the Sedin Twins seem to provide on a near nightly basis.   The Canucks would carry the lead – along with the flow of the play – into the second period where Henrik Sedin would extend the lead to 2-0.  Playing a stifling game and allowing the Oilers little to no offensive chances, the Canucks could have easily extended the lead even further were it not for the strong play of Oilers net minder Devin Dubnyk.  The Oilers would be held without a shot in the third period until the final ten seconds, when rookie Jordan Eberle fired a snap shot past Roberto Luongo with only five seconds left, ending Luongo’s shutout bid on the night.  It would prove far too little too late for the Oilers, however, as the Canucks took two points home with them ahead of the beginning of this week, Wednesday versus Columbus.

The Canucks kick off their first of two games on the week Wednesday, when they are paid a visit by the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Columbus comes into Vancouver boasting one of the better road records in the Western Conference at 8-4-1.  Former Manitoba Moose head coach Scott Arniel has the Blue Jackets playing better than many expected them to so far this season and the Canucks will need to be cautious not to overlook them ahead of Saturday night’s circus when the Leafs are in town.  Saturday night should see a large contingent of blue and white in Rogers Arena as when the Maple Leafs pay a rare visit to Vancouver, there is always a good deal of Leaf support in the Vancouver crowd.  The Leafs are not a good road team - however - they have been playing well lately boasting recent victories over conference powers such as Boston, Washington, and Montreal.   The Canucks should be looking to take advantage of their scoring advantage over both the Blue Jackets and Leafs, as Vancouver is the fourth highest scoring team in the league with Columbus and Toronto both in the bottom third of NHL goal scoring.  If the Canucks can manage the first goal in both games, they should be able to dictate the flow of play and escape the week with two victories.

Game of the Week: Saturday vs. Toronto.  It’s always a circus when the Canucks and Leafs play each other.  Although there is no real recent history between the teams, as cities there are always bragging rights on the line.  The Canucks have held over the Leafs recently, winning the previous five meetings dating back to 2008, and will look to continue the trend on Saturday.

Player to Watch: Keith Ballard.  With the recent injury to Christian Ehrhoff, it has been Ballard who has stepped into an increased role and looked very comfortable in doing so.  After struggling to start the year, Ballard is starting to show why GM Mike Gillis gave up a first round draft pick and more to acquire him this summer.  Ballard is a well rounded defenseman and it will be interesting to see how much he can continue to develop while Ehrhoff is injured. 

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