The beauty of analyzing a game like last night’s is you can skip past the first two periods. There wasn’t much there. Just leave them behind and get to the good stuff because there was plenty of it. It took a while to arrive but it was worth the wait. The Canucks and Rangers — and the officials, too — made up for two pretty uneventful periods in a big way over the final 20 minutes.
From Daniel and Henrik Sedin getting a 4:20 shift with all of the overlapping power plays early in the third, to Alain Vigneault showing up the referees with a rare display of un-AV-like behaviour, to Dan Boyle spoiling Ryan Miller’s shutout bid with a penalty shot goal, to one hell of a pass from Alex Edler to Daniel for the game winner, to the frightening sight of Dan Hamhuis taking a puck to the face — the final frame had it all. Count me among those who thought that was the most-eventful period of hockey played at Rogers Arena this season.
And when all was said and done, the Canucks had overcome their slow start to record a good 2-1 win against a Ranger team that controlled the flow of the game until it ran into penalty problems. The prevailing wisdom on Monday night was that the Canucks did what they had to do to beat Buffalo, but they’d have to be a whole lot better against the Rangers. Again, it took a while for the Canucks to find their stride, but Ryan Miller was strong from the outset and eventually the Sedins did what they’ve done all season. It’s just so mind-boggling to consider where this team would be without the Sedins right now.
Think about this for a second: Patrick Kane is doing things that haven’t been done in years in the NHL. He’s on an entirely different level right now and there are just three players in the league within 10 points of the Hawks superstar. And with his goal and assist last night, Daniel Sedin, at age 35 of is one of them. Daniel is now up to 13 goals and 20 helpers on the season to sit fourth in league scoring. Henrik’s not far behind with 29. And my fun fact for this blog is that right now Henrik has the identical point production to his rookie season of 2000-01 when he registered 9+20=29 in 82 games. As a wily veteran, he’s needed just 30 games to get to 9+20=29 this season.
Alex Edler registered his third two-point performance of the season. It’s no surprise that when he’s playing well the Canucks are 3-0 in those games (3-0 at LAK, 6-3 vs CHI & 2-1 vs NYR). And with his points on Wednesday, the veteran defenseman leaped past both Jannik Hansen and Radim Vrbata into third on the team in scoring with 6+11=17. I’ve been hard on Edler at times this season and it’s not because I don’t think he’s capable. In fact, the opposite is true. I’ve been critical because you see nights like last night and wonder why Edler can’t impact games more often. My argument isn’t about his ice-time or his salary. I hear from some who think he plays too much and many who feel he’s paid too much. But I don’t see those as issues at all. It’s simply that you get glimpses of what’s possible with this guy and want to see more or at least see it with more regularity. And when it’s there and on display as it was in the third which may have been his best period of the season — 9:53 of ice-time, a goal, an assist and four of his six shots on goal on the night came in the final frame — you wonder why he can’t play at that level and stay at that level for longer stretches. Whatever the reasons, it was fun to watch Edler do his thing last night. And to that Alex Edler, I say job well done and don’t be a stranger.
Canucks now pack their bags for the final six games before Christmas. I was looking through the media guide last night to see if the team had ever bolted town this far in advance of Santa’s big day. And sure enough they had. Once. Back in 1973-74, the Canucks played their final home game before Christmas on December 11th. But in 40+ years since then, the team has always had at least one game on home ice closer to Christmas than they have on this year’s schedule.
It’s interesting to note that the next time the Canucks are at home is Boxing Day against the Oilers. And that game starts a four-game stretch at Rogers Arena in which division rivals Edmonton, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Arizona come to town. It’s not quite the eight-game gauntlet the Canucks ran to start the New Year two seasons ago when they went 1-5-2 — a stretch that signaled the beginning of the end for John Tortorella. But those four games against the teams they are in a dog-fight with could have a massive impact on the way things shake down in terms of playoff positioning. Let’s see what the Canucks look like at the end of this six-game journey which starts in Chicago on Sunday. Tack on those first four after Christmas and this next 10 game stretch should reveal an awful lot about what the 2015-16 Vancouver Canucks really are. And perhaps more importantly it may determine the club’s course of direction in the second half of the season.
*the Canucks picked up their 29th and 30th points of the season in their 30th game. They are the first team in the NHL to reach the 30-game mark, so trying to figure out the Pacific Division playoff picture at this point is a stretch. All of the teams the Canucks are battling with hold games in hand (EDM has one, ARZ/SJS/ANA each have two, while CGY & LAK both have three games to make up on the Canucks
*the Canucks have won back to back games for the first time since October 30th at Arizona and November 2nd vs Philadelphia. That’s a stretch of 18 games. They’ll have a chance for their first three-game win streak of the season when they hit the ice in the Windy City on Sunday afternoon
*Canucks now have 21 power play goals on the season. They’ve scored 4 in first periods, 10 in seconds and after Edler’s 5-on-3 goal last night, the Canucks have converted on seven third period power plays
*Canucks are now 2/4 with a two-man advantage this season. Henrik Sedin scored in Dallas two weeks ago and Edler cashed in last night
*Canucks goal-output by game at the 30 game mark:
6-goals in a game: once
5 goals: four times
4 goals: twice
3 goals: six times
2 goals: 11 times
1 goal: on four occasions
0 goals: twice
And finally, I have to say I like what the Canucks get out of Alex Biega. He’s not flashy, but he plays hard and seems to make the right play more often than not. He’s not blessed with an abundance of size, but plays bigger than he’s listed. He’s a depth guy without a doubt at the NHL level, but he doesn’t look out of place when he gets the chance to play. Biega has suited up for five games this season and the Canucks have just one outright loss with him in the line-up (2-1-2). He made his big league debut mid-season last year with the Canucks facing an injury crisis on the back end and the Montreal native acquitted himself nicely then, too. In the games on his NHL resume, Biega has tasted outright defeat just three times (7-3-2), and while it’s a team game and never about an individual’s record, it’s pretty clear Biega’s not hurting the hockey club when he’s in uniform. With injuries to Dan Hamhuis and Luca Sbisa, expect Alex Biega to be part of the mix moving forward for the foreseeable future. And I’m perfectly okay with that.
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