The new look Canucks blue line has us with a lot to get excited about. While defensively they’ve been mediocre at best, offensively they’ve given us a lot to look at and contemplate. Last year we struggled with secondary scoring, and the blue line’s point shot was the NHLs best kept secret. With a goalie like Luongo in net, 99% of the games he starts, he’s going to be able to handle whatever’s thrown at him, and you can run an offensive minded defense. Luongo in net gives the Canucks D the presence of mind that they can get away with the missed defensive responsibility, because Luongo (as he did last season when this happened often) is there to bail you out.
So if we establish that Luongo can handle the odd defensive breakdown which is a result of an offensive chance, and we have a blue line that is mostly rock solid (these first 3 games notwithstanding – last season I’d say they were more than respectable) it’s safe to say that an offensive defense like the one we’ve seen so far this year is a positive development. The fact that not only Salo is shooting rockets, but Ehrhoff and Bieksa are getting their shots in too only bodes well for the rest of the season. Once Schneider gets in the lineup, I would argue the Canucks have one of the best shooting and most dangerous offensive blue lines in the league when you look at the number of people who can shoot the puck, and shoot it hard. So far this season Bieksa, Mitchell and Ehrhoff all have goals from point shot blasts. Salo was the Canucks hardest shot for a number of years, Edler took that title from him last year. How many teams can boast 5 blue line blasting defenseman like that? Add Schneider to the mix? Just saying.
Now, when you look at the Canucks first 3 games you’ll see Calgary was held to 23 shots, Colorado to 27, and Columbus to 24. Last year he consistently faced over 30 shots, and it wasn’t in small bursts after long periods of inactivity. In all three games the Canucks had more than 35 shots. In fact, through the first three games, the Canucks are averaging over 40 shots a game (43 and 42 vs Columbus and Calgary respectively). The result of this means that Luongo hasn’t faced as many shots as he’s used to facing, and he goes long stretches without seeing the puck. Now is this a result of a good offense? Or a Canucks defense that’s breaking up the play before it hits the blue line, or just inside the blue line before the other team gets a chance?
In the Calgary game Luongo let in 3 goals on the first 7 shots. In Columbus he let in 4 straight goals all that were a result of a quick change the other way after he hadn’t seen much action because the Canucks had spent lots of time fore-checking in the offensive zone. Both instances he was “cold” so to speak and while the Calgary game there’s more room to argue about defensive breakdowns, against Columbus that’s not so much the case. A good defense is one that’s hard to come by, a shut down defense is what every team dreams of, but if a shut down defense limits Luongo from seeing shots, and a lack of shots throws him off his game, where does that leave us? It seems ironic to want a defense that allows shots through, but Luongo has said time and time again he plays better when he gets more action, and there’s a reason he insists on letting the back-pedalling defenseman let him play the shot.
I’m not hanging Luongo out to dry here, it was one bad game. But time and time again we’ve seen him get better the more he’s had to work. That’s proverbially why he has a slow start each season. He just needs more games to get into the groove of things.
Food for thought. Your opinion?