Photo credit: Vancouver Sun
After last year’s career years from Mikael Samuelsson and Ryan Kesler and breakout year from Mason Raymond, it was no surprise that the bar was set high for the Canucks’ second line. But any realistic fan would have expected there to be some drop off. And though we expected drop off, we certainly didn’t expect to see as steep of a drop off as we did from the trio at the start of the season.
That all changed with the introduction of one Jeff Tambellini.
Tambellini, who’s been trying to prove his versatility, has gone from Sedin trigger man to bottom-six winger and now back to the top-six in a comfortable spot alongside Kesler and Raymond. When the Canucks’ second line was struggling to make an impact and the team was looking like a one-line team again, that concept of forward depth seemed more like a myth than reality. Thanks to the exodus of Peter Schaefer, some juggling around and some mixing of things up, Tambellini got the call up and has made the Canucks second line visible again.
Samuelsson, who only seems to respond to relegation or a good kick in the ass, is actually noticeable for the first time all season. For a while, Samuelsson looked like he was floating around the ice and missing shots on net. Since being relegated to the third line on Manny Malhotra’s wing the last few games, he’s elevated his game back up has started creating odd man rushes and scoring chances.
The real story however is the play of Tambellini, who fit well with the Sedins, but when called upon this time has catalyzed Kesler and Raymond. Since his return from a seven-game stint with the Moose, he’s had points in every game – 4 points in three games to be exact. In the same three games, Kesler has 4 points and Raymond has 5 points. To compare, the trio of Kesler, Raymond and Samuelsson combined for just 3 points in their previous three games before that. Tambellini’s energy and speed has jumpstarted that second line and given the Canucks a legitimate secondary scoring threat.
Tambellini’s audition has been exceptional and I think it’s safe to say he’s very close to earning himself a permanent spot on this roster.
Oh, and the Canucks are 8-0-1 with him in the lineup.