[Every week Caylie King looks at the Canucks week that was and the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@CayKing.)]
This past week saw the Canucks’ five-game win streak end after a see-saw battle against the Nashville Predators. While everyone was preparing for a defensive battle, instead the game was an entertaining 6-5 loss. The Canucks then finished off the week by beating the Calgary Flames 5-1 for the second time this season.
26 GP, 15-10-1, 31 points (2nd in Northwest Division, 5th in Western Conference)
The Canucks signed Dan Hamhuis mainly because he is a great shutdown defenseman who plays against the other teams top lines night in and night out. Somewhat surprisingly, he’s started to chip in on offense more consistently this season too.
Hamhuis is currently on a 4-game point streak in which he has recorded an assist in each game; he is also a plus-3 in that span. After recording just 1 point in his first 10 games (an assist in the second game of the season), Hammer has 12 points in his last 16 games. The longest he’s gone without recording a point is 2 games.
The fact that he’s been contributing offensively is an added bonus to his defensive repertoire; an added bonus Canucks Nation openly welcomes.
Although the Canucks didn’t pluck Dale Weise off the waiver wire for his offensive talent, it would be nice if he were able to chip in once in a while.
Weise hasn’t scored in 19 games (unless you count Twitter) and his physical presence has been hit and miss recently. With the season-ending shoulder injury suffered by Aaron Volpatti, now is the time for Weise to step up and boost the physical factor that would help boost our bottom 6.
Tuesday December 6, 2011 vs. Colorado Avalanche (7:00 PM start, home)
The Canucks and Avalanche met just under two weeks ago – a 3-0 win for the good guys. Since that loss, the Avs have won 3 of their last 4 games, helping them to get back to .500 while sitting only 2 points out of 8th place in the Western Conference.
Ryan O’Reilly, in just his 3rd NHL season, is leading the Avs with 21 points (6G-15). He has been one of their best players recently, putting up 4 goals and 5 assists in his last 5 games; he is also a plus-7 in that same stretch. Needless to say, O’Reilly, whose career-high is 26 points in a season (achieved in each of the last two seasons), is on pace to have a career year. He should set new highs this season unless some crazy happens.
Thursday December 8, 2011 vs. Montreal Canadiens (4:30 PM start, away)
The Habs have had a lackluster start to the season and are currently sitting in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, though they are tied in points (27) with the 8th place Capitals and 9th place Senators. The Habs have gone 2-3-2 in their last 7 games.
The good news for the Canucks is that Montreal has yet to win a game against a Northwest Division opponent this season; they’re 0-2-1. The bad news is that the Habs won both meetings against the Canucks last year and were led by their star goalie, Carey Price.
The Habs are without one of their best defensemen, Andrei Markov, who has been suffering from knee problems. The club just announced that he will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery to clean up leftover debris and will be out for at least 3 more weeks.
Tomas Plekanec is leading the team with 22 points (6G-16A) while Max Pacioretty is leading the team with 10 goals.
Saturday December 10, 2011 vs. Ottawa Senators (4:00 PM start, away)
Chris Higgins was the overtime hero when the Senators visited Rogers Arena last month. Ottawa is another team in the East battling for playoff position and currently sit in 9th place; they are one game above .500.
The Sens have been decent against Western Conference opponents this season. So far, they are 4-3-1 against Western Conference foes, including a 3-1-1 against the Northwest Division.
Milan Michalek has had a good start to the season and leads the team with 16 goals. He is 3rd in team scoring with 22 points in 26 games and is currently on a 3-game point streak which had him scoring 4 goals.
The Special Special Teams
The powerplay and penalty kill were crucial to the Canucks’ success last season and they are relying on it again this season. Vancouver currently has the league’s best PP with a 26.1% efficiency (the second-ranked Toronto Maple Leafs PP has a 22.4% efficiency). They are also ranked 7th overall on the penalty kill with a 85.3% PK rate.
We saw last year how the Canucks’ special teams were key to winning close games. It’s just as important this season for them to maintain their smart and efficient play to keep pace with the close Western Conference race.