[Every week, Caylie King looks at the Canucks week that was and the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@cayking).]
The Canucks started the week with a shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks and followed it up with a dominating 3-0 win over division rivals, the Minnesota Wild. Then came the most anticipated game of the season – a rematch against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, Boston Bruins. And it didn’t disappoint. Despite being hyped up all week long, it lived up to its expectations and more. It felt like we were right back in the Stanley Cup Finals, and though while the Canucks prevailed, the end result was just another two points in the standings. There were big fights, huge saves and controversial hits. It doesn’t matter what team you cheered for, this was a game for the ages.
42 GP, 26-13-3, 55 points (1st in Northwest Division, 1st in Western Conference)
Now in his 5th season with the Canucks, Jannik Hansen has really come into his own. He does the small things and wins the little battles, and his speed, grit and determination is evident in every shift. The Honey Badger is already having a career year with 12 goals and is just 6 points from tying his career-high of 29 points.
Manny Malholtra has seemed to have lost some of his edge this season after overcoming a horrendous eye injury last season. Although he sits 3rd in the NHL in faceoffs (58.0%), other parts of Manny’s game have deteriorated. He doesn’t seem to be as aggressive or has often struggled to win the one-on-one battles. He only has 3 goals and 7 assists in 42 games – a pace of about 20 points, which would be his worse season statistically since the 2002-2003 season. That said, it’s worth noting that Uncle Manny’s faceoff skills and work on the penalty kill are still critical to the Canucks.
Monday, January 9, 2012 vs. Florida Panthers (4:30 PM start, away)
The Canucks recalled Mike Duco on Sunday, and it’s perhaps fitting that he will make his Canucks debut against his former team, the Florida Panthers.
Leading the Southeast Division and sitting in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference, it’s safe to say that the Panthers have been one of the biggest surprises in the first half of the season. Much of their success is due to big off-season acquisitions like Kris Versteeg (38 points in 40 games), Tomas Fleischmann (34 points in 41 games) and Brian Campbell (33 points, 2nd among all NHL defensemen), just to name a few. These are not the same Panthers from previous seasons; they have built a whole new identity and look to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999-2000 season.
In last season’s meeting, the Canucks came out on top with a 2-1 victory. Daniel Sedin scored both goals and Roberto Luongo made 41 saves for the win against his former club.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (4:30 PM start, away)
The Lightning are currently on a 3-game losing skid and have not had the success that most expected after making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. They currently sit in 13th place in the conference.
In last season’s meeting in Vancouver, Steven Stamkos scored 3 points (2G-1A), including the overtime winner.
Despite his teams’ struggles, superstar Steven Stamkos is having another good season, averaging over a point a game. He leads the team in goals (28 – also tops in the NHL) points (45). In his last 6 games, he has 8 goals, including 2 game-winning goals.
Thursday, January 12, 2012 vs. St. Louis Blues (5:00 PM start, away)
If the Panthers are the early surprise in the East, the St. Louis Blues are definitely one of the surprise teams in the Western Conference. Currently, they’re sitting in 4th place in the tough Western Conference. They have won their last 3 games, outscoring their opponents 12-4.
The Blues have won both meetings this season against the Canucks. T.J. Oshie leads the team with 2 goals, 2 assists and a plus-4 rating in those matchups. Brian Elliott recorded both wins for the Blues.
David Backes is tied for the team lead in goals (13) with T.J. Oshie and Alex Steen. He also leads the team in points (29). Backes has an active 3-game point streak (2G-2A-4P).
Sunday, January 15, 2012 vs. Anaheim Ducks (6:00 PM start, away)
Considering their firepower up front, it’s shocking how badly the Ducks are doing this season. Despite changing their coach, the results haven’t changed much and they currently sit in 14th place in the Western Conference.
The Ducks and Canucks have already played each other twice this season – both in Anaheim – with both teams winning one game each. Bobby Ryan and Andrew Cogliano both have a goal and assist against the Canucks this season; Daniel Sedin leads the Canucks with 2 goals, 2 assists and a plus-5 rating.
Corey Perry, the league’s reigning MVP, is tied with Bobby Ryan for the team lead with 15 goals and is second in scoring with 32 points.