[Every week, Caylie King previews the Canucks week that was and reviews the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@CayKing).]
The Canucks have lost 3 of their last 4 games and 5 of their last 7 games. Last Tuesday, potential first-round opponent Dallas Stars came into Rogers Arena and easily took two points away from the Canucks in a 5-2 win. On Thursday, the Canucks played one of their better games in a few weeks won an exciting 3-2 affair against the Winnipeg Jets. And then on Saturday, the Canucks started off well enough against the Habs before collapsing completely in the third period and losing 4-1.
69 GP, 42-19-8, 92 points (1st in Northwest Division, 2nd in Western Conference)
Chris Higgins seems to have gotten over his battles with staph infections and has easily been one of the Canucks’ best and most consistent players in the last few weeks. He has 7 points (2G-5A) in his last 7 games and has been noticeable in every game. His hard forecheck and never-give-up attitude gives opposing teams a lot to handle. His hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Last week, coach Alain Vigneault reunited him with Ryan Kesler and David Booth, and he’s rejuvenated that line.
The real question is, who hasn’t struggled recently?
Henrik Sedin has 0 points in his last 8 games and is a minus-3 in that stretch. Daniel Sedin has 1 assist in his last 8 games and is also a minus-3 in that stretch. The Sedins have been largely invisible, and while they seem to produce the odd good shift, they haven’t been nearly as consistent and are clearly struggling to find the back of the net.
Among the forwards, Alex Burrows has 1 goal in his last 11 games, Mason Raymond is goalless in 6 games, Jannik Hansen is goalless in 12 games, and Max Lapierre is pointless in 9 games.
In the back end, Alex Edler may have 2 goals in his last 3 games, but he’s really struggled on the defensive side of things. Against the Habs, he was running around and couldn’t settle down defensively. His play has considerably declined since the All-Star break and his mistakes on the ice have become evident and visible.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012 vs. Phoenix Coyotes (7:00 PM start, home)
After posting a 10-0-1 record for the month of February, the Phoenix Coyotes have struggled in the month of March with just 1 win in 7 games (1-4-2). That said, they’re still holding on to the 7th place in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, and if the playoffs started today, they would face the Canucks in the first round.
This will be the fourth and last meeting of the regular season between the two clubs with the Canucks having won 2 of the first 3 meetings. In the season series, Keith Yandle leads the Coyotes with 2 points (1G-1A) and Ryan Kesler leads the Canucks with 3 points (1G-2A).
The Canucks have a 7-3-4 record against Pacific division opponents.
Radim Vrbata is tied for second in team scoring with 56 points (30G-26A) and has a team-best, plus-24 rating. He’s already set a career-high in goals and has tied his career best in points. He also leads the NHL with 10 game-winning goals for the season. However, like the rest of the Coyotes, he’s been cold recently and only has 1 assist in his last 5 games.
Saturday, March 17, 2012 vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (7:00 PM start, home)
Considering the Blue Jackets are in last place in the Western Conference, this could be a good game for the Canucks to get 2 points and regain some traction.
This is the two teams’ last meeting of the season with the Canucks holding a 2-0-1 record against the Blue Jackets in their first 3 games against each other. Cory Schneider was in net for both Canucks wins; Roberto Luongo recorded the shootout loss.
Rick Nash leads the Blue Jackets in goals (24) and points (47) for the season.