[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.
[Every Sunday, Caylie King looks at the Canucks week that was and the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@CayKing).]
8 GP, 4-3-1, 9 points (2nd in Northwest Division, 6th in Western Conference)
Last week, the Canucks were shut out against the Rangers, the second time they’ve been held off the scoresheet this season. The boys were the better team for most of the game, but were unable to capitalize on their chances against King Lundqvist. The Canucks also pounded the Predators – a lopsided 5-1 win – and won an overtime squeaker against the Wild, thanks to Sami Salo and his balls of steel.
Reigning Art Ross champion and Ted Lindsay award winner, Daniel Sedin, has had a great start to the season. He currently has 12 points (4G-8A) to lead the team in scoring. He and brother Henrik have combined for 22 points (7G-15A) already – to put that into perspective both have generated the same number of points than the next 5 highest scoring players on the Canucks combined!
The defensive pairing of Kevin Bieksa and Keith Ballard is a risk and reward type of relationship. They are both great skaters and willing to join the rush but they have also had trouble getting back and tying up their men. It’s been evident that Keith Ballard is playing some of his best hockey in a Canucks uniform; he is skating well, he gets into the dirty areas and he likes to chirp and get under the skin of opposing players. That being said, KB3 and KB4 have the worst plus/minus ratings on the team. They only have 1 goal and 1 assist between the two of them. Either they need to change their mentality to defensive first, join the rush later or AV needs to mix up the pairings and put a more stay-at-home defenseman with Ballard and maybe reunite the shutdown pair of Hamhuis-Bieksa.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011 vs. Edmonton Oilers (6:30 PM start, away)
In their last meeting just over a week ago, the Canucks witnessed the talent of young star Ryan Nugent-Hopkins when he scored his first career hat-trick. In that contest, the Canucks overcame several one-goal deficits and battled back to win the game 4-3. Since then, the Oilers have points in 3 of 4 games and are sitting just outside the top 8 in the Western Conference.
The Oilers have yet to beat a Northwest Division opponent this season (0-2-2). With a team-leading 5 goal and 7 points, RNH is having the best possible start to his rookie season. The Canucks saw his hockey sense and goal scoring instinct first-hand so perhaps the Canucks would want to pay special attention to number 93.
Thursday October 26, 2011 vs. St. Louis Blues (7:00 PM start, home)
The St. Louis Blues are on a bit of a streak having won both of their weekend games against the Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers.
The Blues had a losing record against the Northwest division last season going 7-10-3, including a 2-2 tie against the Canucks.
Against the Canucks last season, Alex Steen had 5 points (4G-1A). The Blues will look for much of the same as he and new comer Jason Arnott lead the team in scoring with 6 points (3G-3A) and 7 points (3G-4A), respectively.
There seems to be a legitimate battle in net for the Blues as their backup Brian Elliott has gone 3-0 this season with a 2.06 GAA and a .935 save percentage. On the other hand, starter Jaroslav Halak has struggled with a 1-4 record with a 3.47 GAA and .835 save percentage.
Saturday, October 29, 2011 vs. Washington Capitals (7:00 PM start, home)
Alexander the Gr8 and the Washington Capitals have had a dream start to the season, going 7-0-0 so far, including a 7-1 beating of the Detroit Red Wings; at the time, the Caps and the Wings were the only 2 unbeaten teams in the league.
It’s always exciting to see Eastern Conference teams play in Vancouver, it’s especially exciting to see the likes of team scoring leader, Nicklas Backstrom (2G-8A-10P), Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich, and of course, the always entertaining Ovechkin. The Caps addressed a major issue in the off-season, boosting their blueline with the additions of Dennis Wideman, who is second in team scoring with 7 points (2G-5A), and veteran Roman Hamrlik.
With a solid veteran presence on the back end, their always potent firepower up front, and now, a consistent goalie in Tomas Vokoun, the Caps are hoping to finally translate their regular season production to postseason success.
A Shoutout to the 4th Line
Having a good top-six is needed to win games, but having a gritty, hardworking bottom-six who can change the course of game is vital as well. Do we all remember the effect that Shawn Thornton had on the Bruins?
I believe the line of Volpatti-Lapierre-Weise is the best 4th line that the Canucks have had in a long time. These three gentlemen have been the biggest surprises for me this season. They are not afraid to play physically and get to the dirty areas. They’re able to maintain a strong forecheck, and most importantly, they’re not a liability when they’re on the ice. The 4th line’s energy and enthusiasm can change the atmosphere of the game with one great shift. They have the ability to get the bench going with one bone crushing hit. If they continue to play the way they are as well as chip in offensively every now and then, the issue of the revolving door, that we saw all of last season, will no longer be a problem.
Today’s quickies, a bunch of links, clips, news and other tidbits about the Vancouver Canucks.
Photo credit: ESPN