Dec 032008
 
Dec 022008
 

I’m trying to look for a silver lining in the Canucks’ 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets last night. I’d like to say that they at least outplayed the Jackets, only to be outplayed by rookie goaltender Steve Mason. Or that they’ve bounced back after back-to-back losses to the Calgary Flames.

I can’t.

The Canucks weren’t good. Well, maybe they were in the third period, but they still squandered a 2-1 lead with only 11 minutes left in the game. The powerplay connected twice – which matched their total from the last week and a half – but the team also gave the Jackets 8 chances of their own on the powerplay, including 3 in the first period alone. Curtis Sanford was good stopping all 11 shots he faced in the first 20 minutes, but then he left after his back gave out.

The Canucks have now lost three games in a row, the second time this season they’ve “accomplished” that feat. (Coincidentally, the first time this happened was back in October and the third loss was also against Columbus.) It’s not pretty in Canucksland, and with a back-to-back against the Detroit Red Wings and Minnesota Wild coming up, it could get downright ugly.

Dec 022008
 
Dec 012008
 

The Vancouver Canucks lost both games of a home-and-home series against the Calgary Flames. It was ugly in a sense that the Flames – and the Minnesota Wild – are now a single point behind our division-leading ‘Nucks, but also, the more offensive style of hockey we watched the first 22 games disappeared sometime between the first and second periods of Thursday night’s game. The Canucks were outchanced and outshot in both games, though truth be told, this isn’t anything new. (They have now been outshot in 15 of their first 24 games.)

On Thursday, what was noticeable was how much the Canucks sat back after taking their 1-0 and 2-1 lead. Their play in fact was reminiscent of the 2007/2008 season and it wasn’t until Calgary took a 3-2 lead that the Canucks started forcing the play again. They of course tied the game midway through the third period before surrendering the game-winning goal on a giveaway and a breakaway.

On Saturday, the Canucks sat back and generated little in the way of offensive chances. I don’t know if this was a conscious tactic – given that they were on the road and had rookie Cory Schneider in net for his first NHL start – but they rarely ventured into the Flames zone. And when they did, they rarely tested Mikka Kiprusoff.

If there were any positives from the two losses, it’s that Curtis Sanford and Cory Schneider proved that they are capable of filling in for the injured Roberto Luongo. Sanford had won 3 games in a row and stopped 78 of 83 shots before losing his start on Thursday. Schneider was cool, calm and very good in his start on Saturday; he stopped 28 of 31 shots.

Knowing that both goalies are alright, let’s see if Vigneault loosens the leash on the offense a bit again.

Nov 282008
 
Nov 252008
 
Nov 242008
 
Nov 242008
 

We should find out the results of Roberto Luongo’s MRI after the Monday morning skate (TSN), so until then, we’ll be sitting on pins and needles. Of course, the hope is that the injury is relatively-minor – i.e. that he didn’t tear anything – and that he could be back on the ice in a couple of weeks or so.

Just for fun, here are the number of games Lui would miss depending on how long he’s out for:

  • 1 week: 3 games (2 home, 1 away)
  • 2 weeks: 7 games (2 home, 5 away)
  • 4 weeks: 12 games (5 home, 7 away)
  • 6 weeks: 20 games (10 home, 10 away)
  • 8 weeks: 26 games (15 home, 11 away)
  • 10 weeks: 31 games (19 home, 12 away)
  • 12 weeks: 38 games (20 home, 18 away)
  • 16 weeks (4 months): 50 games (28 home, 22 away)

In the meantime, Curtis Sanford will get the starts and Cory Schneider, who was called up from the Manitoba Moose (canucks.com), will back him up.

Can Sanford and Schneider handle the load?

The truth is, I have more faith that Sanford can handle the increased workload than I had in previous Canucks backups. I don’t know where that comes from, but for whatever reason, I don’t worry about the Sandman being in net than say Dany Sabourin or Maxime Ouellet. Maybe it’s because Sanford has some experience as a starter – he essentially took over from Manny Legace in the latter half of the 2006/2007 season when Legace was injured – and played not bad. From January 26, 2007 to the end of the season, he played in 19 games and posted a 6-7-3 record. Last season, when Luongo was injured for a couple of weeks, Sanford started 5 games and went 2-2-1. Again, not a mind-boggling record, but not bad either. He’s only appeared in 4 games so far this season, but especially in his last 2 games – this week’s wins against Minnesota and Pittsburgh – he’s looked more comfortable and have played much better. Likewise, the team is playing better in front of him and Lui himself has some strong words of support for Sanford (Vancouver Province).

“I think we do have a great goalie,” Luongo said of Sanford. “He’s been unbelievable since training camp, and you shouldn’t notice any difference out there.”

Like he’d say anything else, right?

I don’t know how many games Schneider will get to play, but there’s good reason to think he’ll do fine when he does. He’s arguably the best goaltender in the AHL this season and perhaps we’ll soon see how his play translates into the NHL (Vancouver Sun).

Curtis Sanford is expected to start after consecutive wins but Schneider appears more than ready based on his American League stats with the Manitoba Moose. The redhead from Marblehead, Mass., is 10-1-0 with an eye-popping 1.37 goals against average and .945 save percentage. He’s won those 10 in consecutive fashion after dropping his season-opener.

Like everyone else, I’ll be waiting for tomorrow morning’s news and hope for Lui’s speedy recovery. Or that Sanford and Schneider can step up.

Nov 212008
 
Nov 192008
 
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