Early on in the season, it seemed like some tough playoff moments might have broken Roberto Luongo’s psyche. The Vancouver Canucks didn’t seem so hot, either, beyond the clockwork reliability of the Sedin twins.
Much like their fellow 2011 Stanley Cup finalists in Boston, the Canucks have straightened things out to the point that they’re back alongside the league’s elites. Vancouver widened their Northwest Division lead over the Minnesota Wild by five points thanks to Luongo’s 3-0 shutout and rose to the No. 1 spot in the NHL’s standings in the process.
Naturally, the standings can be deceiving given imbalanced amounts of games played at this point. Here’s a quick-and-dirty look at the league’s top five teams based on points:
Vancouver: 25-13-3 for 53 points (41 games played)
Rangers: 24-9-4 for 52 points (37 GP)
Chicago: 24-11-4 for 52 points (39 GP)
Boston: 25-10-1 for 51 points (36 GP)
Detroit: 25-13-1 for 51 points (39 GP)
As you can see, the four teams “below” the Canucks have at least two games to vault over them. At this point in the season, it’s doubtful that these teams are doing much scoreboard watching, although the Blackhawks and Red Wings might be the exception since they’re in the same Central Division.
The big picture takeaway is still very positive for the Canucks, though. Luongo is playing well enough to (temporarily) silence his critics and support players are easing some of the scoring burden on the Sedins.
After those early hiccups, it seems likely that the Canucks are going to be fixtures once the playoffs roll around.
Dave Bolland made waves when he called the Sedin twins “sisters” among other insults, so it comes as no surprise that he changed course a bit. Everyone has a different sniff test, but his excuse actually seems semi-feasible to me. He more or less claimed that he was hamming it up on a radio show, according to a report from the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc.
“I’ve got the utmost respect for the Sedin twins and for Alain Vigneault and all the Vancouver Canucks,” Bolland said. “It was just a little bit of tongue-in-cheek that we had at the little radio show with some of the fans. I’ve got the utmost respect for Vancouver and what they do and what they do on the ice and how they do it. Both of us have a great rivalry going during this season.”
OK, so there’s a solid chance he backpedaled (er, clarified) his statements because a Blackhawks PR guy got to him, but I can picture a scenario in which Bolland felt the urge to troll the Canucks. (Then again maybe he’s stealth trolling them again with an ode to Ricky Bobby’s “Will all due respect …”)
Let’s face it though, when the Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks trash-talk each other in the media, it doesn’t really change much in the grand scheme of things. Maybe it alters the material a bit (I picture a “Who are the sisters now?” taunt if the Canucks handle the Hawks on Jan. 31), but the two teams share about as much animosity as huge groups of wealthy athletes can. They can’t really dislike each other more after beating the tar out of each other in three straight playoff years, so this is really just fodder.
So in the end, it entertains us all, which I think everyone can agree is the most important thing.
Many expected the Vancouver Canucks to get out of the gate in a sluggish way. For a while, it seemed OK too, as the Boston Bruins stumbled a bit too. Yet as the Bruins surge, the Canucks continue to sleepwalk through the first quarter of the season, producing a record that is the definition of mediocre: 9-9-1.* The Canucks won’t take the bait in making any excuses about their lame start, though, as they told Kevin Woodley of NHL.com.
“I don’t even remember the playoffs last year. Nobody remembers,” Kevin Bieksa said. “There are no more excuses like that. We’re well into our schedule right now. We’re thinking about this year, and that’s not even on our minds right now.”
Bieksa ranks among the Canucks whose results have been very disappointing this season. The Sedin twins are producing like usual and Alexander Edler is making everyone forget about Christian Ehrhoff, but the depth guys need to step up. Ryan Kesler might not be 100 percent right now, but Vancouver needs more than seven points in 14 games from the reigning Selke Trophy winner.
So will the Canucks bounce back? It depends on how far you’re expecting them to go. A playoff spot is reasonably in reach, as they’re only currently three points behind the seventh-ranked St. Louis Blues and eighth place Edmonton Oilers. It might be a little too much to ask them to pillage their way through the NHL’s regular season again, though.
* – Going into tonight’s game, the Canucks were also dead even in goal differential: 56 scored and allowed.