Best Of The Best
The world is full of the bizarre and puzzling: crop circles, the Bermuda Triangle, black holes in space – just to name a few. But when it comes to hockey, the play of the Vancouver Canucks is the most confounding.
After sleeping through embarrassing losses to embarrassing teams last week (St. Louis and Columbus), the Orca-emblazoned club hammered arch-nemesis Chicago 6-2 in an inspired game last Saturday, and then follow it up with a tight, but well-executed 3-2 win versus a strong L.A. Kings side.
However, the mysterious play of the Canucks crept up on them Friday night as they dropped a 4-3 decision to a struggling Anaheim Ducks who had lost 9 of 10. The Canucks are 11th in the Western Conference with an 8-8-1-0 record and nearing the season quarter-mark are quickly running out of excuses. Alas, without further ado, this week’s three stars…
First Star: Jannik Hansen
The Honey Badger: he don’t care! You kind of knew it was only a matter of time until the real Jannik Hansen would arrive. Surprisingly, it’s taken the feisty Dane – known in the dressing room as the aforementioned repugnant, but tenacious rodent – this long to etch his name onto the weekly star list.
His two goals in a near come-from-behind 4-3 loss to Anaheim on Friday deserve first-star recognition. The second tally was quintessential Hansen as he mucked around the crease for a rebound and then slid it in with his butt on the ice. If he can continue to play like a honey badger, Vancouver might be able to find at least some of the consistency it’s sorely lacked.
While he’s making the most in his cameo role alongside the Sedins, I’m interested to see if Alain Vigneault keeps the trio intact once Alexandre Burrows returns from his upper body injury.
A second-line of Burrows, Ryan Kesler and David Booth could balance the attack as Chris Higgins would then move to the third-line alongside Cody Hodgson and Manny Malhotra, turn Mason Raymond when he gets inserted into the lineup.
Second Star: Aaron Rome
Aaron Rome is clearly a Vigneault guy. He’s tough, dependable and comes at a cheap price ($750,000). That being said, he’s quickly becoming a sin bin liability. Before the Anaheim game Rome was penciled in as sure shot first star having scored the decisive goal on the power play against the Blackhawks and then scoring yet another in Los Angeles.
But two rights can’t right a wrong (or something like that). Friday night’s brain-fart hit on Duck rookie Devante Smith-Pelly lead to a game misconduct and two powerplay goals which put the Canucks in a hole they couldn’t climb out of.
Reminiscent of Todd Bertuzzi, these overaggressive tendencies are inexcusable in a tightly-officiated NHL, and Rome knows better after paying the price in the Stanley Cup finals when he levelled Nathan Horton with a questionable hit.
Without being too hard on the rugged defenceman, Rome’s play has been more inspired after recently coming off a broken hand, and his work ethic is always welcomed, but it’s his lack of restraint that trumps his continued progress.
Third Star: Dan Hamhuis
Master of the art of invisibility, Dan Hamhuis is quietly rounding into form. The soft-spoken veteran is on a four-game point streak which includes 1 goal and 4 assists.
While Hamhuis and defence partner Kevin Bieksa have struggled mightily up until this point, “the Hammer” has been excellent in the month of November, officially shaking the October blues posting 6 points in 6 games – four of those with the man advantage. He’s also fired 14 shots on goal and made 8 hits.
The 28-year-old Smithers native is so dynamic his contributions are often overlooked.
But with the continued Canuck defensive woes, the improved play from Hamhuis is an encouraging sign that should be applauded.
Our vote for the Nicest Goal Last 7 Days (Video)