Best Of The Best
Shock of shocks, some are already screaming Armageddon in Van City, and others don’t really care because the B.C. Lions football team is steamrolling over the competition and are a game away from their first Grey Cup Championship since 2006.
Whatever your anxiety level Vancouver Canucks fans – panic or apathy – don’t worry the sky will not fall because this team has too many weapons to continue playing .500 hockey.
While the Boston Bruins – winners of 9 in a row – have found their form through sheer urgency, the Canucks continue to appear lackadaisical most nights.
And until the physically sculpted Ryan Kesler starts hitting the scoresheet the way he did a season ago, the Vancouver Canucks are going to struggle to shake-off the Stanley Cup hangover.
Mason Raymond returns to the lineup this week and will he spark the troops? Well if he can even play half as inspired as Sidney Crosby in his return performance Monday night (2 goals, 2 assists) it certainly can’t hurt.
First Star: Chris Higgins
Unquestionably the only Canuck playing at, or beyond expectation, through 20 games.
And Tuesday night’s tip-in winner is the kind of clutch performance that the Canucks got last year from the Sedins and Kesler, and sorely need again on a nightly basis.
Higgins leads the team with six even-strength markers, he scored a total of 11 in 2010-11, and even though he’s been bounced around the second and third line, the NHL journeyman is not letting it alter his game.
What’s probably been the most impressive about Higgins so far is his work ethic and willingness to go into the corners to win the puck – something sorely missing from a pedestrian Canuck forecheck.
Second Star: Cory Schneider
“Schneiderman” was tangled in his own web against Chicago in a 5-1 loss Wednesday night at Rogers Arena – but hey the Blackhawks have that venomous affect on their foes all too many time.
The 25-year-old American rebounded nicely in Vancouver’s 2-1 overtime win against Ottawa on Sunday as he earned the game’s First Star with 28 saves, and all things considered he’s had a decent start to the 2011-12 campaign.
His .912 save percentage and 2.52 GAA is more than respectable, but he is still not playing at the .929 save percentage, 2.23 GAA-mark he did last season.
And while, the Canucks could use some monster performances between the pipes, Schneider still proved that he can make a key saves when the game’s on the line as he did in overtime on Sunday.
With Roberto Luongo cleared to play Wednesday after recovering from his mysterious upper body injury, it will be interesting to see if Coach Vigneault goes back to his No. 1 guy or plays the redhead.
Third Star: Dan Hamhuis
He was here last week. He’s here again in 3rd this week. The Hammer continues to be the most consistent on the blueline and after a dismal October is rounding into season’s form.
On Tuesday he was all over the ice and helped set-up Higgins overtime winner.
The Smithers, B.C. native is second on defence behind Alexander Edler for ice-time with 22:29 per game and has 10 points in 20 games, he’s also been playing with the physicality that saw him flourish in the post-season.
Our vote for the Nicest Goal Last 7 Days (Video)