Good but Not Great
The NHL regular season doesn’t run like a sprint; it’s a marathon. It’s becoming quite apparent the Canucks aren’t that interested in galloping down the stretch.
Why would they?
With second-place locked up in the Western Conference and playoffs right around the corner, the team doesn’t have a ton to play for, except maybe confidence and momentum heading into Round 1.
Despite half-hearted efforts of late, and only 5 games left to go, the team is riding a 4-game win streak which includes tight 1-0 victories over Los Angeles and Colorado.
But having produced little in the way of scoring, there is worry afloat. Without the team’s three MVPs of 2011-12 (read about them below), who are at it once again providing stellar performances down the stretch, there would be more cause for concern.
Maybe the Ryan Keslers and Sedins of the world are simply choosing to save their moxie for playoffs. One can hope hope.
First Star: Chris Higgins
Plagued by a staph infections for much of the season but still outworking everyone wearing sweaty skates, Chris Higgins has found the scoring touch that made him the teams’ leading goal-scorer through October.
Higgins has three goals in his last four, and the team’s only goal in a win Wednesday against Colorado.
The feisty Long Islander was igniting the second line with Ryan Kesler and David Booth until coach Alain Vigneault juggled to try and spark the Sedin twins and Alex Burrows, and since Higgins was bumped down to the third line with Jannik Hansen, Samuel Pahlsson he’s been the team’s best forward.
It seems any line this guy goes on, he provides a spark. Whether it’s stealing a ton of pucks, laying the body, or just out-hustling opposition defencemen to the puck – like he did Wednesday to stave off an icing and seal a Canucks win – Higgins’ consistently inspired play is solidifying himself as one of the team’s leaders heading into playoffs.
Second Star: Roberto Luongo
Bobby Lu posted his fourth shutout turning aside shots against a desperate Los Angeles Kings club. With yet another strong regular season outing, many sportscasters and writers argue that Roberto Luongo has been the team’s MVP.
Whether he is or whether he isn’t, the man from Montreal has quietly delivered another excellent year in goal – just so long as we dismiss Bobby Lu’s usual October rust.
In six seasons since trading in a panther for the orca-emblazoned crest, Luongo’s averaged 37 wins, 2.35 goals against, and a .920 save percentage in 64 starts per season. Impressive; but we all know that despite Luongo’s A+ numbers now, like UBC undergrads, the real test begins in April.
Third Star: Cory Schneider
Cory Schneider, the other half of the dynamic duo, stopped all 43 shots against Colorado on Wednesday to make it back-to-back shutouts, one from each netminder.
Schneiderman’s third shutout of the season pushed him to a league-high .969 save percentage and outside of maybe St. Louis, with Brian Elliot and Jaroslov Halak, there isn’t any debate on who has the best goalie tandem in the NHL.