C-Mac’s Report Card
I teach…therefore I grade.
Since the quarter season watermark (and my quarter season grades blog article), the Vancouver Canucks have continued to solidify their excellent form, leaving their mediocre start as an increasingly distant memory.
The team’s stars are playing consistently well, and their role players are giving the team a depth that other outfits find enviable.
The team has also been able to grind out results when needed, a consequence of their travel heavy schedule, and even in the vast majority of their losses; they have managed to remain competitive.
Things to love about the Canucks
The manner in which they have been able to maintain a stranglehold on their opponents when entering the third period with a lead. They are perfect in that regard this season, and it is all thanks to the depth of a team that is even better than last year’s group.
Watching AV’s confidence in his players, even down to his fourth line, has helped spread out the playing minutes this season, providing ample rest for his key front liners.
The newfound and most welcome humility of Roberto Luongo. Schneider is a great insurance policy, but we all know that Roberto’s hand on the wheel is what will make the difference to a Canucks Stanley Cup. Lou did not crack during the extended run by Ginger Jesus and his interviews with the media have revealed a maturing presence. May it continue so, even in the face of any future adversity.
It was an enjoyable sight to see the smiles on his face as the Boston faithful roundly booed him while he sat on the bench.
The statement they made by stuffing the Bruins in their journey to the TD Garden, erasing in part their nightmare experience losing all three cup matches in last year’s playoffs.
Vancouver was able to utilize their power play and silence the home crowd despite more of that extra-curricular nastiness that is an unfortunate by-product of an admittedly very good Boston team.
The atmosphere of that game is as close to a playoff experience as we will see until April comes around. The brimming confidence from this win could well propel the Canucks to another strong finish and another run to the finals.
Things to hate about the Canucks
The concern still remains about the toughness of the team when the stars get pushed around. By this, I don’t mean to say that the Canucks need to start taking wild swipes at opponents when they try to provoke our boys.
The mere fact that they even just push back is enough to show they are willing to stand up for themselves. There is a perception that the team is cowardly, even if that is an unfair one, but it remains.
Take the lumps eye to eye, then kill them on the power play, but enough with the turning away.
That the team does not always play the lesser lights as hard as the big teams. For example, Vancouver takes out Boston, but then has a letdown to Florida. Elite teams take the easier points with the tough ones.
That you can’t get a good beer at Rogers Arena for less than $9..or after 9pm.
Top Goalie:At the quarter mark, Schneids was deserving of this recognition. However, Luongo has risen to the challenge and has been superlative over the last few weeks, especially on the road where a slight drop recently in offence has been adequately covered by Lou’s brilliance.
His name has been all over the Three Stars ratings these days.
Top Defenceman: Dan Hamhuis ruled the roost a few weeks back, but Kevin Bieksa has been in the form of his life since then. He has climbed out of a deep minus rating early on to post a current +7, even while facing the opposing top line every night. He has also produced a seven game scoring streak and is on pace for a career high in points.
‘Juice’ is always ready with a quick quip when needed to lift the room and plays with enough ferocity and edge to intimidate opponents.
Top Left Winger: Daniel Sedin holds serve with his top five league wide place in scoring and his passing now rivals Henrik in its accuracy. A few more goals would be nice, but that’s like wishing vanilla ice cream had well, more vanilla.
Top Centre: Henrik Sedin‘s production remains superb, but he has tailed off ever so slightly. In recent games, his power play work has been a little scattered.
Aside from the wonderful tip against Boston, he did appear a bit off with all the Bruins shenanigans (never a bad time to use that word). On the other hand, Cody Hodgson thrived in that game and his versatility and production has promoted his name into conversations about the best third line centres in the NHL.
Hodgson gives Vancouver a scoring depth that only Boston currently rivals.
Top Right Winger: Alex Burrows has been playing like a demon unleashed this past five weeks (which is how his opponents see him).
He has managed almost a goal a night in that term, while enhancing the second unit power play. He also spearheads with Kesler a superb penalty killing duo that easily rates as the most detested in the league.
Despite his wondrous range of skills, be very careful wearing your Burrows replica jersey anywhere outside of BC, unless you are tired of living.
Vancouver is near the top of the league standings again, ranking high again in all statistical categories.
Although the team may be somewhat hesitant to admit it, the win over Boston cements an improving confidence and in part removes some of the stigma of last year.
The greatest focus as the season moves into the second half will be on what Gillis has planned in way of a major trade with Cory Schneider, or as some whispers portend, for Hodgson.
Maybe the GM will settle for some fine tuning. It will be a delicate operation, as it can be dangerous to tinker with team chemistry when things are running well.