Vancouver Canucks' Henrik Sedin, of Sweden, from left to right, Ryan Kesler and Daniel Sedin, of Sweden, celebrate Henrik's goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets during second period NHL hockey action in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday November 22, 2013.
Photograph by: Darryl Dyck, The Canadian Press
Reunited and it feels so good.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin, together since birth but separated by Vancouver Canuck coach John Tortorella for the start of Friday’s game, were reunited after an eternal few minutes and combined for three goals and five points in a 6-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Almost everything that could go right, did. That hardly sounds like the Canucks.
With Vancouver’s shortage of luck nearly as severe as its shortage of goals the last couple of weeks, the Canucks benefited from a pile of bounces, the most important being a two-point hop up the National Hockey League’s Western Conference standings. From where the Canucks sit, that’s almost like taking two steps out of camp and peering up at Everest, but at least they’re going in the right direction.
The win was important on several levels. Apart from shortening their separation from a playoff spot to four points, the Canucks’ struggling offence enjoyed a relative dam-burst with three goals in two minutes in the second period. Key defenceman Alex Edler scored his first goal in 15 games and tripled his point total from the previous 12, top winger Danny Sedin scored for the first time in eight games and Vancouver ended a five-game losing streak that did serious damage in the standings.
The win was also validation for the Canucks’ hard work and territorially dominance — a payoff absent despite their superior play in three of the five games they lost.
But it still required a month’s worth of puck luck, which included Blue Jackets Boone Jenner and Cam Atkinson missing open nets before and after the Canucks’ scoring spree in the middle of the game, as well as bounces off, through or over Columbus netminder Sergei Brobovsky on five of the goals.
Still, there was some justice to the lopsided luck considering the Canucks outshot the Blue Jackets 35-16 and had received so few favourable bounces in recent games.
The Canucks could use a couple more of them tonight when they face the Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks.
“Now we can take a deep breath here tonight, come back tomorrow and know we can score goals,” Henrik Sedin said after his two-goal game. “You would think we’d have had the same result in a couple of the past games or at least one or two more goals. It’s nice to get two points; we need them badly. But we should have had more on this homestand. We didn’t play a whole lot better tonight, but we’re standing here talking about winning a great game 6-2 instead of losing in overtime or 2-1. It’s a big difference.”
“We’ve been working hard lately and it seems like we haven’t been rewarded,” goalie Roberto Luongo said. “It’s nice to get a few bounces go our way tonight. We’ll enjoy it, but we all know we have a tough challenge ahead of us tomorrow night.”
Tortorella said after the morning skate that he just isn’t interested in watching the standings. We’ll watch for him.
In the last four seasons before the lockout, no team that was more than five points back of a playoff spot on Dec. 1 climbed into the Stanley Cup tournament. Not one out of 72 playoff teams came from more than five back.
In the Western Conference, the largest Dec. 1 deficit overcome was three points, by the Canucks in 2009-10. In the seven full seasons between lockouts, only twice did teams make the playoffs after being behind by at least six points at the start of December. That’s two playoff qualifiers out of 112.
And if these odds aren’t daunting enough for stragglers in the standings, there has never been a season like this one in the Western Conference, where before Friday’s NHL schedule the top eight teams all had more points than the first-place team from the Eastern Conference.
With 32 points in 23 games, the Minnesota Wild and Los Angeles Kings, tied for seventh in the West, were on pace for 114 points.
Luongo, whose NHL career has been divided between the two conferences, has a theory: “The teams in the West are better. I don’t really have an explanation for it other than there are just better teams, plain and simple.”
Until now, no eighth-place team has finished with more than 97 points, but it looks like it will take at least 100 to make the playoffs in the Western Conference this spring.
While the Canucks’ playoff deficit is still four points, Friday’s win immediately nudged them within six of the conference-leading Blackhawks.
“Yeah, I look at the standings,” Canuck defenceman Jason Garrison said. “I think there’s an alarm already. We definitely want to be in a better position, for sure. But we’re at the point now where we can’t look too far ahead. There are a lot of good teams. It’s never an easy night. You can’t come to any game without your best.”
The Canucks weren’t quite at their best Friday, but they did a lot of things right. They got the puck and traffic in front of the Blue Jackets’ net and yielded few chances to a poor Columbus team missing its top three forwards due to injury.
All four Canuck lines generated goals. Daniel Sedin, Zack Kassian and Jeremy Welsh scored. Defenceman Ryan Stanton had three assists, giving the waiver-pickup 10 points in 24 games — more than any Vancouver blueliner except Kevin Bieksa.
“I am not going to sit here and say we did this and this is why we scored the goals,” Tortorella said. “It’s not the way it works.
“Sure, it’s a relief they got a win. And to get rewarded for a forechecking game that I thought was pretty good tonight. (But) it has been there through the whole time without us getting some points and wins.”
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