Defenceman Jason Garrison of the Vancouver Canucks grabs Jamie McGinn of the Colorado Avalanche as he barrels in on Canucks' goaltender Cory Schneider during Thursday's National Hockey League game at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG
Let’s get this straight.
The Vancouver Canucks are missing most of their second line and former National Hockey League scoring champions Daniel and Henrik Sedin had generated two goals in seven games before Thursday.
The bottom of the roster has been hammered by injury, the team can’t score on the power play and top defenceman Alex Edler is excelling mostly at icing the puck.
Someone named Andrew Gordon is on the fourth line and defenceman Keith Ballard was the third-line left-winger before a hairline foot fracture took him out of the lineup. Are we forgetting anything?
Oh yeah, $64-million goalie Roberto Luongo sat on the bench Thursday for the sixth straight game, thinking about his next Twitter musing while general manager Mike Gillis thinks about a trade.
And all this would be of grave concern and 24/7 radio fodder — actually, it is 24/7 radio fodder — except this strange Canuck team doing so much to lose just won its sixth straight game and continues to close like a blazing meteor on the top teams in the Western Conference.
Outskated and outplayed much of the night by the last-place Colorado Avalanche, which is winless in regulation the last 20 games against Vancouver, the Canucks got a late winner from Danny Sedin and empty-netters from brother Henrik and Chris Higgins to win 4-1 at Rogers Arena.
See highlights from the game here
The winning streak’s first five games were won by one goal and this one could have been, too. In 19 one-goal games this season, Vancouver has lost in regulation time once.
For all their flaws, the Canucks are pretty good at winning.
“I think it’s a little bit of experience,” Henrik Sedin explained. “Knowing that you’re in a playoff race, every shift is important. A lot of times you get uptight and just want to kill the game in the first few minutes. But we know if we don’t play well for five or 10 minutes, we can still (wait it out) and come back and play better.
“As a team, we’re not happy with the way we played. But we’ve got guys who have been to a lot of playoffs and gone on a long run.”
Daniel Sedin broke a 1-1 tie at 11:32 of the third period when a play planned from an offensive-zone faceoff left him with an open shot from the top of the circle, which Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov allowed to slide between his pads.
It ended a 47-minute spell of Colorado superiority after some Sedinery left Alex Burrows with an open-net tap-in to make it 1-0 for Vancouver at 4:27 of the opening period.
Colorado’s surge began at 8:53 when Burrows took a holding penalty. The power play didn’t change the score, but it sure as heck changed the momentum.
Outshot 8-1 at that point, the Avalanche reeled off 10 straight shots to end the period. They simply took the game away from the Canucks, outworking the home team, forcing mistakes and winning races and battles for the puck.
“It’s unacceptable,” Higgins said, “especially with them playing last night.”
It is troubling the Canucks allowed this against a team that trails the Western Conference and has won only two road games all season.
But more than the 48-game schedule has been strange this season for the confounding Canucks, who remain almost impossible to gauge. Unless you look at the standings and see them only four points behind the Anaheim Ducks, whom they trailed by 14 only 10 days ago, and within nine points and a Hail Mary pass of the thought-to-be-untouchable Chicago Blackhawks.
The 19-9-6 Canucks are two points ahead of the Minnesota Wild in the full-out sprint for the Northwest Division title.
“We look at this team every day coming into practice and think we have to do a lot of things better,” captain Henrik said. “What would our record be if our power play had won us a few games instead of losing us a few games?”
The Canuck power play is 29th among 30 teams and didn’t earn a single advantage on Thursday.
It has been offset – and then some – by spectacular play the last two weeks from goalie Cory Schneider. He allowed only Matt Duchene’s third-period goal Thursday, after a terrible misplay by Canuck defenceman Andrew Alberts on P.A. Parenteau, and Schneider’s 2.13 goals-against average and .926 save rate are among the NHL’s best.
“We know it’s not the best-looking product out there,” Schneider said of the tight-checking Canucks’ winning formula. “But we’re doing what we have to do right now. We’re in a mode where we’re adapting our game to do what we need to do to win. If we tried to open it up and play run and gun with our lineup, it wouldn’t end very well.”
It may not end well, regardless, but the Canucks are on an incredible run under the circumstances.
“It’s been strange,” Daniel Sedin admitted. “It’s been a battle every game. Our power play hasn’t worked at all. But we’re battling together and we’re having fun doing that. We’re winning games.”
See highlights from the game here
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