GAME DAY: at Vancouver
Jackets first of four in Canada starts tonight vs. Canucks
WATCH: FOX Sports Ohio (HD) | LISTEN: CD102.5 FM & BlueJackets.com
|Just five months ago, the Vancouver Canucks were in a position that everyone in professional sports dreams of: the deciding game of a championship series on your home turf. They had taken a 2-0 lead over the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final, but were unable to finish the job as the Bruins won Game 7 by a final of 4-0. Many around the NHL thought the Canucks were the team to beat with their unparalleled depth at forward and on defense, but they ended up one win short.
The offseason did not bring much change to the Vancouver organization, as GM Mike Gillis recognized he had a pretty solid group of players to work with and as the old adage goes: if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Gillis did add to his mix early on by making a trade with the Florida Panthers on Oct. 22, acquiring forward David Booth in a multi-player deal that sent Mikael Samuelsson and Marco Sturm to Sunrise.
At the quarter mark of this season, most of the changes have developed internally. Goaltender Roberto Luongo – normally the No. 1 man in net - has struggled with both injury and his on-ice play to this point, and Canucks coach Alain Vigneault has shown no hesitation in giving more starts to Cory Schneider. The 25-year-old netminder out of Boston College owns a 6-4-0 record this season, and is 3-1-0 with a 2.47 goals-against average in his career against the Blue Jackets.
The Canucks are predictably getting the bulk of their offense from Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who put up points regardless of who plays the other wing on their line. They have 49 points between them (Daniel 25, Henrik 24) and lately it has been two-way forward Jannik Hansen joining them on the No. 1 line. Gillis envisioned an “All-American” second line, slotting Booth with Selke candidate Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins, but Booth’s game has yet to translate well in Vancouver and Vigneault is bouncing him around the lineup. After the top six, the Canucks have more options with Alexandre Burrows, Maxim Lapierre, Cody Hodgson and Manny Malhotra who can play multiple forward positions and produce offensively.
During their playoff run a year ago, the Canucks’ strength was their defense. Vancouver has several players who can log big minutes and effectively join the attack. Sami Salo can still fire the puck, Dan Hamhuis draws shutdown matchups and Kevin Bieksa has a mean streak to go with his skill. Young Swede defender Alex Edler is the Canucks’ third-leading scorer with three goals and 13 assists.