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CANUCKS HOCKEY BLOG

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Canucks 1 Avalanche 3

At the Christmas break last year, the Canucks were a game under .500 and there were many questions surrounding the team. They couldn't score and there were far too many defensive breakdowns. Sure they gave it a good effort most games, but more often than not, it wasn't enough and they went into the break with a measly 35 points.

Fast forward to this year. The good news is, they are already ahead of last year's pace. After tonight's loss to the Colorado Avalanche, they are seven games over .500 and have 44 points. They're tied for first in the Northwest Division, though looking at the bigger picture, they're only three points ahead of fourth place Calgary. The Northwest Division is tough. Last year, the Canucks played to a gaudy 32-8-6 record after Christmas to win the division. This year, they may need to play close to the same pace just to keep up. This isn't intended to sound negative because the Canucks are playing some good hockey for the most part; however, this is the reality of playing in a strong division where four of the five teams currently hold playoff spots and the fifth isn't really that far behind.

Since the Nashville debacle on November 1st, Roberto Luongo has gaudy numbers. He has a 12-2-2 record (the team is 15-4-4 since then), a .951 save percentage (22 goals allowed on 488 shots) and a 1.39 GAA. If the Canucks score two goals in a game, more often than not, it's probably good enough.

Louie's not the only one who's started the year off great. Ryan Kesler has too. It's been a breakout season for Kes. He's establishing himself as the team's best defensive forward and is also on the verge of shattering some personal records. After 35 games, he already has 18 points (9G-9A), only seven shy of his career-best 23 points in 82 games during the 2005-2006 season. His next goal ties his career-high for a season (9) and he's only four assists away from his career-high (13) in that category too. All this while playing against opposing teams' best player (or line) every night.

Ditto Alex Edler. Elliott Pap (Vancouver Sun) had a nice piece on the kid yesterday. He started this season with the Moose, but early season injuries to Sami Salo, Kevin Bieksa and Lukas Krajicek gave him the opportunity to play and he took advantage of it. Put it this way, in his 24 games since November 1st, he's averaged more than 20 minutes per game and is a plus-13. In fact, his plus-15 for the season is 6th overall in the NHL and 1st among all rookies.

Can this team get better?

Well, like I mentioned earlier, they almost have to be just to keep pace. But also, I think they can. Sometime in the New Year, they should get Kevin Bieksa back, and nearer to the playoffs, they should get Brendan Morrison back. Because Edler, Jason Jaffray and Mason Raymond have all stepped into the lineup just fine, Nonis hasn't been forced to trade for reinforcements. Like I mentioned when Morrison first went down, this basically means that Nonis hasn't had the need to dip into his available salary cap room (except to use for Jaffray's and Raymond's NHL salaries), and barring further injury, gives him plenty of cap room and a certainly a few more options come trade deadline day.

My whole point to this long-winded post? A year ago today, us Canucks fans weren't too merry over Christmas and weren't sure how happy the new year was going to be. I just wanted to point out that so far this season, the team has given us something to be merry about as well as a promise for a better new year.

*****

On a personal note, I just want to wish everyone the best of the season. I can't stress enough how much I'm overwhelmed by the many, many, many of you who keep coming back to read my ramblings. Be good, stay safe and I hope you all have a prosperous 2008.

*****

Now, I hate to be a party pooper, but you've probably noticed that things have been relatively quiet on this blog over the last little while. Unfortunately, it's probably going to stay that way for a while longer yet, not just because of the holiday season, but also because life has dealt a couple of curveballs to my family. We of course hope for the best, but in the meantime, I may not have time to preview, recap and chat about all things Canucks with the regularity that I've been able to in the past. I'll try to pipe in when I can - either here or on the podcast - and I just hope you all understand until things look up a little.

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Comments/Questions: Feel free to post in the comments section or email me at gocanucksgo10 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

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posted by J.J. Guerrero, 9:11 PM

5 Comments:

At December 24, 2007 4:32 AM, Blogger Flo said...

Sorry to hear you are having a hard time right now, and I love to read your blog but family comes first.

Will look forward to seeing you back posting at full strength when your troubles have eased.

Until then, have as good a Christmas as possible, and

Go Canucks Go!!!

I'm feeling pretty positive about the remainder of the season. And agree with you that we have the potential to get even better.

 
At December 24, 2007 8:28 AM, Anonymous Kyle said...

Hope things get straightened out in the New Year, JJ.

Don't worry about us blogaholics, we'll get by without ya....but come back as soon as you can, there's going to be all sorts of analysis to be done on the Grabner-Ryder trade I'm predicting!

 
At December 24, 2007 11:48 AM, Anonymous the Cunning Linguist said...

I hope that the New Year brings you some good news, JJ. Take care and keep up the great work!

 
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