Starting to Roll
Piece by piece, it's appears to be slowly coming back together for the Vancouver Canucks.
First the offence woke up Saturday night with seven goals against the previously dominant Washington Capitals. Then, Tuesday night in Calgary, the much examined Roberto Luongo delivered a near-shutout, beaten only in the final seconds for a meaningless goal as the Canucks hammered the Flames in Calgary, 5-1.
Presumably, Ryan Kesler will soon start getting up to game speed after managing just one goal so far in seven games since returning to the Vancouver lineup from hip surgery. Maybe David Booth will start to click as well, with the former Florida Panther still goal-less in three games with the Canucks since last week's trade. That he's already minus-2 with Vancouver after going minus-31 last season and minus-6 to start this season, well, that's probably not at the top of Alain Vigneault's worries at the moment.
This has been in recent years a team that has heated up in November, as has Luongo, and the current road trip on which the Canucks find themselves will go a long way to providing evidence as to whether the defending Western Conference champs are back on their game. After leaving Calgary, the Nucks now head to St. Paul, St. Louis, Chicago and L.A., before closing out their road road on Remembrance Day in Anaheim. Happily for Vancouver, other teams assumed to be Western Conference powers, like San Jose and Detroit, are experiencing their own troubles these days.
By mid-month, Kesler may be getting back up to the 21-24 minutes per game we were used to seeing from him last season, his best so far in the NHL. The Sedins are now starting to hum and sit 8th (Daniel) and 10th (Henrik) in NHL scoring. Alex Edler, meanwhile, is on fire offensively, making an early bid to insert his name into the Norris Trophy race. Luongo? Who knows? Cory Schneider seems capable of mounting a challenge for the No. 1 job, but Vigneault appears more than determined to keep Luongo's as his team's starter.
The very average start to the season for the Canucks actually makes some sense, what with Kesler recovering and many of the team's top players used very little during the pre-season in a strategic move by GM Mike Gillis. Now, those players are rounding into form.
The challenge for the west coasters, of course, is enduring the entirety of a regular season that, after falling one game short of winning it all last spring, seems to only hold the potential for perceived pratfalls. Glory? That will only come through winning the big trophy, and the reality is that unless Vancouver does win it this year, it will be seen as a failure.
That's what happens when you set the bar that high.