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Alex On Fire

by Kyle Harland / Vancouver Canucks
When Alexander Edler was picked to shoot in the shootout last Tuesday against the New York Islanders, you could almost see a thought bubble with a big question mark coming out of each fan’s head.

He hadn’t participated in a shootout before, he’s a rookie with limited experience, and he’s a defenseman.

But clearly, Alain Vigneault knew what he was doing, as Edler potted the shootout winner against one of the league’s top goalies, Rick DiPietro.

And he did the same against All-Star Manny Legace and the St. Louis Blues Sunday afternoon.

“I tried the same move [as last time],” said Edler, after he weaved to the left side of the ice and popped it through Legace’s five-hole. “I might have to switch it up if I get the chance again, but it worked. It’s always fun.”

Edler’s goal was the only one of the shootout, as Luongo stopped all three shooters he faced. That improved the Canucks shootout record this year to 3-4, with Edler getting the winners in two of those.

While two shootout winners in five days might get the young Swede some attention from fans and media, all year Edler has been helping the Canucks win games with his outstanding play on the blue line that deserves some notice as well.

His plus/minus rating is dazzling at plus-18. That rating is ranked 8th in the league and first among rookies. But the most impressive thing about his plus/minus is that there’s only one defenseman with a better rating than him, and that’s five-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom.

While Edler’s plus/minus numbers are surprising on the one hand, when you look at his play, they’re not. Edler consistently makes tape-to-tape passes that make breakouts look easy and create scoring chances for his fellow Canucks. Meanwhile, he’s a responsible defenseman who plays a calm and collected game and can stand up against other team’s top players.

His impact on the Canucks can also be seen in his increase in ice time. In the five games Edler played in October, he averaged just under 12:30 per game. Those numbers increased in the month of November, and in the five games he’s played this month, he’s averaging 23:15 of ice time.

Sure, those numbers might be a little inflated because of the two overtime periods he’s played during that time span, but in the last month there have been only two games where he’s played under 20 minutes.

His last game against Phoenix he had a season high 26:04 of ice time, and nearly equaled that Sunday against the Blues, playing 24:56.

With injuries to Kevin Bieksa and now Mattias Ohlund, his help on the blue line has been one of the reasons for the Canucks’ success this year. Edler can’t replace Ohlund, but he comes close to his fellow countryman, as their styles of play are similar, for which some around the Canuck dressing room call him “Mini-Ohlie.”

Though Edler put up a modest 10 points (two goals and eight assists), his play at the back end makes him one of the top rookies this year.

And if Edler fits the mould of most defensemen in the fact that it takes them a long time to develop, he will be one frightening opponent in five years.

2 – shootout game-winners for Alexander Edler on two attempts

4 – shots each for unlikely candidates Lukas Krajicek and Byron Ritchie, leading the team

4 – years since the Canucks have won a regulation game in St. Louis

5 – combined points for Daniel and Henrik

28:39 – ice time for Sami Salo to lead all skaters

All three Canuck goals scored in St. Louis could end up on the team’s year in review highlight reel.

They played a grittier game than they have been doing lately, while still creating great scoring chances.

While the defense made a couple costly mistakes, especially a poorly timed line change that cost them a goal, their positional coverage seemed to be getting back on track and was the best it has been in the last five games or so.

The Canucks’ power play went 1-for-4 – good news for a section of their special teams that has been struggling a bit lately.

But the Canucks also allowed the Blues to go 1-for-4 with the extra man, and St. Louis is ranked last in the league on the power play.
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