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And the award goes to...

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
When the Vancouver Canucks handed out their annual hardware prior to facing off against the Los Angeles Kings Thursday night, there were surely naysayers who argued with every selection.

After the Canucks took down the Kings 1-0 in the final home game of the regular season, it was clear the fans had selected the right recipients as the award winners made all the difference.

Take Cyclone Taylor Trophy winner Ryan Kesler, he was named team MVP for his overall clutch play this season, and wouldn’t you know it, he scored the game-winning goal in a tilt the Canucks had to win to keep their dreams of a Northwest Division title alive.

Kesler stepping up and leading Vancouver to victory…that sounds familiar for some reason – most likely because the Canucks are a jewel encrusted 31-6-5 when he records a point in a game, which includes four point streaks that lasted four games or longer.

The fourth-year Canuck has established new career highs in goals with 26, assists with 33 and points with 59 through 81 games, he’s been the man all season for Vancouver and was especially important in February when the team needed him most.

He picked up 12 points in 11 games during the month and was instrumental in helping Vancouver turn its season around; in short, he does a little bit of everything for the team and now has a whopping trophy to show for it.

“It’s a great honour, it means a lot to me and I wouldn’t be picked that if it weren’t for my teammates, its cliché, but it’s true,” said a modest Kesler.

“It’s a great honour for the fans to think of me like that and I’ll never forget it.”

Roberto Luongo finished third in fan voting for the MVP award behind Kesler and Alex Burrows, and Vancouver’s captain wasn’t awarded anything for the first time since joining the team, but that will most likely change after the Canucks conclude the regular season on Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche.

Luongo and Kesler were tied in game star selections coming into this tilt so neither could be named Moslon Cup Winner and although Kesler picked up a few more points as the game’s second star, Lui took home more as the first.

Luongo was exquisite in a 20-save performance that helped him capture his eighth shutout of the season, a shining donut that moves him one past Dan Cloutier for most shutouts in a season by a Canucks netminder.

Not only that but combined with the single Curtis Sanford picked up against the Ottawa Senators at the end of December, Lui’s eighth shutout pushes Vancouver’s team total to nine, a new club record.

Luongo’s play has been sporadic at times this season, in other instances he’s proven why many consider him the best goaltender in the world, and on this night his effort reflected the latter.

Although not overly tested by the Kings, Luongo had to be razor sharp out of nowhere a lot of times as LA would go minutes on end without any shots before hitting the netminder with a flurry of pucks.

“It was a much tougher night tonight than the last one, just because there’s not that much action so you’ve got to be sharper mentally and get involved as much as you can as far as talking in the zone and playing the puck behind the net, and stuff like that,” said Luongo, who now has 46 career shutouts.

“Defensively we really executed well and didn’t give them that much room. As far as that’s concerned I think we did a pretty good job tonight and we can build off that one.”

Other winners on the night included Steve Bernier who was awarded the Fred J. Hume Award as the team’s unsung hero and Willie Mitchell, Vancouver’s top defenseman who skated off with the Babe Pratt Trophy for the second straight season.

Burrows picked up the final award as he was named the Most Exciting Player, also for the second time in as many years.

Everyone’s favourite pest had 17 minutes of ice time and only recorded one shot against the Kings so he was less than his spectacular self, but let’s keep things in perspective and remember all he’s done for the team this season.

His shorthanded game-winner against the Carolina Hurricanes that snapped Vancouver’s eight-game winless skid – that was big and it’s only the icing on the cake that has been his breakout campaign.

Burrows has set career highs in goals with 28, assists with 23 and points with 51, while also leading the Canucks in shorthanded goals with four.

True to form, Burrows didn’t touch on his personal achievement after the game, instead focusing on the pressure that is now on the Calgary Flames in the race for the division crown.

If the Flames go winless in their remaining two games, the Canucks are Northwest champs.

“Those back-to-back games are never an easy task, especially against the Oilers, so hopefully they’ll drop one and we can take on Colorado,” said Burrows.

20 – Saves for Roberto Luongo for his team record eighth shutout

9 – Canucks shutouts this season, a new team record

– Career donuts for Luongo

26 Goals for Ryan Kesler, a new career high

59 Points for Kesler this season, also a career high

Once again the Canucks played down to their competition and the first half of this game made for boring hockey because of it.

Vancouver was overly selective with its shots and was lucky to beat Jonathan Quick at all, the Kings netminder was stellar in the loss.

Ryan Kesler was the lone standout on offence as he scored a power play goal in the second period and had numerous chances to increase Vancouver's lead in the third.

Vancouver outshot Los Angeles 28-20.

After giving up 46 shots to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday, the Canucks tightened things up on the back end and held the Kings to only 20.

When Roberto Luongo is faced with so little pucks and a lot of them are from the outside, the result is sensational play and more times than not shutouts.

The Canucks finished 1-for-5 with nine shots on the power play, which is decent, but it could have been better.

Increased traffic in front, not making that one extra pass and firing away would have really helped Vancouver.

The penalty kill, which faced a 6-on-4 late in the game, was superb in thwarting Los Angeles in all three power play attempts.
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