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Best of the Best: January

by Brady Trettenero / Vancouver Canucks
The new year is a chance for new beginnings. Powered by a few clutch performances from Nick Bonino and strong play by goaltender Ryan MIller, the Canucks picked up six wins in the month of January. From a goaltender's emotional return to a momentum-boosting round of fisticuffs, here is your best of the best from January.


Bonino Spins Off Flyers’ Defenseman to Score a Beauty (01/15/15)

With the game in Philadelphia scoreless in the first period, Nick Bonino got the party started for the visitors. After taking a feed from Shawn Matthias, Bonino took the puck across the Flyers’ blueline and went 1-on-1 with Flyers defenseman Michael Del Zotto. Bonino looked like he was going to cut inside on Del Zotto, but instead he spun off to the outside, getting the puck to his forehand and firing a shot past the glove of goaltender Ray Emery. The goal put the Canucks up 1-0, propelling them to a four-goal outburst against the Flyers. The early goal from Bonino was key, as the Canucks had lost three straight games and were just starting a five-game road swing. Ryan Miller would hold Philadelphia scoreless on the night, meaning Bonino’s first-period tally would hold up as the game-winner. Bonino, who had just two career game-winning goals in five seasons before being traded to Vancouver, now has a whopping five-game-winning goals in his first campaign with the Canucks. Talk about delivering in the clutch.

D.Sedin Dishes Out Saucer Pass to Vrbata vs. Panthers (01/19/15)

After defeating the Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes, the Canucks were looking for a third straight win against Roberto Luongo and the Panthers. Radim Vrbata, who participated in the 2015 NHL-All-Star game, got the scoring started off a beautiful feed from Daniel Sedin. Just three minutes into the game, Daniel received the puck down low, immediately looking cross-crease to spot Vrbata. Panthers’ defenseman Willie Mitchell was in the way, however, so Sedin had to thread a perfect saucer pass over to Vrbata, who buried it past the outstretched glove of Luongo. It was Daniel’ 30th assist of the season, as he has now recorded at least 30 assists in each of his last 10 full seasons with Vancouver. Vrbata’s goal, which was his team-leading 18th of the season, sparked the Canucks, paving way for Bo Horvat to score the eventual game-winner under five minutes later.

Miller Flashes Leather on Flyers’ Schenn (01/15/15)

Miller was phenomenal in a game against the Flyers, stopping all 30 shots of the faced to propel the Canucks to their first win in four games. His best stop came midway through the second period. With the Flyers pressing, agitator Zac Rinaldo took the puck down low, before firing a cross-crease pass to Sean Couturier, forcing Miller to push from one post to the other. Couturier, who had a direct lane to the net, opted not to shoot, instead spotting a wide-open Luke Schenn, who had made his way down from the point. Miller pushed hard off the post, but the momentum carried him too far, leaving Schenn with plenty of open net to shoot at. That didn’t stop Miller though, as he flashed the leather on Schenn while still sliding in his crease. The Flyers’ defenseman couldn’t believe it, looking upwards in disbelief afterwards, as his shot labeled for an open net had been snatched up by the glove of the Canucks’ netminder. It was a momentum booster for Miller, who would go on to win his next two games, allowing just one goal in that span. After defeating the Flyers, Miller blanked the Hurricanes in his next outing, giving him five shutouts on the season. Marc-Andre Fleury is currently the only goaltender in the NHL with more shutouts than Miller this season.

Bieksa Scraps with Flyers’ Simmonds (01/15/15)

Having lost three straight games, the Canucks were in need of a spark heading into their game against Philadelphia. Kevin Bieksa provided just that. Just minutes into the game, Bieksa took alternate captain Wayne Simmonds on in a round of fisticuffs. Both players landed some solid blows, but it was the Canucks who benefited from their veteran stepping up to the plate. Just over five minutes after the fight, Nick Bonino opened the scoring for Vancouver at the Wells Fargo Center. Henrik Sedin also scored in the opening period, propelling Vancouver to an eventual 4-0 win over the Flyers. Bieksa’ fight injected life into the team, as they would go on to win two straight games after their visit to Philadelphia. Bieksa played a big role in the win over the Flyers, also contributing five hits and three blocked shots in 19:15 of ice time.

Bonino Showcases Emotion after Breaking Tie vs. Isles (01/06/15)

With the game against the Islanders tied at one midway through the second period, Nick Bonino went to work. After a Bieksa shot was turned away by goaltender Jaroslav Halak, Bonino, who was in front of the goaltender, received the rebound on the backhand. The 26-year-old quickly went backhand-to-forehand, firing the puck past the leg of the outstretched netminder. After the goal, Bonino cranked out a sweet first pump as the fans at Rogers Arena were brought to their feet. Linden Vey scored later in the period, helping the Canucks hand the Islander just their third regulation loss in 11 games. Bonino had five shots on goal on the night and was named the game’s first star.

Matthias Dekes and Beats Hurricanes’ Ward (1/16/15)

After Jannik Hansen chipped a pick to Matthias at center ice, Matthias was immediately pressed by Canes’ all-star defenseman Justin Faulk. Matthias was quick to react, however, chipping the puck over the stick of Faulk and taking off towards goalie Cam Ward. With Faulk caught up on the pinch, Matthias walked in alone on the former Conn Smythe winner. Matthias took the puck to the backhand, before going back to the forehand and beating Ward past the blocker. The goal put the Canucks up 2-0, as they would go on to blank the Hurricanes 3-0 for their second straight road win. It was Matthias’ eighth goal of the season, as he had just 12 goals in 2013-14, split between the Panthers and Canucks.

Luu’s Reign Down for Luongo in Return to Vancouver (01/08/15)

When Roberto Luongo made his return to Rogers Arena for the first time since the Canucks traded him to the Florida Panthers one day before the 2014 NHL trade deadline, the positive response from fans was immeasurable. The 35-year-old, who is the Canucks' all-time leader in wins and shutouts, was paid a special tribute by the Canucks during a first-period timeout. The veteran netminder received a standing ovation from the crowd after the video played on the jumbotron. With his former teammates cheering him on from the bench and the “Luu’s” reigning down in Rogers Arena, Luongo tapped his heart out and acknowledged the roaring fans. The Panthers netminder went on to stop 32 of 33 shots on the night, giving him his first ever win over the Canucks. With the victory, Luongo has defeated every single team in the NHL. Forever a legend.

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