MAKING UP GROUND
Heading into the clubs eight-game homestand the Canucks, who’ve hovered around the .500 mark all season long, were well aware that this stretch was their opportunity to string together a few wins to make up lost ground.
Monday night the Canucks defeated the top team in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Kings, improving their record to 19-14-0, but with 38 points the team still sits outside of the playoff picture, one point back of the 8th place Detroit Red Wings.
But things are starting to fall into place for the Canucks, who play the next five games at home. The teams’ kicked off their home stretch on a positive note, picking up three consecutive wins posting a perfect 3-0-0 record.
“We’re very comfortable at home,” explained Kevin Bieksa. “It seems we get off to good starts. We’re playing more complete games and special teams has been really good at home. We’re definitely taking advantage of this homestand.”
Despite a few bumps on the road, at home the club sports the second best record (13-4-0) in the league. Their home ice power play sits in top spot in the NHL with an efficiency rating of 28.77 per cent.
The Canucks, who haven’t been able to string together a win streak any longer than three games, are on track for their fourth straight win, but a loss Wednesday night and the Canucks fall right back into the two steps forward and one step back mantra.
“We’re playing really good hockey right now but everyday we look at the standings and we’re still not in that top eight,” said Bieksa. “There’s still a lot of room for improvement. We’re playing good hockey but our battle’s been doing it over a long stretch of time. We’ve got to be a little bit more consistent.”
‘FOURTEEN GAMES, BUT WHO IS COUNTING?’
Forward Ryan Kesler, who notched his third goal in four games Monday night, is starting to find his offensive game after 14 frustrating goalless games.
“It's about time, I was fighting it there for a while,” admitted Kesler. “Fourteen games, but who is counting? I'm getting the bounces and hockey is starting to be fun again. It's starting to click. This game is a lot about confidence and when you have it, it's effortless out there. We're starting to generate more chances and chemistry. It's just a matter of time.”
“He scored a few goals and now’s he’s got a smile on this face,” said Bieksa. “Hope he scores every game because he’s a grumpy guy when he’s not.”
“I’ve tried to do it every night, not going to say that I’ve been successful at it,” said Kesler.
Despite Kesler’s goal drought, he’s consistently put up numbers racking up 29 points (8-21-29) in 33 games.
Speedy line mate Mason Raymond has also been playing well as last night he notched his 12 goals of the season, surpassing his former NHL best of 11 goals.
“[Mason’s] a scary guy to play against,” said defencemen Bieksa. “Those are the guys that I worry about the most, the guys that can fly down the wing. He’s got a great shot. He’s really come into his own this year and he’s been a big addition for us.”
At 6’0” 180 lbs., the Cochrane, Alberta native, who has already notched 12 goals and ten assists (12-10-22) in 33 games, is on par for a 54 point season.
“For me the big thing is experience,” said Mason. “I feel another year under my belt has been good and I’ve learned a lot. I’m playing with some great players right now, with Kes and Mikael, and right now things are going real well.”