PRESIDENT'S TROPHY FRONT RUNNERS?
By Nolan Kelly
After a blistering December that saw the Vancouver Canucks lose only once in regulation, the team is atop the NHL standings for the first time since January 13th. 2004.
Last night’s win against the San Jose Sharks gave the Canucks a 25-8-5 record, two points clear of the Detroit, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with a game in hand on Detroit and Philadelphia and two on Pittsburgh. Detroit is in action tonight and could tie the Canucks for first with a win.
The Canucks improved their record to 15-1-2 in their last 18 games and are unbeaten in their last 13 regulation games, one shy of a franchise record.
Vancouver boasts the best goal differential in the NHL (+36) and sits first in goals for per game (3.42), fifth in goals against per game (2.45), second on the power play (24.8 percent) and sixth on the penalty kill (25 percent).
With their recent hot streak the Canucks have taken control of the Northwest Division, opening up a 10 point lead over the second place Colorado Avalanche. The lead is the largest of any of the current division leaders.
Cory Schneider began this season starting only 5 of the Canucks first 33 games behind workhorse goaltender Roberto Luongo. How things have changed. Recently the Canucks backup has carried a heavy workload, starting four of the Canucks last six games, a rarity for any Canucks backup goalie when Luongo is healthy.
A busy schedule, which sees the Canucks play 5 games in 7 nights, coupled with the birth of Luongo’s second son has meant more playing time for Schneider. He hasn’t disappointed, winning all four games he’s started during the Canucks streak, sporting a goals against average of 2.27 and a save percentage of .922.
Recent years have seen increases in starts for Canucks backup goalies. During Luongo’s first year with the Canucks he started 75 games, while then backup goalie Danny Sabourin started only 7. Last season saw Andrew Raycroft start 14 games for the Canucks, the most of any Canuck’s backup since Roberto Luongo joined the Canucks in 2006 (save the 2008-2009 when Luongo missed two months with a groin injury). Cory Schneider is on pace for 18 starts this season.
“We have two great goalies” said Daniel Sedin. “It doesn’t matter which one is in, it doesn’t change the way we play, and that’s a big deal”.