After twenty games, a little less than a quarter of the regular season, the Canucks are 10-7-3. This puts them 14th in the league, eighth in the West and second in the Northwest Division. It’s not bad, 23 points makes them the second best team in Canada, only four points behind Montreal, and it is only November.
"It's tough to win in this league and it's even tougher when you spot teams two goals," Ryan Kesler told Brad Ziemer of the Vancouver Sun after Sunday’s game. " We have to figure this out as a team and we need to stick together in here. The last thing we need to do is get frustrated. We need to try and stay positive in here, stick together. That's the only way we are going to get through this."
Despite losing four in a row and hockey pundits crying for trades and ruling the season over before it’s really even begun all hope is not lost. The Canucks do, believe it or not, still have plently of upsides.
Alex Edler recorded an assist off of Mikael Samuelsson in the teams lone goal against Chicago. He now has 14 points (2-12-14) this season, the third highest on the team. It also ranks him tenth for points by a defenceman in the league.
Christian Ehrhoff, who scored the team’s first goal against Pheonix is ranked 22nd with his 11 points (3-8-11). Vancouver is the only team in the West to have two D-men in the top 30.
Vancouver currently leads the league with a 56.6 face off percentage. Manny Malhotra had a 69% winning record against the Coyotes and his 61.8% season average is ranked third in the league.
Ryan Kesler won 78% of his faceoffs against Chicago and his 58.8% season average is sixth best in the league. Vancouver is the only team to have two players ranked among the top ten in faceoff percentage.
The Canucks also continue to lead the league in their ability to take advantage of the power play. Samuelsson scored his first power play goal of the season against Chicago.
The Canucks play division leaders, the Colorado Avalanche next, and they are sure to show up eager to win and able to show fans why Vancouver is home to some of the best hockey in the country.
Jeff Tambellini, Mario Bliznak and Joel Perrault have already seen some playing time in BC this season, but now the rest of the Canuck prospects on the Manitoba Moose will get a chance to as well, as they make a visit to Abbotsford next weekend to play the Calgary Flame’s AHL affiliate Heat.
The Heat (11-8-2) currently sit in second place in AHL’s North Division but the Moose (10-6-1) are a close third, trailing by only three points.
The Moose played their last two games against the Rockford Icehogs, they lost the first match up 1-0, but came back Friday night to win 3-1 both on home ice.
Tyler Weiman was in net for the win and Canucks first round draft pick Jordan Schroeder scored two goals, including the game winner. Tambellini, who recorded two points in six games with the Canucks this season, netted the clincher with 1:53 left in the game. Recent Canuck call-up Mario Bliznak helped out with two assists.
Canuck prospects have been making a name for themselves all season in Manitoba, here’s a look at some of the best:
Cody Hodgson was scoreless in his first five games but has since picked up his game. He now leads the team in goals with eight in the 12 games since (8-5-13).
"He has been good as of late," head coach Claude Noel told Patrick Williams of The Hockey News. "I think he is having a good time. He is doing a good job in a lot of areas, but he is getting pucks to the net, making plays and he is getting rewarded for those things."
Hodgson is playing on the team’s top line with Sergei Shirokov (5-8-13) and Bill Sweatt (4-6-10).
BILL AND LEE SWEATT
The Sweatt brothers were signed by the Canucks over the summer and both are making waves during their first year on the Moose. Older brother Lee plays defence and the younger Bill plays left wing. Bill won the title of the team’s fastest skater during last weeks Super Skills Competition, taking the competition in 14.16 seconds.
"This being my first year in pro hockey, it's great to have my brother here,” Bill told Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press. “He's a voice I can go to and learn from. He conducts himself in a businesslike manner. He's a good guy to look up to. He's been at this four years and I'm just a kid out of college."
The brothers played in college together for one season before Lee left Colorado College to play in the AHL with the San Antonio Rampage. He spent the last three seasons in Europe, splitting time in Finland, Austria and Russia.
Bill is currently third in team scoring. Lee has 7 points (3-4-7) and his +7 record is the highest on the team.
Standing at only 5’8” 2009 first round draft pick Jordan Schroeder is never going to be one of the biggest guys on the ice, but the 20 year-old has never let that stop him from finding scoring success.
"I think my main thing is to be a playmaker, create scoring opportunities," Schroeder told A.J. Atchue of NHL.com. "But I'm not going to be able to do that if I'm not moving my feet or always pressuring the puck, constantly working hard. I've got to use my speed and skill."
Friday’s winning goal was Schroeder’s third of the season (3-7-10).
Prior to joining the Canucks franchise, Jeff Tambellini already had an impressive 96 goal and 99 assist record in 170 AHL games. An additional 186 NHL games makes Tambellni one of the most experienced players on the Moose.
This experience in evident in his output, despite playing in only seven games this season, less than half as many as the rest of his team, Tambellini is currently sixth in team scoring (5-2-7).
"He's a take control guy," Noel told Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press. "He's taken control of some things on the bench and in the room. He wants to take a bite out of the team and his attitude has been tremendous. He's got experience and poise. He gets a bad pass and he doesn't get rattled. He's a complete player and he's going to help us a lot."
In his six games with the Canucks he scored two goals and an assist.
Former Vancouver Giant and WHL rookie scoring leader Kevin Connauton is among the top scoring D-men on the Moose. In 17 games he has three points and four assists. The 20 year-old was Vancouver’s 2009 3rd round draft pick and is logging some major ice time in his rookie year, playing with Moose captain Nolan Baumgartner.
“I’ve adapted pretty well to the pro game but obviously there’s always going to be room for improvement,” Connauton told the offcial Moose website.“I want to take my game to the next level and become a complete defenceman. You take the advice the coaches give you and make the most of it.”
Eddie Lack is a 6’4” Swedish giant in the Moose net. While in Vancouver “The Stork” turned heads during the preseason. Lack’s size makes him an imposing opponent in the net.
Lack splits the starting job with Tyler Weiman, and has won five of nine games. He has a 2.22 GAA and a .919 SV%.
“I haven’t even started getting good yet,” the 22 year-old told Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Free Press, without a hint of arrogance. “You have to have [high expectations] if you want to make it to the top.”
“It’s a little bit different with the angles, I have to play a little bit deeper [in the net than I did in Sweden because it’s a lot faster game. That’s probably the biggest adjustment for me.”
“I’m a big guy, so I like to use my size. Hopefully, I’ll stop a lot of pucks this season.”
Barring any injuries it’s unlikely that Vancouver will be looking for a new back-up this season, but if the NHL comes knocking, Eddie Lack will be ready.