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Going Streaking

by Jeff Paterson / Vancouver Canucks
While Dave Nonis works the phones in the week leading up to the trade deadline looking for pieces of the puzzle that can bolster his hockey club for the stretch run and playoffs, the Canucks general manager might want to take a look at adding a free agent that won’t cost him a fortune.

Nonis might want to seriously consider offering a contract to Frank Ricard.

Name not ringing a bell?

You know, Frank. Frank the Tank – the lovable goofball portrayed by Will Ferrell in the 2003 flick Old School. No one knows if Frank Ricard can skate and shoot, but he could certainly utter the one inspirational phrase the Canucks need to hear right now:

Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight.

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Now, nobody is suggesting the Canucks drop their duds or lose their linen and run around town. But the naked truth is that the time has come for the Vancouver Canucks to go streaking – as in putting a handful of wins together.

All of the positives of Saturday’s emotional victory over the Edmonton Oilers won’t mean much if the Canucks can’t back up the effort with another one on Tuesday in Minnesota. Making the playoffs is a tough racket if you try to do it by winning every other game. The Canucks have shown character in recent victories over Atlanta and Chicago, but followed those up with losses to Colorado and Minnesota.

The Canucks laid it on the line Saturday, dropping their gloves and their visitors from the Alberta capital, and in the process found their way back inside the top eight in the Western Conference. The empty netter by Alex Burrows sealed the deal and touched off a firestorm, but it also did much more than that. In the 4-2 victory over the Oilers, the Canucks enjoyed their first two goal lead since a 3-1 cushion in St. Louis on January 13th.

They beat a divisional and conference rival in regulation time for the first time since late December. And they scored four goals in back to back games for the first time since mid-November. So with one hard-fought victory, the Canucks exorcized a number of demons, but – or in Frank the Tank’s case that would be butt – there’s still a very big hurdle to clear.

The bare facts are that the Canucks have not strung together consecutive victories since a 3-0 win over the New York Rangers, followed by a 3-2 shootout win over the New York Islanders to kick off January. That was 18 games ago. You have to go back even further -- to the first two games after the Christmas break -- to find the last time this hockey team won consecutive games in regulation time.

Since then, the Canucks have been a little like Frank Ricard -- loveable and well-meaning. But, ultimately, they’ve been bumbling along in a very competitive Western Conference race.

In recent weeks, though, they’ve shown signs of coming out of their fog. Roberto Luongo was brilliant on Saturday. Markus Naslund has four goals in his last six games. Alex Burrows is proving to be as valuable to the Canucks as he is loathed by opponents. And Willie Mitchell has returned from injury and Kevin Bieksa looks like he shouldn’t be far behind. And who knows what the final 40 seconds against Edmonton might do for team-building and camaraderie over the final 23 games of the regular season.

With the victory over the Oilers, the Canucks have now won three of their past five games and picked up points in six of their last seven. But when you strip everything else away, you’ve got a hockey team that has to follow one win with another. It’s the only way the Canucks can navigate their way to the playoffs.

Saturday night at GM Place was a throwback to days gone by in the National Hockey League. And now, it’s time for the Canucks to go ‘Old School’ again and start streaking through the Northwest Division and Western Conference.  
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