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More plus than minus

by Jeff Paterson / Vancouver Canucks
Roberto Luongo’s on a roll. Duh. Everybody in the world knows that.

What you may not know about Luongo’s remarkable run, however, are some of the by-products his recent spate of shutouts is having on his teammates.

Take Mason Raymond, for example. The streaking sophomore hasn’t been on the ice for a goal against the Canucks since the second period of a 4-2 loss in Columbus on October 21st.

In other words, Raymond hasn’t been forced to make the skate of shame to centre ice (or worse back to the bench) after a goal since the 2nd period of that setback at the tail end of the Canucks six-game road trip last month. That’s more than eight full games, more than 25 periods of hockey and 168 shifts since Raymond’s had an on-ice view of a teammate fishing a puck out of his own net.

That’s what happens when your netminder doesn’t allow many (or any in the past three outings) goals against.

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

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And Raymond’s not alone – although he’s got the longest such streak among regulars on the team.

But how about newcomer Shane O’Brien? The rugged rearguard has been on the ice for just one goal against in the past eight Canuck games. And it’s not as if the coaching staff is using the sixth blueliner sparingly. In Saturday’s 2-0 win over Minnesota, O’Brien played more even-strength minutes (17:38) than any other defenseman on either team.

With the Canucks playing absolutely stifling defense five on five these days, lots of players – not just Roberto Luongo -- are forgetting what it feels like to be on the ice for goals against. Alex Burrows has gone seven games without being on the ice when the other team scores while Daniel Sedin has gone six games.

In fact, when you look at the way the Canucks have played in the past two and a half weeks it’s pretty clear to understand why Alain Vigneault has been constantly praising his club’s effort at even-strength.

Going back to and including the 1-0 loss to Boston on October 25th, the Canucks have surrendered 10 goals in their last seven hockey games – only two of those have been while the teams were skating five aside and neither goal was scored by an opposing forward.

The Bruins scored their goal on a delayed penalty with the goalie on the bench for an extra attacker. Although it goes into the books as an even-strength goal it came during a six on five situation.

Anaheim scored three of its six goals on the power play and tied that crazy game at the Honda Center with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker (another six on five goal). Defensemen Steve Montador and Chris Pronger have been the only ones to score five on five goals against the Canucks in the past two weeks.

All three Red Wing goals came on the power play in Detroit’s 3-2 win at GM Place on November 2nd.

The Kings, Predators, Coyotes and, most-recently, the Wild were all held off the scoreboard.

As for Luongo, he’s working on a shutout string of 201 minutes and eight seconds which means he needs to get to the midway mark of the first period Wednesday against Colorado without surrendering a goal to better the club record he established in the final week of November a year ago.

Luongo is now just two clean sheets shy of matching Dan Cloutier’s franchise record for shutouts in a season (7) set back in 2001-02 and within four of Kirk McLean’s franchise record for shutouts in a career (20). McLean played more than 500 games in a Canuck uniform while Luongo is likely to set the record in fewer than 200 games as a Canuck. Luongo’s 16 shutouts as a Canuck have come in 163 games since he joined the team prior to the 2006-07 season.

If you take Luongo’s last seven starts in the month of November (four this year and three last year) – admittedly a goofy statistic – the Canuck puck-stopper is 6-1 with all six victories by way of shutout and the only three goals to get past him were all scored on the power play. Overall, combining last November and this one, Luongo is 11-3-2 with seven shutouts and just 22 goals against in 16 games.

It’s easy to make the numbers sing, but any way you crunch them these days they tell a pretty good story about the play of the Canuck captain and #1 puck stopper. They also reveal some interesting tidbits about the guys in front of him.

Of course, the statistics the Canucks like the most these days are their three straight wins and the 18 points that had them in first place in the Northwest Division after Saturday’s shutout of the Wild.
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