THE VANCOUVER SUN
Louie puts lock on it
Elliot Pap said Roberto Luongo
’s performance is now at a point where it is mystical, which is a great advantage for the Canucks.
“Needing another 50:22 of shutout netminding Thursday to establish a franchise record, Luongo made it look easy in the Canucks' 2-0 victory over Ken Hitchcock's Columbus Blue Jackets,” said Pap.
“Luongo has not allowed a goal in 193:56 and erased Ken (Spider) Lockett's team mark of 184:20 set in the 1975-76 season. It was also Lord Louie's third consecutive shutout -- two short of Brian Boucher's league mark -- and a personal best.”
"It doesn't really mean anything, to be honest with you," Luongo replied when queried about his accomplishments. "Just to win and see the guys play hard in front of me is what I liked and, hopefully, it will continue."
"You could feel the intensity," Luongo noted. "The fans were pretty quiet there in the third and I think they were all nervous. Every time the puck was close to the net, you could hear them take a deep breath."
“The victory completed an immaculate three-game homestand in which the Canucks outscored their opponents 8-0. They have won five straight at the Garage and completed a superb November at 9-2-2,” Pap said.
"It's awesome to play in front of a guy like that," gushed Ryan Kesler
, who's been an integral part of the shutout streak with his outstanding checking work. "When guys break down defensively, he's always there to shut the door no matter what. I think it gives us a little more confidence back there to make plays.”
THE VANCOUVER SUN
Christmas comes early
Brad Ziemer said Christmas has come early compared to last year when the Canucks made their turnaround on boxing day.
“A 2-0 win Thursday night over the Columbus Blue Jackets means the Canucks are 9-1-2 in their last 12 games and you can almost sense the same swagger that this team had in the second half of last season,” said Ziemer.
"Right now, we are on a roll and we're just going to run with it until it ends," said centre Ryan Kesler
, one of a number of Canucks who happens to be at the top his game. "We're all feeling confident ... At the beginning of the season, we were hoping to win games and now we're expecting to win and we expect to win every night. We know the type of team we have now and we know we can win and that's the biggest thing."
“Clearly, something clicked with this team Nov. 1 after it dropped a 3-0 decision on home ice to the Nashville Predators and lost key defencemen Kevin Bieksa
and Sami Salo
to injuries,” Ziemer said.
"October sucked for us, plain and simple," Kesler said. "Everybody was kind of down in the dumps. We knew what kind of team we had and we weren't playing like it. Everybody took it upon themselves to play better defensively and that's the way we have to play. We were playing too loose as a team in October."
"When a team plays well together it builds the team confidence and players start to find the other players without even looking," Salo said. "When you are struggling those things don't usually happen. You have to look for the plays, they don't just happen naturally. Right now, it seems like all four lines are clicking and the same with all the D pairings."
OK, so when does he let in a goal?
Jason Botchford said that Roberto Luongo
’s legend continues to grow making those timely saves and setting new club records.
Botchford said, “Somehow, it is getting bigger, and more epic by the day.”
“Somehow, Roberto Luongo
is on a run more impressive than anything he did during his storied season last year.”
“Somehow, he continues to raise the bar and rewrite Canucks history, leaving his fans, his teammates and his coaches slack-jawed and in awe.”
“He is doing things no one in Vancouver has ever seen,” said Botchford.
“He is setting records. He is changing the course of games and doing it nightly.
“He looks unbeatable.”
“And for the past 193:56 he has been.”
"He's unbelievable right now, I can't describe it," Ryan Kesler
said after Luongo posted his third shutout in row in a 2-0 win against Columbus.
"He never has a bad period. He's been our best player the entire season. And, right now, I've never seen a goalie play like this. It's fun to watch. It's fun to be playing for him.
"Sometimes you think, 'This one is going in, there's nothing he can do.' And then he comes up with this huge save. Teams are still getting their Grade A chances, that's going to happen, but he's stopping everything in sight. He's amazing."
Getting offence from defense
Marc Weber said that the defensive line hasn’t been showing any signs of mistakes as they are bringing their game to the next level by putting on some offensive pressure.
"It never happens," quipped captain Markus Naslund, whose play down low with the Sedin twins and the attention it's drawn is one reason there are more holes on the ice for defensemen.
"It's great to see them jumping up and getting big goals."
Granted, the team has been without the services of skilled defensemen Sami Salo
, Kevin Bieksa
and Krajicek for long stretches, but their back-end corps was still struggling to find ways to contribute early on this season with those players in the lineup.
Now the group that is erasing rushes and clearing rebounds with more efficiency -- Vancouver has allowed only 18 goals in its last 12 games -- is also starting to pinch in a more timely fashion and finish chances.
"That was such a key for us last year," said Mattias Ohlund, who leads all Canuck defensemen with four goals this season.
"We like our defense to be involved in the attack, and there's no reason for us not to be contributing."
Sure Luongo’s playing well but what about Edler?
Tony Gallagher said the Canucks getting a shutout automatically turns all the attention towards Roberto Luongo
, but there are defensemen, like Alexander Edler
, who are stepping up.
But one of the chief contributors to Luongo's glorious numbers, which just keep improving, is a defenceman who figured to start the season in Manitoba had everyone been healthy. And he has seen some time with the Moose, but the way Alexander Edler
is playing now you have to wonder whether he will ever see the minors again.
There aren't many 21-year-old defencemen that can play like this big guy, who has burst on the scene with far more poise and decision-making ability on the ice than anyone anticipated.
Edler skates extremely well for a big man and is so cool under pressure, many observers have wanted to check his pulse during the action to make sure his heart is beating at all.
"He doesn't have a heartbeat," says Aaron Miller of the young star. "Hell, I don't have one either, but it's because I'm old. Nothing rattles him. I got one game my first year and he's out there playing with Willie, so they're not spotting him. He moves the puck along the boards well, he's NHL ready. It looks like all he needed was an opportunity and he'll only get better."
"And he [Edler] is only going to get better, when he gets stronger and more experienced, and learning to be mentally ready for every game is an adjustment. It's a lot of games we play."