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Scoring by committee

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

Clean up your own mess, say you're sorry when you hurt somebody and wash your hands before you eat.

Robert Fulghum was spot on in saying that all we really need to know, we learned in kindergarten.

That includes sharing.

The Canucks have taken sharing to a whole new level this season as for the first time in 16 years, six players have bested 20-goals.

Alex Burrows (32), Mikael Samuelsson, (30), Henrik Sedin (28), Mason Raymond (22), Ryan Kesler (21) and Daniel Sedin (20) are the oceanic six that have departed the island of inconsistent scoring and landed smack-dab in the middle of Vancouver’s most spread offensive attack since 1992-93.

“It’s always something you’re after, but you never say you want six 20-goal scorers,” said Kesler, who hit the mark four games ago with a game-winner against the Calgary Flames.

“You can’t just have one line going, every team needs a balanced attack and that’s what we’ve got.”

Depending on the trios, Vancouver boasts as many as six 20-goal men on the top two lines, or at least one on three or even four lines. Only the Washington Capitals can make such a claim as they lead the league in 20-goal scorers with seven.

Overall a mere four teams have more than three players with at least 20 goals, Vancouver and Washington are the only two with over four players.

This is a great accomplishment for the players and the team as Vancouver has only achieved this seven times prior in 39 seasons, but does it correlate into anything?

“Confidence for sure,” notes Kesler. “It takes a lot of pressure off guys, we come in waves at teams, it’s not just one line, it’s line after line after line and really any of our lines can score.”

Added Raymond, a first time 20-goal sniper, “It’s just one of those things that seems to be happening and hopefully we can continue to do that right through to playoffs and into playoffs. Those are the keys that can win you games, our willingness to win and fight back when we’re down is another key component.”

That confidence has led to an NHL-high 10-17-2 record when trailing after 40 minutes; over the past four seasons combined the Canucks had only 15 such comeback wins.

Evenly distributed scoring has also been a trademark of recent Stanley Cup champions. Of the last 10 NHL champs, the 2002-03 New Jersey Devils are the only team to have less than four players with 20-goal contributions; the 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning and 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes lead the charge with six 20-goal scorers.

Although defence wins championships and in the post-season stellar goaltending gets you further than a rabid offence, the Canucks are potentially brewing a perfect storm with the playoffs 10 games away.

Not only is Vancouver the second highest-scoring team in the NHL with 236 goals through 72 games, the Canucks have the eighth lowest goals against with 187 giving the team a differential of plus-49, third best behind Washington and Chicago.

Does all this make 2009-10 Canucks better than the 2008-09 version?

In terms of goals for and against the answer will almost certainly be yes, but a lot can happen over the final 10 games. Goals being distributed between so many players has definitely given the team a more positive outlook on its chances and even those on the back end are noticing a difference.

“Our top two lines are as good as any, Welly is playing his best hockey right now and Hanson is playing well, once we get Sammy back, I think it gives us three really good lines,” said Shane O’Brien, a two-goal scorer who is just a 0 away from 20.

“Can’t knock our fourth line either, it generates a lot of energy. Johnny is skating great and you can see his foot’s better, Ryp is playing good, Hordi and Glass can both create a lot of turnovers and get in on the forecheck, so I like our forwards. Anyone can score on all three lines and the fourth line can chip in as well.”

The Canucks have always obeyed the golden rule of kindergarten – Don’t take things that aren’t yours – but that could change this year if the balanced scoring surges on.

Don’t worry, they’ll be sure to put the Cup back where they found it.

 
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