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Silver Lining

by Sunny Dhillon / Vancouver Canucks
With Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler carrying the Canucks on the scoreboard, it’s been easy for Canuck fans to overlook some of the cold streaks of some of the team’s most important offensive threats. That might not be the case much longer.

Burrows and Kesler were shut out – along with with most of their supporting cast – as the Canucks fumbled an opportunity to move into first place in the Northwest Division by losing to the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 Wednesday night.

Vancouver has now scored only four goals in regulation time – five overall – in its last four road games. And of those tallies, a mere two have come with the team playing five-on-five.

But the most surprising twist may be how the team’s top four scorers have suddenly struggled to light the lamp - which isn't quite the curse it seems at first blush.

Following Wednesday’s loss, Daniel has gone scored in ten games. He has just three assists in his last eight contests – all of which came in the same game, March 6 against Nashville. And despite the fact he leads the team in powerplay goals, Daniel hasn’t capitalized with the man advantage since February 7.

Henrik has a goal and three assists in his last ten games, though his lone tally was an empty-netter with five seconds to play against St. Louis. Henrik hasn’t scored on a goaltender since February 9 against Colorado.

Captain Markus Naslund – who’s been regularly cycling through the line-up for the past two weeks – hasn’t scored in ten games himself. He has just one assist over that period.

Taylor Pyatt – who’s taken Naslund’s former spot alongside the Twins – hasn’t scored since January 31 against Tampa Bay. Pyatt has just five assists to show for his last 17 contests.

None of the four generated much on Wednesday night.

Daniel had four shots on goal, but other than a couple of whacks at loose pucks in the slot, failed to unleash the menacing cycle game that's made him a threat for most of the season. Henrik’s best work was done in the faceoff circle, where he finished 6-for-8 (75%). He had just one shot on goal and other than a nifty feed to Daniel from behind the net, the centre struggled to create chances for his linemates.

Naslund – coming off one of his finest games of the season Monday night in LA – showed some familiar flash with Brendan Morrison. Naslund and Morrison nearly clicked on a late 2-on-1 but Morrison’s backhand saucer pass was picked off by an Anaheim defenseman.

Naslund best’s chance may have come in the second when Morrison spotted him all alone in front of the Anaheim net and threw a no-look pass onto Nazzy’s stick. Unfortunately for Markus, as is the case when things aren’t going well, he fanned on the shot and Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller covered up. Though in their defence, the trio of Morrison, Naslund and the rookie Mason Raymond were likely the most threatening Canucks presence Wednesday.

Pyatt registered one shot on goal but – to be perfectly honest – struggled to find the chemistry that made him a fixture on the Twins' wing last season when the Canucks lit the rockets on a post-Christmas tear.

That’s a lot of negatives. The positives? Well, the mere fact that Vancouver has managed to stay in playoff contention while getting next to nothing from its offensive stars might be far more shocking than anything Burrows, Kesler, or goaltender Roberto Luongo can author.

Logic tells us that this clutch of forwards is far too skilled to continue being held down. Numbers even out, stats level off. And if Vancouver can get its regular offensive contributors back on track, the team has nowhere to go but up.

But if it can’t? Well, let’s just hope that Burr and Kes have a few more rabbits in the hat.  

0 – Points for Alex Burrows. Burrows had tallied six points in his previous three games.

3 – Anaheim goals 5:56 apart doomed Vancouver early.

12 – Saves on 12 shots for Curtis Sanford, who relieved Roberto Luongo in the second period.

22:15 – Of ice-time for Sami Salo, who was questionable heading into this game with back spasms. Sami finished -1 and had three shots on goal.

There wasn’t much offense to speak of. The Canucks fired 31 shots on Jonas Hiller, but too few were of the grade-A variety.

The defense just wasn’t on its game. A mental breakdown led to the first Anaheim goal, passive play the second and third.

The PP struck once but it was Anaheim that made the most of Vancouver’s powerplay opportunities. Marchant stepped out of the box and scored the first Ducks goal, Moen added a shorty two minutes later. The PK gave up a goal but was far from the problem on Wednesday night.
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