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Stepping Up

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks

By Jeff Paterson

Matt Cooke
Jan Bulis
Brent Sopel
Alexandre Burrows
Henrik Sedin
Taylor Pyatt
Sami Salo
Markus Naslund
Brendan Morrison
Jeff Cowan

That's not just a partial rundown of the Vancouver Canucks current roster. It's also, in order, the team's last 10 goal scorers over the past four games. That's 10 different scorers on the last 10 Canuck goals. For the past few years, the cry in Canuckville at this time of year has been: 'Where is the secondary scoring?' Now the question has to be: 'Alright, who's going to step up and steer this bus over the final 12 games and into the playoffs?'

Balanced scoring is a good thing - it not only spreads the attack and therefore makes a team tougher to defend, but also allows players who haven't found the back of the net in a while to feel like they're making a significant contribution to the hockey club at a key point in the season. Getting goals from Bulis and Cooke and Burrows the past couple of games is great if it boots their confidence and gets them out of their recent scoring funks.

But there's also that old adage in sports that 'your best players have to be your best players' and that's why the Canucks need their leading goal-scorers to step up. And it has to start Thursday against the St. Louis Blues.

Jeff Cowan's emergence from nowhere has been one of the great stories in the National Hockey League in the past few weeks. But the fact that the grinder-turned-goal machine has six of the team's last 27 goals is a double-edged sword. It's good for Cowan, and on the nights when he's scored, it's been terrific for the Canucks. But it's highly unlikely that Jeff Cowan alone can get the Canucks where they want to go over the final three weeks of the season and then when the real fun begins.

You may have noticed that the Canucks' top goal-getter isn't on the list above. And that's not to suggest that Daniel Sedin is not contributing. Far from it, in fact he had 10 goals in the 13 games prior to his current four game skid. But he was one of the main reasons the Canucks were 10-2-1 in that stretch. And as the only player on the team in double-digits in the power play goal department (13), Daniel has to find a way to get his goal-scoring touch back in a hurry.

Now, he's not alone. Markus Naslund has one goal in six games and two in 10. Brendan Morrison has one goal in nine games and Taylor Pyatt has two goals in his last 15. That's a lot of games and not so many goals from the team's top four marksmen. They've shown throughout the season that they can find the back of the net, but the Canucks need them all to prove it again.

Back to back losses are not the end of the world, but with so much at stake in the Northwest Division and Western Conference races right now, the Canucks can't afford their first three game losing streak since before the Christmas break. The Vancouver Canucks are 13-0 this season when one of their players scores two (or more) goals in a game. When one guy steps up, they are unbeaten and those wins have accounted for a full third of their win total this season. So it's pretty plain to see the difference one guy can make and that's exactly why they need one of their main goal-getters to get going again.

The secondary scoring they've received lately can be seen as a positive as long as that's what it is - secondary scoring. But on too many nights lately, it's been the only scoring. The Canucks found out the hard way in November that it's simply too tough to win in this league using that formula.

It seems fairly clear for all to see that the Vancouver Canucks have an opening for a goal-scoring hero. Applications are being accepted in Alain Vigneault's office. And he's hoping to fill the position by Thursday night.

Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight. E-mail him at
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