Sunday at Nationwide Arena in Columbus Cory Schneider got the start and the Vancouver Canucks rode his sensational play to a 4-1 win over the Blue Jackets.
Schneider, starting his 20th game of the season, not only set a personal-best in winning his sixth consecutive game, his 39 saves earned Vancouver a franchise-tying eighth straight road win and set a new club-record for wins in a season at 50.
It was also Vancouver’s fourth win this year over Columbus giving the Canucks a 4-0-0 sweep.
Versus the Blue Jackets, eerily similar to the past two road games against the Detroit Red Wings and Atlanta Thrashers, the Canucks were flat early and often, forcing the tender to come up huge. Roberto Luongo got the job done when called upon and Schneider was equally as impressive.
In the first, Schneider was hit with 13 shots, yet the Canucks escaped with a 1-0 lead thanks to Christian Ehrhoff’s 12th goal of the year. The middle frame had Schneider pelted with another 12 shots, all stops, as Vancouver clung to a slim lead that ballooned early in the third with Henrik Sedin scoring before Chris Higgins collected his first two goals with the Canucks to ice the win.
Schneider, mirroring Luongo, exuded confidence all game long; he didn’t even blink after an unfortunate bounce off an RJ Umberger shot spoiled his perfect game.
It’s not about personal accomplishments for either netminder and the Canucks are unbeaten to open a five-game stretch on the road because of their combined 108 saves and just three goals against in three games.
“We’re having success on the road, but sometimes as a goalie you have to make some saves on the road to let your team get into it,” said Schneider.
“Once we get a few goals, the other team usually plays pretty hard being at home and that’s why Lu and I have been pretty busy, but it’s a solid road win and we’ll take it.”
Special teams also played a major part on this night as the Canucks used the NHL’s top ranked power play to cash in on two of four power play chances; Vancouver was also flawless on the penalty kill going 5-for-5 with nine consecutive man advantages erased over the previous two games.
Considering Schneider’s play, how the Canucks performed on special teams and that Vancouver got the win, one might assume life is good for the President’s Trophy favourites, but Ryan Kesler, for one, wasn’t pleased with his team’s outing.
“That’s not Canucks hockey, that’s not the way we need to play, but it’s another two points and there’s positives we can take from this game. We’ve got to focus on what we can improve and basically just move on.”
How far have the Vancouver Canucks come in 40 years?
Wins were tough to come by when the Canucks entered the NHL in 1970, so much so that it took Vancouver 174 games to secure its 50th victory in franchise history, an 8-4 win over the Los Angeles Kings on November 17, 1972.
In sharp contrast, it took the 2010-11 Canucks 76 games to reach the 50 win plateau for the first time in team history; 25 picked up at Rogers Arena, 25 on the road. The win was also the team’s 1,298th all-time victory.
Last season the Canucks flirted with 50 wins falling one shy of the mark, that was the same story in 2006-07. Overall Vancouver has surpassed 40 wins 11 times, but with the President’s Trophy the goal, 50 wins was a must. Of the NHL’s past 10 top finishers, only the 2003-04 Detroit Red Wings failed to eclipse 50 wins finishing with 48.
The NHL record for most wins in a season is held by Detroit as the 1995-96 Red Wings won a remarkable 62 games.
Coach Alain Vigneault confirmed that Dan Hamhuis suffered a concussion in the first period against the Blue Jackets and that concussion protocol will be followed; Vancouver outscored Columbus 16-7 this season; Mason Raymond tied a career-high with three assists versus the Blue Jackets.