The Vancouver Canucks are mowing down opponents in December, sporting a 7-1-1 record as they head into Detroit to take on the 2nd place Red Wings. They now have an opportunity to move into 2nd place in the conference with a win tonight. Despite the great December record, Colorado is putting up a strong fight for the Northwest Division title, both teams have 42 points.
Vancouver has played the second fewest games in the NHL. On one hand those 6 points could put Vancouver at the top of the Western Conference standings. On the other hand, those 3 extra games have to get crammed into the schedule somewhere. As a result the Canucks have a very ugly January schedule. It all starts the first week of the new year where they play an insane 5 games in 7 days. That makes the last 5 games of December pretty important especially since 3 of the teams are currently ranked in the top 4 of the NHL standings.
Notes from Nuckland...
- What more can be said about Ryan Kesler? He has taken his game to an entirely new level, despite not getting a whole lot out of his linemates. He leads the team in even strength goals(10) and at the same time the defensive side of his game has been outstanding. Kesler has to be a leading candidate for the Selke trophy.
- While Kesler has been getting most of the headlines of late, Roberto Luongo has been quietly putting up some great numbers. Luongo is 7-1-0 with a 1.73 GAA and .925 SvPct in December.
- Kesler's play has taken some of the pressure off the Sedins and for some reason their seems to be a perception that the Sedins aren't playing that great. Well lets take a look at the numbers: Daniel has 11 points in 9 December games, Henrik has 10. Daniel is on pace for 42 goals and 100 points, Henrik is on pace for 82 assists and 97 points. Not too shabby.
- Despite the great record there are several Canucks who can be a lot better. Jeff Tambellini's play has tailed off, but he appears to be coming on. Even though he is on pace for a career high in points, Samuelsson has not scored since November. Raffi Torres has 1 goal and 4 points in his last 19 games.
- For perhaps the first time in the Mike Gillis era the Canucks are getting a contribution out of the 4th line. Having a centre who has some size, can skate and plays physical is a huge part of that. Alex Bolduc is a huge upgrade on Ryan Johnson. During the Johnson era a shift in the offensive zone was a rare occurrence, now it's happening on a regular basis. Tanner Glass is playing the best hockey of his career. Jonas Andersson was solid in his short callup and Aaron Volpatti has already contributed.
- On the blueline Kevin Bieksa is playing as good defensively as he ever has. The brain farts are still there, but overall he is playing well. Christian Ehrhoff has gotten his game together and Alex Edler continues to be the teams best defenseman. Dan Hamhuis has put his foot injury behind him and Keith Ballard is finally starting to see his minutes climb.