1. Goaltending: This is not how the week in Canucks goaltending was expected to play out. Roberto Luongo, not Cory Schneider, has been in goal for four straight games and Vancouver has picked up seven out of a possible eight points. Luongo has yet to lose in regulation (3-0-2), his numbers are spectacular (1.53 GAA, .940 save percentage), and he was honoured as the NHL’s third star of the week. Luongo’s tenure in Vancouver has been scrutinized to the point that it’s almost as if the Canucks fan base is rediscovering that he is a good, if not great NHL goaltender.
There is such a circus around the Canucks goaltending situation that head coach Alain Vigneault cheekily produced a coin at his media availability and flipped it as a means of deciding who would be the starting goalie. He was joking. We think…
Vigneault’s decisions next week between Luongo and Schneider will be a better indicator of whether or not he’s turning into a real-life Harvey Dent.
2. Gillis in Washington: Mike Gillis and assistant GM Laurence Gilman created a mini-firestorm when they were spotted on TV at the Penguins/Capitals game on Sunday. Rumours linking Luongo to Washington immediately began to filter out. Most pointed to the poor start of both Capitals goalies, Braden Holtby and Michael Neuvirth, and listed several other players that could head Vancouver’s way in exchange for the 33-year-old goaltender. Capitals GM George McPhee came out and said that the two teams haven’t held any trade talks and on Monday, Gillis reached out to McPhee to apologize for any inconvenience caused by his presence at the game.
3. Grinding it out: Yes, the Canucks have won three straight and lead the Northwest division, but their performances have been far from stellar. Out of 10, they deserve an overall grade of six and a half. Goaltending has been the lone area where Vancouver can really point to as an overwhelming positive and has earned them points on nights where the team isn’t particularly deserving.
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Over the last five games the Vancouver power play is one for 23 and they still haven’t established a steady flow at even-strength. The 48 game season was advertised as a sprint. The Canucks are doing their best to grind out results in the early going. Five of their nine games have gone to overtime.
4. Alex Edler: On the surface it would appear that Alex Edler is off to a scorching hot start. The Canucks defenceman is tied for the team lead in points (7) through the first nine games but the early part of the season hasn’t been without issue, as small as it might be.
Edler has moved from the left side of defence to the right side to accommodate free agent signing Jason Garrison. In the past, Edler, a left hand shot, was primarily paired with right hand shot Sami Salo that allowed Edler to play on his favoured left side. Garrison and Edler opened the season as defensive partners with the 26-year-old Swede on the right side. It was painfully evident just a few games into the season that Garrison and Edler weren’t an ideal pairing. To help Edler’s adjustment to the new position, he was reassigned to play with the more defensively responsible Dan Hamhuis.
5. Ryan Kesler’s impending return: There is still no timetable for Kesler’s return but the positive news is that he skated with the team on Sunday for the first time since undergoing offseason shoulder and wrist surgeries. Kesler has repeatedly stated that he would not rush back and would return when he felt he had fully recovered.
This is a case of Kesler learning from experience. Just last season he re-entered the lineup earlier than expected following hip surgery and his production suffered.