Oh.... Not Minnesota Again
By John Shorthouse
It's road-trip time for the Canucks, which means the team must be headed to - you guessed it - the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. At this point you have to wonder whether there actually exists an NHL building outside of GM Place and the Xcel Energy Center, with this being the seventh consecutive game Vancouver has played in one of the two. It's their third consecutive road game in the State of Minnesota and believe me, no matter how many times Trent Klatt and Darby Hendrickson attempted to convince us otherwise - it ain't God's Country.
That said, the Canucks aren't worrying about where they're playing these days. They're just trying to win hockey games, and take advantage of this wonderful opportunity they've created for themselves. It's early, but there exists here a real chance to blow the Northwest Division wide open if Vancouver can put together another successful week. Thanks to their weekend win over Colorado, coupled with Minnesota's 4-2 loss to Chicago, the Canucks will take to the ice Tuesday with a four point lead over the Wild, six on Calgary, and a whopping eight point bulge over both the Oilers and Avalanche. And when you consider they play Minnesota and Colorado twice each in their next four outings, you can see where another week of strong play could help the Canucks run away and hide.
As always, it is easier said than done.
THE DEFENCE NEVER RESTS...You can credit an active blueline with a whole lot of the credit for the Canucks 7-1-1 bolt from the gate. Marc Crawford has been stressing the importance of having his defencemen involved at the offensive end for years, and with more powerplay opportunities and more freedom in the neutral zone, Vancouver's d-men have taken full advantage.
As of Monday morning, the Canucks were tied with Colorado for the most points from the blueline in the entire NHL. Paced by Ed Jovanovski's ten and Sami Salo's nine, Vancouver's defence corps had racked up an impressive 32 points through nine games.
In fact, Daniel Sedin's first of two goals on Saturday put an end to a run of 16 straight Canucks goals that had either been scored, or assisted on, by a Vancouver defenceman.
Speaking of Daniel Sedin, it continues to be money in the bank for the Canucks in games that both Sedin twins factor in the scoring. Both Daniel and Henrik had points on Saturday, and that improved Vancouver's record to 4-0-0 this year when the twins each hit the scoresheet. And when you're as big a loser as me, and you've actually tracked how the Canucks have fared under these circumstances since Daniel and Henrik came into the league... well, you'll know the results are pretty staggering.
It's happened on 85 occasions, and in those 85 games the Canucks have a record 49 above .500 - 62-13-7-3 - in other words, it's pretty much an automatic two points.
You want guaranteed win night?
Get the Sedins involved.
Finally, I'd like to state for the record that Tom Larscheid and I did NOT engage in fisticuffs in the broadcast booth last Thursday, although there was enough hugging between two grown men to make even the cast of Will and Grace uncomfortable.
For those of you who missed it, Tommy and I split the 50-50 pot, which we've been playing as partners since we started working together in 1998.
Everything was hunky-dory until Neil Macrae got into the act, and had what seemed like half the Lower Mainland convinced that Tom and I were fighting over the money.
Trust me, we're not.
For once in our lives we got paid like hockey players, and I must admit the feeling was not a bad one.