The Goods: A titanic win
First place in the NHL standings was on the line and it showed.
The Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues played about as tight a game as two Western Conference heavyweights could and when the dust settled, the Canucks emerged with a 2-0 win Thursday night at Rogers Arena to open a seven-game homestand.
Alex Burrows scored his 23rd goal of the year to break a 0-0 game 4:17 into the third period, combine that with an empty net goal from Chris Higgins and 29 saves from Roberto Luongo, who recorded his third shutout of the season and the 58th of his career, and Vancouver was able to maintain possession of top spot in the league.
Even more important: the Canucks held on to a lead late in the game following back-to-back outings of being pushed to a shootout, and eventually losing, when leading going into the third.
“We want to be able to close games out, I think we did that tonight,” said Luongo, who made 13, nine and seven saves, none on shots he felt were overly dangerous.
“A lot of credit goes to the boys on that one,” he said of the shutout. “We played the game plan to a tee, we were patient, we didn’t force things and we capitalized in the third.
This one was really well earned by everybody.”
This game had the flow of molasses creeping up hill in the dead of winter until Burrows scored early in the third; neither team had or gave up too any chances and that was all
part of the game plan.
Patience was the key. The Canucks remained just that and when a fortuitous bounce had the puck on Burrows’ stick beside the net off a deep shoot-in from Dan Hamhuis, the forward made no mistake beating Brian Elliott.
Or was it a lucky bounce at all?
“Did you mean to do that,” Burrows asked Hamhuis as he passed in the dressing room.
“Of course,” Hamhuis shrugged.
“I think it’s two good teams play a tight defensive system and there’s no room out there, you have to be patient, you can’t gamble, that’s how you’re going to get some offence,” said Burrows. “Both teams were playing well defensively and we were able to get a bounce going our way in the third.”
The win gives the Canucks an NHL-best 90 points (41-16-8), moving them three ahead of the Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues for first in the Western Conference and two
in front of the New York Rangers for first overall.
Like holding on to a precious third period lead, the goal now is to continue playing the type of hockey that has served Vancouver well all season.
“It’s nice, that’s for sure, but we know there’s still a lot of work ahead,” Burrows said of being atop the standings. “That wasn’t our goal coming into this year to be first place in
the league, it’s nice to be there, but we want to make sure we’re playing good hockey down the stretch and get ready for the playoffs.”
The Canucks continue their homestand against former teammates Cody Hodgson, Alex Suzler and Christian Ehrhoff when the Buffalo Sabres come to town Saturday night.
FOURTH LINE GETS PHYSICAL
The Zack attack continues to impress.
The trio produced 14 of Vancouver’s 31 hits, 11 of which game in the third period (seven from fourth line) when the Canucks turned up the heat on the Blues.
Kassian finished with four hits in 11:04 of ice time, he also had four shots, four of Vancouver’s first seven shots of the game, as a matter of fact.
He was everywhere and so was the fourth line.
“They were physical tonight, they were going, they created some energy and that was certainly what we needed out of those guys,” said Kevin Bieksa. “I thought everybody came out hitting and physical right off the bat and that really set the tone for the game.”
Added Burrows: “They were great, they get on the forecheck, they’re physical, they’re really reliable defensively too, and they bring some energy. I thought Max, Zack and Manny did a great job and that’s what we’ll need from them.”
Kassian now has nine hits in his first two games with the Canucks and he admitted the physicality has helped him settle into games. Butterflies have been ripping apart his stomach since he got word he was headed to Vancouver.
“I think that’s part of my game, I need to finish hits to be effective and move my feet to protect pucks and I thought as the game went on, as a line and as a team, we got better,” said Kassian.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
When Melanie Hameluck turns 18 this summer, she’ll likely go crazy and relax for an hour.
Then she’ll get right back to it.
There’s no time for rest when you’re the most selfless 17-year-old on the planet.
Melanie doesn’t wear a cape, but she should. The Grade 12 student from Dr. Charles Best Secondary in Coquitlam has been involved with 16 different clubs throughout high school, including Best Buddies, a group that spawned Project Hello, a group of students who help the homeless send holiday cards to loved ones they’ve lost touch with.
That wasn’t enough for Melanie. She recently decided she has more to give, yet had no appropriate outlet, so she created two programs on her own. The first is a special needs cheerleading team, the second, called Don’t Blink, has her visit otherwise alone seniors on their birthdays, bringing them cupcakes, flowers and cheer.
Her plate wasn’t full enough this past December and Be A Santa To A Senior was born; she rallied 150 students from her school to buy gifts for the elderly.
All this is done in addition to tutoring she does, she’s a volunteer skating instructor for the Canucks Autism Network and, how could I forget, she works three nights a week.
A gentle reminder she’s a 17-year-old high school senior facing more important life decisions these days than ever before.
Melanie was honoured during the second period of Thursday’s game as the Canucks Local Hero for February. Read her full story here.
pointing out Lapierre's trash talking. It's some of the best in the NHL.
while the Blues are the stingiest defensive team, allowing 1.9 goals per game.
into 2nd in franchise history for points scored. Stay tuned.
Canucks are undefeated lifetime with Marc-Andre Gragnani in the line-up. Boom.