Not sure what I enjoyed more about that game last night: the thorough beating of the Leafs (when it happens this many times in a row, it's almost become a tradition), or the fact that the Canucks played a solid, disciplined 60 minute game. A couple minor hiccups here and there, but there wasn't a player you could point out as having had even a marginally bad game. To a man the team was fired up, focused and ready for their opposition, none more so than the Canucks first line. Daniel Sedin, brother Henrik and Alexandre Burrows were the difference last night, accounting for three of the Canucks 6 goals, 10 points in all, and looked downright dangerous all night long. You know, the way we're used to. I dare say that anyone who was chirping about the Kessel line having a few more points than them were shown pretty clearly that there's a difference head to head. I don't want to dwell too much on last night, as the Canucks were on a plane to Edmonton immediately after the game, ready to kick off a 6 game road swing with a game against the dismal Oilers.
Last night's dismantling of the Leafs couldn't have come at a better time, getting the Canucks firing on all cylinders as they head out to improve on their league best 19-9-2 road record. Their play away from Rogers Arena has been a pleasant surprise this season, and while the wins may not be coming in the sheer dominant form that they were last year, they do have a workman like attitude to them even if that effort has been just enough to get the win. All teams go through these funks. Some just handle it better than others. It could have been a lot worse, this slide could have seen them looking like the Hawks did. That would have been disastrous, and let's face it: some of you didn't handle this stretch in the most noble of ways. Listening to callers on the Team 1040 open lines, you'd think it was the Canucks who were on that 9 game losing streak, people calling in and pleading for trades that the Canucks simply don't need to make.
This road trip will see the Canucks away from home for the rest of the month, and facing some big tests as they take on Nashville, Detroit and New Jersey after the Oilers, followed by their first meeting this season against the Dallas Stars before wrapping it up against the red-hot Phoenix Coyotes. Yeah, I know that sounds weird. Let's not look ahead though. Even though the Canucks sit in a very comfortable position as far as their division goes with a 15 point lead over the Calgary Flames, don't expect them to take their foot off the gas for tonight's tilt with the Oilers. If anything, you should expect another outburst of wizardous Sedinery as they look to increase their lead over Edmonton to a jaw-dropping 32 points. Yeah, the Northwest Division is not as strong as it used to be, but this is still the NHL and you cannot take a night off, even against a team as dreadful as the Oilers.
Cory Schneider gets the nod for the Canucks tonight, and I would imagine we also see him Friday afternoon against the New Jersey Devils, with Roberto Luongo facing the Red Wings the night before in Detroit. Schneids has been solid in his role as backup, winning 5 straight and 10 of his last 11 starts, giving the Canucks a 1-2 punch in net that few can match. With the Canucks playing 6 games in 10 nights on this trip, that goaltending depth will definitely come in handy. Edmonton will counter with Nikolai Khabibulin in goal, and Darcy Hordichuk will not play tonight, thus robbing this game of some much needed comic relief.
I know everyone wants to dump on the Leafs after last night, but I want to assure you that while they showed how far they have to go, there's still a chance they could make the playoffs. Yes they have a tough schedule ahead, but they are only 8 points behind Boston for first in the Northeast. I was a little surprised to see that, and it's a sign that has as much to do with Boston's struggles as anything. If the Leafs can get on a bit of a role here, with a little help they could see themselves (or the Ottawa Senators, who sit 4 points in front of them) vault all the way to the top of the NE standings and something that was unthinkable at the start of the season: a 1st round playoff series with home ice advantage... That was a huge win for the Calgary Flames last night in the renewal of the Battle Of The Sutter Brothers, and kudos to you if you were able to a) sit through it without changing the channel and b) able to stay awake through it if you did. Calgary's got the tiebreaker over LA for 8th spot, and should they squeak into the playoffs, their reward will be a likely first round meeting against Detroit or Vancouver.
KICKASS METAL SONG OF THE DAY
Strapping Young Lad may be dead and buried, but the finest metal act to emerge from Vancouver has left an impressive, if underrated legacy. Devin Townsend continues to push the boundaries of metal with his different solo works, but it will be SYL that people remember him for at the end of the day.