As good as the Sedins and Alex Burrows were Thursday night, the line that had everyone buzzing was the newly minted line of Chris Higgins, Jannik Hansen and Derek Roy. The combo had a number of good chances, and that was easily Higgins' best game of the season. It was exciting to see the instant chemistry with Roy and Higgy, and with Mason Raymond likely ready to go tonight, and Ryan Kesler soon to be 100%, the thought that this team might have 3 legitimate threats to throw at teams gives even a pessimistic bastard like me hope that they may actually be able to do something.
Sure, they're going to have to be more consistent on the back end, and apart from Cam Barker being Cam Barker Thursday, the Canucks did exactly that. The Oilers were as stifled by the Canucks D in that game as they were allowed free reign the previous Saturday. Simplifying their game will help Alex Edler, Dan Hamhuis, Jason Garrison and Kevin Bieksa do what they do best. Hell, Bieksa even scored against the Oilers. And with Keith Ballard almost healthy again, let's hope AV does the smart thing and puts him back with Chris Tanev. Andrew Alberts hasn't been horrible, but that Tanev/Ballard combo has been decent this year.
Cory Schneider gets the nod again in goal, and you get the feeling we won't see Roberto Luongo in the net for the Canucks until the back to back games in Nashville and St Louis in the middle of the month. Would like to see him get a couple more starts than that, honestly. One, to keep him fresh and two, to make sure Schneider is rested for the post season.
A win tonight will give the Canucks a 4 point lead in the Northwest Division, and it's starting to look like we could see a first round matchup against the team chasing them for that lead, the Minnesota Wild. I hate this matchup for travel reasons, and because they're so bloody dreadful to play against. Things are a long way from settled, but it's starting to look like the top 7 is settled with between 10-12 games remaining, and the dog fight will be for that last spot. St Louis is currently holding it, but behind them the Oilers, Blue Jackets, Coyotes, Predators and Stars are all still in contention. The stretch drive is gonna be intense, watching this dog fight for that last spot, and it brings forward some interesting questions: Can the Blue Jackets pull off the most unlikely Cinderella story and make it to the dance after trading away Rick Nash? Will Barry Trotz still have a job if Nashville misses the playoffs? How damaging will it be to Phoenix's efforts to stop being a money pit if they miss the postseason? Can the Oilers actually make the playoffs, and who will be more obnoxious: Oilers fans and their misplaced sense of entitlement or hockey writers and their 'I told you so's'? We have less than a month left in the regular season, and it's gonna be a blast!
The Calgary Flames will not be having a playoff push, to the surprise of no one. Bloody awful again this year, and having jettisoned two of their biggest contracts in Jarome Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester, this team is we are told 'playing for pride'. One wonders how much of a hit their pride took last night, when San Jose got the go ahead goal with just over 2 minutes remaining in the 3rd. I suppose that's the kind of things that happens when you have a goaltender playing out his time, looking forward to retirement at the end of the season in Miikka Kiprusoff. So with all things pointing to what should be an easy 2 points for the Canucks, this is once again time for a reminder that a) the Canucks cannot take a night off, even against a team as gawd-awful as the Flames, you only need to go back to March 3rd to see why and b) locking down home ice has to be a priority. There's not a team beneath them right now that the Canucks could see as favourable to start on the road as opposed to Rogers Arena.
Finally, I just want to say thank you to Tom's RV Service here in Victoria, for the tickets to tonight's game. I don't know what it is about me and winning ticket contests, but it might be a good idea to keep on my good side for the next time I win (hah!). Our pal Twitchy has been kind enough to offer me a place to crash post-game, so you might see some pics from the game (we have some seriously nice seats, Section 321, Row 1) and I will have a full write up with lots of pics of our experience on my Monday post as we prepare for a visit from the Coyotes.
KICKASS METAL TUNE OF THE DAY
VOLBEAT have been making waves in the North American heavy music scene for a while now, and their most recent album 'Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies' features a track with a guest appearance from one of their Danish countrymen, none other than King Diamond! Check out this kickass collaboration 'Room 24'