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Winning while losing (cue the glam band ballad)

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It took the Canucks to lose a close one, 4-3 in the shootout to the East's best team, for me to realize just how much I respect this team. I can't help but draw comparisons to last year (every iteration of Crawford's squads over the years for that matter) and I know that those previous teams would have barely showed up after playing the last of a tough road trip before the All-Star break. You can see in your mind's eye Bertuzzi skating without purpose, Jovo taking a ill-timed lazy penalty and, naturally, Cloutier giving up a soft one your grandmother could have stopped.

Last night's team showed just how much Vigneault has changed this team. Ignore the first period, they sucked. The Buffalo TV reporters spoke to Fitzpatrick before the second and he said how Vancouver couldn't sit back in the second like they did in the first. And they did just that: they badly outshot the Sabres, notched a powerplay goal from a former Sabre and a shorthanded goal from what could be a former Canuck in the coming weeks. Their captain, ever the lighting rod for criticism, pounced on a huge rebound to put them in the lead in the third. And, of all people, Sabourin played his heart out, outplaying the All-Star bound Miller at the other end of the rink.

So what if they lost? They got 7 of 8 points on a tough road trip and they had EVERYONE contributing: both goalies, their top Swedish guns, Bulis showing he has a pulse, Pyatt adding key goals, Bieksa (even if no one can pronounce his name in Toronto) doing his damndest to make people forgot Jovo, and all of their role players (folks like Green, Fitzpatrick, Burrows & Krajicek) all stood out. The only guy still invisible is Chouinard and you can't truly blame him seeing how he spends more time viewing games from the same vantage point we all do.

So for a team that was projected to revoltingly suck, to be first in the division (or perhaps tied for first second after today's games) heading into the All Star break is pretty remarkable. Now, contrast that with last year's team and 'remarkable' suddenly feels like 'amazing'. It's only cosmically appropriate that their next home game is next Friday against Crawford and the Kings.

Seems to me, as the league takes a pause to have their Fitzpatrick-less marketing event, Canuck fans should be pretty happy. They've actually got a team on their hands and it's been many many moons since anyone could truly say that.

(ok, turn the music off now)