Let’s not get overly excited

Joe Pelletier: Schneider brings home the bacon for the Canucks.

THE CANUCKS entered the American Thanksgiving weekend in 11th place in the Western Conference and 6 points back of division leader Minnesota.. With back to back shutouts in Colorado and Phoenix and a gutsy win in San Jose, the Canucks are now on a 4 game winning streak, sneaked into playoff positioning, and are only 2 points back of the Wild. Should they catch Minnesota this week they could catapult all the way to 2nd place in the Western Conference!

While a lot national news sources are ready to anoint the Canucks as back and ready to roll, let’s not get too excited just yet. The Avalanche and Coyotes put forth weak efforts. San Jose was clearly better than the travel weary Canucks. Cory Schneider was the Canucks best player by far in that game.

In fact, it appears that the key to getting the Canucks “off the schneid” was to turn to the Schneid. Schneider stepped in to replace injured starter Roberto Luongo, earning all four wins while allowing only 4 goals.

Do we have a goaltending controversy in Vancouver now? Make no mistake, Luongo remains the number one goaltender in Vancouver. As much as some fans want to see Schneider be given the role, contractual politics ensure Luongo his spot at least until playoffs time.

Luongo is ready to play, backing up the last two games after recovering from an apparent groin injury. He was playing a lot better before the injury, too. So when will he get back in?

Chances are very high that Luongo will start this week, either against lowly Columbus tonight or low scoring Nashville on Thursday.

Slap Shots:

Schneider is the first goaltender in Canucks history to record shutouts in consecutive games, both on the road. The only other Vancouver goaltender to post consecutive road shutouts was Dan Cloutier, who did so twice in the 2003-04 season, but in both instances he played home games between his road shutouts.

Ryan Kesler is leading the charge as the American Express line was reunited this week. Chris Higgins looked particularly reinvigorated though David Booth continues to struggle. But the key is Kesler, who finally looked like the Kesler of old. Last season I was guilty of dismissing all the Kesler as MVP talk. This season may very well be defined by Kesler’s game. Hopefully he really has found his stride once again.

Luongo is ready to play, backing up the last two games after recovering from an apparent groin injury. He was playing a lot better before the injury, too. So when will he get back in

Mason Raymond has been cleared to play. In fact, he was a healthy scratch against San Jose as the coaching staff did not want to mess with the winning line up.

Perhaps Raymond can play on defense? Alex Edler was hit by a truck named Jamie McGinn and is nursing a shoulder injury, joining Aaron Rome on the sidelines. Kevin Bieksa and Keith Ballard were both questionable for last game against San Jose but did play. Will we see Chris Tanev called up from the minors this week? He’s just coming off a broken foot, so it’s possible Kevin Connauton could get a look, too.

Outside of Vancouver, hockey fans everywhere have to be thrilled to see Sidney Crosby back with and back with a vengeance. If he stays healthy, it will be very hard to bet against Pittsburgh this season.

Also, I can not get enough of this Ryan Nugent-Hopkins kid in Edmonton. It’s still early, but no first year player has impressed me this much since Alex Ovechkin in 2006. That includes names like Steven Stamkos, Patrick Kane, and Jeff Skinner. He needs a better nickname, but “the Nuge” is something else!

 

Check out Joe Pelletier’s new ebook Pucks On The ‘Net, http://www.pucksonthenet.com

Joe Pelletier is a freelance hockey writer based in Terrace. Check out his website GreatestHockeyLegends.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @HockeyLegends

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