It is hard to sound the alarm bells too loudly when the team remains atop the Northwest division despite a four game losing streak, but it’s even more difficult to complain after the Canucks’ brilliant effort against the San Jose Sharks, their second win in a row. Not only did they win a game against a team they are notoriously terrible against, but they played sound defensively, only allowing one goal, while getting six goals from five players who really needed to score.
Raffi Torres made sure everyone knew who he was when he went on an insanely hot scoring streak, even becoming the NHL player of the week, but after that, he cooled off, and memories of Jeff Cowan began to loom in the minds of Canuck’s players. But Torres made a statement on Friday night; he will not fade off the radar quite so easily. For his salary cap hit, Torres doesn’t need to go out and get hat tricks on a regular basis, as nice as that would be, but putting the puck in the net every once in a while sure does a lot to justify his presence on the team. His physical play does a lot to help his case as well.
Mikael Samuelsson, who came alive post-Olympics last season in the most positive way, has been struggling to find similar success this year. Being able to score twice on the first night of being demoted to a lower line is a very positive sign. It was really his goals that put the Sharks away, increasing the Canucks’ lead from 2-1 to 4-1. Samuelsson has to be able to score for the Canucks at least semi-regularly if the Canucks want to be an offensive juggernaut like last season.
Jeff Tambellini was finally brought back to the Canucks team after he opened the season with a strong effort. He rewarded the Canucks with back-to-back points: an assist against the Avalanche and a goal against the Sharks. He could be an asset to the team if he can keep up his sparky presence on the ice.
Keith Ballard reaffirmed against the Sharks what Kevin Bieksa asserted in the Avalanche game; the Canucks’ defence can put in a goal or two. Just as Bieksa getting his first of the season was a positive sign, Ballard’s goal could indicate a positive step forward for the defenseman after suffering a concussion earlier this season.
Alex Burrows was set up by Henrik and Daniel Sedin for the second straight game, which is a really positive pace for him, considering he’s coming off of a long-term shoulder injury. He hasn’t been back in the line-up long enough to call his lack of scoring a slump, but when the team began to lose multiple games in a row, it was apparent just how necessary it was for Burrows to get back on his game.
It’s important not to draw too many positive conclusions from a single game, but the game against the Sharks was exactly what the Canucks needed to forget about their woes and realize that they are more than capable of winning a game, regardless of who they face. This is a message the Canucks need to learn to embody as a team on a nightly basis, even when they don’t win. More importantly, this is the mindset the Canucks need to believe in come playoff time.