Thursday, March 22, 2007

Climbing Canucks making moves on first

A week ago Vancouver fans were content to be first in the Northwest, but after two consecutive wins against the top teams of the Western Conference, suddenly first overall in the conference isn’t out of the question.

The Canucks continued on their winning ways Wednesday night, with a convincing win against the Conference leading Nashville Predators. The 2-0 victory, gave the Canucks a bit of breathing room against the Minnesota Wild who are nipping at their heels in the Northwest Division, Vancouver leads the Wild by three points in the standings.

The trail the First place Predators by four points and if they dare to seek higher goals they trail the league leading Buffalo Sabres by six points.

The rise of the Canucks can be traced to a cohesive group of players that have bought into Alain Vigneault’s system, a team that plays a solid five man on the ice game, each player with a task and taking care of it.

The Canuck’s of a few years ago with Bertuzzi and Jovanovski and the rest of the high profile crew of the Brian Burke era were expected to win the Stanley Cup, interestingly enough it’s this collection of relative unknowns, role players and budding stars that may deliver Vancouver its long cherished Stanley.

Backed by the rock solid Roberto Luongo, every game seems winnable for the Canucks, never out of reach and should they give the MVP destined goaltender a lead and it’s all but over for the competition.

Luongo was awarded the Mark Messier leadership award for his solid example in the Vancouver nets and his presence in the dressing room and the community. While Messier’s name may not carry as much cache in Vancouver as in other cities, (his days in Vancouver not always fondly remembered) the award in his name does signify the important role that Luongo has played in Vancouver’s charge since Christmas.

They are perhaps the hottest team in the league, coming together at just the right time and showing little to no weakness along the way.

Quietly they’ve climbed the standings, an unassuming team that just seems to win night after night and rewards their coach with a solid effort in almost every game.

As the season winds down and the playoff pretenders and contenders settle their spots, the Canucks may be that one team that nobody wants to meet if they can avoid it.

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