By Bill Heintz
Despite the modest winning streak that includes the shutout against Edmonton, I’m not convinced the Canuck Super Tanker has turned things around.
Certainly we are better than we were, but it could be argued that we were lucky to take two points from Toronto. I haven’t seen the Canucks pinned in their own zone for an entire period since mark messier was collecting six million bucks for not back checking.
And the Edmonton squad we handed the goosegg to was about as healthy as Lindsay Lohan on a Saturday night in the Viper Room.
Oh, we’ve had our own squad decimated by injuries and unlike some, I’m certainly willing to use the broken and sprained limbs as an excuse. You cannot lose two of your top six (I include Demitra) and arguably your best D-man without seeing a dip in the quality of play. Add in Kyle Wellood’s toe and Rick Rypien’s groin and you have one key member of each of the four lines out of the game.
Yep, it’s going to hurt.
But the injury depletion isn’t what I’ve noticed the most.
I still see a lack of attention to detail. I still see decision making that is often over complicated by the “better idea” strategy. What I mean by that, is that on any given play, when a guy like Bieksa just needs to chip it off the glass for a safe play out, and then decides to fool the opposition with a “better idea” we have run into big problemas. Like maybe the old quick reversal where he runs into the second fore checker he didn’t see and then loses the puck. Or maybe Edler is in trouble with two guys on him and we don’t offer proper puck support and we get outnumbered. That should never happen in your own zone.
These kind of mistakes lead to the Afghani fire drill where we run around in our own zone chasing phantoms and panicking for about 30 seconds. Now trying to just get the damned puck out of our zone becomes a monumental challenge. The kind of shifts that Hughson often says, leads to a goal or a penalty.
Of course, Roberto’s game seems to be rounding into shape so he’s been available to bail us out recently…unless he’s forced to handle the puck.
He can say what he wants in his own defense, but as great a tender as he is, he may well be the worst I’ve ever seen handling the puck outside the blue paint. If the NHL banned goaltenders from touching the puck outside their own crease, Luongo might never ever lose another game.
So we play the once mighty Wings of Hocketown tonight. As much as they’ve fallen back into the pack, they will be a far better test for the vaunted Canuck turnaround than the flu-ridden Oilers or the Burke-ridden Leafs.
And the game is not without excitement.
I was probably more bummed by Michael Grabner’s pre-season performance than I was about the Cody Hodgson injury. At least Hodgson’s injury can (hopefully) be solved. With Grabner, it looked like we had a guy who clearly did not have the skills to play in the NHL. The fact that I had him penciled in before the season in a top nine role seemed to add to my own disappointment. To see his performance the last few games is one of the best Canuck stories of the early season. Grabs is playing the kind of hockey that should see him stick even after Sedin and Wellwood return.
So yeah, maybe we will have a Dave Nonis draft pick who will work out for us.