It's looking like another November to remember for Canucks fans as the team has won 5 of its last 6, including a 3 win/shutout streak and sit atop the NorthWest division.
After looking great in the first week, the Nuck's settled into a lovely groove of mediocrity and were playing .500 hockey. Luongo looked mortal, special teams were on and off and the Sedins had gone cold.
The Canucks were in dire need to string together some wins and have done so on the back of their goaltending and defense. Let's look at what has changed:
1. Luongo goes elite
-Nothing better exemplifies why Luongo is an elite goaltender more than last night's duel versus the Wild's Nicholas Backstrom. Backstrom is an excellent goaltender, one of the most consistent in the league. He and Luongo faced 29 shots each, but the Canucks Capitan stood on his head making brilliant saves...all in the middle of a possible record setting streak.
Luongo has moved up the stats department in the last week an current sits in the top 10 in most goaltending categories. He leads the league with a whopping 5 shutouts after only 14 games.
2. Defense fires it up
-After allowing a hodgepodge of powerplay markers, the defense has shutdown 3 teams in a row. While penalty killing remains the largest problem for the defense, the Canucks are a top 5 team when is comes to 5 on 5 hockey.
Beyond that the D has been scoring. Bieksa has had 3 points and a game winner in the last 2 games; Salo a game winner and a post. Beyond that, the defense is showing why it's often considered to have one of the best top 6 line ups in the league:
Bieksa: top 10 in points for defensmen
Mitchell: top 10 in league +/-; 2nd for defensmen
O'Brien: 2nd for defensmen in PIM's
3. Scoring from every angle
-The curse of only having one line that can score seems to have been broken. The Sedins have picked up some consistency, lead in scoring and other lines are contributing as well. With the exception of the much maligned Mr. Pyatt, every forward on the top three lines has at least 3 goals. While the 4th line has been non-existent on the score sheet, they are contributing with fights and blocked shots.
Henrik Sedin: Top 15 in assists, Top 20 in Face off%
Kyle Wellwood: Leads the league in shooting%, top 15 in Power play goals
Alex Burrows: named a top-5 stealth MVP by Sports Illustrated, top 10 in +/-
Ryan Kesler: Selke candidate according to Kelly Hrudey
Jannik Hansen: Top 10 rookie
Ryan Johnson: leads forwards in blocked shots
Brown & Hordichuk: both are top 10 in fights
-The team has been collectively getting better together. In addition to individual efforts, the Canucks continue to be a top 10 team in terms of goals allowed and goals for. They are a gritty, hard to play against team with a lot of fights and PIM's. Most importantly, they have youth who are slowly getting better and oodles of cap space to buy talent (Sundin?) if it comes up. If trends hold, the Canucks GM might be able to continue to barter for great deals. They have signings coming up for Burrows, the Sedins and Ohlund. But they also have good players to move and enough money to probably keep everyone if they wanted to.
Today Eklund spoke of EXTREME PARITY in the NHL where "1/3rd of the NHL teams feel as though they are a few players away from a Stanley Cup."
If trends continue, count the Canucks as one of those teams.