Vancouver Canucks: A Whole Lotta Firsts and More

Nucks IceMan@nucksiceman@twitter.comCorrespondent IOctober 18, 2010

Not sure where to start here with all that took place last night, but I'll start with the most unexpected. Yes, that would be Andrew Alberts with his first goal of the season. I mean, he has already tied his total goal output for two of the last three seasons. 

With that, he now has a total of six goals in his 344 NHL games played to date, so he's good for the whole season. But hey, he' s playing some very fine defensive hockey, which was why he was picked up by Mike Gillis in the first place.

As if to cue the rest of his team mates, Mason Raymond notched his first of the season on a power play, and before the first period had finished, the Canucks had scored two goals.

This breakout for a few other Canucks continued in the second period, with Mikael Samuelsson scoring his first goal to go along with the two assists he had on the Canucks first two goals. Even Tanner Glass got in on the action with his first point, an assist on Samuelsson's goal.

Glass was not content with his first point and made sure he got his first shot on goal this season, but did have to wait for the final seconds of the game to register that.

Ryan Kesler, who has had enough quality chances to be team leader in goals, finally broke the drought with a power play goal in the third period. Kesler must have been wondering if that goal would ever come, because in the first period, he had half an open net to shoot at and hit the goal post.

That was followed up with a few more chances as he led the Canucks in that department in the first period.

You know the team is having a breakout night when the Sedins do not score a goal, but that didn't stop them from picking up assists on Raymond's second goal of the game.

Did I mention that Jeff Tambellini also picked up his first assist with a backhand pass, through a couple of Carolina Hurricanes skates and sticks, right on to an open Raymond on his power play goal?

I just about forgot that goaltender Cory Schneider was making his first start of the season. He carried on his brilliant preseason play with a 32 save night, on 33 Hurricane shots.

Schneider was particularly sharp in the first period, when Christian Ehrhoff attempted a pass across the front of the goal crease which was knocked down by the 'Canes' Anton Babchuk, who found himself alone with an open shot.

Schneider made a key stop on that shot, because the Canucks, at that point, were only leading 1-0 in the first period. I will state this again: Schneider is playing his best hockey in the 10 games that I have watched.

He seems very confident in net, his movement is effortless and his positioning on the shooters are an improvement from previous seasons. He looks like the real deal. Could that also have to do with goalie coach Rollie Melanson?

I mentioned in a previous article about the team getting back to a more defensive style of play, and maybe the shots on Schneider are not reflective of that, but another area was. With the forwards supporting the D-men and coming back hard on the back-check, the distance (gap) between the 'Nucks D-men and attacking 'Canes forwards was minimized. This allowed the Canucks defense to move forward at their blue line and attack the Carolina forwards.

In turn, this caused turnovers, which in the transition, gave the Canucks a number of quality scoring chances all night long.

Speaking about the defense, when you see Alberts jumping up into the play, you know that the rest of the D-men must also be following suit. Every one of the D-men ventured into the attacking zone either carrying the puck or joining the rush. That by the way, can only be accomplished when the forward covers for the D-man and the Canucks worked like a fine-tuned engine with that responsibility. 

The Canucks penalty kill continues to play extremely well, having shut out the Hurricanes power play on seven attempts. With that, Vancouver moved up into the NHL's top 10 and are currently sitting in ninth place. Also, with the two power plays scored last night, they slide into the third spot on the NHL list.

Manny Malhotrea has brought an immense amount of talent to the Canucks, especially in the face-off circle. It's no coincidence that the 'Nucks are second in the NHL in face-off percentage. Last night alone, Malhotra was nine of ten after two periods and when you are starting with possession of the puck, that means the other team is chasing. That, of course, is a key component also to killing off penalties.

Definitely a very astute signing in the off-season by Canucks GM Mike Gillis.

Yes, it was a night of many firsts that was surely needed for a number of players, and now, they can relax the grip on their sticks and move forward with the upcoming two-game road trip.

The game on Wednesday will be a must-watch one for the 'Nucks Nation, as the Canucks visit their nemesis, the team that has been a thorn in their side, who has broken their playoff aspirations, the Chicago Blackhawks.

Until then,  you can find me at and on alternate days at


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