Halfway There For Vancouver Canucks

Scott McKenzieContributor IJanuary 7, 2008

Young Canucks fans need to realize that they are lucky and shouldn't take this Vancouver squad for granted. There have been three Canucks teams that have been legitimate cup contenders—and this is one of them.

Now at the halfway point of the season, this newly-clothed team is drawing honorable comparisons to the '94 team that came within a goal post of winning the holy grail. And for that 10-or-so game stretch when captain Markus Naslund was bulging the twine consistently, I would have said this is looking exactly like that '94 team.

They have top-notch goaltending, even better now than it was with McLean. They have a couple point-a-game players, and a big tough defense, equipped with one of the best shutdown men in the league in Willie Mitchell.

The only thing missing is that all-out superstar 50 goal scorer that the '94 team had—Russian phenom Pavel Bure.

Because they don't have that full-blown superstar, they can only be labeled as a good team...that is, when Roberto Luongo isn't mentioned. And this is a perfect example of the old saying that a bad goalie can make a good team horrible and a great goalie can make a good team unstoppable.

After 41 games, Luongo is putting up ridiculous numbers. He may have has a "slow" start, but he's thrown in six shutouts (three in a row and a Canuck record in that category), a 1.97 GAA, and has started every home game he's been available for.

But me calling this team great isn't going to win them a Cup, which is the only thing that matters.

They need Naslund to start putting in at least one goal every two or three games to even come close to Detroit's numbers. And if it's not Naslund, it's gotta be Ryan Kesler, who has seriously shown improvements in making highly confident moves at very high speeds—something we have waited a long time to see out of Kes.

Kesler is also being considered as an early contender for the Selke award and has three more goals than he amassed in the 48 games he played all last season, all while being put up against every team's top goal scoring tandems.

What the Canucks need to do to take the next step into Western Conference supremacy is bring that stellar home record that they have going on the road.

The whole league is wide open this season (albeit because of three point games) and it's going to be a great finish.

When the playoffs hit. Canuck fans just need to think about Nikolai Khabibulin as a Winnipeg Jet, and John Vanbeisbrouk as a Florida Panther.

Great goaltending wins championships and the Canucks have better than that.