The Canucks are in the midst of their best run of the season, and are, as a write this, in a tie for the eighth and final play-off spot in the Western Conference.
I attended the Toronto-Vancouver game last night, and, it was probably the best game I’ve taken in at the Garage since the building opened back in ’95. A complete offensive and defensive effort on both sides of the ice, and Peter Skudra, when tested, was more than equal to the challenge posed by the now-anemic Leaf offense. Brent Sopel, who is a shadow of his former self, (in a good way, though) is producing offensively, and being responsible defensively. He’s gone a long way to help a defensive corps which was severely hurting going into the Christmas Break.
This week, Alex Auld made his first start for the Canucks against the former juggernaut in Dallas, and did very well for himself, turning aside twenty-two of twenty-four shots in a win. He reminded me a great deal of Phoenix goaltender Sean Burke, big, lanky, not much of a flopper, and always was at a good angle to make the save. I enjoyed watching the youngster play, and the more I saw, the more I liked. When Dan Cloutier gets back, Canuck management might have a decision to make, but I would let Auld play at least once more before they make it.
Down on the farm, recent acquisitions Tyler Bouck and .hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php3?encode=TRUE&pid=5642″>Todd Warriner have been welcome additions to the Moose, who sit in second place, two points behind Edmonton’s AHL Affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs, who have three games in hand on the Moose. Brian Chapman is nearing his one-thousandth professional game. Chapman, a fourth-round selection of the Hartford Whalers back in 1986, is still a tough, physical defenseman, who has spent the majority of his career at the AHL level, making a brief, three-game stopover in Hartford in 1990-91. Congratulations to Chapman, may he play as many games as his body can take.
Steve Kariya, who is currently atop the leaderboard in Moose scoring, is the most likely Moose to be given his walking papers by the end of this season, in my opinion. He may be a great skater, but he’s too small to ever make a lasting impact in the NHL. That said, some other team may take a chance on him for a lower-round pick. The pint-sized centre has no future in the Canucks organization, and isn’t a favourite of Crawford or Burke, he should be moved, to give a chance to another young Moose who could have a future in the NHL.
Justin Kurtz seems to be settling back into his role as a top-six defender with the Moose. The smooth-skating defenseman was succumbing to the pace of the NHL game, and was becoming a liability, so he was sent back down to re-claim his spot as one of the top D-men with the Moose. Good to see that he’s doing okay.
Getting back to the big club; Todd Bertuzzi has extended his consecutive point-streak to twelve games. I’ll admit that I’m one of his biggest critics, but Bertuzzi is really pulling up his socks, and showing how scary he really can be when he puts his heart into the game.
With a shut-out tonight, Peter Skudra appears to have solidified his spot as the back-up for the Canucks. At times, he stood on his head, stopping all twenty-eight shots thrown at him by the Flames, who haven’t scored a goal in more than two games; so you knew they’d be like a spider on the search of a wounded fly. One couldn’t ask for a better performance out of our two back-up goaltenders while starter Dan Cloutier has been injured. The only sad part is, one of them will have to go down to the Moose. That man will more than likely be Alex Auld, who has had a good taste of the NHL, and will no doubt be ready for more when the time comes.
It seems to me as if Ed Jovanovski has recovered from his pre-Olympic hangover. Jovo has began doing what he did to become successful the first time; worrying about defense first, and offense not as much as before, and it’s helped. He’s started to score again, and is intimidating the opposition just like he used to. Jovanovski is showing why he was chosen to represent our country at the Olympic games next month in Salt Lake City.
I’m going to end this week’s Weekly Dose with a guy who has surprised me this season, who many of you have probably never heard of. Ryan Ready was signed as a free-agent by the Canucks in 1999 after failing to come to terms with the Flames, who had drafted him back in ’97. Ready has thirty-three points for the Moose this season, easily surpassing his previous career high of twenty-five, which he had last season with the now-defunct Kansas City Blades. A guy who might have been just another low-risk, low-return AHL checker, Ready is beginning to blossom at the age of twenty-three. He’s definitely having his best pro season to date, and he can only get better.