Awakening

Although the Canucks nearly squandered a two-goal lead in the second period against the Oilers last night, the awakening of a dormant power play provided the offence required to secure a much needed 6-3 victory over their Northwest division rivals.

Having only scored three power play goals all season, the Canucks exploded for four last night. Most importantly, Kyle Wellwood, who utterly dominated the Oilers with the man advantage throughout the game, scored the game-winner early in the third with a great shot to beat Mathieu Garon. Mason Raymond also helped himself to two goals on the power play and Jason Krog the other, late in the third.

After having been so dismal with the man advantage all season, it’s hard to argue with the impression Wellwood has made since being re-called to replace injured Pavol Demitra. Say what you want about him (the 14 year old set that frequents the CDC message boards is particularly fond of ‘fatty’ and other puerile aspersions cast about his weight), Wellwood is a wizard with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone. Certainly he is not the most fleet of foot and he isn’t one to throw the body around but Wellwood offers precisely what you need on the power play: vision, hockey sense, excellent passing ability, a keen eye for the net; and hands as soft as silk. (Last time I checked neither speed nor plumbing ability was a hallmark for power play wizards.)

Apart from the laudable performance by Wellwood and the Canucks power play, rookie Jannik Hansen continued to impress last night, scoring two goals to bring his season tally to three. One of the most illuminating bright spots for the Canucks so far has to be the third line of Burrows, Kesler and Hansen. Not only are they superb defensively and all excellent skaters (as expected), they are contributing more than their fair share of offence.

Some of the positives aside, I am still baffled by the inconsistency of Roberto Luongo. Sure, he was excellent in the first 30 minutes; and yes, he made a timely save on a Sam Gagner penalty shot late in the second to keep the game tied 3-3. The problem is, Luongo was absolutely brutal on the Oilers’ second goal, completely missing a weak shot with his glove. This goal, most importantly, let the Oilers back in the game after having gone down 3-1 in a short span earlier.

Admittedly even the best goalies let in a bad goal from time-to-time but it is worrisome that Luongo seems to be lacking the focus that has come to be a trademark of his play over the years. Now, Luongo did battle back to shut the door with the aforementioned penalty shot-save and a scoreless third period to hold the Canucks’ lead. Still, it must be said that the Canucks are simply not a good enough team to squander two-goal leads – let alone leads of any kind – frequently.

Plain and simple, the Canucks will need Luongo to be better. Fortunately, I am confident that he will be. After all, we are only eight games into the season and the Canucks’ captain has never been known as the strongest of starters.

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