I don’t know about you but I for one am glad that February is OVER. The injury bug came calling slowly and then all at once to the Canucks as the month progressed taking nine regulars out of the lineup. The February schedule quickly became increasingly daunting with each new injury but somehow, with a mixed lineup of veterans and rookies, the Canucks found ways to not only compete but ways to win. Yes, I am aware that there was that forgettable game against Buffalo but all that proves is that you cannot take ANY opponent for granted no matter their current standings.
The odds seemed stacked against them most nights with a depleted blue line, multiple forwards missing, and one veteran goalie on the mend. Yep, I am definitely glad that February is over BUT I am also incredibly amazed by the things that DID go right despite the injury infestation.
An overall 8-6-0 record for February 2015 does not leap off the page as stellar but it certainly is much better than many expected with the Canucks checkered lineup. February brought out some of the best compete level from the Vancouver Canucks since their days before Torts. Zack Kassian re-emerged into the lineup finally playing to the potential that all Canucks fans knew he possessed, even earning playing time with the Sedins. Bo Horvat and Ronalds Kenins developed an instant chemistry as they solidified the Canucks so-called “4th line”. The Sedins found their play-making prowess piling up points throughout the month further proving that last season was an anomaly. Players, young and old were finding ways to contribute on a nightly basis.
Their 8 wins came against: Winnipeg, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Boston x2, Minnesota, the NY Rangers and the NY Islanders. Those eight wins were hard fought wins earned from an undeniable compete level regardless of who was in the lineup THAT night. The win against Winnipeg had an undeniable playoff atmosphere with both teams battling end to end in an overtime thriller. In the game against Pittsburgh, for the second time THIS season, the Canucks shutout the Penguins all-star roster.
Games against the Chicago Blackhawks NEVER disappoint, EVER. Yes, the roster has undergone many changes over the years but the in-game intensity always remains. A battle end to end from start to finish ending with a perfectly aligned SEDINERY overtime game winning goal.
Beating the Minnesota Wild has proven to be a difficult task of late and this season has been no different. The first two meetings ended win the favour of Minnesota. Vancouver had their work cut out for them in their final meeting of the season. The Wild kept it close but Eddie Lack stood tall to the test as the Canucks held on for a regulation win.
Two games against Boston in 11 days was most definitely NOT an easy task by any means but this team was more than ready for the challenge. In the first of two meetings, Shawn Matthias broke out with his first career hat trick on home ice. In their second meeting, this time in Boston, the Canucks had to find a way to win without Ryan Miller. The Bruins scored a quick goal but Eddie Lack shut the door the rest of the way making 40 stops while an on fire Zack Kassian scored the game winner for a regulation WIN.
Since Coach AV left Vancouver beating the New York Rangers had become an impossible task. The Canucks came back from THREE deficits in this game to earn a 5-4 shootout victory. Henrik Sedin was a man on a mission scoring twice including the game tying goal that lead to over time with just two minutes left in regulation. Every time the Canucks were down a goal or two, they never panicked, they simply kept pushing back and forcing themselves to be noticed. This game was the definition of a character win.
Speaking of New York, the Islanders are on the rise and make each game tough on their opponents.The Canucks played a complete 60 minutes despite losing Ryan Miller to injury early in the middle frame. Eddie Lack came into the game preserving the shutout with 27 saves of his own.
Yes, the final game in February against Buffalo that once again proved teams cannot overlook ANY opponent despite their respective standings. February may not have been stellar but was certainly not their worst. They had many stand out moments that very well may help them down the stretch. The Canucks will have keep that fight they found in February and bring it with them down the stretch as they continue to fight for a playoff berth.
The final countdown begins! March 2nd is the NHL trade deadline and so begins MARCH MADNESS, the NHL addition. Trades, trades and more trades will happen as teams look to find the missing puzzle piece that will lead them to playoff glory. Will your team make a trade deadline dash or will they stand pat with their current rosters? The dust will settle, moves will be made or not made and the race to the playoffs will begin!
As always, until next time, nuck said.