My, how a month can change. The Canucks began February with a six-game winning streak (with one carried over from January), propelling them to nearly the top of the Western Conference. Then they played Dallas on the 15th and the team went 2-4-2 to finish the month. It's as if nobody got what they wanted for Valentine's Day and they spent the rest of February moping about it.
Meanwhile, Ryan Kesler's much-anticipated return was supposed to put Vancouver over the edge. Dare we say Chicago territory? But that hero's welcome was tempered in threefold. First, his return seemed to have required the end of Malhotra's career (plug BTD video here). And rather than bolstering the lineup, the Canucks turned into a .500 team with their number-two centre. Finally, by the end of the month, he was back on the IR with a broken foot. So it goes.
If after these past few games then, you need to go to a place where, like Howard Campbell's tombstone, everything was beautiful and nothing hurt, I've got just the thing. The Canucks' top five plays of the month:
Clearly, February was not without its highlights. If you read my last article on the Canucks' new entrance song, you'd probably consider it hypocritical to kick off this highlight reel with the Japandroids' borderline whining. But here's to giving it a chance, right? So-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, then. Number five:
"You've got to make some big saves to give your team a chance," said a self-loathing Cory Schneider after Tuesday's 4-2 loss against Phoenix. It's not hard to see why Vancouver loves their starter-backup/goaltender-of-the-future, because if his sprawling glove save on Mikkel Boedker isn't "giving your team a chance," then you're not gonna find another instance anywhere. Conversely, in lieu of Kevin Bieksa, Andrew Alberts drew his second game of the season against Phoenix. At 0:20, you can see him effectively block the passing lane to the invisible Coyote forward in the corner, leaving Boedker wide open for the one-timer. Bieksa intends on returning soon. This is good.
At number four is a brilliant passing play from a trio other than the Sedins and [enter linemate or pinching defenceman here] for a change. Usually when Mason Raymond insists on ragging the puck in the offensive zone, it ends with him on all fours or with the puck simply thrown into the corner. So you can imagine my excitement when he splits Matt Cullen and Tom Gilbert before feathering a pass to Keith Balalrd. At 0:37, you can see that he draws three Wild defenders all the way to the blueline, allowing Hansen all the space he needs to finish the play from Ballard. To echo the colour commentary, Raymond's performance this season has been as consistently good as we've seen since 2009-10. Behind the Sedins and Burrows, he's fourth among team forwards in scoring for a reason. Over a full campaign, it appears 20 goals is once more a reasonable expectation for the second-liner.
At the midway point of the top five is a piece of Sedinery that in any other month, would have been a number one. If not for the emotional value of the top two goals, it wouldn't have even been close. We've seen this set play from the Sedins before, but it has never ended as nicely as it does here. Overshadowed by Henrik's 100-foot bank pass is a backhand move that goes against the grain on Jimmy Howard. It was a "You're move Datsyuk" kind of play on Detroit ice. Of course, Datsyuk and company had their turn. Then several more. And before you could say "Luongo for Vezina", a potential classic turned into an 8-3 embarassment. Next time, perhaps the Sedins shouldn't try and one-up the Wings' puck-possession prowess so early in the contest...
Number two represents the first of three major individual achievements this month. You'd be hard-pressed fooling the average Canucks fan at this moment, but there was a lot to celebrate in February. (Unlisted here is Jordan Schroeder's first.) In the second game of the month, Vancouver had outshot Edmonton 39-25, but were within 20 seconds of going behind the proverbial eight-ball that the shootout perpetually represents for this team. Enter Chris Tanev and perhaps the most deserved and dramatic first goal in recent memory. If you were ever wondering how Tanev's teammates feel about the ever-improving defenceman, look no further than his post-game interview. There's an aw-shucks moment if I ever saw one.
Now, I will admit. It wouldn't have mattered if Henrik's record-setting point was an obscure second assist or an own-goal off a defender's skate. His 757th would have been the play of the month in any form, but in true, poetic justice, it was a one-timer off the rush to none other than Alex Burrows. The goal effectively summarized all that has been successful about the Canucks in the past five years. And how about that standing ovation. For that rousing five-minute round of applause alone, I forgive you, Rogers Arena, for being one of the quietest, yet routinely sold out, buildings in the league. Except for the clowns in the bottom portion of the screen at 3:10. You guys are still an embarassment.
So that was an 8-3-2 February. Despite present sentiments, not too shabby. Especially when you take out the parts where Chicago turned our defencemen into pylons. Or where Detroit inverted the crease from envy of the league to shambling media fodder once more. With 16 games in 28 days, however, don't expect either goalie to string any numbers of games together this month. Coming out of March, one of them should be fresh and, ideally, ready to take the crease and run. Don't look now, but by April, the Canucks will have just 13 games left to jockey for home ice in the playoffs.
That said, another six-game win streak would fit in really nicely around now.