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Canucks Watch: Strong December launches Vancouver to head of class

What a month of December it was for the Vancouver Canucks.

Record breaking, actually.

It’s official: It’s been one month since the Canucks failed to earn a point when they lost 3-2 to St. Louis Dec. 5. Since then, the team has had a mixture of wins in games they should have come out on top and wins against competitors who always give them a run for their money. The result? First place in the division, first place in the West, first place overall.

Since the Blues game, the Canucks have an 11-0-2 record, to make up a 13-game streak of games in which they haven’t lost in regulation. Making matters even more impressive is the fact the franchise’s current best streak is 14, so if Vancouver can keep it going with wins over rivals Calgary and Edmonton, we’ll be talking about new history.

But aside from having the NHL’s best record in December (11-1-2), the Canucks earned some wins that are beginning to make lifelong skeptics wonder about the upside of this team.

It began with a Dec. 3 win against the Chicago Blackhawks. Not only were the Canucks trying to get back on track after winning only three times in seven games, but they shutout their recent arch nemesis. Roberto Luongo always seems to have trouble with this young and exuberant team, but 32 shots on goal didn’t faze him as he earned his second shutout of the season.

The team was overwhelmingly favored against Anaheim, Edmonton, Columbus and Toronto, but a bounce back 3-1 win over St. Louis got that monkey off their back as quickly as it arrived.

To finish December, Vancouver had to face one of the East’s best in Philadelphia and an upstart Western team in Dallas. Even with Philadelphia’s fire power and how much their individual games resemble that of Chicago’s stars, the Canucks swept the Cup finalists under the rug in a 6-2 drubbing that epitomized the East-West divide in the NHL.

And, finally, if anyone at the beginning of the year thought Dallas would be among the West’s best, well, they deserve a medal. Nothing about the Stars stands out, aside from their uncanny ability to find ways to win. Again, the Canucks simply dominated one of the league’s best to date with a 4-1 road victory. Throw in two big early-January road wins against San Jose and division rival Colorado and the New Year is looking very surprising for the Canucks.

Heck, if the Canucks can continue their roll and knock off this month’s tough contests (Detroit, Washington, Colorado, San Jose, Dallas, Nashville) they might even create the space they need atop the conference to hold the lead into mid-April.

This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.

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