It was only one game at the start of the second month of a seven month season, but there’s a lot to be said for Vancouver’s 3-0 win against Colorado on Sunday.
First, the Avs are the surprise leaders of the division through 15 games and had already beaten Vancouver 3-0 in October. To prevent the Cinderella Avs from playing out to too much of a points lead, Vancouver needed to pull closer at home and set the tone for two more meetings with Colorado later in the month.
Secondly, they needed to do it without world-class goalie Roberto Luongo and with Andrew Raycroft’s sieve-like reputation as the last line of defense. On top of that reason to get nervous, two days earlier Raycroft played so poorly he was yanked mid-game for Cory Schneider in a 7-2 loss to Anaheim, a team that had lost four in a row and sat at the bottom of their own division. The Canucks straightened up and held the West’s best road team to 18 shots, directly contributing to Raycroft’s first shutout since the 2007-08 season.
Thirdly, the Canucks had to get some big points at home before heading out on a five-game road trip that includes stops in St. Louis, Detroit and, yes, Colorado. The brief stay at home pitted them against two teams – the other being the Rangers – who are off to hot, albeit unexpected, starts. Vancouver easily could have lost both games and not made any sort of move up the standings, but they suddenly find themselves sitting second in the division.
Considering how Vancouver slipped out of the gate and then were hit hard by injuries to the most key players on the squad, you have to be pretty happy about the fact they’ve won eight of their past 12. It seems every week I’m patting this team on the back and giving reasons for optimism, but I challenge you to look back on the past 34 days and point to something concerning.
The calendar has been flipped and each new month brings mounting pressures and less room for error. November will have greater challenges and there are some huge games on the schedule, but so far this team has shown me they will step up when they have to.
This article also appeared in the Vancouver Metro newspaper.