At 8-0-2 in their past 10 games and sitting atop the always chaotic Northwest Division, things could certainly be worse for the Vancouver Canucks. Yes, superstar goaltender Roberto Luongo is out for what has been described by the team as “week to week” and alternately by other sources as four to five weeks with a groin injury, but this does not necessarily mean ruin.
Since taking up the cause for the fallen King Louie, new starting goaltender Curtis Sanford has backstopped the Canucks to three straight wins, all over impressive teams – Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Detroit.
In order to maintain the great start they’ve gotten off to, the Canucks must obviously continue to play their solid defensive game in front of Sanford and the early returns say they’re doing just that. Vancouver ranks in the middle of the NHL in shots against this year, with 30.2 per game. In Sanford’s past three wins, the team tightened up, surrendering an average of 27.3 shots.
Not that Sanford is some sort of amateur. ‘The Sandman’ has played as many as 34 NHL games in a season and was stellar in doing so. As a member of the St. Louis Blues in 2005-06, the netminder posted a respectable 2.66 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. Vaunted prospect Cory Schneider joins the team from American League’s Manitoba Moose, where he was lights-out in goal.
The Canucks are scoring much more proficiently, as well. Vancouver currently scores 3.09 goals per game, up from 2.59 last season. Coupled with the fact the team is getting balanced scoring and seems to have found a new friend for the Sedin twins in Pavol Demitra, offense is no longer the albatross it once was.
But if there is truly a silver lining for the Nucks, it is this: When Luongo returns, he will initially have to do so gingerly, as groin tears/pulls do not heal as simply as broken bones.
He will obviously not come close to the amount of starts he usually puts in every year, meaning he will hypothetically be fresher – and hungrier – when the playoffs roll around.
The Luongo injury is far from a good thing, but it is not the death-stroke it could have been for the Canucks.
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