Canucks and Beyond

The Best 7 of the Last 7

01/08/2007 at 8:53pm EST

Matt Cooke

3 goals and 1 assist aren’t too shabby for the irritating Cooke, but points aren’t the only asset he’s brought to the team recently. His game changed significantly in December, and I think it comes down to two things: he finally shook off the nerves of last season, where he was injured every time he stepped out of the damn locker room; and he finally picked up a goal and shook off that frustration.

Now he’s hitting, playing smart, and most importantly for his type of personality, he looks like he’s having fun on the ice. He’s a poor minus-10 this season, but he’s not been a minus player in any game since December 17th.

Cooke is on this list at the expense of Morrison, who’s been given an ‘honourable mention’ below. The tie-breaker in my mind was Cooke’s GWG and stellar performance against Edmonton on January 5th. But it could have gone either way.

Trevor Linden

Well Hellooooo Trevor! For the longest time this season, Linden’s performance didn’t command much respect, fighting for his spot on the team even as a role player. But coach Viggy’s sudden notion to trust him with greater responsibilities have paid off in surprising ways. Linden’s role on the powerplay seemed to trigger all kinds of confidence in the 36 year old center, and he’s skating better and playing with more fire than we’ve seen all year.

The result? 3 goals and 1 assist during the streak. Let’s hope this reinvigorated Linden is here to stay.

Mattias Ohlund

Despite being one of Ohlund’s biggest fans, I’ve been hot and cold on him all season, but there’s no denying his contributions since Christmas. He’s got 3 goals and 3 assists in the streak, he’s run up a plus-6 during these games, and he’s playing as good as I’ve seen him all year.

It’s not like Ohlund has many bad games anyway, but I’ve been cheered to see him taking chances for offense again while still keeping his act together at his own end. (Plus he hasn’t scored a goal off his ass against his own net in like a month, so that’s a nice bonus, right?)

He had some bad luck for a while, but it’s certainly coming together nicely these days.

Kevin Bieksa

8 assists during the streak. But even forgetting the last 7 games, is there anyone on this team that’s a bigger surprise than Bieksa? I don’t think so. He’s fiercely competitive, he’s responsible defensively and he brings offense. Unless this season is just some wacko anomaly, he’s the real deal.

Personally, I could rave about the guy all day long—and this is coming from a fan who barely knew who he even was at the start of the season.

Sami Salo

Salo knows how to play physically, but in his own way that makes it seem effortless. How many guys in the league are more capable than Salo of riding a guy off the puck without taking a penalty? Add to that his rocket-shot from the point and you can see how he ends up with 2 goals and 2 assists during the streak, plus a stellar plus-6 in the last 7 games.

Salo is one of those steady, unshakable players that you dread losing to injury. Let’s hope he’s stays in good physical health for the rest of the season. Every time I even see him wince on the bench, I get sort of ill at the thought of him taking time off.

Roberto Luongo

Named 1st Star in the NHL this week based on his last four games alone. He faced shootouts in two of the last seven games (not to mention two other OTs) and has showed that he can stop a breakaway shot when he wants to. I’m not trying to be snarky here—at the beginning of the season it was pretty easy to criticize him for going down way too quickly on breakaway shots, but not anymore. He’s made some huge improvements.

I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that his play has been particularly good just as his teammates have proven they can score more than two goals in a game. It must be a lot of pressure to feel like you can’t afford a single mistake, and these days he knows he can play his game without expecting perfection.

Henrik Sedin & Daniel Sedin

(I know this is the coward’s way out, but these two are a package deal—when it comes to performance, their individual numbers are almost completely dependent on each other’s, so I’m considering them one player.)

Henrik’s got 7 points in 7 games. It seems #33 can feel good about the number 7 this week, but then again, #33 should feel good about a lot of numbers this season. He can safely anticipate an 82 point season this year, which would be a career high. And while he’s not scoring as many goals, he’s taking a lot of shots and a hot streak should jack up those numbers.

Then there’s Daniel Sedin. 10 points in the streak—6G and 4A—and a total of 19 points in the past month. (Need I say more? I don’t think so.)

The Sedins have been the most important core components on the team this season and I can’t imagine where the Vancouver Canucks (or their fans) would be without them.
Honourable mentions:Brendan Morrison, Ryan Kesler. And really, I could say good things about most of the team recently.

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