Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Derek Roy and the Canucks' March in review [with top five plays of the month]

As seemingly always, the Canucks have been a team of many faces this season – as capable of a six-game win streak as they are of losing to the worst team in their conference.  A 3-4-2 start to the month of March meant losing their divisional cushion on the Minnesota Wild.  Consequently, even an 6-1-0 run to finish the team's busiest month of the campaign (16 games in 28 days) wasn't enough to regain their lead atop the Northwest.  But that has as much to do with the Canucks' early-month struggles as it does Zach Parise and Ryan Suter finally paying dividends for the Wild.  Time will only tell how the respective Sabre-fying (yes, that's a word now) of either team will tip the Northwest scales.

While Derek Roy's capacity to jump start this team into consistency remains to be seen, one can imagine that the mere presence of a healthy, veteran centre in the lineup will do wonders in relieving pressure off the Sedins.  Taking nothing away from the trio of Jannik Hansen, Jordan Schroeder and Mason Raymond – easily the Canucks' most successful second line combination thus far in 2013 – Henrik and Daniel's best years have very neatly corresponded with the legitimate distraction that Ryan Kesler's 70-point pace represented.

Needless to say, a player like Roy has been sorely needed in Kesler's absence, but credit is nonetheless due to several from the supporting cast for filling in the secondary scoring quotient.  Among the most deserving has undoubtedly been Hansen, whose March exploits were summarized in BTD's previous article.  It takes a lot for a Canuck to outscore either of the Sedins, but for a nine-game stretch in which Hansen recorded two goals and five assists, he nearly outscored the two of them combined.  And over the entire 16-game March schedule, his 12 points were second only to Henrik's 13.

But what his aforementioned linemates have lacked in sheer will-power and overall production (Schroeder and Raymond had 4- and 9-point efforts in March), they have made up in far more BTD-friendly dangles and spin-o-ramas.  As such, Hansen's fellow speedsters are featured rather prominently in the latest installment of the top five plays of the month.  Honey Badger may often get what he wants these days, but apparently not if it involves any sort of highlight reel dangle.

See the top five plays of the month for March 2013 below.

At number five, Roberto Luongo, who so eloquently assessed his contract following today's deadline drama, makes the most acrobatic save by a Canucks goaltender in recent memory.  In today's age of technical and positional precision, it's rare that you see a goaltender dive across the crease the same way we see here.  For that, you can thank Alex Edler losing his check and barreling into Luongo's pads, forcing him into the soccer-style save.  How bout that?  Two wrongs can make a right, after all.

Number four is the first of two plays orchestrated by Schroeder that are, thus far, the greatest indicators of the centre-in-training's on-ice vision.  With Raymond in full flight, Schroeder's pass is tape-to-tape about half the length of the rink.  These days, Raymond has not been one to waste a pass of that calibre.  The sort of finish he demonstrates against Jonathan Quck is becoming a routine expectation, which hasn't been the case for years.

Dale Weise's capacity to make a goalie look silly, however, is a touch less predictable.  Nonetheless, he accomplishes it against St. Louis' Jake Allen thanks to an even better pass from Schroeder.  This sort of spin-o-rama is the kind we're more accustomed to seeing Sidney Crosby or Patrick Kane pull off.  Where do you pinpoint this kid's potential?

At number two, while the Sedins have been plagued by inconsistency this season, it's clear that the sheer playmaking ability that they've built Burrows' their careers on has not missed a step.  Passing plays this clean and intuitive are typically reserved for set plays on the man advantage or on odd-man rushes.  Not at even-strength with virtually all players standing still.

And if that weren't enough, at number one, Henrik achieves a rare form of Sedinery by starting and finishing an unassisted play.  Nevermind that it should never have been a penalty shot.  The Sedins rarely get an opportunity to put the team on their backs in the shootout.  Their career percentages in that regard support that ongoing decision.  But then Henrik channels his inner-Rick Nash with this move and everything you knew about the playmaker's scoring intuition is turned on its head.  What's next?  Henrik and Daniel with virtually identical goal totals 36 games into the season?  Ha.


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