<table width=80% align=center border=0><tr><td><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/henderson_headshot.jpg align=left hspace=4>I would never count myself among the fans of Dan Cloutier, that legion of dewy-eyed babes, but I didn’t despise him with a passion either. I always thought he managed quite admirably during the regular season, considering how often his teammates, caught pinching up on the play, abandoned their hapless netminder to three-on-twos, two-on-ones or (yikes) three-on-nones. And as each regular season drew to a close without the team successfully purchasing or trading for a better goalie, I hoped against hope that Dan would somehow channel the spirit of Richard Brodeur (or maybe Martin Brodeur) and raise his game in the playoffs. Never happened of course, but I always hoped.
<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/Sep2607_CloutierClose_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4></a>Last night, I hoped we would be treated to Classic Dan: ventilated, wandering and perhaps brawling. I thought that if there were currently a goalie in the NHL that Markus and the Sedins could use to bump their slumps and beat like a rented mule, it would be Dan. But alas, after a decidedly tough couple of years, Clouts put on an admirably brave performance against his old team. Fortunately, it wasn’t quite enough to win, but it was pretty impressive nonetheless.
I like the look of the Naslund, Raymond, Pettinger grouping – the 3M Line. Or maybe I just like the look of Markus, Mason and Matt (all that prevailing blond hotness – maybe we should call it the Chippendales Line). They had a strong game and seemed as if they have complementary skills.
Now I realize that there are people in Vancouver who will not be satisfied until our beloved captain is clapped in irons and flogged at centre ice for the crime of once being unbelievably great and now having the audacity to wane with age. Hey, it annoys me too when Markus doesn’t score. But frankly, the slump I am much more worried about is the Sedin one. The Twins and Taylor Pyatt make up three of the top eight picks from the 1999 NHL draft. These boys should be right smack dab in their scoring prime. If ever they were going to be the difference in a game, night in and night out, it would be now. The Swedish cycle game is often effective, they often control the play, but if the result is not the one goal we so desperately need, then it is really just, dare I say it, an irritating time-waster. What that line absolutely needs is more finish, less Swedish. The guys scoring right now are the ones driving hard to the net.
<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/12/dec1707_edm09_t.jpg border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4></a>Ahhh, the continuing excellence of Kesler and Burrows. How sweet it is. Other teams don’t really see them coming yet, but that won’t last. After struggling under the weight of expectation and injury last season, and failure to find the net early this year, it’s nice to see Kes coming up successful and smiling. And I do enjoy the fact that Ryan appears to have no capacity to disguise the emotions on his face in post-game interviews or out on the ice.
If our so-called scorers actually get going soon, the Canucks could suddenly be scary-good, just in time for the playoffs.