The Vancouver Canucks have hit the midway point in their quest for hockey's holy grail, Lord Stanley's Cup, - here are 5 more players with the top grades so far this season.
Christian Ehrhoff, A
Ehrhoff nods while celebrating his OT winner against the St. Louis Blues Dec. 31/09
Even after registering 15 points in his first 13 games with the Canucks, "B-Mac" from Team 1040 (radio) still wasn't sold on Christian's defensive abilities. But I say that's why Vancouver has the Mitchell's and the Salo's - they've got shutdown defencemen. The ex-Shark gives the Canucks a dimension lacking in seasons past, and that's an offensive upside. The other undeniable part of his game is his timing and even-strength play. His +21 rating is right near the top of the NHL, let alone for defenders. Mike Gillis deserves part of this grade for securing his very, very useful services in the offseason.
Daniel Sedin, A
Daniel Sedin has potted the most Game-winning goals (4, -Vancouver) despite playing just over half the games (AP Photo/ Bill Boyce)
ere's a testament to the kind of player that Daniel Sedin is: He's played just over half the games that his teammates have, and yet he leads the club with 4 GWG's (game-winning goals).In 23 games, he has 10-19-29, and is just shy of tied for 2nd best +/- rating on the team with +12.
Earlier in the season, after he was lost to a broken left foot, the team tried to rally without him, but there is a discernable difference when he is not playing. Not just because of the uncanny symetry that he forms with his wonder-twin, but also because of the attention other teams must focus on him when he's present. I'm convinced he would be right there with Thornton, Crosby, Gaborik and his brother for the NHL lead in points were it not for his injury.
Steve Bernier, B-
Bernier manages to keep his balance and protects the puck against Eric Brewer (AP Photo/ Bill Boyce)
Interestingly enough, another ex-Shark makes the top 11 Canucks list. Big and strong, with a good sense for where the puck will be, Bernier's committment to offseason conditioning has paid dividends this season. He lost 15 lbs over the summer, and got faster in the process, which is helping him to not only win races to the puck, but also forechecking.
Playing just a shave under 15 minutes a night, he has 10 goals and 8 assists in 39 games. I'm of the belief that he is one of the cleanest bodycheckers in the league, if not one of the hardest. Just watch any opposing defenceman these days when Bernier is bearing down on them, -you'll witness the speed with which they get rid of the puck. He might not be Eddie Shack, but boy, when he's coming, yeah, you better "clear the track".
Roberto Luongo, A
Nothing I could add could do this picture justice... (The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh)
For any of the 'haters' that feel that Luongo should have gotten the best grade, I would direct them to my comment about the pictured save. Yes, I do recognize that Luongo has been selected by Team Canada. I am also aware that he is one of the best in the NHL, has a .919 save percentage, is 20-12-1-2, and is sporting a 2.29 goals against average. While trying to remain objective, I will also point out that I clapped my hands together rather audibly when I discovered he was a Vancouver Canuck, via a trade with the New York Islanders.
Hockey pundits, though, have a valid argument about postseason success, but that is not what is being discussed here. His season to this point has been strong, and the amazing thing is that purists know that at any moment, he could become red hot and nigh invincible tending goal. His penchant for strong finishes to the season surely has fans humming Bryan Adams' "The Best was Yet to Come".
Henrik Sedin, A+
Henrik Sedin celebrates with Sami Salo after a goal, a scene witnessed 19 times already (The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)
Trevor Linden knew this day was coming.As a matter of fact, he even told Henrik so, which is one of the reasons 'Hank' had the confidence to achieve the heights that he has. But it wasn't always so. For a few years, there were the jeers of "The Sedin Sisters", or "The Pantene's" (in reference to the popular line of hygenical products). I've heard them all. Now, I just think of the people who uttered them as insightless, unknowledgeable critics.
They certainly don't have much to say about Henrik Sedin currently 2nd in the entire NHL for points, only 2 points removed from the top. They also don't have answers to how two "Sisters" managed to become strong, well-trained men that boast rugged, injury resistant careers. Perhaps if they followed them to Ornskoldsvik (Sweden) and watched them train like demons in the offseason after a short, 2 week break, they'dstart to understand. Henrik Sedin stands tall amongst his peers, as one of the best players in the game. Period.
More second half excitement in store at www.thecanuckway.com
Larenzo Jensen, with files from The Associated Press and AP Photo