January 25 2011 09:19AM
Pie in the face. Feels like that a lot of nights, doesn't Mason?
The Vancouver Canucks took care of some business last night, as they laid a 7-1 spanking on the Dallas Stars. More importantly though, last night saw the end come to some serious goal droughts.
But despite the slumpbustin', three players are still under a lot of scrutiny. Well, it's my scrutiny, but still...
Last night, the Canucks finally got what they had been needing for over 10 games... Balanced scoring. All seven goals came from seven different players. In fact, 14 players got at least a point last night. Now THAT'S balance. And that's the Canucks have been sorely missing over this losing stretch.
While regular, recent contributors like Ryan Kesler, Henrik Sedin and Christian Ehrhoff all hit the back of the net, so did some Canucks that hadn't turned on the red light in quite some time.
Alex Burrows, Mason Raymond, Dan Hamhuis and Mikael Samuelsson all ended significant goal-scoring slumps. Burrows and Samuelsson both had terrific games offensively, while Hamhuis was (and has been all year) solid again on the blue line.
Mason Raymond was very lucky to get credit for his goal. In fact, his two-point performance was easily the most anonymous two-point game I've seen all season. It's pretty debatable whether that puck even touched him, and he certainly didn't knowingly redirect the puck. Frankly, I don't think Raymond has really broken any slumps. Until he scores by actually directing a puck into the back of the net on purpose, I'll consider him still slumping. Maybe last night's fluky tally was the good bounce that he needed. Because he really needed it. Since returning from a hand injury earlier this year, Raymond's play has regressed to its former state from 2 to 3 seasons ago. Sure, his skating and speed are as good as ever. However, he looks rushed and nervous whenever he gets a chance to score. What I find strange about this is that he scored one of the Canucks season-highlight goals in the game in Long Island, with his spinorama shootout goal against the Islanders. He laid down that ridiculous move when he had the spotlight entirely focused on him. So I'm confused by Raymond, because in the regular run of play, he just seems to get a massive swarm of butterflies. The Canucks need Raymond to start scoring again. Ryan Kesler desperately needs a winger to help him out. Remember when Mason Raymond had 25 goals last year? Because I'm starting to forget that.
Another point slump that was "bumped" last night was Raffi Torres picking up an assist. Granted Torres is tied for third in goals with 11 but, to quote Tony Gallagher "he's like a hologram out there". And not just last night. Every night. And without the goals, he's hurting the team. He's third on the Canucks in PIMs, and is tied for 3rd-to-last in plus/minus at -3. Keep in mind that he also one of only 4 active players who are below 0 in plus-minus. (The others are Volpatti and Tanev at -1 and Glass at -4). If Torres isn't going to, or isn't able to, contribute offensively, then he had better be helping defensively or playing physically. Well he isn't helping his team defensively as the PIMs and plus/minus prove. As for hitting, Torres is 7th on the team in hits, which is decent but it isn't affording him a pass on his lack of points. As for some of his other stats, Torres is just kind of meandering in the middle of the pack. Out of sight, out of mind. He has only 9 blocked shots. To put that into perspective, Alex Bolduc (he of only 19 GP) has 8 blocked shots. He's 9th in giveaways with 18, and 11th in takeaways with 19. So he's a +1 in giveaways vs takeaways. Again, middle of the road... But here's Torres' biggest problem: he's 13th in shots (72) on the team, yet he's tied for third with 11 goals. That's 11 goals on 72 shots, good for 15.3%. That's 4th on the team. So Raffi Torres... if you want to break your goal scoring slump, SHOOT THE PUCK.
Lastly on the point parade was Jeff Tambellini. While everyone was singing his praises when he was scoring, he has been arguably the Canucks most invisible forward in the last 10 games. His one assist last night came on the last goal, a power play marker by Hamhuis, when the game was already well out of reach. The danger for Tambellini is he's now getting close to being sent back down to Manitoba, in favour of one of the Moose who is looking for a shot with the big club. While I like Tambellini's long-term upside, he has the most to lose this season if he doesn't start potting some points on a consistent basis. If he doesn't start, he could very likely be sent down and it would be hard to imagine him being called back up if his replacement makes the most of his opportunity.
Fourteen Canucks skaters got at least one point last night. That leaves Kevin Bieksa, Tanner Glass, Manny Malhotra and Jannik Hansen. There is no panic with any of these players not hitting the score sheet, with the possible exception of Malhotra. But Malhotra is helping the Canucks in so many other ways, specifically in faceoffs, that a lack of scoring isn't as big of a concern as it is with Raymond, Tambellini or Torres.
So for Mason Raymond, Raffi Torres and Jeff Tambellini, they have one more game before almost a week off for the All-Star break. Will the time off help them reset and get focused again? Or will it sap any energy remaining and finally be the catalyst for a serious move?
We'll find out next week.