January 31 2013 12:10PM
Photo Credit: Jeff Vinnick.
This is a weekly feature that will highlight The Good, The Bad and The *fill in the blank* exciting things that are currently happening in the NHL. Kesler Who? (Good), Rivalries Rock (Bad) and The New Guy Scores!
The (So Far So) Good
Who knew Mason Raymond would come out of the gates guns fully loaded and shooting like a killer in 2013? Think about it like this: he had 10 goals in the 55 games he played last season so already netting 3 goals (two in one game!) in 7 games this season, must mean he is on a trajectory to become the new Ryan Kesler. Or maybe it's just an encouraging sign of good things to come (right stats nerds?).
I have a soft spot for Raymond, I must admit. Coming back from what could have been an injury serious enough to end his career, to now contributing goals so early in this season, makes me glad that he’s been able to recover so well. And hey, the Canucks will take any goals they can get.
It also seems that the Kassian Experiment has paid off favorably for the Canucks - at least so far. Remember when he came to Vancouver like a stunned muskrat at the trade deadline. He was a big guy but not entirely sure of himself or his place within the lineup. Then this summer happened and he turned into the Hulk. It seems that all that intense training really paid off and he is now being rewarded. Not only with his 5 goals, but also with being "the new Alex Burrows," and providing the meat and cheese in the Sedin Sandwich. So far Kassian is the team's leading goal scorer, so I'd say his stint on the first line is working out okay. Dear God, please let it last.
The Bad (Boys)
Blackhawk Friday is creeping up slowly as Duncan Keith, Captain Serious and the rest of Vancouver's favourite/least favourite Canucks rivals roll into town. Fun fact: the Blackhawks have been pretty bad-ass so far this season winning six of their first seven games. Must be nice to root for a club displaying that type of consistency.
The Blackhawks did, however, lose in a shootout on Wednesday to the Minnesota Wild, who are one point ahead of the Canucks so far in the standings. So what, if anything, will that mean when the Blackhawks and Canucks meet at Rogers Arena on Friday? Games against the Blackhawks have seemed to critically alter the trajectory of Canucks seasons in recent years. In 2010-11 for example, after getting their asses kicked by the Blackhawks, the Canucks had a players meeting and proceeded to rip off a dominant stretch through basically the balance of the reglar season.
Though it is still far too soon to really have any idea of what this season will bring, it’s fun to guess. My guess is that Ryan Kesler will come back, Henrik will start scoring, Kassian will induce nightmares in all the opponents and the Canucks will once again claim victory of the Presidents Trophy and meet the Rangers in the Finals to win the Stanley Cup (revenge!)... But let’s just see how Friday goes first.
And the New Guy
Reading about Jason Garrison prior to the game against the Avalanche on Wednesday, I was thinking about how much pressure he must feel with each game he’s played as a Vancouver Canuck. His every moment on the ice being scrutinized while high expectations linger about. He was acquired to replace Sami Salo, who was a powerhouse on the power play as well as a beloved member of the team amongst fans. Those are pretty big - albeit perpetually injured - shoes to fill. Though it had only been six games, the curiosity loomed “What is this Garrison guy all about and when is he going to show us something?”
Game seven against the Avalanche he showed us a glimpse of that when he scored his first goal, one that ended up being the game winner. Hopefully this will instill some confidence in him as someone who can produce results. He was paired with Kevin Bieksa for this game so who knows, maybe him and Alex Edler just didn’t play well together and him and Bieksa are meant to become the best defensive pairing since Bieksa and Hamhuis (dun-dun DUN). Or maybe Garrison just got lucky that Semyon Varlamov let in a shit goal, but let's not think about that. Today, we celebrate!