The date was November 23rd, 2011. The Canucks went in to Colorado and defeated the Avalanche 3-0 thanks in large part to a stellar performance from goaltender Cory Schneider.
It also marked Alain Vigneault’s 247th win as head coach of the Canucks, moving him past Marc Crawford into first place in the club’s all-time record books. The date was also Gabriel Landeskog’s 19th birthday, and the young Swede was recently named as Colorado’s captain, making him the youngest full-time captain in NHL history
Records and birthdays aside, the game has special significance for the Canucks and Schneider. Read on to find out why.
The shutout victory kicked off a stretch of tremendous play for Schneider (well, technically Schneider’s streak started three nights before in a 2-1 overtime win over Ottawa). From November 23rd to November 29th, Schneider went 4-0 with two shutouts and only three total goals allowed on 139 shots (a 0.978 save percentage).
It wasn’t the first time we saw Schneider dominate at the NHL level, but it was the first time he was able to do so with consecutive starts. His play at the end of November was an exclamation point on his arrival as a very good NHL goaltender.
It was hard to decide on a highlight to break down from the Colorado game, as Schneider made at least a half-dozen spectacular saves.
One stands out, however. 10 minutes into the third period, the Canucks were holding on to a two goal lead. The Avalanche were pressing, and Schneider was forced to hold down the fort.
Let’s break it down:
Matt Duchene has the puck behind the net, and he is looking to center it. The Canucks have collapsed around Schneider. Duchene spots Ryan O’Reilly in the open ice, and he finds him with a great pass.
Schneider makes the initial save on O’Reilly, but the puck isn’t cleared. It bounces over to O’Reilly, who has once again found some open ice (and a lot of it, this time). He has the open net to slide the puck into, but Schneider has other ideas.
Schneider leaps across the net to take away a sure goal from O’Reilly. A game-changing save.
The puck still remains in the crease area, and Schneider does a terrific job of getting back into position quickly (a foreign sight for Canucks fans).
Schneider covers a lot of ice in a short amount of time. Here’s the proof.
All in all, Schneider’s performance last season as a pseudo back-up was incredibly impressive. He has developed about as well the Canucks could have hoped for when they picked him in the first round back in 2004 out of high school, and he looks like he is on the verge of emerging as one of the best goaltenders in the game.