We’ve spent a lot of time over the past month talking about the luck the Canucks haven’t been getting. Game after game, they’ve owned the play like a young Marlon Brando, but goals have been tough to come by. As Glen Gulutzan said Thursday, “We’re creating, we’re putting pucks on the net. We have a ton of zone time. It’s just a matter of those pucks going in.”
He’s right. The Canucks really don’t need to change a thing about the way they play. After all, they’ve come too far to give up who they are. They just need to get lucky. (As it happens, if they were luckier, they’d be up all night. Instead, they play from behind a lot. They’ve got a league-leading eight wins after giving up the game’s first goal.)
But while the coconuts have been unlucky in this area, they haven’t been unlucky everywhere.
The recent announcement that Alex Edler would be missing a few weeks with a knee problem marks the first time this season that the team has lost a defenceman to injury. For the past 30 games – outside of the three-game suspension Edler served earlier in the year — the Canucks haven’t had to make a single change to their top-six.
That’s insane, and, for everyone but Andrew Alberts, who nearly made it to Christmas before his first real game of the season as a result (his 3 games as a forward averaging 4:16 a night don’t count), absurdly lucky.
It’s even more absurd when you consider that the Canucks are tempting fate far more this year thanks to John Tortorella’s insistence that his players put their corporeality to better use. The Canucks have already blocked 447 shots this year (on pace for over 200 more than their last full season), and the majority of those (65%, or 291 total) have been blocked by a defenceman.
Yet not once has it led to a man-game lost due to injury. That’s pretty incredible.
It’s been an absolute blessing to Tortorella and his coaching staff. The forward lines remain a work in progress — heck, the suits can’t even figure out what positions Ryan Kesler and Mike Santorelli play — but the back-end has been a relatively low-maintenance affair from day one.
It’s been a boon to Ryan Stanton especially, as the rookie defenceman has been allowed to step into the Canuck lineup and get comfortable skating alongside the same five guys every single night. (Five guys? Oh my dayum.) Might a few disruptive injuries have thrown his game off a little, maybe enough to be plucked from the lineup more than zero times? It seems likely, especially if the injuries had happened to him. Instead, he’s been a permanent fixture in the lineup.
So, as mentioned, the only person for whom this string of fortune could be reinterpreted as misfortune is Andrew Alberts, who lost his job to Stanton at the tail end of the preseason and has waited patiently as the hockey gods took their sweet time in giving him a chance to win it back.
He’ll get that chance Friday night after two months on the shelf. No pressure.
Here’s hoping it goes well for Alberts, for two reasons. Firstly, he just deserves a break. The guy has nearly ceased to exist over the last two months, accepting his role as the only permanent member of the practice roster without saying a word. Between that and the fact that he basically gave half his paycheque to Chris Tanev this offseason, you’d like to see him rewarded for his service.
Secondly, he plays for the team I like, and I, for one, would like to see the Canucks’ run of hassle-free defensive deployment continue.