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Canucks visit Columbus!

Sunday, October 21, 2007
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I had an epiphany sometime Saturday, after getting home late in the evening.

If you shut out the other team, you win.



Obviously, the poor hockey fans who sat through last night's Rangers/Bruins tilt will disagree, since both of their goalies technically did get shutouts. But, still!

Anyway, let's reflect on that win against Buffalo on Saturday. How about that Pascal Leclaire, eh? Although he was largely untested by a frustrated Sabres team that was kept well in check, he made the saves he had to, earning his third shutout to lead the league. He is 2nd in the league in both Goals Against Average and Save Percentage, only behind Tim Thomas of Boston. He also ranks first in NHL.com's largely pointless but still interesting Three Stars of the Night, the only goalie in the Top 10 besides Philly's Martin Biron.

Now the question is, can Leclaire put up back-to-back strong showings? Leclaire will get the start tonight, as reported by The Columbus Dispatch this morning. The last time he played in a game without Fredrik Norrena playing one between his starts, he was manhandled by an Avalanche team 5-1 in Colorado, though it's worth pointing out that the Avs are one of just four teams in all who have yet to lose at home (and one of three that have played at least four games at home).

Other notables from the Sabres game are Michael Peca, who after two games centering Rick Nash and Nikolai Zherdev, got his first two points of the season (1 goal, 1 assist). Nash now has three multi-point games on the season, and still leads the team in points with 4 goals and 4 assists. Zherdev, meanwhile, finally got his first goal of the season on an empty-netter. But regardless of the fact that it was on an open net, he deserved it for all the hard work he's been putting out. Seemingly returning from the brink after a weak pre-season, Z is playing an equally well-rounded game as Nash is in many ways.

The Blue Jackets have also not allowed any power play goals in any of their games, with the exception of the previously mentioned Avalanche game. Ranking 1st in the league, they're a total 30 of 32 on penalty kill opportunities. Give full credit to Ken Hitchcock, as well as assistant coach Gord Murphy for implementing such an efficient penalty kill. I know last season I just about had the firing squad ready for Murphy, after a particular Canadian road swing brought out the very worst in last season's penalty kill. But it looks like, from an outside perspective, he's learning a lot from the defensive-minded Hitchcock, as evidenced by the team's strong PK play.

As for Vancouver, Aaron Portzline has a great article up on Canucks' goalie Roberto Luongo, and I was quite interested in the part of the article where Jackets' goaltending coach Clint Malarchuk talks about his time working with Luongo, when they were both a part of the Florida Panthers' organization.

The Canucks are coming off a tough 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, in which Luongo let in three goals in a little over a six minutes in the 2nd period. While Luongo might be reeling at the moment with a couple of rough losses to the Kings, and a similar 4-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks earlier last week, he still has vexed the Jackets' in many ways.

This is a good opportunity for the Jackets to show they can win two in a row for the first time this season, and do it against a goalie who has frustrated them greatly in the past.

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Name: Michael
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About Me: A mid-20s male who feels much too old even before he's 30. Has a degree in Sport Management and after branching out and trying a few other things in the job market, has finally decided to go back to his first love of hockey and hope he can break in with a team, big or small, somehow.
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