Last year's Canuck defense corps scored 42 of the team's 268 goals. These guys scored 11 of them, so I've lumped them all together. Earlier this week, we covered Christian Ehrhoff, Sami Salo, Alex Edler & Kevin Bieksa. Last weekend, we took a run at the Canucks' second line, covering Mason Raymond, Ryan Kesler, and Mikael Samuelsson. This weekend we'll be looking at Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Up today: Willie Mitchell (4 goals), Shane O'Brien (2), Mathieu Schneider (2), Andrew Alberts (1), Nolan Baumgartner (1), and Brad Lukowich (1).
Mitchell's first goal of a career-high four last season comes off some excellent work by Mikael Samuelsson, who draws three defenders to himself and protects the puck before dishing off to Mitchell for an uncontested slapshot from the point. Mitchell's shot doesn't seem particularly hard, but it's precise, and you can hear it ping off the post before it hits the back of the net.
2. Oct. 11 vs. the Dallas Stars (4)
Here, Mitchell picks up a rebound in front of the net after Henrik Sedin's centering pass misses its mark. Early in the season, this was a nice sign: Canucks defenseman were encouraged to come in from the blue line for passes from behind the net and rebound opportunities. Even reliable ol' Bill Pickle found the blue ice from time to time.
Tanner Glass does much of the legwork in this one, bringing the puck to the net hard, and narrowly avoiding bowling over Brian "The Mighty Boosh" Boucher. Boucher still feels he's interfered with, but Glass also sells his efforts to avoid interference. Mitchell drifts in from the point, again, and picks up the rebound on his backhand, shoveling it home.
1. Oct. 27 vs. the Red Wings (7)
I forgot that, in the last game Willie Mitchell played in a Canucks uniform, the game in which Evgeni Malkin cut his season short with a cheap hit from behind, Mitchell also scored his prettiest goal of the season. It's a shame he had to get hurt because he reached a career-high in goals in just 48 games. He might have scored more. Anyway, here, he sneaks in from the point to be the recipient of a beautiful back-door pass from Henrik Sedin, and he finishes the play with a nifty little move to the backhand. Here's hoping he can continue to do stuff like this in LA (just not against us).
Schneider's first of two goals as a Canuck comes in exactly the way we thought he'd score a bunch last season. Playing the left point on the power play, he takes the pass, and absolutely rips a slap shot past Jimmy Howard. It was Schneider's 100th career power play goal, but the only one he scored as a Canuck.
2. Nov. 14 vs. the Avalanche (8)
Schneider's second goal as a Canuck is identical to his first, except that it comes on even-strength. Kyle Wellwood and Alex Burrows provide screens, and Schneider shows nice patience waiting for them to get there and a lane to open up. He looked like he was going to be money from the left point, but sadly, this is all she wrote, and he never netted another one for us.
1. Dec. 20 vs. the St. Louis Blues (18)
Okay, wait, what? This goal is incredible and I absolutely forgot about it. This is no fluke, as O'Brien sees the defense floating away from the net, and gets in behind them. Raymond and Samuelsson work well together here, and Samuelsson's pass is a downright magical piece of vision. The fanfare after the goal is nice too, as this is O'Brien's first score in 166 games. It shows: as beautiful as this goal is, O'Brien only just barely gets it past Mason.
Shane O'Brien's 2nd goal of the season comes after some excellent board works by Kyle Wellwood. He's getting the crap kicked out of him, but he still manages to maintain control and get the puck to Mason Raymond. Raymond makes a nice pass to O'Brien, who wrists it past Howard. Not a chance Howard sees that puck, as Jannik Hansen's body is opaque.
Baumgartner, an all-star AHL defenseman with pretty good vision and offensive awareness, sneaks in from the point and receives a beautiful cross-ice pass from Alex Burrows, who I have already taken great pains through this series to laud for his underrated passing abilities. Burrows is more than just a lucky grinder who gets to work with the Sedins. He creates goals with his vision as well. In this case, Baumgartner is the benefactor of Burrows' gem of a feed.
1. Apr. 8 vs. the San Jose Sharks (40)
Alberts' first and only goal as a Canuck comes on a point shot from a Mason Raymond feed. Alberts does well to receive the pass and put the puck on net quickly, although I've seen Kyle Wellwood shoot harder than that. The puck goes off Douglas Murray's skate and past Nabokov. It's a goal, though it does little to elucidate A Minor's gifts, which, apart from his general enormity (pictured here) are somewhat still TBA. I hope my wife eventually gives me a 6'6" son. I'll get him into hockey, where he'll get paid solely for being gigantic, talented or otherwise. Note: since my wife and I are about the size of the last two nesting dolls in a set, this is unlikely.
1. Jan. 25 vs. the Buffalo Sabres (26)
By now, Lukowich's goal is legendary, as it might be considered one of the best Sedin plays of last year (I ranked it #2 in our inaugural post, the best of the Sedins, way back in April). It was an amazing piece of wizardous sedinerie, and I think we all agree that anybody could have scored it, even Jonathan Cheechoo. I am especially fond of Lukowich's tribute to TLC's "Waterfalls" after scoring the goal. It's a shame he spent so little time with the big club, because I liked him.