SUN Hockey Pool

Numbers Game: Canucks battling ho-hum feeling

CRAIG ELLINGSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:11 PM ET

1

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised it took this long for the NHL’s best team to get shut out at home this season.

Here we are 65 games into their schedule, and the Vancouver Canucks, who have been cooling off lately, finally laid a Rogers Arena goose-egg, a 3-0 loss to the visiting Nashville Predators Thursday night.

But is complacency settling in on the West Coast?

The loss ended the Canucks’ longest homestand of the season, in which they posted an unbecoming-for-them 3-3 mark and scored a paltry 13 goals, five of them in the first game of the stand.

They’ve now lost six of their last 11 games as they head out on a five-game road trip starting Saturday afternoon against the Kings in Los Angeles.

If it means anything to them — if you’re coach Alain Vigneault, I suppose you’d consider most anything when you’ve been on top of the standings for so long (a couple of months) — the Canucks’ stranglehold on top spot in the NHL is threatened by the Philadelphia Flyers, who have two games in hand and are three points back.

That said, the Flyers haven’t exactly been world-beaters themselves recently — they’re on a two-game skid and are 5-4-1 in their last 10. And four points back are the team the Canucks leapfrogged early in the new year into first overall — the Detroit Red Wings, who sit second in the Western Conference.

But even if the Canucks continue their not-so-hot trend and, say, post a .500 record over the remainder of the regular season, they’re pretty much a lock to finish first in the Northwest Division and grab home-ice advantage for at least one playoff round.

Still, with so many desperate teams rising to the occasion and fighting tooth-and-nail night in and night out in the West — the Calgary Flames among them — ya gotta wonder if that could burn the coasting Canucks come the post-season.

18

It’s official: James Reimer will carry the goaltending load for the Toronto Maple Leafs through the end of the season as long as the team is in the hunt to make the playoffs.

Certainly can’t hurt to pin your hopes on the ’tending surprise, who hadn’t played an NHL game until January and has since racked up a 12-4-3 record, including a 2-1 win over the Flyers Thursday and a 3-2 OT victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins Wednesday.

He hasn’t lost a game in regulation in 11 straight starts.

The 22-year-old from the Manitoba Interlake town of Morweena goes into Saturday’s game against the visiting Chicago Blackhawks with a 2.28 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage.

3

What does Dale Tallon have against Tampa?

Maybe the Florida Panthers GM didn’t want to look completely off his rocker on trade deadline day by trading with their state rivals, the Lightning — but he dealt with the other three teams in the Southeast Division Monday, something that certainly is rarely if ever seen anywhere in the NHL.

Tallon shipped Radek Dvorak and a fifth-round pick to the Atlanta Thrashers for forwards Niclas Bergfors and Patrick Rissmiller, peddled defenceman Bryan Allen to the Carolina Hurricanes for winger Sergei Samsonov, and swapped blueliner Dennis Wideman for minor-leaguer Jake Hauswirth and a third-round pick.

Think about it: Like we’d ever see the Flames pull deals with the Canucks, Minnesota Wild and the Colorado Avalanche in one whirlwind day.

50

With all the powerhouse teams in the NBA these days — what with the highly advertised L.A. Lakers, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and even the resurgent Chicago Bulls grabbing arguably the majority of headlines most places — it’s a bit surprising the San Antonio Spurs are the first squad to hit the 50-win mark this season.

The top Western Conference club predictably beat the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday to be first to hit the big 5-0 in 2010-11.

More surprising is how far ahead of their closest competitors they are — the Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks each had 44 wins, while the Lakers and Heat each sat at 43 heading into Friday night.

Snap count

49: Numbers of years it’s been since Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in an NBA game. He did it March 2, 1962, in Hershey, Pa., as his Philadelphia Warriors beat the New York Knicks 169-147; 25 hours, 17 minutes: The ECHL Bakersfield Condors are doing their best to ride Charlie Sheen’s coattails — they’re trying to beat the actor’s record for reaching one-million Twitter followers by claiming they’ll let Sheen rename the team if they pull it off. That among other promotions surrounding the suburban L.A. club’s Charle Sheen Night March 12 against the Idaho Steelheads. Good seats still available.


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