Steep hill facing Canucks

GUTS MCTAVISH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

Back on Nov. 19, the Canucks beat a very hot Rangers squad 6-3 in New York. A few nights later, they flew to Pittsburgh and easily beat a Penguins team that had a nice undefeated streak going at the time.

Unfortunately, that's it for the season. And no, I'm not talking about the Roberto Luongo injury.

When it comes to beating the top-tier NHL teams, that's it.

Yes, they had a couple OT wins vs. Detroit, but where is the dominant 60-minute game like they played at MSG? It's simple. It doesn't exist.

It's not like they haven't had their chances to measure up to the league's elite. From the East, they have lost to the Capitals, Bruins and the Flyers, arguably the conference's top three teams. In the West, they have split with the Wings and the Flames. Two of those wins came in the first two games of the season, where Kipper was just awful. He now leads the league in wins.

They have also lost twice each to the Blackhawks and the Sharks. These are all games that both the players and media referred to as measuring stick games. Clearly they failed to measure up.

Now an even more disturbing trend is creeping in to the Canucks game: Losing at home.

Never mind competing for the ultimate prize; if you can't make some hay during your home dates then you seriously run the risk of missing the playoffs ... again.

Who would have thought the arrival of Mats Sundin and the return of a healthy Luongo coming together would be just in time to give the Canucks an honest shot at securing a playoff spot? I have to admit a few weeks back, my expectations were much higher. Like Hockey Night In Canada's Kelly Hrudey, I, too, used the word "contender."

The bright spot here should come when Mats gets into game shape, and Luongo returns.

There is no doubt both will have slow steady climbs to where they once were.

The only question remaining is, where will the team be in the standings when this happens?


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