Time is Now

Luongo

For the Vancouver Canucks, leaving for the Sunshine State is anything but a mid-season vacation.

The Canucks sit eighth in the NHL’s Western Conference, just one point ahead of the Pheonix Coyotes and the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final playoff spot in the west.

But tonight’s game, and this roadtrip for that matter, may be the best thing to happen to this team all season.  Right now, it seems no matter what the Canucks do against some of the league’s toughest teams, they just can’t get a break or buy a goal.

It can be frustrating.  Just tell Alain Vigneault, who for the first time in his tenure with the Canucks was about as cheery as Oprah on a diet with a plate of brownies being dangled in front of her.  Okay, that would make anybody angry, so bad example.  All simile’s aside, Vigneault is irked with the results of his team.  Not the effort, but the overall result, and at the end of the day that is the bottom line.  Don’t win, you don’t get in.

But right now, the Canucks have a chance to get some wins, regain some confidence and climb back into the Northwest Division standings, because as of today, they sit four points back of the Minnesota Wild.

Tonight, the Canucks roll into Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning.  Right now, despite having two of the league’s top goal scorers in Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, the Lightning are the second worst team in the NHL.  Even worse than the Leafs.

You have to give the edge to the Canucks in this game.  Savior Roberto Luongo makes his first appearance since the All-Star break after getting an extra day off to be with his wife during her “delicate” pregnancy.  Theoretically, the Canucks goalie should be rested, relaxed and 100 per cent focused on the stretch drive that will most likely see the star goalie play just about every game from here on in.

St. Louis Lecavlier

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Tampa Bay may have more success if they strap a tie to the crossbar instead of starting an actual goalie.  If there is one major knock on the 2004 Stanley Cup champs, it is they have poor goaltending.

The Canucks, all Curtis Sanford disappointments aside, have strong goaltending.  You have to believe, that before the All-Star break, Luongo had more than just hockey on his mind leading up to his departure to Florida for a week.  Now, Luongo can focus on hockey, starting tonight in Tampa Bay.

The Canucks depend on Luongo and tonight they will need him to be the key in turning this season around.

Vancouver is slumping.  There is no question about that, and Vigneault’s body language for the past three weeks will show you just how hard it is to see his club lose.  However, tonight, Vancouver will have a golden chance to get back on track and whether or not they take this opportunity and run in a positive direction with it will tell us all in Canuck Land just what kind of a team we really have here.

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