Through two games, the Vancouver Canucks and goaltender Roberto Luongo look very much out of character.
That's a good thing in Luongo's case, because the goalie is a notorious slow starter. But the high-flying, goal-scoring Canucks outfit that became the second-best offensive team in the NHL last year has yet to arrive in 2010-11.
The Canucks played their second ugly-duckling game of the Thanksgiving weekend, but emerged with a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers at Rogers Arena Monday, their first win on the young season. They lost their opener in a shootout, falling 2-1 to the Los Angeles Kings Saturday.
Daniel Sedin scored both Vancouver goals, including the winner with five minutes remaining, and his line produced six points in a performance that was miles better statistically than it was to the naked eye. Henrik Sedin and Mikael Samuelsson both finished with two assists.
"It was average at best," captain Henrik Sedin said of the trio's game. "Too many turnovers."
Samuelsson said the top-line wasn't close to its optimum, but attributed that to the new season.
"There are not going to be any tic-tac-toe plays now, this early in the season," he said. "You've got to keep that in mind. Everybody is fresh."
Head coach Alain Vigneault said his best forward combination was the second unit, which featured a promoted Jannik Hansen. The Dane was moved up from the third line in place of Raffi Torres after a solid opening game, and his speed and willingness to throw bodychecks complemented Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond. The triumvirate pinned Florida in its own zone, and generated several good chances on the rush.
Luongo, meanwhile, has strung together two superb games, and has kept his team close while adjusting to a new depth in his net. He's playing deeper this year, and trying to be better positioned for second- and third-chances, plus those one-timers and backdoor plays that were giving him trouble last season.
"That's what it's all about: to be in good position always," he said. "The main thing is, you've got to believe in it. And I do."
So far, the results have been tremendous as Luongo, despite missing three preseason games with a slight groin injury, has adjusted seamlessly and appears poised for his best October as a Canuck. He made 41 saves against Florida, several from the low-slot and goal-mouth areas where many Panthers chances came from.
"That was as good a road game as you can play," Florida coach Peter DeBoer said. "Luongo had all the answers."