There is no doubt that the Western Conference playoff race is going to be a dogfight down the stretch, particularly since a couple of elite teams are still vying for a foothold. The Vancouver Canucks are in a good place right now, holding down second place in the Pacific, but with starter Ryan Miller out weeks with a lower body injury, the crease is now property of Eddie Lack.
In the short term, this has been no problem. Lack took over for Miller against the Islanders and ended up sharing a shutout with his fallen mate. Last night in Boston, the cheerful Swede stopped 40 to help Vancouver win 2-1 against a Bruins team just as thirsty for points in the standings.
“He was so good the other night on the Island," said coach Willie Desjardins. "He was unbelievable there and he followed it up here. You like to see a guy get hot.”
Indeed. It's especially important for the Canucks because the team is playing at far from maximum capacity. Alex Burrows, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler and Chris Tanev are all keeping Miller company on the sidelines right now, yet the remaining troops have no fear and Lack is a big reason.
"If Millsy is out and Eddie comes in, I feel like we have two No. 1 goalies," said defenseman Luca Sbisa. "It's not like you have to play extra defense or try to bail the guy out. He's good at scrambling. Sometimes you think the puck is in for sure and he stops it. Things like that change momentum and create confidence for us.”
Lack had a busy night against Boston and the Bruins didn't make things easy. There were plenty of screens and a lot of action around the Vancouver crease. But on all but one shot, Lack managed to get at least a piece of the puck and that was the difference. Sbisa noted that Lack and Miller have the same tendencies in net, particularly when it comes to playing the puck, so it's easy for the Canucks blueline to adjust.
As for the veteran Miller, his first season in Vancouver has been a boon for the lanky Lack, who still has just 62 NHL appearances to his resume at age 27.
“He's been great for me," Lack said. "We talk about a lot of stuff – behind the net, around the net, puck tracking. He's a really good influence.”
Few teams in the West can afford losing streaks right now and with Miller out as much as six weeks, Vancouver is playing with a higher degree of difficulty. But if Lack can steal some games and keep the Canucks in others, a return to the post-season will be the reward. And Lack will justifiably be due for even more praise.