There haven’t been many good times, fun times for the Vancouver Canucks lately.
The team is rutted in a nine-game winless streak, having been shutout four times, with only eight goals for, over that stretch.
The last time the Canucks won a game, Batman and Superman were peaceful to each other.
Yet post-game Monday, following a 4-1 loss to San Jose, one player was smiling. A lot. He was emotional and he let it show. While teammates discussed the Canucks playing a full 60-minutes, but penalties ruining their chances against the Sharks, he took a deep breath and openly answered every question that came his way.
Chris Higgins was just happy to be back in the spotlight.
“It felt nice to put one home in this building again, it’s been a while,” he said, grinning. “It’s good to be playing with some of the teammates I’ve played with for such a long time here.”
As the playoffs faded out of picture for the Canucks and wins have become harder to come by, the focus naturally became little victories, mainly in terms of developing the young players. Nikita Tryamkin has made strides, Bo Horvat routinely demonstrates smarts beyond his years, while Sven Baertschi, Jake Virtanen, Jared McCann and Ben Hutton have all shown they’re the goods.
The latest little victory, however, was for 32-year-old Higgins.
Midway through the 2nd period against the Sharks, Higgins got a good jump off a Canucks faceoff win in their own end, shorthanded, and he took the puck in 2-on-1 with Hutton on Brent Burns. He elected to shoot and what a shot it was going top shelf for his third goal of the year.
Higgins didn’t even raise his arms in celebration, he merely smiled as Hutton came in for a hug.
The Canucks have six games left on the schedule, plenty of time for Higgins to score a few more goals. But if he doesn’t, he’s still proven something to himself and the young guns. In a season filled with teachable moments, Higgins has shown what it is to be a pro.
The NHL veteran of more than 700-games was reassigned to the Utica Comets on January 13th and he took it in stride. According to numerous Comets players, he was an incredible leader, the knowledgeable pro who’d been there, done that and written the book.
Higgins, who hadn’t played in the AHL since the 2004-05 season, picked up an assist in his Comets debut, finishing his Utica stint with nine goals and four assists in 22 games.
Then, on March 19th, he was recalled and has played in six Vancouver games since.
No one, not even Hutton, has been a jovial as Higgins, in spite of the losing streak.
Higgins has a year left on his contract with the Canucks, but he’s learned that anything can happen. If he is nearing the end of his tenure with the Canucks, he’s going out like the bearded, six-packed, pro we know he is.
“Just getting back in this locker room, I didn’t think I’d see the day,” said Higgins. “It was a nice moment for me to score, for sure.
“At this point in my career, I don’t have to prove anything to anybody, just myself and my family,” he added. “I’m just enjoying the game – I didn’t think I’d be back here anyways. It’s just nice to be around my teammates, I missed these guys and it’s nice to be part of the group again.”
No five-hour bus ride to the next away game Wednesday, Higgins was back on Air Canucks as the team flew to San Jose on its second last road trip of the season.
You can see in Higgins’ eyes that he’s soaking everything in, the sights, the sounds, the smells and truly living in the moment.
It seems like just yesterday he was a baby-faced, probably still six-packed, rookie.
“You don’t realize how hard it is to stick in this league, especially when you have success early in your first couple of years, you don’t realize how much work it is to put in a career.
“I’m hoping that’s the message that rubs off on guys and there’s other guys they can look up to in this locker room that convey the same message.”
What a warrior. I have nothing but respect for Higgins. This season, while admittedly not his best in the NHL, has brought out the best in him. His goal was the cherry on top.
Funny story. Higgins’ goal song is ‘Magic Stick’ by Lil Kim, featuring 50 Cent. At the beginning of the season TSN 1040 broadcasters Jon Abbott and Dave Tomlinson were given a top-secret list of all the Canucks goal songs; when a player scored at Rogers Arena, they’d know the tune without having to listen in.
When Higgins scored, Tomlinson checked the list and told listeners his song was “Believing” by an unnamed band. What the list actually said was “Thinking,” as in Higgins hadn’t told me his song yet, so it wasn’t on the list. He was thinking.
During commercial break, one of the producers filled Tomlinson in that it was Magic Stick, by 50 Cent. Upon returning to air, Tomlinson apologized for the gaff before informing the world Higgins goal song was Magic Stick, by 50 PER CENT.
In conclusion, Tomlinson is hip and with it.
50 PER CENT!!
Cheers from San Jose,