As you’ve no doubt heard by now, the Vancouver Canucks have locked up the President’s Trophy as the NHL’s top team in the regular season. We know this because they absolutely took the night off in their first meaningless game against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night! But I digress. They’re the top dogs, which means we know that they will play whichever team ends up in 8th place in the conference. In case you haven’t seen the NHL standings in a while, here they are:
So it’s looking a lot like Chicago, Anaheim or Nashville right now, with an outside chance of Los Angeles or Phoenix. Calgary and Dallas still have a chance to sneak in, but I don’t see that happening. Interesting, isn’t it? If the season ended today, we would see a Blackhawks-Canucks matchup in the playoffs for the third year in a row. Is that something we as Canucks fans want? Would you rather Anaheim or Nashville? Lets investigate…
Chances of seeing them in the 1st round: Not great. They’ve only got three games left, all against non-playoff teams. In order for them to slip to 8th place, they would need to stumble and both Chicago and Anaheim would have to roll off a few wins in a row.
Why they should scare you: They’re well coached, excellent defensively and have one of the best goalies in the NHL. That’s usually the recipe for a team ready to pull off a big upset. If there’s a shutdown pairing that could stop the Sedins, it just might be Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. Plus, they’re due for a playoff series victory!
Why they shouldn’t: They can’t score. Their power play is pitiful and unless that changes it’ll be hard to win a playoff series.
Chances of seeing them in the 1st round: Pretty good. They’re only one point ahead of Chicago at the moment, with one game less to play. They’ve got three games left, none of them easy (they play San Jose and Los Angeles twice).
Why they should scare you: I’ll be honest, they terrify me. They’re playing great at the moment and have one of the best lines in hockey. There might not be another team with a better top four scorers than Perry, Getzlaf, Selanne and Ryan. Their stars are playing great, and they’re all big game players. The Ducks aren’t far removed from their Stanley Cup win in 2007, and are a big/mean nasty piece of business. They’ve done all of this without their starting goalie, who has missed most of the second half of the season with vertigo. If Jonas Hiller returns, they’ll be extra scary.
Why they shouldn’t: Their defense isn’t what it once was, and Jonas Hiller probably won’t be ready to return for the first round, seeing as he’s still feeling symptoms of vertigo. Sure, they can score, but can they stop the Sedins? They don’t have a great shutdown pairing.
Chances of seeing them in the 1st round: Very good. They’re currently in 8th place and have to play Detroit twice in their last four games.
Why they should scare you: Well, they’re the freaking Chicago Blackhawks! They’ve knocked the Canucks out of the playoffs two years in a row and they’re the defending Stanley Cup champions! They seemingly have the Canucks number, and surely they’ll know how to turn it up in the playoffs. Even though they’ve lost some key members of last year’s team, they’ve still got the most important members including Toews, Kane, Sharp, Hossa, Keith and Seabrook.
Why they shouldn’t: A few months ago I asked our readers if we were still afraid of the Chicago Blackhawks. At the time, I think we all were. I know I certainly was. But now? I’d be lying if I said they don’t concern me at all, but I think they’re more ripe for the picking now than ever. Both Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland are injured at the moment, and even if they’re able to return for the playoffs, they’ll be a bit rusty. If they get the Hawks in the second round, they’re likely to be on more of a roll than they are right now. So maybe Chicago in the first round can be a good thing.
No matter who the Canucks play in the first round, it’s not going to be easy. The Western Conference, in particular, is extremely difficult. If they manage to win the cup, they’ll need to be sharp in all four rounds, of course. What does matter is injuries, which is a reason why the Ducks scare me more than anyone at the moment. Even if the Canucks manage to win a seven game series versus Anaheim, they won’t do it unscathed. The Ducks are big and mean, and will almost surely injure a couple of players.