Like it or not, the book on how to beat the Vancouver Canucks is to push them around, to smack them around. The NHL is a copycat league, and when the spotlight was on the Canucks in the Stanley Cup Final, the Boston Bruins beat the Canucks on the scoreboard while beating them in the alley. Here’s what Henrik Sedin has to say about that:
You know what? I’m pretty tired of that question. We won the President’s Trophy last year, we went to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup final. We didn’t lose the final because we were pushed around, we lost because we couldn’t score.
While I agree the main reason that the Canucks lost in the Stanley Cup Final (I watched game 7 again a couple of weeks ago) was because they couldn’t score, not that they got pushed around, it certainly contributed to it. The book on beating the Canucks right now is to push them around and beat them up, and that’s probably the most effective way of beating them (if you can do that while staying out of the penalty box). The book on the Canucks used to be to get in Luongo’s face and bump him (something that the Canucks mitigated last season by playing Luongo further back in his net).
The question is, does trying to beat up the Canucks actually result in winning/losing games?
The Canucks are getting hit and smacked around more than ever this year, with limited power play opportunities. The result? They’re 2 points away from being first in the NHL. The players that teams try to push around the most are Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Henrik is the current NHL scoring leader and Daniel is in fourth place. So I’m not sure the strategy is working as much as everyone thinks.
I think a lot of people are forgetting what actually took place in last year’s playoffs. The Canucks got beat up by the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final, sure. But the Bruins do that to everyone. I think everyone has forgotten how the Canucks absolutely dominated the Chicago Blackhawks with their physical play in round 1. They were not outmatched physically by the Predators in round 2 and in round 3, they outhit the Sharks.
The Canucks could certainly use some more toughness in their lineup, but not much more in my opinion. I think it would be nice to have a warrior like Chris Neil on their fourth line, and maybe a gritty winger like Andrew Ladd on their second line. But this is nitpicking. The Canucks are not a physically imposing team to play against, but they’re not creampuffs either. They’re currently ranked 11th in the league in hits and have a lot of players with underrated grit like Jannik Hansen, Chris Higgins and the Sedin twins.
The Canucks can win the Stanley Cup with their current roster, but they’re not without warts. And that’s a distinction they share with every other elite team in the National Hockey League.