Well, we’ve all had a chance to take a deep breath, sit back and really think about the year that was for our beloved Vancouver Canucks. Gone is the emotion/heartbreak/disappointment/anger from their second straight second round loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. What’s left is a better chance for impartial analysis as to what they did, what they have and what they should do.
The better team won. Face it. I have heard lots of whispers from the Canucks players and from fans that somehow the Hawks aren’t the better team, which boggles my mind. They were the better team during the last two regular seasons, they were the better team the last two playoffs. Sure there were some mitigating factors. Willie Mitchell’s injury sure hurt. Playing game 6 with a less than 100% Sami Salo and losing Alex Edler made things difficult. Lots of the Canucks forwards were banged up. Injuries ARE excuses, legitimate excuses. Injuries don’t mean you automatically lose, but they make things more difficult. These injuries meant that the Canucks had to be extra good, seeing as how they were underdogs to begin with. In the next few days I’ll take a retrospective look back at the Canucks season that was, but for now, lets concentrate on what happened in the deciding game, game 6 versus Chicago.
Game 5 was the first one sided game of this entertaining series. For the first time in the series, Roberto Luongo clearly outplayed Jonathan Quick, who was chased in the second period. For the second game in a row, the Canucks power play equaled the Kings power play, perhaps indicating that this penalty killing jinx is at least close to ending.
Whew! That was close. Not only did Jack Johnson nearly put the puck in the net, but if Michael Handzus doesn’t put his arms up in the air, he might have been able to bury it. Classic Bieksa pose in this picture by the way, standing upright, watching a member of the opposing team in front of the goal. With that said, perhaps I’m being a bit unfair. I thought Bieksa had a solid game, as did the rest of the Canucks D. Most notably, Alex Edler was strong in both ends of the rink. He was a beast, as evidenced by this hit on Drew Doughty (you think Edler trash talked him? Something like “welcome to the playoffs, kid” would have been nice).
With 15 games left in the regular season and the nightmare record road trip behind them, one thing is still not clear. Are the Canucks contenders or pretenders? It’s a question that doesn’t elicit a unanimous response. I think that we as Canucks fans underrate this edition of the Canucks (just as we overrated the Naslund-Bertuzzi era Canucks).
The defending Olympic champions, Team Sweden, announced their 23 man roster on Sunday. The Swedes are flying a bit under radar at the moment, as a lot of their top players from years past are now retired or nearing retirement: Mats Sundin, Peter Forsberg and Nicklas Lidstrom.
At the quarter-way mark of the 2009-10 season, the Canucks have successfully treaded water. With a record of 10-10-0, you’d think that the Canucks would be disappointed, and perhaps they are. For me, this is about what we should have expected, all things considered.
It appears the injury bug has bitten the Canucks early this season. It started with lingering injuries carrying over from last season for Pavol Demitra and Mathieu Schneider. Then it was Jannik Hansen, who was injured on the last game of the preseason. Now, even worse news. The Canucks will be without iron-man Daniel Sedin and (what’s the opposite of iron man?) Sami Salo.
He’s out there somewhere… isn’t he? It seems ever since Ed Jovanovski signed with the Phoenix Coyotes three summers ago, the Canucks have been trying to find a “puck moving defenceman” (that’s the buzz word of the year for Canucks fans) that can make a good first pass and run the power play.