The Vancouver Canucks will play tonight’s game in Nashville without Alex Edler, Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts and, as we found out this morning, Kevin Bieksa. That’s 5 of their top 7 defencemen out of the lineup. To make matters worse, minor leaguer Lee Sweatt broke his foot in practice. Even the Manitoba Moose have injury troubles on the blueline, with Nolan Baumgartner suffering an injury last week. He might have been one of the recent call-ups.
Sami Salo is back, well, almost. He’s been skating for a long time now, and has been practicing and traveling with the team for a couple of weeks also. So when is he set to return? The Canucks are keeping this somewhat secretive, but it looks to be soon. The reason is of course the salary cap. The Canucks are very close to the cap right now and will be over it when Salo returns. According to CapGeek, the Canucks would need to get rid of $1.8 million of annual salary if Salo returned today.
Reports out of Finland are saying that Sami Salo has injured his achilles tendon in a game of floor hockey and could be gone 3-5 months. The report has not been confirmed as of yet. Assuming the report is true, this could be a very difficult injury for Salo, now 35, to recover from. Not only is he 35, but he has a lot of mileage on his body. One side effect of Salo being injured may be Kevin Bieksa. The longer Salo is out, the more valuable Kevin Bieksa becomes. A long term injury also provides salary cap relief, just as Pavol Demitra’s long term injury did last season.
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.
It goes without saying that tonight’s pivotal game 6 is the biggest game of the year. If anyone knows what to expect, please let me know, because I can’t figure this team out. They’re down 3-2 in the series but both of their wins were by fairly large margins. They were great at home all year, but have dropped both home games in this series, and looked terrible while doing so. With that said, lets take a look at the ten most important questions heading in to today’s matchup:
After an impressive 4-1 win, the Canucks will live to play another game. So just how did this team, that looked so beleaguered on home ice in game 3 and 4, manage to extend the series? Remarkably, the keys to victory have become astonishingly clear (to this blogger at least).
The moment Canucks fans have been waiting for all season is almost upon us. That’s right, round 1, game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Canucks faceoff against the Kings in what promises to be an entertaining series. Lets see how the series breaks down.
Both have been keeping me up at night. Thankfully, Sami Salo is taking tonight off against the San Jose Sharks. The underrated Nolan Baumgartner will fill-in in his place. Did you know that ‘Baumer’ is a career +22 in 97 career games in a Canucks uniform? He’s played in ten games this season and has been a minus player only once. So this is a good move for the oft-injured Salo. Every time he goes into the corner to retrieve a puck I’m worried that he’s going to get injured. The “new Mitchell” has stepped up his game this year, and in my estimation has been the team’s best d-man this season. He’s also been remarkably healthy, which can only mean one thing: he’s due. A Sami Salo injury, combined with Willie Mitchell’s injury, could cause the Canucks to get bounced in the first round of the playoffs.
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).