Could this be the year for the Vancouver Canucks? Much like San Jose, the Canucks are perennial under achievers in the post-season, with last year being another good example of that. In the conference Semi-Finals, the Canucks took game one of their series against eventual Stanley Cup champs Chicago by a score of five to one. After that first game you wouldn't have been alone if you had thought that Vancouver could have gone at least one stage further last year. Instead they lost the series 4-2.
So what makes me think differently this year? Well it is hard to say really because, aesthetically, not much has changed in Vancouver. The same big name players are producing great form while the rest of the team is working hard. There has not been a massive personal change like we have seen in Toronto and Calgary and they still have the same coach.
At the time of writing (19/01/11) the Vancouver Canucks sit at the top of the Western Conference and lead the League along with the Flyers. They are scoring goals at one end (ranked 3rd in the NHL in goals for) and doing a great job of keeping them out at the other end (ranked 4th in the NHL in goals against). The latter stat is due, in no small part, to Roberto Luongo, who is looking as solid as ever between the pipes.
But the Canucks did well in the regular season last year as well. That is true, but there is something different about Vancouver this year. Perhaps it is that they finally have someone other than the Sedin twins doing something up front. Ryan Kesler is having a fantastic season so far and has scored 25 goals, just one short of his best ever total in an NHL season.
|Can Kesler keep his hot streak going?|
Indeed, five of those goals have been game winners so the Canucks can thank Kesler for an extra ten points this year that puts Vancouver on 65 points instead of 55, the latter of which is only good enough for 6th in the Western Conference. He is well on the way to a 30 or 40 goal season and is spending the more time on the ice than any other Canuck forward.
Perhaps Vancouver are mentally and physically stronger this year as well. They seem to be killing off teams when they get the lead and they are chasing down pucks hard for the full 60 minutes. I wouldn't say that last year's team was lazy by any means but the work ethic of the Canucks seems to have risen by another 20%.
Whatever the reason is, I am sensing something different about this team. I feel like they really do have it in themselves to lift the Cup. Of course, there is a fair way to go and who is to say that they will keep up their current form?
However, if they do...