Twitter is a wonderful place to watch the homers and the haters go at it. Here's a quick summary of their oft-repeated rants.
- The Canucks will not get past their nemesis - Chicago Blackhawks
- Luongo isn't that good in the playoffs
- The Sedins will disappear
- Manny Malholtra is out
- They feasted on the lesser teams to get so many points
- They have dominated all year ever with the most injuries of any NHL team
- Luongo is having a season year and Schneider is ready to go if needed
- The defence has been vastly improved from last year
- Their penalty kills and power plays have been awesome all year
And so it goes back and forth with even Theoren Fluery getting in to the mix on the haters side and suffering the wrath of Canucks Nation.
Still, Canucks fans were pretty excited last year and, frankly, they had a pretty good team. Had Chicago not knocked them off, they may have gone all the way. However, make no mistake about it, this is a very different team. Here's my list of why they will, at the very least, make the Stanley Cup Finals.
- Defence. The revolving door on the blue line this season has exposed the amazing depth that the Canucks ...and the Manitoba Moose...have developed. The extras in the cast coupled with bona fide stars of Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa, and Sami Salo (for as long as he lasts) will mean that Vancouver has a solid back end... that can even take an injury, or two... or three.
- Luongo. Last year he was overplayed, overstressed (thanks to being the captain) and undersupported by the defence. This year none of these are the case and, oh, there's that gold medal hanging around his neck which, in my books, gets any monkey off his back...and then some.
- Faceoffs. Granted, a month ago this was a much stronger point but the loss of Manny Malhotra has dampened the impact a tad. Still, last year, especially against Chicago, they couldn't win a faceoff if their playoffs lives depended on it... and it did. Kesler has been schooled by Manny (#2 in the NHL) and is almost dominant with the 7th best percentage in the league. Henrik is now a respectable 38th in the league. Incidentally, Chicago has Jonathan Toews (8th) but nobody else about 50%.
- Ryan Kesler. Perhaps more important than his strong faceoffs, if Ryan's newfound discipline and wrist shot. Both he and Burrows and taken their emotional tirades down by, what I figure, at least 75%. If Kes can retain his cool and his focus... he will provide the Nucks with the solid 2nd line that has brought them much success this season. Oh, and toss Maxim Lapierre into this mix too. Alain Vigneault must have some special sauce to keep him from going off the deep end... and it's helping.
- Special Teams. Again, last year the team was not that special in this department. 1st in PP percentage and 3rd on the PK (yes, some say they would have probably finished in first here too had it not been for the string of no-purpose games at the end). Last season, the PK was 18th and the PP was as respectable 6th. They have obviously learned some good tricks and avoided some bad habits.
- Goals for... and against. Yes, we've all seen high powered offensive teams hit the wall time and time again in the playoffs (Washington, last year being the most recent). Last season, who was right behind the Capitals in goals for? Yes, the Vancouver Canucks. Goals against last year? Canucks 12th. Capitals 16th. This year? You guessed it. Vancouver is #1 in both goals for and goals against. A dynamic 1-2 punch that will allow them to win in a horse race or a marathon. Incidentally, only Boston and San Jose were in the top 10 in both categories.
- Kesler getting hurt. By itself, not enough... but a serious blow.
- Kesler-Burrows-Lapierre losing their cool.
- Chicago getting Dustin Byfuglien back.... :)
- The Sedins get zero goals.