Tonight we start an on-going series to look at the 16 teams which will contend for Lord Stanley’s Cup in 2011. Tonight, the league-leading Vancouver Canucks (part 1 of 16)
Can The Pacific Powerhouse pull off their first championship this year?
Since 1994, Vancouver has made the semi-finals five times, only to lose the series every time. Vancouver is used to being the top dog. In the last decade, the Canucks have finished the season as the first place Northwest team four times, including during three of the last four seasons. It’s all part of the frustration for the team which calls Canada’s third-largest city home. No matter how hard the team tries, or how well it does, it seems that the system is always working against Vancouver. Even this series bears witness to that fact: for the sake of consistency, post-1994 was chosen as the benchmark for evaluating the teams, just after the infamous 1993-94 run which saw Vancouver make it’s best play for the cup by getting to game 7 in the Finals against the New York Rangers.
Vancouver is a far different team from then though. Unlike other NHL teams such Toronto, the Canucks don’t need to merely dream about making the Stanley Cup, they are currently improving their seasons regularly and guaranteeing the rest of the Western Conference a run for the money when the playoffs start. The excellent performance that Vancouver has enjoyed this year also comes despite having some of its top players benched due to injuries, demonstrating that the team is well-rounded and has given even the second-plus lines a good chance to get experience and hone in on skills. With that said, here’s what Vancouver’s attributes look like this year:
On the plus side for Vancouver, it’s not only clinched its division spot again this year but it’s in the running to lead the league in points going into the playoffs. Vancouver also knows how to turn on the heat, having won 8 of its last 10 games at the time of writing this post. The team, as noted at the beginning of this article, has been here before and knows how to perform.
Call it the Kryptonite factor, but for Vancouver, Kryptonite is spelled many different ways, including ‘Chicago’, ‘Anaheim’ or, most accurately, ‘the semi-finals’. After pulling off outstanding seasons, the team always seems to choke by the time that it gets deep into the elimination round, usually losing badly to whoever its opponent might be (but especially Chicago). Canucks fans hold out hope that if the team is capable of getting within a hair of the Stanley Cup as it did in the early 90′s, it’s just a matter of time before it does so again, but so far that hope hasn’t yielded any results. Nonetheless, making it to the Stanley Cup is one thing, winning it is another — for a team which hasn’t been to the big round yet, it’s likely that Canada’s west coast beachhead will be beached on the long shore of Stanley Cup also-playeds in the event that they take it to the next level this year. And that’s not even considering the team’s love affair with the injury roster!