Pick Your Poison

After last night’s loss to the Anaheim Ducks, and after I picked myself off the floor from laying in the fetal position, sucking my thumb, I thought about the Canucks potential playoff opponents. Ok, I may not have been curled up on the floor, but last night’s loss did get me thinking…

If you are the Canucks, who would you least like to face in the playoffs – the Ducks or the Blackhawks?

The Canucks recent playoff history with the Blackhawks is certainly well documented and lamented among Canucks fans. Yes, the Canucks have lost in consecutive years in the second round to the Chicago, and both times, Chicago proved they were the better team. The fact that they faced the Blackhawks two years in a row in the second round is really just of the draw. Had the Canucks faced any other team, maybe they would have progressed in the playoffs. And conversely for the Blackhawks. Had they met a different opponent, their fate could have been different too. But that’s not what happened – the Blackhawks were the more deserving teams in back-to-back playoff meetings.

The Canucks don’t have the same history with the Ducks, but Anaheim did beat them in the second round of the playoffs. Granted, it was four years ago, and some of their better players from 2007 (Niedermayer, Giguere, Pronger, Kunitz) aren’t there anymore. But the Canucks did lose to them. And have lost to them a lot plenty since.

The Canucks are on course to finish first in the Western Conference. A first-round match against the 8th seed in the West could very well feature either the Ducks or Blackhawks. So who would the Canucks least like to face?

I say the Anaheim Ducks. My informal poll on Twitter last night seemed to confirm this sentiment with Canucks fans as well. A lot of fans would rather face the Blackhawks to try to finally overcome them in the playoffs. And maybe the fear of the Ducks as a playoff opponent was merely reactionary after the loss last night. But I said last night, if you want to be the champ, you had better be able to take the belt from the reigning champ.

Why the Ducks?

Well, first I’m sure the Canucks would love to seek redemption against the Blackhawks for the past two years. If no one else, I’m sure Luongo would like to get that monkey off his back. And its true that the Blackhawks are not the same group as the past two years. They aren’t as good, and their struggles in the standings show that. They’ve lost some keys players to the cap crunch. But if it’s all the same to the Canucks, I’m sure they’d take a playoff round victory anyway.

And the Canucks have had regular season success against the Canucks. For every embarrassing 7-1 home loss, there is a redeeming 3-0 road shutout.  The Canucks can hold the Blackhawks high-octane offense at bay. It doesn’t happen every game, but they’re capable of doing it and they’ve showed that.

The Ducks just seem to always score plenty of goals against the Canucks, all the time. And the best Ducks players seem to feat on the Canucks. A look at the Ducks top offensive players tells you how hungry they’ve been against the Canucks.

Teemu Selanne

67 GP 38 G 43 A 81 Pts

Ryan Getzlaf

22 GP 8 G 14 A 22 Pts

Corry Perry

21 GP 6 G 13 A 19 Pts

Bobby Ryan

12 GP 9 G 6 A 15 Pts

Selanne’s numbers alone are positively frightening, but add in the points from Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan and those are some scary figures.

Then you look at the games themselves, and its obvious when you look at the scores. Since the lockout, the Canucks are 10-11-2 against the Ducks, but have let in at least 4 goals 16 times and at least 3 goals 13 times. Further, in the last three seasons, the Canucks only have 2 non-shootout wins against the Ducks. TWO. They’ve also been outscored 81-64 (I’m not counting shoot-out winning goals in that). Given that the Canucks have a pretty even record against the Ducks, they’ve been outscored badly.

If you look at the same timeframe against the Blackhawks, the Canucks are 16-7-1, while they’ve let in at least 4 goals only 5 times and 3 goals 9 times. They’ve also outscored the Blackhawks 66-53 in that time. In the past three years though, the Canucks are a mere 6-5-1 against the Blackhawks and have outscored them 34-31.

The Ducks offense seems to give the Canucks fits. They have a good, aggressive forecheck, they hit a ton and force turnovers. And they have 4 very talented and prolific players leading the way with some great supporting players (Koivu, Marchand,  Blake). I’d argue that the Blackhawks best forwards are equally as good as the Ducks’, but the Blackhawks have a better, more mobile defense. The Canucks should be doing better to exploit the Ducks weaker defense, but they just can’t seem to do it well enough to outscore the Ducks.

Who knows? Maybe the Blackhawks won’t even make the playoffs. They aren’t in a playoff spot right now. Maybe the Ducks will go on a slide and fall below 8th spot. I’m all for exorcising demons and seeking redemption and all that, but if the Blackhawks and the Ducks both missed the playoffs, I’d really be play with that.

But if I could avoid one, I’d pick the Ducks. If you want to be the King, you have to dethrone the King. At the last time I checked, the Blackhawks are still the defending Stanley Cup champions.