Image uncredited via NWSportsbeat
This week, I hope we can all agree to jump on a bandwagon: the Bruins bandwagon. Regardless of how much most of us fans hate a certain breed of rat, or how we have perceived Boston players and fans, we as people, not fans, should lend our support in any way we can. An event like this does more than transcend sport; it diminishes its importance to the same extent that Astronaut’s feel diminished by the stars. I have been heartened by the fact that even those fans that have previously been passionate in their distaste for Boston within the scope of their NHL team have shown genuine concern and support. Sports may not matter in and of themselves, but they can be a rallying point, a source of healing and pride. Look no further than the national anthem of the first Bruin’s game, I don’t think I have ever shed tears over an anthem before…
The Canucks may not matter in the big scheme of things, but they matter to me and I assume those reading this share my sentiment. This week has been interesting as far as bandwagoning goes. Like the Canucks, there has been a lot of turnover on the old wagon, but just as many people seem to leave as arrive. Read past the jump for more.
Kesler is back and Roy is amazing! The Canucks are as good as the Stanley Cup final team again!
That seems to be the rallying cry for the influx of bandwagoners right now. The numbers back it up to a point, with the Canucks scoring 3.4 goals per game since the deadline, up from their 2.7 season average and closer to their 3.1 average during their Stanley Cup Finals season. Their GAA is an unsustainable 1.4, however their season average of 2.3 is similar to the 2.2 they had in 2010-11. So on the surface, this team looks just as ready to delve into the postseason.
To go all the way these days it seems that a team has to have, in order, skill, goaltending, health, luck, depth and toughness. The Canucks, with everyone healthy, have top tier skill, arguably coming in behind only Pittsburgh and Chicago on that front.
Goaltending is all about someone getting hot, and rarely do the top rated goaltenders do the best in the playoffs, thanks to sample sizes. Luongo and Schneider both have the capability to steal a series for the Canucks.
Luck is by definition unpredictable. Having players such as Kesler back right before the playoffs start don’t make it less likely that the Canucks will get banged up at some point in the postseason. The only real prediction I will make here is that I expect a stanchion to play a prominent role in a game these playoffs.
The Canucks are hurting health wise, with a top 6 winger, a middle six winger, a top-four defenseman and a bottom four defensemen all out of the lineup. Higgins and Tanev are great players in their roles and Tanev is underrated by a lot of folks in my opinion. Luckily, they’ll hopefully have at least Higgins and Bieksa back for the playoffs. Also just to get this on paper, I think Tanev will be on the Canucks top pairing in 4 years time.
While the Canucks do not have the luxury of top quality depth, I don’t think it’s their biggest concern.
Finally, toughness is overrated in my opinion. The NHL is a copycat league that goes too far at times. A few well-sized teams have recently won cups but this could easily be the year that a skill team wins it. Chicago, incidentally, is last in the league in hits. While the Canucks won’t be winning a series with dominating physical play, they shouldn’t get pushed around all that much and are about average in terms of their size.
With improved depth up the middle, elite goaltending, and the Sedins getting 20 points in the 7 games since the deadline (in part thanks to the bevy of offensive-zone starts being restored by Kelser’s return and Roy’s acquisition), I am actually surprised that the bandwagon isn’t more full….
Chris and Chris are gone! We don’t have enough depth to survive the playoffs!
Those who have seen the Canucks torn apart in the playoffs too often say the above sentiment in a more resigned tone than the exclamation points may suggest. The depth concerns have been recently aggravated by the Barker miscue, the call-up of Joslin, and Alberts getting out-chanced heavily. While depth is a concern, the recent laments haven’t been completely deserved.
Yes, Barker looked absolutely terrible on that play, but otherwise preformed as well as he would be expected for a depth defensemen. Laurence Gilman said that it wasn’t his fault at all, and when Gandalf the Capologist speaks, I tend to listen.
Joslin was called up not because he is Vancouver’s best option, but because he isn’t expected to play much, if at all, and his team, the Worcester Sharks, is out of playoff contention anyway. Chicago is still mathematically in the hunt but barring some destitute man’s Lakers-magic, a slew of callups should soon be boarding planes to Vancouver. Players that could be effective in a tailored role include Schroeder, Vandermeer, Gordon, Sweatt, Corrado, Jensen, Lain and Andersson. I would be at least as happy seeing any of those players as I would Joslin in certain situations.