No Surprises – Stanley Cup Playoffs by Seed

The 2012 Los Angeles Kings are the only 8th seed in the Conference seeding era to have won a Stanley Cup.

 

Much has been said with respect to the so-called “President’s Trophy Curse“. I’ve been told and it has been tweeted that it’s bad luck to win the President’s Trophy, and people love to cheer for the Cinderella underdog teams. Add hockey superstition to the mix, and well, no player touches any trophy except the Stanley Cup, if they’re lucky enough to win it.

If you actually believe that the President’s Trophy is bad luck, first of all, you’re a dummy. Secondly, here are some statistics that may surprise you.

The current Conference Seeding style of playoffs has been in place for 18 seasons, since the 1993-94 season. In that time, the President’s Trophy winner has been in the Stanley Cup Final 7 times: 1994 Rangers, 1995 Wings, 1999 Stars, 2001 Avalanche, 2002 Wings, 2008 Wings, 2011 Canucks. The President’s Trophy winner has gone on to win the cup 5 out of those 7 times. The 2004 Lightning were a non-President’s 1 seed that also won the cup.

Division winners seeded 3rd or better have been in the final 22 times, winning 14 cups. Breaking it down:

  • 1st seed has been in the final 9 times, winning 6 cups
  • 2nd seed has been in the final 10 times, winning 6 cups
  • 3rd seed has been in the final 3 times, winning 2 cups

Middle seeds 4th or 5th seeds have made the final 6 times, winning 3 cups.

Cinderellas seeded 6th or worse have made the final 7 times. Out of those, only the 8th seed LA Kings have won the cup in their amazing run in 2012, defeating the 1st seeded Canucks, 2nd seeded Blues and 3rd seeded Coyotes consecutively on their way to the cup final.

Year by year, here are the Stanley Cup final matches:

2012: (8) LAK over (6) NJD
2011: (3) BOS over (1) VAN
2010: (2) CHI over (7) PHI
2009: (4) PIT over (2) DET
2008: (1) DET over (2) PIT
2007: (2) ANA over (4) OTT
2006: (2) CAR over (8) EDM
2004: (1) TBL over (6) CGY
2003: (2) NJD over (7) ANA
2002: (1) DET over (3) CAR
2001: (1) COL over (1) NJD
2000: (4) NJD over (2) DAL
1999: (1) DAL over (7) BUF
1998: (2) DET over (4) WAS
1997: (3) DET over (2) PHI
1996: (2) COL over (4) FLA
1995: (5) NJD over (1) DET
1994: (1) NYR over (7) VAN

What does this all mean? It’s pretty clear that home ice advantage is exactly that – an advantage. If your team is one of the top two seeds, it’s looking good. But before you plan the parade, you’ve still got to play all the games. Every season has twists and turns, and with the parity of the teams in the last few years, you never know.

Raymond Kirk: With The Canucks Health Improving, Can The Team Make a Playoff Run?

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The 2013 NHL Trade Deadline has come and gone, and like it or not, Canuck fans now know exactly what the Vancouver Canucks look like as they head into the final quarter of the Regular Season and Playoffs.

GM Mike Gillis was able to make one trade the day before the deadline, acquiring skilled centre Derek Roy from the Dallas Stars, with prospect Defenseman Kevin Connauton. Considering the cost of a rental player at the deadline this season, I feel it was a more than fair price to pay to address a need that could be considered critical if the Canucks are to make any sort of long run in the postseason this year.  It’s no secret that an effective, consistent centre for the second and third line in the wake of injuries to Ryan Kesler and Manny Malhotra has virtually been nonexistent. Rookie Jordan Schroeder has had a decent beginning to his NHL rookie season, but has not been consistent game in and game out. Max Lapierre has been “OK” yet still takes the mind numbing penalty every second or third game that just makes you shake your head, and is not an offensive catalyst to say the least, and is best served in a 4th line capacity. And although Alex Burrows and Chris Higgins have done an admirable job in attempting to Center a second line at times, it is not the natural position for either player and has created holes all throughout the line-up that have led the once high-octane Canucks offense to become a check like crazy and hope to score two goals a game team that has brought comparisons to the dreadful style of hockey that Jacques Lemaire’s Minnesota Wild used to play. Tolerable, as long as you are winning, but brutal to watch when your goalie or defence has an off night, as has been the case in the last two losses to the youthful, exciting to watch Edmonton Oilers and the physical well-coached San Jose Sharks.

With Derek Roy making his Canucks debut against the Oilers, Zack Kassian returning from his surprise “wake up call” conditioning stint with the Chicago Wolves, and Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond, Dale Weise and Keith Ballard all appearing to be close to returning from short and long term injuries, the Canucks are almost as close as they have been all season to being ‘healthy’ for the stretch drive and a battle with the much improved Minnesota Wild for the NW title.  And lest we forget the Oilers, who have found confidence to go along with their undeniable youth and talent, now sit only five points back in the chase for the NW, with all three teams having twelve games left in their schedule. It made last night’s matchup with Edmonton even more important, as the Canucks needed to find a way to stop a short two game slide and do what they can to keep the Oilers at bay, if not for division title purposes, then at least for playoff seeding. With the return of the injured bodies, I firmly believe that we will see a return of the offense that has been in hibernation since the second Kesler injury.

As glum as it has appeared at times for Vancouver this season, it is worth keeping in mind that only Chicago, Pittsburgh, Anaheim, Montreal and Boston have more points. Granted, Vancouver is stuck in a pack of several other teams either tied or right behind them for overall points this season, but considering this club has virtually played all season with only one legitimate offensive center, a “goalie controversy” that will now not be addressed at least until the summer. The fact that the Canucks are still in the race for another division crown and are getting healthy at the right time, should bode well for this team’s chances of locking up home ice for the only season that matters…the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I still firmly believe that it is much more important to be playing your best hockey and important games late in the season, and this club has not really had to play important games down the homestretch the last couple of years.

Sure, there are many reasons to be discouraged by the play of the two-time defending Presidents Trophy winning club, but in the end those teams did not end up winning the ultimate prize. This team needs much to go right over the next month (and hopefully beyond) to make some serious noise. Just like the LA Kings did last season, and the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings did before them. The key is getting to the dance in the first place and we’ll have the answers to these questions soon enough.

Follow me on Twitter: @RayRay2233


 

Help if you can! Canucks For Kids Fund Telethon Goes Tomorrow.

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The trade deadline has come and gone and Roberto Luongo is still a Vancouver Canuck. But before we watch the season unfold down the stretch and into head into the playoffs, there is one more important day coming up tomorrow, April 4th, as the Canucks hold their annual Canucks for Kids Fund Telethon during tomorrow’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.

CFKF Telethon raised more than $1.3 million during the 2011/12 NHL season, through phone/online donations and fundraising events throughout the year. The fund dedicates resources to assist charities which support children’s health and wellness, foster the development of grassroots hockey, and facilitate and encourage education in British Columbia. Over its 27 year history, the Fund has raised more than $41 million for the children and families of our province.

This year we are excited that our own Bruce Ng will be representing CanucksCorner.com and taking pregame phone pledges during the telethon. If you get to speak with Bruce, we’re sure his kind, enthusiastic voice will convince you to make a big donation!

In addition to possibly getting to talk to Bruce there are other great incentives if you make a donation to the cause:

  • Enter by Midnight April 4th, 2013 and you could win a 2013 Chevrolet Trax LTZ.
  • Donate $150 or more and receive both “Century of Hockey” and “Milestone Memory” photographs.
  • Donate $100 and receive an exclusive 8″ x 10″ photograph of a “Century of Hockey”.

You can make an online donation by clicking here, or call in your donation tomorrow night during the game at Toll Free at 1.85.KIDSFUND (1-855-437-3863).

Help the kids if you can, it’s a really great cause!


 

Canucks Winning While Walking Wounded

The hand isn’t hovering directly over the panic button, but in Vancouver it’s always close by.

From the middle of February to the middle of March the Canucks lost 11 of 16, including a disappointing 8-3 drubbing at the hands of the Red Wings, and lackluster efforts against some of the poorer teams in the conference.

Most recently, the boys have rattled off a 4 game win streak. They’ve done this despite a rotating lineup of injured forwards, and playing the last 5 games in 7 nights. On this streak, the hand has strayed from the panic button somewhat. But even with the Canucks winning streak, it seems like there is always the potential for disaster just past the next game. Why is that?

Injuries have decimated the roster depth at all forward positions.

The Canucks injured reserve already included Ryan Kesler (foot), David Booth (ankle), and Manny Malhotra (eye). More recently, the boys have also played without Chris Higgins (back), Zack Kassian (back), Dale Weise (shoulder), Steve Pinizzotto (illness), and Alexander Edler (suspension).

For one game against the Coyotes, the Canucks were missing their entire second line of Kesler, Booth and Higgins. Coach Vigneault was able to put together a lineup of forwards that included moving Keith Ballard out of the doghouse, and onto a 4th line with Andrew Ebbett and Dale Weise. Going into the last week, I felt that 5 games in 7 nights was going to make or break this team’s hopes for the playoffs, especially as the Canucks were not playing to their potential. And my hand was hovering directly over the panic button.

The team still has two #1 goaltenders, and only one center that can score.

Manny Malhotra has been forced into retirement by the team, and with all due respect to Andrew Ebbett, Jordan Schroeder and Max Lapierre, none of them have proven themselves in the 2C spot. Ebbett and Schroeder have been up and down from the farm for most of the season, and Lapierre is the prototype 4C grinder. Once they get Kesler in the lineup, he will again have to work to get his game timing back, which will likely take at least 2 weeks of games, which will likely run right in to the playoffs.

I like having the insurance policy of two #1 goaltenders, but hockey history usually tells us that while a goalie tandem can work in the regular season, it is dangerous to run this system in the playoffs. The move that makes sense is to trade one goaltender for a center that can score, and pick up another goalie to play backup.

Canucks have goaltender supply, but demand is low.

Earlier in the season, potential trade partners for a Luongo deal included Tampa Bay or Florida, who currently sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. There’s not much hope for a deep playoff run in either city, so the demand for a goaltender is low. Other potential trade destinations included Toronto and Chicago – both of which seem to have solved their goaltending problems internally. Reimer looks to be able to get the Maple Leafs into the playoffs this season, and Corey Crawford in Chicago has been lights out.

The Canucks will get through this rash of injuries, and they’ll make the playoffs. They might even win the Northwest division. There are only 4 games left until the trade deadline. What do you think will happen? Blockbuster trade? A couple small deals to shore up the depth? Or nothing at all?

Raymond Kirk: Canucks are lacking desperation in their game.

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Today marks the midway point through the 2013 Vancouver Canucks season, and this club finds itself in a situation that they and their fan base is not accustomed to over the last several years, in that they have won less than half of their games played.

Thanks to the benefit of the loser point and a weak Northwest Division, the Canucks have held the division lead up until tonight’s loss to Minnesota. The division lead of course means a the difference bewteen a third seed in the playoff seeding or finding your self in an uncomfortable fight for a playoff spot in the second half of the season.

Sure, there have been injuries, as Ryan Kesler and David Booth, when healthy, have the ability to be more than adequate second line (or first line) players, however, almost every team has had or has players that have been out due to injury that could boast the same claim.

What has plagued the Canucks, and should be of great concern to them, as well as their fans, is the seeming lack of desperation and killer instinct for sixty full minutes game in and game out. This has been of concern ever since their galvanizing win against the Boston Bruins last season. Since then, the team seems to have peaked, and plays as if they are comfortable that their skill set and sheer talent will carry them to victories night in and night out, often with success, however, on those nights (and they are happening more frequently) when their opposition comes to work hard for a full sixty, the Canucks seem unable to ramp their compete level to match their opponent, leaving games that should be put out of reach until the final minutes, or left to the Overtime skills competition, which Vancouver has proved to be less than adequate in through the years.

Too many games see this team either flat the first twenty, only turning it on to make a game close at the end, or they come blazing out of the gates to a quick lead, and then quit playing at the same level, and let lesser teams bring the battle level to them. Last Thursday against Columbus, under manned themselves, found the Canucks clinging to the game for long stretches, letting a far inferior team control the pace and play. This, quite simply, is unacceptable for this franchise with the skill and players that they can put on the ice night in and night out.

Special teams have been anything but. I do not know how many times this season the Canucks could have put a game out of reach in the third period with a key power play goal or a big kill, but have been unable to do so. If it was just a 10-15 game stretch, one could understand, as all teams will go through peaks and valleys through a year, however, going back to last season, this is a 50-60 game sample size, and that has become a trend that has to end, and end quickly, if this team wants to be able to be considered a legitimate threat to make noise in the Western Conference this season.

Is it a ‘Country Club’ attitude that has taken over this team, who has forgotten how to work hard to achieve results? Is it a weak Division that hasn’t made this team play with desperation through a year to achieve success that is needed through consistent hard work, which is what, is required to get through the grueling spring playoff run? Has the team tuned out the message that Alain Vigneault and Rick Bowness preach for this team to have success? Or is a shake up, and not a minor one, to the roster required to bust this team out of its current funk? The answer is probably a little bit of all of the above. It can be fixed. There is enough character and skill in the dressing room to carry this team to more consistent play. It’s become common to say wait until April when the ‘real’ hockey starts, however, if this team doesn’t play April hockey earlier this season, it will find themselves in the same spot they were five games into an all too short playoff run last season, wondering just exactly what went wrong.

Your thoughts?  Thanks for reading.

Follow me on Twitter: @RayRay2233