Dear Vancouver: We’re Cup Bound, Can You Believe It?

Dear Vancouver:

Are you all still in disbelief? Are you all still partying from last night? Do most of you still think it’s just a dream? It isn’t a dream. Our Vancouver Canucks are heading to the Stanley Cup Finals. It has been 17 years since our last finals appearance and only a third time in our 40 year history to get to here.  It hasn’t been an ‘easy’ run, but nothing worth winning is ever easy. I for one, am happy it happened this way.

Round One: The Monkey Off The Back

After going up 3-0 against the Chicago Blackhawks, and seeing that lead slip away, it hurt. And by the time Game 6 came around, I am sure some of us out there lost faith in our boys. In fact, there were even a few out there ( in Twitterverse and the Facebook world) who were going to denounce the Canucks as their team. Sure the Canucks played terribly in games four and five, but there is a reason why they play the games. It had to be done. It was won and was it ever a thriller. There were talks of trading Luongo and running him out of town.  After last night, and 54 saves later, is he still you goat?

Roberto Luongo celebrates a 54 save effort and win with the Green Men: Photo credit David Carigg

Round Two: Grits and Fits

This series was one that many of the Canucks fans, myself included, just wanted toget through’.  It was hard hockey to watch. Not just because the Predators brought a bland brand of hockey to the table, but more because it was frustrating to see many of the Canucks get contained by it. The Sedins were deemed ‘invisible’ by fans and media alike. It also showed what Ryan Kesler was made of.  After an unbelievable year, he tops it off with factoring in the majority of the scoring in this series.  Captain America is definitely a Canuck.

Round Three: No Way Jose

This was a closer series than the 4-1 in games indicated, but the better team won, no question.  The San Jose Sharks were valiant and worthy opponents. Although I don’t agree with Dan Boyle thinking the Sharks deserved to win this series and Vancouver didn’t, it could have gone either way at any point. Vancouver’s goal tending from Roberto Luongo was excellent. The Sedins, especially Henrik showed why they are Art Ross trophy winners. Henrik tied Pavel Bure for most points by a Canuck in a single series with 12, 11 of those were, or course, assists.

Personal Highlights

I have been privileged to watch live games in every round of these playoffs, so far. I even made my way to San Jose for Game 4, but I wasn’t alone. I shared that experience with about 6000 other Canucks fans who made the journey. Although the palm trees were abundant, the weather was warm and it felt like I walked into a western movie in certain parts of town, it felt like a home game with all the Canucks fans there.  Prior to the game, many of us met on San Pedro Street, also named “Sharks Avenue”, to congregate and march to the HP Pavilion together.  At the arena, we took over the lower bowl for the warm-up and were chanting “Go Canucks go!”. We sang “O Canada” like we were north of the 49th and we chanted and sang throughout the game when our boys make it a final of 4-2. I felt like I was in Vancouver…south.

Canucks Nation

Canucks Nation invades San Jose - Photo Credit: Justine Galo

Although I didn’t attend Game 5 in person last night, my daughter took my place. When I met up with her and my significant other, I could tell with the look in her eyes that she believed.  It was much to being the same look I had during the 1994 Western Conference Final. She understood what it was that had me love this team above all others.  She was now ‘in love’ with our Canucks more than ever before.

In conclusion, we all are probably still waking up today with a little bit in a dream-like state.  Did that really happen? Are the Canucks for real? Well, yes. It all happened and the Canucks are very much the real deal but as my twitter friend @PabloPenguin74 said to me @Aviewfromabroad it is the first thing I thought as my eyes opened from slumber. For some, it won’t be real until game 1.” He’s right. It won’t feel real until then. So we have a few days to soak it all in, but Game 1 will come and we, Vancouver, as a city and a Canuck Nation, will be heading to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Get ready and buckle up, stay on the wagon, it’s time for the real work to begin.
GO CANUCKS GO!

Our 40th Anniversary puck iced at Rogers Arena's Best Buy Club- Photo Credit: Justine Galo

 

Justine Galo

Oh what a feeling! Canucks headed to the Stanley Cup finals!

Well they sure like to make it hard on us don’t they?

The Canucks survived a gutsy performance by San Jose in game 5 and got a double overtime goal from Kevin Bieksa to win the series 4 games to 1 and advance to the Stanley Cup finals for the 3rd time in franchise history.

Just simply too tired for a really long post so we’ll just throw out a few thoughts and quotes.

  • Does Kevin Bieksa start getting mentioned as a Conn Smythe winner? He had four goals in the series, leads all defensemen in the playoffs with 5 and night after night plays big minutes against the opponents biggest threats. You have to think he should be.
  • Ryan Kesler is human right? After heading off with an obvious leg injury he returned and gingerly skated around for a few shifts, obviously still feeling whatever ailed him. All he did was suck it up and score the winning goal in the dying seconds.
  • There have been many games over the Canucks 40 year history that you asked yourself why the hockey gods hated them so much. But tonight they were clearly on the Canucks side. Vancouver was out-shot badly, got a break on an icing call that never should have been on the Kesler goal, and a generous bounce off the glass lead to the Kesler goal…it’s about fricking time!!!!
  • I’m proud to be a Canucks fan, and we’ve really seen how Canucks Nation has grown over the last few years, but man was Rogers Arena quiet at times tonight. If you are privileged enough to attend playoff games, get off your asses and get behind the boys! There are a ton of fans that can’t afford to go to games that would kill for the chance to be where you are and make as much noise as they can. Time to bring your “A” game, and yes lower bowl I’m talking to you.

““To go to the Stanley Cup Final is a dream come true and to do it with this group of guys, our core has been here for seven/eight years working towards something special, and we have a huge opportunity ahead of us now.” – Kevin Bieksa

“Every time he gets 50 shots, he’s pretty good…” – Alex Burrows on Roberto Luongo.

“It was fun after the game to see his emotions, he rarely shows those. He’s been through a lot like the rest of our team. We’ve been battling together a lot of years here.” – Henrik Sedin on Sami Salo finally getting to the finals.

That was exhausting and there’s more to come. So I’ll leave you with a big old GO CANUCKS GO! Rest up for the finals Canucks Nation!

Time to mail out some more towels!

Another game and another tweetup under my my belt and I’m happy to be able to give out three more Canucks playoff towels to three readers/followers/friends of Canucks Corner.

These towels could be great collectors items and we want to give away as many as we can during this great playoff run of the Canucks 40th NHL season.

So, if you don’t have one, and don’t have the means to get one here is what I want you to do:

  • Follow us on Twitter @CanucksCorner
  • Like our Facebook page
  • RT The following message on Twitter:

I need me some Towel Power from CanucksCorner.com! http://tinyurl.com/3sdc7rs  RT for a chance to win! #cctowelpowerR3

I’ll draw three winners via a random draw on Friday, May 27th at noon pacific and mail out the towels.

Good luck and GO CANUCKS GO!

Battle of the Pacific: Canucks and Sharks WCF Preview

Daniel Sedin celebrates with Alex Burrows - Photo: Canucks.nhl.com

Daniel Sedin celebrates with Alex Burrows - Photo: Canucks.nhl.com

The Western Conference Final has become the Battle of the Pacific. It will be Orca versus Shark when Vancouver takes on San Jose in the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Both teams will be looking for their first Stanley Cup. For the Sharks they’ll be looking to get to the final for the first time in franchise history. The Canucks won three of four meetings between the two teams this season and with the rest and practice time they have enjoyed waiting for the Sharks and Wings, they should be the fresher team to start the series.

Like the Canucks the Sharks got over a bit of a mental hurdle in advancing to the conference final and both teams will be looking to take the next step on the way to hockey’s most precious prize.

Let’s take a look at the series.

Forwards

Both teams have plenty of fire power up front but for the Canucks to win this series they will have to get better performances from Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Ryan Kesler’s heroics alone will not be enough to beat the Sharks who possess a much more potent attack than Nashville. The Sharks style should suit the Sedin’s game better than the Predators’ did and the Sharks don’t really have a pair of shut down defensemen like Chicago and Nashville to blanket the twins. The Sharks may choose to start the series trying to neutralize Kesler so the Sedins must elevate their game, especially on the power play. The support of others will be paramount to deciding what team wins this series and like Vancouver needs better production from the twins, San Jose needs a better performance from Patrick Marleau who scored just once in seven games against Detroit and had drawn the criticism from former a teammate as well as hockey analysts. The Sharks probably have  more proven scorers in the lineup with the likes of Ryane Clowe, Logan Couture and Dany Heatley making up a very formidable 2nd unit. Ryan Kesler aside, Mason Raymond and Chris Higgins will have to be at their best to try and match that fire power.

The third line for each team will be a big factor and the Canucks will once again looked for yeoman’s work from Maxim Lapierre, Jannik Hansen and Raffi Torres, while the Sharks counter with some more potential offense from former Canuck Kyle Wellwood, Joe Pavelski and Torrey Mitchell. The fourth lines will be a mixed bag for both teams and will likely change throughout the series depending on how the games are being played out. Former Blackhawk Ben Eager will be looking to annoy as many Canucks as possible.

Edge: San Jose. Based on their depth the Sharks have more pure scorers than the Canucks.

Defence

There is an old saying that defence wins championships and if that holds true then the Canucks should be in good shape in this series. Vancouver has more depth on defence and have a top four that should be able to match up against the top two San Jose lines. The Canucks defence loves to jump up into the play and against the Sharks there should be more chances to do so. Alex Edler had a rough series against Nashville but settled down when Sami Salo returned and was paired with him. Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis will once again log huge minutes in an effort to shut down the Thornton line. Christian Erhoff has been hot and cold but has 9 points after the first two rounds.

San Jose’s Dan Boyle leads all defenseman in playoff scoring  and his partner Douglas Murray leads the playoffs with 51 hits  Jason Demers , Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Niclas Wallin and Ian White round out the top six for San Jose who get it done by committee on the blueline.

Edge: Vancouver. Vancouver’s top six is among the best in the league and if they stay healthy and play to their potential they have an overall edge.

Goaltending

Another round another series under the microscope for Roberto Luongo. The best way to describe his playoffs thus far has been steady. He came up big when needed on more than one occasion in both rounds and save a couple of blowouts against the Hawks, his stats have been very impressive. But none of that matters in Vancouver where goaltenders are heroes one minute and lynched the next. Luongo will have his critics until he wins the cup and he seems to have settled in again after the big milestone of beating Chicago. Good nes for Canucks fans because the Sharks will be generating many more chances than Nashville did.

In Antti Niemi the Canucks face another nemesis, one who was a key factor in last year’s win by Chicago. The Canucks had nice success against him in 2011 however and shouldn’t feel intimidated by him like they may have against Pekka Rinne in round two. Niemi hasn’t been spectacular thus far, but he has year to lose a playoff series.

Edge: Vancouver. More experience and Luongo is on a mission to silence his critics. He performs better the busier he is and he’ll be seeing a lot more rubber in this series.

Prediction:

This series is going to seven games. It’s going to feature some end to end hockey, physical play and great goaltending. Can your heart take it Canucks fans? Special teams will be a key and the Canucks can’t afford a lot of penalties against a very dangerous group of forwards that the  Sharks can throw out on the power play. Likewise, if Daniel and Henrik can get hot on the power play, the Canucks should be in great shape.

Home ice will be the difference, and in game seven the Canucks will prevail and head to the Stanley Cup final for the first time in 17 years, leaving the Sharks waiting once again for their first birth to the final.

Related: Tom Benjamin – The Final Four

Seven Reasons Why the Canucks Should Beat the Predators

Since the beginning of the series with the Nashville Predators I knew the Canucks were in for a tough one.  The Predators may not put up a lot of goals but they sure can prevent a lot of them. The Predators block a tremendous amount of shots, they don’t mind getting dirty in the corners with their opponents and most of all, they have the incredible play of Pekka Rinne.  I will admit, I am not a fan of “Predator” style hockey. I find it to not be entertaining nor is it exciting but I will admit, it’s efficient. If there was a team to choose in the playoffs for ‘winning ugly’, I award that honour the Predators, hands down.

Pekka Rinne making a save on Maxim Lapierre. Photo credit: nhl.predators.com

However, with the Canucks losing Game 5 at home with the series lead (3-1) in a rather ‘ugly’ fashion on Saturday night, there are some out there that are beginning to wonder if the Canucks can finish off the Predators.  I believe they can. I believe the Canucks are too talented, and work just as hard as the Preds to not win this series. Game 5, in my opinion, was summed up to a few unlucky bounces, bad play by a few key players, and Roberto Luongo not being so great in this one.  I see the Canucks rebounding and ending this in the next game, but nothing is a guarantee.

That all being said, I have my reasons as to why the Canucks should win this series, so without further ado, here they are:

  1. Ryan Kesler Whatever type of energy drink this man is having, the rest of the team should grab a bottle and join in.  He has been a rock carrying this team through this series. He is scoring key goals and making all the right moves on both ends of the ice. He’s become our modern day Trevor Linden, and then some.  He plays with an edge but still in control. He is showing the reason why Bob Clarke made an offer when he was an RFA five years ago, an offer that some of us out there, thought was completely absurd. I’m sure we all think that Bobby Clarke sensed something that we all should have at that time. The Canucks are now reaping the rewards of qualifying Kesler’s offer back in 2006.
  2. Blueline Depth Unlike Nashville, the Canucks have an abundance of blue liners to bring into the line-up. Guys like Salo, Bieksa, Hamhuis  and Edler don’t have to play 30 minutes a night because they can all share the ice time and responsibilities, a little more evenly. Keeping their blueline with fresher legs, the longer a game goes, the better it should be for the Canucks. Weber has shouldered an incredible amount of ice time to compensate for a not so strong defensive core.
  3. Blueline Offensive Contributions Unlike the Predators, the Canucks have very capable defensemen that can contribute on the score sheet on a fairly regulary basis. Bieksa, Edler, Ehrhoff, Salo can all blast shots from the point. A few don’t have a problem jumping into the play.
  4. Special Teams The Canucks haven’t capitalized enough on their powerplays during this series, but their penalty killing has been, for the most part, stellar.  Nashville hasn’t capitalized much on their power play opportunities and is a big part of the reason they are down in the series 3-2.
  5. Lapierre and Higgins If you told me in January that former Montreal Canadiens, Max Lapierre and Chris Higgins would have been key players in this series, I would have laughed in your face. Higgins has worked very well with Kesler and Raymond in moving the puck, working hard on the forecheck and potting a timely goal or two. Lapierre has done exactly what he was intended to do when he was acquired during the trade deadline. He is winning key draws on 3rd line shifts, hitting and grinding in all the greasy areas, and frustrating the likes of Mike Fisher in the process.  Their value from the trade are really starting to show in this series and if the Hockey Gods be happy, allowed to do so in the next.
  6. Roberto Luongo Say what you will Luongo haters, but with the exception of Game 5, he’s been good this series allowing far less goals than some of you anticipated.
  7. Talent There is far too much talent on this team to not advance to the next round. There is far too much that has happened in this season to have them lose now. Talent can get you long way, desire and discipline will help them get the rest of the way.

Ryan Kesler providing some offense in the series vs the Predators: Photo Credit CBC.ca

Although I feel the Canucks will win this series, I have to give credit where it’s due. The Predators are not going down without a fight. They have played valiantly and Pekka Rinne has kept his team within striking distance throughout the whole series. It will take all the talent, all the want and a killer instinct to put away the Predators. On paper, the Canucks should have this series in the bag, but theories were meant to be tested. That’s why they play the games and that’s why the Canucks get another chance to put the Predators away, once and for all.

 

Justine Galo