Playoffs build rivalries, and the one rivalry that has always been one of my favourites were the Vancouver Canucks vs. the Calgary Flames. Right now, things are heating up between Flames and Canucks fans and some of it isn’t pretty. The Canucks missed the playoffs last year, and many called it an off year, but at the beginning of the season, many sports experts in the media didn’t see the Canucks coming back to the dance. In fact, although they are the higher seed in this match-up, there are many calling them the underdogs. Call the Canucks what you want, but I think I will be calling them winners at end of round one.
Sure they have the explosive speed of John Gaudreau and youthful enthusiasm of Sean Monahan with is crazy bad anime superstar hair.
I understand the Flames were beating teams they weren’t supposed to be beating, but so did the Canucks. Yet, no one ever gives these guys any credit. What happened to their victories more than moral over the LA Kings? The battle they have given the Ducks and all except for one game, owning the San Jose Sharks? The big three of the Pacific Division, or so it was deemed at the beginning of the season. It’s safe to even say, the Canucks were the ones that put the dagger in the hopes of playoffs for both the Sharks and Kings. Games both teams needed to win going through Rogers Arena, but didn’t.
When the Kings met the Flames in their game of eventual playoff demise, the Vancouver Canucks already were half way done ripping out their hearts in their last regular season meeting a few days prior. So much so, the Kings barely squeaked by Edmonton. Before anyone gives the Flames all the edge of winning this series, don’t forget who put the first nail in the coffin, all the Flames had to do was close it.
It will be a hard series, most 1st round series usually are, but I am still picking the Canucks to win in 6. Here’s why:
- Experience: Obviously the older team might be slower of foot, but experience does count for something. Canucks have been in the playoffs 6 of the last 7 years. Last year’s miss was the definition of a team in turmoil. The turmoil has been cleared and the team has been re-set. Bieksa, Edler, Daniel, Henrik, Hamhuis Hansen, Burrows and Higgins are all from the 2011 Cup run. Richardson has a Stanley Cup and played an integral part of the 1st LA Kings win. Dorsett was in the Cup final last year with the NY Rangers. Although, I don’t believe Miller will be starting the playoffs, he also holds about 50 games or so of playoff experience including the Gold Medal game in the 2010 Olympics.
- Goaltending: As good as a Ramo and Hiller have been for the Flames, Lack and Miller are quite the duo as well. With Eddie Lack really getting his game down since February and carrying the burden of the starter since Miller’s injury, it seems that Lack has been playing playoff hockey the whole month of March has been not only the media and fan darling, but many other experts have credited Lack as an integral reason the Canucks are winning.
- Four Lines: As I stated in the “O Canada…” blog, the Canucks have been rolling four lines all year, and have been successful passing around the offense. That could play a big part and which is why Ken Hitchcock does not like his Blues matching with the Canucks. There are truly four lines that can play.
However, here’s what could spell disaster for the Canucks if they don’t find ways to avoid them:
- Giving up 1st Goal: The Canucks have been notorious this year giving up the first goal of the hockey game. Although as their record indicates their comebacks from their deficits, it’s not a habit you want to keep in the post-season.
- Face-offs: Time to start winning these like they know how. Henrik has been notoriously bad with this season. Winning face-offs helps dictate the game and the Canucks will be finding themselves countering more often than dictating if they don’t get this part of their game down.
- Odd Man Rush: Canucks cannot afford to give up odd-man rushes to a team like the Flames. A team with scorers. Eddie and Miller may be good, but they can’t beat them all.
I’ve put on my “hate hat” for the Calgary Flames. Yes, I have to hate the Flames, they are now the enemy. By that I mean, I can still appreciate what they bring to the table, but I am still sticking to my guns (and my bias) in choosing the Canucks in 6. I think they believe in themselves, so I have belief in them too.
Drop the puck, I’m ready to wave my playoff towel!
GO CANUCKS GO!