Canucks hated, but they deliver

Canucks Daniel Sedin scores on Leafs Jonas Gustavsson in the last minute of play in the second...

Canucks Daniel Sedin scores on Leafs Jonas Gustavsson in the last minute of play in the second period to put the Canucks up 3-2 on Saturday night in Toronto. (Jack Boland/QMI Agency)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:01 AM ET

They might very well be the team everyone in the National Hockey League love to hate.

And yet 29 other teams would gladly accept the abuse the Vancouver Canucks endure if the end game is a regular gig atop the board and the prospect of a long spring. Arrogant, whiny and overly theatrical are just some of the shots taken at them since last season, they came apart during the Stanley Cup final. Yet they are back in the Presidents’ Trophy hunt with the usual suspects leading the way.

Vancouver came through town Saturday night en route home from beating the Canadiens and Senators on an Eastern swing and added the Maple Leafs to the swag with a 5- 3 win. They are 7-1 against Canadian-based opponents, but in reaching the 40-point mark have completed almost half their road games and still stayed in the hunt for first in the Northwest Divsion.

The Sedin twins might not flip the Art Ross and Hart Trophys this year, but are in the top 10 of league scoring. And despite some fears of a lack of balanced scoring after stumbling against Carolina and Columbus earlier in the trip, 12 Canucks have scored into double figures, the most in the Western Conference. Roberto Luongo was good when he had to be in net.

“I’m sure you guys (in the East) would love us if you got to know us a little better,” forward Kevin Bieksa teased. “Well, maybe there are a couple of guys you wouldn’t like. But we don’t mind that kind of thing. People in the West love us. We don’t concentrate on that type of thing, just on what we can control.”

If you thought the Canucks would be spared more grief once a summer of disappointment faded for losing Game 7 of the Cup final, prominent names such as Mark Recchi and David Bolland have piped up in recent weeks. Bolland eventually apologized for slamming the Sedins, following up on what commentator Mike Milbury said in the playoffs about them being soft.

The Leafs, who like to call themselves Canada’s Team (despite being 0-3 this season when that Alan Frew song is played at home) have plenty of detractors, but arrogance is not among their sins after six seasons out of the playoffs.

“I think a lot of teams who dislike us would like to take some elements of our game,” Alex Burrows said. “Maybe our power play some nights, maybe our goaltending on other nights and some nights our depth. We have a lot of tools, but we have to make sure we bring it every night.”

Globetrotters

The Sedins were worth the hefty price of admission on Saturday, only a point each, but lots of near misses and full entertainment value. Colleague Michael Farber from Sports Illustrated saw the Habs play perhaps their best period of the year in taking a 3-0 lead on the Canucks, yet still lost.

“They should play Sweet Georgia Brown when the Sedins are out there and have the bucket of confetti, like the Globetrotters,” Farber said en route to the jubilant Canucks’ room.

“They’re two of the best in the league and you guys just got a little glimpse of what they can do,” Bieksa added.

The Canucks could afford to laugh off the two defeats south of the border.

“Other than losing to the two worst teams in the league, we have to feel really good about tonight,” Bieksa said. “But we still have a long way to go. We have to be a little more consistent.

“We enjoy the Canadian games. People such as myself have a lot of family and friends back here. Here, in Ottawa and in Montreal are usually fun games because there’s a lot of Canuck fans in the building.”

Burrows was looking forward to a nice home stand.

“Seven out of 10 (points) looks much better, we’ll take that,” he said, adding how much he “hated” the Leafs as a kid.

“I grew up in Montreal and when you’re a Habs fan, it’s in your blood. It’s probably the same thing for people in Toronto. It’s Hockey Night In Canada and you want to show what you are all about.”

Mission accomplished.


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