If the Vancouver Canucks had it to do all over again ...
Wait! They do have it to do all over again.
Having completed 82 games of necessary evil since that heartbreaking Game 7 loss to Boston, the Canucks are back at the only place that matters, playoffs.
“It’s gone by really quick and I’m happy we’re here,” Henrik Sedin said of the regular season. “This is what we’ve been waiting for, and everyone else has as well.”
Whether it’s due to fatigue or lack of focus, teams that go deep in the playoffs often struggle the following season. Vancouver, despite a few well-documented hiccups, still was strong all year and look like a handful heading into the post-season.
“We’ve been taking a lot of heat from a lot of people about the way we play or the way the season’s been,” said Henrik. “You can’t complain about (a President’s Trophy run).
“There have been parts of the season where we haven’t played our best, but we had different guys step up. Our goalies have been great all year. And in the last couple of weeks we’ve started to turn the corner and play better as a team. That’s a really good sign going into the playoffs.”
It seems silly to ask what they’ll do differently this post-season, given that what they did last year brought them one game away from a championship. As far as they are concerned, there can be small improvements in a lot of areas, but there isn’t anything broken enough to fix.
“We did a great job last year, we handled the ups and downs in the playoffs really well until the last couple of games,” said Henrik. “I think we just have to do the same things.”
A FINE MESH
It wouldn’t be Vancouver unless there were concerns about the goaltending, and there are, you can feel it in the streets.
Strange, considering they have a very formidable duo in Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider, but Luongo simply doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in these parts.
He’s ready to go, though.
“It’s about making sure I’m doing the things I need to be doing on the ice,” he said. “Making saves and giving my team a chance to win. That’s all I’m focused on and the rest will take care of itself.”
Schneider, one of the best backups in the business, will wait his turn, half hoping it never comes because if Luongo goes the distance without incident, Vancouver probably wins a Cup.
“We’re pretty sure Roberto is going to start and if things go the way we think they’ll go, hopefully he’ll be starting for quite a few games in a row,” said Schneider. “But I have to be sharp, who knows what’s going to happen.”
Vancouver is struggling mightily on the power play. They were 0-for-12 in their previous three games and just 2-for-35 going back 10 games. A power play that used to be ranked first in the NHL has fallen to sixth, five percentage points below where it was in mid-season.
Getting it straight is kind of important for a team that’s 26-6-3 when scoring a power-play goal.
But dwelling on the numbers is a waste of time, according to Sedin.
“On Monday when we start practising for the playoffs, everything starts from scratch,” he said . “Points are out the window. It doesn’t matter how bad your power play has been, or how good your PK has been, it’s from scratch.”
The inevitable questions about the World Championships will surface Monday when the Edmonton Oilers clean out their lockers. Who gets invited remains to be seen — there are some very good players missing the playoffs all around the league — but Tom Renney advises anyone who’s asked to go.
“If they’re healthy, absolutely,” he said. “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to play for your country. I’m a big proponent of that. The more that you can get accustomed to playing at this time of year at a high level ... all of that is important.”
NO FIRES, PLEASE
With the playoffs here, and the scars of last season’s riots still fresh, the Canucks took to their website with an anti-chaos public service announcement.
Players from the past and present, from Trevor Linden and Stan Smyl to Kevin Bieksa and Ryan Kesler urging fans to treat Vancouver with respect, win or lose.
“(Vancouver is) all of ours,” goes the announcement “And through it all, through thick and thin, we’re in this together. Like a family. So show some heart and remember what matters first — home.”
The clip ends with the message: This Is Our Home - Please Celebrate Responsibly.
THE HOT HAND
He’s a aggravating player sometimes, but Alex Burrows can play.
His 14 goals since Jan 1 are best on the team.
“I’ve always said it’s a game of bounces,” he said. “As long as you stay positive and have a good work ethic every day good bounces are going to come your way. Hopefully I still have plenty more left in the tank.”
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