Once again we're nearing that time of year when the rest of Canada tries to decide who to cheer for. Their team's been eliminated, but they still want to see the Stanley Cup come home for its first time since '93. Naturally, the diehards will refuse to cheer anyone on but their own team, but some of us just want to watch some good playoff hockey and need a team to attach ourselves to.
On tsn.ca, Dave Hodge thinks it's the Canucks that Edmontonians and Torontonians will have to start cheering for (or against). In his own blog, he poses the question, "What is the No. 1 reason the Vancouver Canucks will, or will not, win the Stanley Cup?"
Since everyone here has been watching the Canucks all season, I want to hear what you have to say.
For every team there are always question marks surrounding them. Are Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin playoff performers? Can Ryan Kesler take the Canucks on his shoulders and lead them to the Cup? Is Roberto Luongo a potential Conn Smythe winner? Will the 4th line be a hinderance or simply do their job?
Those are legitimate questions, but if I were bring it down to one factor that would make or break the playoff run it'd be the defense. We saw it in the olympics, where Team Canada won because their defense could control the game. We see it in the Chicago Blackhawks, where the goalies have unexpectedly great stats. And we don't see it in the Washington Capitals, who are 6th out of the 8 current eastern playoff teams in goals against. If all the other top teams in the East weren't struggling, I wouldn't pick them to go past the second round.
So where are the problems I see on the defense?
Christian Erhoff has started struggling since playing with Andrew Alberts, having an even plus/minus since Alberts' first game in Chicago. Not very good for someone who used to be top 5 in the NHL in that category. Will he still be Errorhoff come playoff time?
Kevin Bieksa has been -5 since coming back 6 games ago and has not had a positive game. He's looked lost and out of place on the ice and we're hoping he'll bounce back quicker than he did last time he was out because of cut to his leg.
Willie Mitchell, will he be back in time from his concussion, and will he be ready to play playoff hockey?
Alexander Edler has seen his numbers slump from last year and he doesn't always look like the top 4 defenseman we want him to be. At least he has Erhoff and Salo here to take the offensive pressure off of him, but if the Canucks want to make it to the finals, he's someone I'd look at to pick up his play in the post-season.
Sami Salo needs to stay healthy. He plays great hockey when he is, and his blast from the point keeps the backend dangerous.
Shane O'Brien and Aaron Rome have been playing some good hockey. SOB has been keeping it simple and keeping out of the box. It's been interesting to see Rome throw out some great stretch passes and jumping up on the rush. These two have to be solid, eat up some minutes, and contribute offensively when they can.
Now I know it's easy to call out players individually and they'll all make mistakes every so often. In that respect, the Canucks can also be more responsible defensively. When the Canucks fall behind, they push hard offensively, and give up a lot more odd-man rushes. That's the way they've played, and if Luongo plays well, it can pay off great. If Luongo isn't playing well, then they better learn to bail him out preemptively instead of just the usual come from behind wins.
That's my one (very long) reason. Have your own say down below.