...I need to aim it at my foot.
Lots and lots of hand-wringing lately about the state of the Canucks of late, and fair enough: after all, it's getting close to the playoffs, when the Sedins suck, and we can't get scoring from anyone else, and our goalie's a sieve, and our defence collapses and our forwards are too slow and our hitters go nuts picking up more penalties then Lehman Brothers and -
Okay, hold it. Take a breath. Have a drink and sober up. It's really not as bad as you think.First off, let's talk goal. Luongo is going to be the one in net - at least to start. Raycroft has a a very good season, and will come in and even start a game if (and only if) Lou does horribly. Then a new round will begin, assuming we get through the first, and you know what? Lou's going to be starting again. And why is that? Because he is an excellent goalie. You want to talk about the melt down against Chicago last year? Fine, so long as you remember that the team was 8th best in the playoffs in goals scored. Eighth. How many rounds did you think they'd go? Chicago was clearly the better team and deserved to win. Suck it up, and remember that was last year. Go to the playoffs before that, and Luongo was the ONLY reason Vancouver got past Dallas.
Do I really have to mention scoring? Yes, the Sedins are far more effective at home where Vingeault can control the match-up than they are on the road. But, boy, do they rack 'em up at home! And in last year's second season, they were both at a point-per-game pace, which ain't too bad, frankly, especially with our secondary scoring.
And as for secondary scoring, we've got the league leader in short handed points out there, plus six players with 24 or more goals. Last year we had the 11th best offence in the league; this year, it's 2nd. Who knows where Demitra would be if his focus could be exclusively on the game instead of at home (Best Wishes, Demo!). Okay, so Wellwood isn't going to reach 18 goals like he did last year, he's still going to hit the same points. And he's a +6, which has to count for something. But he isn't the fleetest of foot.
But that's okay: we got a lot of guys who are. That speed is a big reason who Burrows and Kesler are so deadly short handed. Add to them the maturation of scorer Mason Raymond, the return of Demitra, the hyper-aggressive forecheck of Hansen and Rypien and you've got a pack of forwards that can keep up with anybody in the league.
...Which brings us to Vancouver's real weakness going in: defence. The loss of Mitchell has hurt the team bad, and Bieksa's two freakish injuries over the past two years seem to have sapped some of his confidence. Edler wears down if he's played too much for too long (he's a fine D-man, but he's best at 20 minutes per game). Erhoff has been a brilliant surprise, but he's also not my first choice to defend a one-goal lead with 45 seconds to go. Salo is... Salo. Our best defender with a wicked slap shot, but you do hold your breath a little when he throws a check.
On the other hand, we picked up depth this season, even outside the failed Schneider experiment: Rome seems to have settled in nicely; Alberts is learning the Western game; Lukowich and Baumgartner are veterans ready to step in; and O'Brien just got a blast of cold water courtesy Coach V which seems to last 10-15 games, so look for him to improve.
But what about the opponents? Aren't they scary? Why, sure they are! Now go cry in your room and leave the cheering to the big kids.
Here's the truth about our esteemed Western Opponents:
San Jose: If they lose one at home in the first two rounds, you'll be able to hear their sticks splintering from the nosebleeds.
Detroit: This team has 41 wins and 38 losses. Their goal differential is plus ten after 79 games. Seriously.
Chicago: That ain't Khabibulin in net, is it? Their choices are Huet, who didn't exactly set the world alight last time Chicago used him in the playoffs; and Niemi, who's never been in the playoffs.
Nashville: When you're already playing with no room to breathe (goal differential of +2 after 80 games), what do you do when the pressure gets higher?
As for the rest, they're all going to be relieved to be here: Los Angeles finally broke through their potential, getting to the post-season for the first time since 2002; Phoenix is still wandering around in a daze at clinching a spot; and Colorado/Calgary are gonna be wiped.
Frankly, I don't care who we face or when we face them. We can get out of the West this year - every team is beatable by the squad we have, and our record against the East is even better. Let's get these playoffs going!