That's right, I said it. It is utterly mind-blowing to me that there is still a portion of this fan base that would rather spend all of their time forecasting doom and gloom, and bashing the team than give them any credit whatsoever. The Vancouver Canucks are the top team in the NHL, though you wouldn't know it by some of the things you read from the fans. There are complaints about players and ice time after wins. There are complaints about callups sent back to Manitoba after the injured player they were replacing returns to the lineup. There have been a ton of complaints about Micheal Grabner (I'll get to that shortly). There is fear of facing Chicago. Or Minnesota. Or Calgary. Or Los Angeles. Or Anaheim. See where I am going with this?
Now I am not saying we as fans shouldn't be critical of things the team does. Anyone who reads my posts knows I have pet peeves, and have singled out a couple players at times this year. That's part of being a fan. That being said, for a large chunk of the fanbase to constantly harangue about things the way they do is so draining, and embarrassing at times that I just can't take it. You look at all the stats, and the way the Canucks have played this season, and yet the Canucks should be terrified of who they face in the first round? Really?
Let's start with everyone's favorite: The Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks have been playing well of late, and moved about 7 spots in the Western rankings. That has as much to do with how insanely close the West has been this season as anything. The Hawks, for as well as they are playing of late are NOT the same team that dismantled the Canucks the past two seasons. A number of the players that made them so difficult to play against are now gone, and despite the season rookie Corey Crawford has had, I think their goaltending is suspect. Canucks 'fans' are quick to tell you they'd hate to play Chicago in round 1, despite the fact we won the season series against them. Oh, you didn't hear that? That's right. The Hawks were 2-2-0, and we were 2-1-1. Does that mean a lot? Not really. The fact of the matter is, the Canucks have been and are the better team.
Micheal Grabner. Oh how some like to talk about Ol' Grabs. And hey, the kid has been having a fantastic season in the circus-like shit-show known as the New York Islanders. Good for him. But the myth that the Canucks gave up on Grabner is patently false. They had a glut of talent at his position, and used that to acquire Keith Ballard, who through a rocky start and some injuries has proven to be a pretty solid member of the Canucks back end. The Florida Panthers were the team who gave up on him, not us. We had the depth at one position that allowed us to upgrade at another. And if you think that Micheal Grabner would be getting the kind of minutes on the Canucks that he is on Long Island you are crazy. He would be on the 4th line, if not down in Manitoba. That is a fact. I know some of you love to carry a torch for players that used to wear the blue & green. I am not one of them. Once they're gone, they're dead to me. I am a Canucks fan. I don't give a rats ass what Grabner, or Brendan Morrison, or Taylor Pyatt and Ed Jovanovski do. They play for the opposition. End of story.
I could go on and on about these things. Am I trying to say that the Canucks are a lock? Hell no. There are a lot of damn good teams in the West and the logjam in the standings is a testament to that. What I am saying is that I am confident, especially when this team is healthy that they can beat any team in a 7 game series. Some will be more difficult than others. What happened in the past is the past. This is not the team that lost last year, or the year before. This is not the team that seemingly found ways to lose over the last 40 years. This is the best version of the Vancouver Canucks to date. The road to the cup goes through British Columbia this year. Let the shit talkers talk. The Canucks aren't scared of who they play and you shouldn't be, either.
Tonight the Canucks get another crack at the Nashville Predators as they end this homestand in preparation for a 5 game roadswing. The Canucks lost their last meeting against the Preds a couple weeks ago, and will be looking to try and get some consistency back into their game after cruising along at .500 for the last couple weeks. A player to keep an eye on is Mikael Samuelsson. He was demoted to the 4th line in the win over Columbus and is pissed off about it. How pissed? Let's hope it's FU Sweden pissed. We all remember how well he played after the Olympic snub last season, and though he's played well of late, he does have another gear he can run on and we know that.
Hash Browns... mmmmmmm
The Western Conference is something else, isn't it? About the only two constants have been the Canucks and Red Wings. Apart from that the positions shuffle nightly as teams battle not only to solidify positions but to stay about the cut off for the playoffs. Chicago rattled off a huge home win over the Flames last night, as Miikka Kiprusoff followed up two consecutive shutouts by giving up 4 goals on 19 shots and getting pulled in a 6-4 loss. Dirty, dangerous hit that went unpenalized in that game by Brent Seabrook on Mark Giordano... It's a real shame that after a solid game by the New York Islanders last night the only thing that people will remember is Trevor Gillies celebrated his return to the lineup after a 9 game suspension by laying out Cal Clutterbuck with a headshot after the Wild player ran Isles rookie Justin DiBenedetto from behind, receiving a paltry 2 minute penalty for boarding. Had Gillies not been a complete idiot and just tried to fight Clutterbuck, he might finally have gotten what he deserves for being the NHL's unsung 'hero' in late and borderline hits. No, instead Clutterbuck gets portrayed as the victim here. Gillies has an on carpet meeting with Colin Campbell this morning. He really should have the book thrown at him as a repeat offender, especially when it's apparent that his 9 game suspension was no deterrent whatsoever. I would like to see a minimum of 15 games. It's likely he won't get that, given Campbell's often nonsensical decisions... Gotta give the Leafs credit, they aren't giving up without a fight. Full marks to them tying the game in the 3rd and winning it late in OT against Pittsburgh last night. Can they really do it? Maybe. But the road isn't easy and they would need a ton of help along the way... Speaking of which, New jersey continues to astound with their remarkable turnaround. It's gotta be pretty unlikely that John Maclean will ever get another coaching job when you compare his record to that of what the team's done since they fired him around Christmas time. They won't make the playoffs, but it certainly bodes well for next season, one would think... Anaheim kept their playoff hopes alive as Bobby Ryan scored on a penalty shot in overtime to defeat the Detroit Red Wings 2-1...
WAACH 'Cast's Band Of The Day- Amon Amarth
Hailing from Sweden, these purveyors of fine Viking metal are unleashing a new album soon, Surtur Rising. They will be playing a ton of shows worldwide in support of this latest release, I highly recommend you checking them out if they come this way...
and for all you gamer geeks out there... the 8-bit version of Death in Fire :p