You can tell it's getting close to playoff time by the rhetoric being spewed out right now. Nearly every journalist, blogger, washed up NHL'er with a book to promote and average shmoe on Twitter is going to tell you the Canucks need to fear (insert team that is 19 points or more behind them here) in a first round matchup. We get that the Canucks dropped the ball over the last couple years. We're not stupid. We know they have a lot to prove. But the notion that this team is a major candidate for a first round collapse, and the 'logic' used is laughable. So much so, that I invite all comers to keep it up. Underestimate what is happening here. Ignore the change in the culture around the organization. That is the real story here. Ignore this at your peril.
From the re-emergence of Roberto Luongo as a dominant goaltender and the surprising (only to outsiders, mind you) play of rookie backup Cory Schneider, to the defence core that has seen nearly every one on the depth chart used, yet have the #1 ranked D in the league, to the offence that has seen Ryan Kesler emerge as a legitimate star (despite his cold play of late), this team is the best one the Canucks have ever iced IMO. And while people acknowledge the fact they're in first place, they really don't seem to take them too serious. For every person who says they don't wanna go up against the Canucks, there seems to be 10 chomping at the bit, focusing on past history as a sign this team is easy pickings.
Luongo's solid play this season has a lot to do with changing a lot of the fundamentals in his game, thanks to goaltending coach Roland Melanson. That and a team-based approach to being more focused and disciplined has paid huge dividends throughout the season, but make no bones about it: every change the Canucks made since the summer were designed to enable them to succeed in the playoffs. Sleep specialists, sports psychologists, the players taking personal responsibility for the success of the team and new on and off ice personnel, these changes are working. And they will continue to work. The injuries haven't slowed them down. Hell, when Alexander Edler went down with a back injury, the Canucks responded to his absence by lowering their goals against per game. When you look at the players who will be returning to the lineup in time for the playoffs, I really wonder why we're the ones to be afraid of a team 21 points behind us in the standings, banking their playoff hopes (even if they get there) on a rookie goalie again, or if he should falter, a goalie we've beaten before and one who is clearly past his prime? Chicago should be more concerned about doing everything they can to not finish in 8th.
Perhaps some of this sounds a bit like whining on my part. Sure, I get that. So it's likely to be the last I will say about this. If people want to deny that this team resembles teams like the 94 Rangers and 2008 Detroit Red Wings who won the President's Trophy than last year's winner, let them. It's gonna feel pretty damn good when they eat crow. So the countdown is on. Two weeks from today, the NHL playoffs begin. And the Vancouver Canucks begin the march to fulfill their destiny in this most special of seasons.
It's really hard for me to feel sorry for the Calgary Flames. They're missing the post season because they have a brutal on-ice product, are overpaying some underproducing 'stars'. The team should have blown things up and made plans to retool after parting ways with GM/Delusional Dictator Darryl Sutter. Instead Interim GM Jay Feaster decided that they could make a couple tweaks and make the playoffs. It seems to have failed. That being said, the utter ridiculousness of that disallowed goal last night has to be a bitter pill to swallow. Not only did the replay seem fairly conclusive that the puck was in the net, the fact that TSN was able to show Ryan Getzlaf grab the puck off Ray Emery and hide it highlights just how bad the league's much vaunted War Room can be. The loss is a near death blow to their playoff hopes, as they now need to rely on a collapse by the Blackhawks as well as the Dallas Stars to get into the post season, in addition to winning their 4 remaining games. It still sucks for the team and their fans to have to see that. Imagine, having your season end on an illegal play... A hard night of scoreboard watching for the Toronto Maple Leafs last night. Buffalo took on the Rangers without Ryan Miller and instead of an easy win for the Rags, they get shutout by Jhonas Enroth. Add in Carolina giving Montreal a 6-2 asskicking, and it was a rough night indeed. And it doesn't get any easier, as they take on the Boston Bruins tonight... Hands up if you didn't enjoy seeing the Red Wings get utterly embarrassed by the Blues last night? I thought as much. While part of me feels this could be one of those wins that changes their direction and they respond well to, at the same time even with backups in net, I don't think anyone thought this was a possibility...
WAACH 'Cast's Band Of The Day- DARK TRANQUILITY
Part of the much vaunted Gothenburg, Sweden metal scene, these melodic-deathsters are one of the pioneers in the melodic death metal scene. Formed in 1989, they released We Are The Void last year on Century Media records, and toured North America to promote it.