GM Brian Burke has a consistent vision for his teams - he wants his hockey with a kick and that’s what he’s created. He designed a similar brand of hockey in Vancouver, but that has since been undone and revamped. The new Canucks have defense and goaltending. Not as exciting? No, but I was still pleasantly surprised that the past season gave us some great games. There’ve been some sleepers, for sure (*I was married to the nickname Minnesota North Nucks for the first 3 months of the season, if you recall) but they’ve got some style, too, which made many games fun to watch. (Sort of like the Wild could be, if only Marian Gaborik were healthy for more than 3 games a season).
But that being said, the Ducks owned us this year.
I can’t remember much from the season’s games against Anaheim now, but our 1-3 record against them isn’t as bad as it seems on the surface. Certainly, the first couple losses were at the Ducks’ hottest part of the season, while the Canucks were still forging a drastically new identity. Things have changed since then.
In my opinion, the key for the Canucks in Disneyland is defense, and that D will have to be nearly perfect to manufacture four wins. All season against the Ducks, the Canucks were at the mercy of that gang of frighteningly effective forwards (Kunitz, Selanne, McDonald, Penner, Getzlaf, Perry… God, that’s a lot of “frighteningly effective forwards” to name) who were able to fire at will on Vancouver’s net minders. For the one win we earned against the Ducks this season, Sabourin had to play brilliantly, stopping 38 pucks on 40 shots.
That’s not the kind of D that Vancouver can afford to bring if they want to get out of this series alive.
The Ducks are too talented at scoring and physical play to let them control the puck in the offensive zone at will. Our usually-solid blueliners have been handily undressed by them a few times, and I think the key is going to be found in the neutral zone; killing their offensive rush at the line, before they have a chance to set up or rush the net. And then converting those turnovers with our own determined forecheck.
Can it be done? Well, sure. The Ducks are a great team, as well as a great team to watch, and their fans have a right to feel cocky. But they’ve got weaknesses, too. Their less-stellar second half of the season proved that they’re human, that they can be beaten. That they can come unglued.
If the Canucks powerplay is working, if the Canucks work ethic in general is determined and strong, if Roberto Luongo is ready to make a name for himself in this 2nd round, then they can win this series in 7 games.
(Also, it wouldn’t hurt if someone broke Chris Pronger’s foot again… not that I’m suggesting anything.)
Now, enjoy this homage to Ducks’ goalie Ilya Bryzgalov... a freakin’ classic, if ever there was one.