Written by: Larry “The Nucks IceMan” Johnson
OK so it took 21 years to beat the Philadelphia Flyers at home, but with eight days rest was that the real Flyers team we have watched this season or were the Canucks that good? Where was the intimidating, finish your checks, in your face Flyers team that I have grown accustomed to watch?
Canucks outshot them 22-8 in the first period alone and finished with 25 hits to the Flyers 20. I can’t remember the last time that the Canucks ever outhit a Flyers team or were more physical. The leading player on the ice leading the hits category was Jannik Hansen with six. Go figure.
That area is usually reserved for players like Scott Hartnell, Mike Richards, James van Riemsdyk or Chris Pronger. Oh right, Pronger did not play due to injury but would he have made the difference? Don’t think so because the rest of the team was flat, defensive coverage was poor through the neutral ice and in their zone.
The Flyers did wake up from their slumber in the second period but by then it was 3-0 for the Canucks. Granted the Flyers outshot the Canucks over the last two periods 29-27 but the Canucks still outscored them 5-2.
So the question comes up again, were the Canucks that good or the Flyers that bad? Being a long time fan I will take the good whenever I see it and this year I have witnessed it more times than not.
My previous article was about the litmus tests that occurs during the season and that the Flyers would be one of the most important, due to their ranking, depth at forward and defense and solid goaltending. So what if one team showed up and the other didn’t? The Canucks still had to perform and they put on quite a show.
That has to be their most complete game this season from start to finish. The team defense shut down the Flyers in all the zones, Roberto Luongo was solid in net and the special teams performed up to their NHL top rankings.
Ryan Kesler with his 19th goal of the season is proving to anyone that watches why he will be a top candidate for the Frank Selke Trophy. With two nominates in the past two years maybe third time lucky?
Scoring for the Canucks came from three lines and top shutdown pair of Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis were each minus/+ a plus three. The total shots-on-goal for Vancouver was 49 which were the most this season, so far. For the Canucks this was also a statement to the rest of the league that they are a real possible contender.
My concern will always be for a team that is on a winning streak, have they peaked too early? But how can you really control that anyways, as the season wins and losses will ebb and flow like the tide. Might as well take the points from the recent 12-1-2 record, bank them and continue to try and get better as the season nears its half way point.
Of course that doesn’t stop me thinking about the what-ifs, like what-if the Canucks went on this win streak as they enter the playoffs? That record would put them into the third round. I know, don’t get carried away but it was a fleeting thought – now back to reality.
Every team will go through these cycles of winning and lossing, just look at the Montreal Canadiens right now. They can’t buy a win on this road trip.
The Canucks have yet to run up against that proverbial rock in the road and you know that will come, because what would a season be without some adversity to deal with?
For the last two seasons I kept saying that the version I watched was the best team since 1994. But now I know that this team is the best in 16/17 years and this has to be the time when the team makes a concerted run at the Cup. The scoring, depth, defense, forwards, special teams, lines, coaching and yes even the goaltending, lines up like the recent eclipse of the planets.
But like all the previous teams that have gone on to win the coveted Cup, similarities prevail. You need some luck along the way, whether it being a top seeded team getting knocked out, limited injuries or a star emerging through the playoffs.
However this works out, with this being the 40th anniversary of the Vancouver Canucks, wouldn’t it be fitting to cap it off with a Stanley Cup Final?
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Filed under: Vancouver Canucks