I finally figured out what all this low scoring, tight hockey the Canucks are playing is all about. It’s about getting ready for the playoffs and the ‘Nucks have been in playoff mode for over two months now. Out of the 26 games the Canucks have played since the first of January, 20 of those have been won by one goal, two by two goals and the other four by more than two goals.
By the time the playoffs start there will be no need to pull on the game faces, change the style of play or focus on the five-on-five. This will be so ingrained in their memories, they will be able to do this in the dark, or like last night against St. Louis, while blanketed by the opposition.
I don’t know if this was a conscious effort on the part of the coaching staff or the players, but it sure has paid dividends in points. During that time they have accumulated the following: 8 Regulation wins, 3 Regulation losses, 2 Over-time wins, 1 Over-time loss, 5 Shoot-out wins and 6 Shoot-out losses. That adds up to 39 points in 26 games for the months of January, February and the first day in March.
I realize that these 26 games have been played against a number of different teams, and the playoff intensity has only been for a handful, BUT – if the playoffs had started on January 1 the Canucks would have won Round one – 4 games to 2, Round two – 4 games to 3, Round 3 – 4 games to 1 and the Final – 4 games to 1.
The style of play and the way the officiating has gone, minus the intensity on many nights, you could say in that span it has been somewhat like playoff type B. There have not been a lot of penalties called and so not many power play opportunities, which is not unlike the playoffs.
During the last playoffs the Canucks power play fizzled at the wrong time and they couldn’t get it done five-on-five. In fact they finished sixth in the playoffs in the five-on-five for and against, but second in power-plays of teams that made it past the first round.
Currently they sit at number five, in five-on-five for and against and third on the power play. That power play figure was accumulated in the first three months of the season but in the last two months, it has not been very efficient, thus they have had to rely on winning games with their five-on-five play or in over-time, four on four.
All of these factors point to a team that will be more than ready to play when the second week of April rolls around.
Ice Bits: The game in Phoenix a couple of nights ago saw the most hits (48) delivered against the Canucks this season. Interesting in that it was the first day after the trade and also the night that Zack Kassian made his debut as a Canuck. No, Kassian who had five hits, was not the leader amongst the Canucks, as that honour went to Kevin Bieksa with seven.
Personally, I think maybe the stats person had it backwards because Max Lapierre was credited with none. Especially when you take into consideration that last night against the Blues, Max had 10 hits.
You will have to go back to the 2007/08 season which was the last time Daniel (74) and Henrik Sedin (76) finished with fewer than 80 points. Unless the Twins go on a scoring spree, they could finish this season with similar 2007/08 numbers.
The Canucks had better hope that the Ryan Kesler line is clicking come playoff time, or it will be a hard grind to score. As far as the Sammy Pahlsson line scoring, don’t hold your breath. Seems to me, that line would stand a better chance with Lapierre playing the centre position and Pahlsson down on the fourth line.
One more time now with gusto – Mason Raymond is not a second line winger! More bluntly put, I don’t see him in the lineup come playoff time. Chris Higgins needs to be reunited on the Kesler line with David Booth, Lapierre should centre the third line with Jannik Hansen and Zack Kassian, and the fourth line would be Manny Malhotra, Byron Bitz and either Pahlsson or Mike Duco.
Remember come playoff time the rosters are expanded and there is no salary cap.
Yes I realize that Pahlsson was brought in to be the shutdown player, but with the Twins not scoring and the Kesler line likewise, Lapierre, if given that assignment, could do the shutdown job, will be more physical and is more likely to score the odd goal.
The Canucks will need some production out of the third line if they are to be successful in the playoffs. Otherwise, it will be same old, same old — a one-line team.
Photo Credits – AP, Getty Images, Google Images and Yahoo Sports!
Video Credits – YouTube
Quote Credits – The Vancouver Sun and Province
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