It’s not always the best team that wins in the playoffs, but the hottest team. If the best team in the NHL always went on to win the Stanley Cup, we wouldn’t bother with the playoffs and we would replace the Presidents’ Trophy with the Cup. After all, 82 games (or even 48) should be enough to separate the wheat from the chaff and decide who is the best in the league.
Let’s face it, very few people truly believe that. In hockey, we celebrate difficulty. To win the Stanley Cup, you have to go through the long grind of the playoffs and survive, facing the top teams in the league night after night and proving that you’re better than they are.
The team that survives isn’t always the most talented team or the most well-built team. It’s the team that hits a hot streak at the right time, avoids injuries, and takes advantage of their chances. Some teams ride a hot goaltender all the way to the Cup. Others have their offence click into place and light up their opposition. With that in mind, we’re going to look at who on the Canucks is on a streak heading into the playoffs, hot or cold. But we can’t do it alone (particularly since we barely believe such streaks matter), so we’ve enlisted some help.
In honour of NHL 94′s 20th anniversary, we’re please to bring in special guest analyst (and noted streak fetishist), Ron Barr.*
Welcome to a sold-out Pass it to Bulis, the hockey blog that knows who needs the puck.
Hi, I’m Ron Barr from EA Sports NHL 94, here to tell you who’s on a hot streak and who is off his game heading into the playoffs.
GM Mike Gillis has built the Vancouver Canucks into a multi-talented team, capable of challenging for the Stanley Cup. They have a competitive team with both experience and strength at all positions.
The Pacific Coliseum GM Place Rogers Arena will be buzzing with anticipation on Wednesday night, as the San Jose Sharks skate into town.
The Canucks will need to keep an eye on veteran offensive star Sergei Makarov, as well as the young Sandis Ozolinsh if they want to win this series.
Pardon? Ozolinsh plays in the KHL now? What’s the KHL? And Makarov retired 16 years ago and is 54 years old? Artūrs Irbe is still around though, right?
Daniel Sedin is on a hot streak, with 10 points in his last 10 games. Most notably, he had a goal and an assist in a statement game against the Presidents’ Trophy winning Chicago Blackhawks, leading the Canucks to a 3-1 victory.
Daniel has had a bit of a down year, on pace for his lowest goal total in eight seasons. The Canucks will need him to step up his offensive production in the playoffs and, with the return of Ryan Kesler and the trade for Derek Roy to take some of the pressure off his line, he should be able to do so.
While the Sedin twins have been firing on all cylinders, Burrows has stalled, with no points in his last 5 games.
Normally a sure bet to go on a hot streak, Burrows has scored goals in consecutive games just once this season, all the way back in January. This has been Burrows’ worst offensive season since 2007-08, despite receiving the most powerplay time of his career.
After finishing third on the Canucks in scoring last season, Burrows is fifth on the team this season. Burrows could end up playing on the second line during the playoffs.
Since returning from injury, Kesler has 8 points in 10 games, an impressive feat considering how much time he missed with a broken foot. More importantly, he’s quickly ramped up his ice time, playing more than 19 minutes per game in five straight, barring the last game against Edmonton, in which Alain Vigneault rested his best players in preparation for the playoffs.
It’s hard to understate Kesler’s importance to the Canucks in the playoffs. He can play a variety of different roles for the Canucks, either shutting down the opponent’s best forwards with his stalwart defensive play or feasting on an opponent’s lesser lights like he did against Nashville in 2011.
Whether Cory Schneider was legitimately injured or was just being rested heading into the playoffs, he’s still gone a week without playing, which can’t be considered ideal. If Schneider does get the start in game one on Wednesday, as is expected, then the Canucks will be placing their trust in a cold goaltender.
Prior to getting sidelined, Schneider had two impressive starts in a row, holding both the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks to one goal apiece. He hasn’t picked up a single win against San Jose this season, however, allowing nine goals against in three games.
If Schneider can pick up where he left off before his injury, the Canucks will be just fine. If he falters after over a week of inactivity, the Canucks could be in trouble.
Jason Garrison faced some weighty expectations heading into this season after he was the Canucks big free agent acquisition. Coming off a season in which he finished third amongst defencemen in goals, Garrison struggled to find the net early in the year.
Garrison turned things around, however, and has eight points in his last eleven games, points in two straight, and three goals in his last seven games. He finished the season on an 82-game pace for 14 goals, just two fewer than last season, and is tied for eighth among defencemen in goals.
More importantly, he’s been playing big minutes against tough opponents, logging a season-high 26:20 in ice time in the 3-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks
Early in the year, it looked like this was going to be Mason Raymond’s comeback season, but his production slowed down as the season progressed and there are signs that Raymond wasn’t really as good as he seemed.
Raymond has one point, an assist, in his last six games. More troubling, he’s averaged about one shot per game in his last thirteen games and has just one goal in that time. Raymond hasn’t been getting the puck to the net with any consistency, so he hasn’t been getting the puck in the net.
The Canucks will need more from Raymond, particularly if he’s playing alongside Ryan Kesler or Derek Roy, as those lines will be relied upon to provide at least some offence.
Tom Sestito is on a goal-scoring streak! He’s on fire!
Tags: Canucks, NHL 94, Playoff Preview