The Paper Feature: Canucks First Round Playoff Preview (as written at the end of December)

Every once in a while I like to work ahead and give myself a buffer of writing for the future. I like to do this with topics that are, essentially, evergreen: topics that will never go out of date or lose their relevance. One of those topics, at least with a team like the Canucks, is the postseason preview.

I don’t want to be deceitful, however, so it’s only fair that I dutifully inform you that this playoff preview is being written at the end of December.

By the time this sees publication, the playoffs will be just two tantalizing weeks away and the anticipation will be building to a fever pitch in Vancouver. There’s no possible way that this season could be as disappointing as last year’s four-game sweep at the hands of the San Jose Sharks and fans are eager for a deeper postseason run.

The Canucks won’t enjoy home ice advantage this year and will be in a more unfamiliar underdog role thank to the new divisions and playoff format, but definitely have what it takes to pull off an upset. After all, they’re coming off a month in which they won 10-of-13 games (Note to self: replace with equivalent statistic from month of March which will surely be just as good).

One of the big distractions last season was the goaltending controversy, with Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider splitting starts in the first round. Thankfully, that won’t be an issue this year, as Luongo looks completely at home in the Canucks goal, ready to put the team on his back, saying “Follow me to a land of sunshine and a state of pure bliss!” (Note to self: just in case Luongo gets traded, rework this to be about Eddie Lack, but please, like that’s happening).

Another key will be the penalty kill, one of the best in the NHL, clicking along at 83.7%, good for 10th in the league (Ed. note: had to fix those numbers for you). Their ability to shut down some of the best power plays in the league with their aggressive attack and ability to get into shooting lanes to block shots will serve them well in the postseason.

If the Canucks end up matched against the Anaheim Ducks in the first round, who have a surprisingly feeble power play, the Canucks’ dominant penalty killing will put them at a huge advantage. This will force the game to be won at even-strength, where the Canucks have strong puck possession numbers and the Ducks are comparatively weak according to the advanced stat gurus (Note to self: hopefully nothing crazy happens like the Ducks scoring 6 power play goals in a game against the Canucks, or this entire paragraph will be kaput).

Fans are especially excited about seeing a Tortorella-coached team heading into the postseason. When Tortorella was brought in, one of the virtues extolled by his proponents was that he coaches playoff-style hockey, whereas Alain Vigneault’s style is a better fit for regular season success. Vigneault’s coaching may have resulted in two Presidents’ Trophies and six Northwest Division titles, but it couldn’t get the Canucks any further than game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Tortorella’s style may not be as pretty, fast-paced, or exciting — and it has resulted in fewer goals — but his gritty, physical, shot-blocking style is supposed to be a better fit for the postseason. So, once the team makes the playoffs, which seems all but assured from my viewpoint at the end of 2013, the Canucks will give whichever team they play more than they can handle, particularly with the way the team and fans have completely bought in to his systems (Note to self: make sure there are no indications that Tortorella has lost the room or that half the fanbase wants him fired or this will seem disingenuous).

Sure, the power play under Tortorella and assistant Glen Gulutzan has been woeful, far too often dumping the puck in only to immediately have it sent back out rather than gaining the blue line with possession as the Sedins have been so good at doing for so many years, but that’s something the coaching staff should be able to easily observe and correct. I mean, all the fans can see that strategy has been a complete bust, so surely the coaching staff can see it as well (Note to self: this paragraph will likely be unnecessary as the power play will be firing on all cylinders by April).

Most importantly, the Canucks will have a healthy Alex Burrows, whose absence for most of the season has crippled the top line. He suffered a broken jaw off a Chris Tanev clearance in early December, which surely maxed out the limit on his curse for this season. Given the time to recover, Burrows will reunite with the Sedins to form a potent top line that will be a consistent scoring threat game-after-game.

This is particularly true considering that Daniel Sedin has been healthy all season and Henrik Sedin never gets injured, ever, so the Canucks will assuredly have a healthy first line heading into the postseason (Note to self: I really hope I didn’t just jinx Henrik Sedin’s ironman streak, I would never forgive myself).

All told, the forecast looks very positive for the Canucks heading into the playoffs and they appear primed to deliver an upset in the first round (Note to self: if the Canucks make their way into first or second in the Pacific Division, all references to an upset in the first round will need to be rewritten).

***

Tweet Podium

This feature takes a moment to recognize the best tweets of the week, because we’re online-type writers and Twitter is an online-type thing. If you see a great Canucks-related tweet, send us a link. Or plagiarize it and bask in its glory. 

BRONZE

 

No, Adrian. Do it for you.

SILVER

 

Eventually, they will find the magic backup that can will them to win from the bench.

GOLD

 

Amazingly, still not the most disgusting thing about this Canucks season.

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4 comments

  1. cathylu
    April 2, 2014

    Wow. Reading that it’s hard to believe we could’ve fallen so far. It just seems like a perfect storm of bad things happening.

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  2. madwag
    April 2, 2014

    an awesome post!

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  3. Zach Morris
    April 2, 2014

    (cough) HAMHUIS ON THE POWERPLAY (cough cough)

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  4. iain
    April 2, 2014

    it all sounds so reasonable. what the hell happened in the last three months? Like, really, what the hell?

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