Here we are only a week away from the playoffs and we have a 3 horse sprint to the finish on our hands for the Presidents’ Trophy. It seems there are quite a few people out there who think the Presidents’ Trophy doesn’t matter. I’m not one of them. A trophy is a trophy and a banner in the rafters is nice to look at it when you’re falling asleep at a Wild vs Canucks game.
The 3 horses in this race are the New York Rangers, St Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks. All 3 teams have played 78 games and the standings look like this:
At a quick glance it looks like the Rangers are in the box seat. They have the most regulations wins, they are already in front and they are a damn good team. Let’s give this a slightly longer glance though, shall we?
The Rangers run to the playoffs looks like this:
Not exactly an easy run. The Bruins are tough as hell and will want revenge after the Rangers have had their measure all season. The Flyers are good enough to beat anyone when they are on. The Penguins are more on fire than an Iraqi oil well and hungry for the division lead. In the last game of the season it is possible the Capitals will still be fighting to clinch a playoff spot and may be hard to beat. These games will not be easy for a team that has already clinched and is just trying to stay healthy.
The Blues run to the playoffs looks like this:
vs Blue Jackets
vs Red Wings
The only gimme in this run is against the Blue Jackets – the Blues should dominate them. Red Wings will want to secure home ice advantage for the playoffs and will be fired up to score lots of goals against the stingy Blues. Coyotes are still fighting for a playoff spot and this game could come down to a lucky bounce thanks to the defensive nature of these teams’ games. The Stars could still be looking to secure a playoff spot, or maybe even still looking to win their division. This will be a tough game.
The Canucks have the following matches remaining this season:
On paper this is the easiest run of the 3. All 4 games are against non-playoff teams and 3 of the 4 are at home. Thing is, the Canucks have been known to back right off when games don’t really matter. Case in point, their performance through February and most of March. Second case in point – those 2 games against the Oilers at the tail end of last season. All 3 of these teams have been known to give the Canucks headaches. The Flames still cling on to the old divisional rivalry and the Oilers are young and dumb and want to beat the best teams in the league. This won’t be a cake walk for the Canucks.
So who will win? You’ll probably jump on me for being a stupid Canucks fan but I’m going out on a limb and I’m saying the Canucks will win their 2nd straight Presidents’ Trophy. They will win all of their remaining games while the Rangers will go 1-3 and the Blues 2-2.
You heard it here first….
My latest post for getrealhockey.com, in which I discuss the changes in the way the Canucks are playing the game
David Booth stood up for Chris Tanev against the Avalanche yesterday when he dropped gloves with Olver. I highly approved. If I was in love with Booth’s boyish good looks and charm then maybe I wouldn’t. The Canucks loved it though, as did I. Let’s relive the magic:
Granted Olver isn’t exactly Milan Lucic but still, for a guy like Booth to go for it is admirable and shows his passion for this Canucks team.
I love how Max Lapierre rolls in ready to go but Booth had a look in his eye that made him back off fairly quickly. Booth challenged Olver in the last game between the two sides after Olver hit Tanev in the head. That time Olver declined, but he was ready to go this time and it just resulted in him being put in his place. It’s enough to make any Canucks fan swoon….
My last post on Get Real Hockey, in which I discuss Steven Reinprecht’s possible call up to the Canucks, and whether Byron Bitz would be more useful to them in the playoffs
This was a game saver. 4 minutes left in the 3rd, Canucks protecting a 1 goal lead… Luongo does this:
He really doesn’t want to lose that playoff starter spot.
I watched the Buffalo Sabres beat the New York Rangers 4-1 this morning (Australian time) and I took a few things from it.
1. I watched the MSG feed and they have a super slow-mo camera. I’ve seen these cameras used in cricket and it never occurred to me how perfect they would be for hockey. The super slow-mo shots of Lundqvist’s and Miller’s saves were awesome. Seriously Sportsnet or Canucks or whoever controls the cameras, get a couple of these for Rogers Arena in time for the playoffs.
2. Lindy Ruff is using Cody Hodgson in all situations and the kid looks good. Ruff had him out on the powerplay, on the penalty kill (where he was great) and, shock horror, taking defensive zone face-offs and he didn’t miss a beat. For the record, Hodgson finished 11-21 at the dot, including a 5-7 performance in the closely fought 3rd period.
3. If I was to write a game review of this game it would go something like this: Rangers block lots of shots. Rangers get hurt. Rangers lose game.
John Tortorella obviously wants all of his players to step in front of shots. It seems to work for them given the strong season they’ve had so far. Thing is, despite the recent lull, the Canucks have had a strong season too and blocking shots is something the Canucks aren’t particularly good at. Alex Edler leads the Canucks with 120 blocked shots, good for 45th in the NHL. The Rangers have 2 players in the top 10 (McDonagh with 169 and Girardi with 165).
It seems NHL players listen to their coaches (unless they play for the Capitals). If they get told to go and block shots, they don’t think about it, they just do it (as described by Dan Girardi in the 1st intermission on MSG yesterday). If Alain Vigneault wanted his Canucks to block more shots they would. He hasn’t.
Here’s why: it’s dangerous. It’s a long regular season and if you get hit with a puck in the wrong place you could be out for a while. Just ask Mats Zuccarello. Last night he skated across almost the entire rink to get in front of a shot. It hit him in the wrist, fractured it and now he’s out indefinitely. I don’t understand that play. It was gutsy, yes, and showed lots of heart. But it was a shot from the point with a clear line to the net, which was completely covered by one of the best goaltenders in the world. Henrik Lundqvist had that shot covered, just like he did the other gazillion times the Rangers blocked a shot. Now the Rangers are down a player for no good reason. Why do it so much when you have Henrik freaking Lundqvist in net? If Dan Hamhuis or Alex Burrows had their wrist broken making that play I would be furious.
I’m not saying don’t block shots at all. What I am saying is that I understand that if the Canucks reluctance to block shots this regular season is a directive from the coaching staff. It’s all about the playoffs for Vancouver and after injuries and fatigue slowed them down last year I think it’s a great idea to save the big blocked shots and relentless physical play for when it matters – the playoffs.
Duncan Keith receives a 5 day ‘rest’ for his elbow to the head of Daniel Sedin
My take on the Joe Cannata signing, Cory Schneider’s future and who could be backing up Luongo (or Schneider?) next year
My take on Duncan Keith and the Canucks reaction
I’ve begun submitting posts on the Canucks to getrealhockey.com
It’s a big chance for me to get my writing out there to a wider audience and to help improve my blogging.
So checkout getrealhockey.com, follow them on Twitter @getrealhockey or @ReggieHughes2
I’ll link to my posts from Tackle The Puck, which I must do now since I have 2 new good ones posted already….