Vancouver Canucks: 5 Areas of Concern Down the Stretch
Although they're on a slide at the moment, the Vancouver Canucks will likely clinch the Northwest Division within the next week-and-a-half.
The Canucks will make the playoffs, and they will have home-ice advantage in the first round; it's what happens after that 82nd game when the variables start to come into effect.
Despite being strong contenders in the past three seasons, the Canucks have not been able to bring the Cup home, although they literally couldn't have come any closer.
When looking at the previous postseason campaigns, as well as the current regular season, there are potential issues that cause worry.
The following identifies five issues that may arise in the 2012 playoffs.
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In playoff series, as teams get used to the Canuck style, their lack of size and grit becomes more evident, and that has largely contributed to the past three playoff exits.
When the Canucks acquired Zack Kassian at the trade deadline, they added some much-needed size to the team.
Unfortunately, after picking up Kassian, Byron Bitz was sent down, essentially putting the Canucks back at square one in the physicality department.
Depending on who the Canucks are matched up against in the first round, size could be an area of concern; and if so, Alain Vigneault should consider re-calling Bitz. After all, with one goal and three assists in eight games and some impressive shifts on the Sedin line, size wouldn't be his only contribution.
To be honest, no teams make it through a round of the Stanley Cup playoffs without being battered to some extent, but it seems to hit the Canucks especially hard.
In last year's playoffs, Samuelsson, Hamhuis and Raymond were lost to injuries, while Higgins, Kesler, Edler, Ehrhoff and Salo played through injuries.
In years prior, injuries on the back end near playoff time were starting to become an annual event.
With just 12 games remaining in this season, the Canucks are relatively healthy, with Keith Ballard being the only injury from the regular roster—but that doesn't mean they're in the clear.
The final games for the Canucks will be hard-battled ones, as the team continues to compete for first in the West and their opponents struggle to secure playoff spots. Injuries will happen.
The best thing the Canucks can do in this case is just hope they don't get bitten by the bug this time.
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This one's more of a concern for the city of Vancouver than the players on the team, but it is worrisome.
The argument can be made over and over that the rioters weren't true Canucks fans, but rather a bunch of drunken losers or "terrorists" who saw an opportunity to strike and took it (which I agree with, for the most part)...but when it comes down to it for the city of Vancouver, it really doesn't matter.
A riot happened, and it was a direct result of the Canucks losing. Plain and simple.
If the Canucks lose again in the finals, or at any point for that matter, hopefully people will be more aware of the reputation and impact it has on this great city, and that when some idiot smashes a store window he's stopped rather than followed.
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The Vancouver Canucks depend on the Sedin twins to put up points. With the last two Art Ross Trophies, it seems to be a safe thing to depend on.
This season, however, the Sedins are on pace for much less than the past two years. Last night, Henrik Sedin picked up two assists in a loss to Phoenix. But before that, he had gone pointless in eight straight games, a slump he last reached nine years ago.
Daniel, who had one assist last night, hadn't been doing much better.
The Sedins, who have been criticized in past playoffs for ineffectiveness, must find a way to stay consistent throughout the postseason.
As we've seen in the past few weeks, when the Sedins are slumping, the losses pile up.
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Roberto Luongo has let in some weak goals in big playoff games in his career—and in large quantities.
If you take a look at Luongo's stats in series which the Canucks have lost recently, you'll find games with six, seven and eight goals against.
Sure, he's had the odd good game, but at an NHL level where you're considered one of the best goaltenders on one of the best teams in the league, a good game in between disasters is not acceptable.
Recently, Luongo has found his playoff ways. Since shutting out St. Louis, he's lost four straight games and hasn't posted a save percentage above .900.
As a Canucks fan, a Roberto Luongo meltdown is the number one concern. If he cracks under the pressure again, I wouldn't be surprised to see Cory Schneider step in as the starter and lead the Canucks all the way.