With five games to go in the regular season, the Vancouver Canucks’ roller coaster ride into the post season continues. After reeling off three straight wins last week to solidify their spot in the post season, three subsequent losses have cast a pall over the team and their fans hopes and pessimism rules the day. However, there are reasons to be optimistic.
The biggest reason to feel positive is the resolution of goaltender Roberto Luongo’s personal crisis. After having to endure several months of his wife’s difficult pregnancy while she lived in Florida, he became the proud father of a healthy baby girl yesterday and both his daughter and wife are doing well. That alone should propel Luongo’s game back to the level the team has come to expect and help elevate the rest of the team’s performance accordingly.
It’s been traditional among the sporting community, the jockstrap and testosterone crowd, to ignore personal issues, leave them in the locker room and give your 100% focus on the ice. However, those of us who’ve played the game understand some things can’t be ignored and when the health of your loved one and your child are involved, nothing can completely remove that from your mind. Luongo is human and his game has suffered because if it. But now it’s no longer an issue and considering the professionalism of Luongo and the character of the team around him look for a return to the type of hockey Canuck fans have become accustomed to, starting tonight in Minnesota.
On the negative side of the equation is the continuing disappointing play of Kevin Bieksa. With the defense already hurting from nagging injuries to Sammi Salo, season ending surgeries to Lukas Krychek and time consuming rehabs for Matthias Ohlund, a healthy and aggressive Bieksa is essential for a healthy and effective blue line in the playoffs for the Canucks. Kevin Bieksa was a stud last season and has shown flashes of his former ability, however since his return from a serious calf laceration, he has not played with the aggressiveness and instinct for the play that a premier defenseman needs. From a fan’s standpoint I can only hope the atmosphere of playoff hockey arouses those instincts we all know he has and brings him back to become that intimidating, offensive defenseman the Canucks dearly need to make an impact in the playoffs.
With five games left, all against divisional opponents, this next week will tell the tale. If the Canucks play well and take a playoff position then the next month could auger well for them and their fans. However, If they play a lackluster game and back into the playoffs by virtue of the rest of the division beating each other up, then break out the golf clubs and look to rebuild the squad, because the current lineup will have proved they just don’t have the chemistry needed to win.