With six straight wins, the Vancouver Canucks have been one of the strongest teams in the league early this season. When analyzing the players on the team, the options they have and the remainder of the season, it becomes evident that this domination is not a hot streak, but rather the norm.
The following examines why the Canucks are among the favorites to make it to the Stanley Cup Final in this shortened 2013 season.
Many NHL teams saw their stars flock to Europe during the lockout this year. With the exception of Dale Weise, who shone in the Netherlands for the Tilburg Trappers, most of the Canucks had not seen game time since they were ousted in the first round of the 2012 playoffs by the Los Angeles Kings.
When the season first started, it was quite easy to identify those who had been playing and those who hadn't.
Many would argue that with 12 games under their belt, the cold legs are a thing of the past; and they might be right. But you never know—nine months is a long time to be inactive, and some of the players could still be finding their game.
Despite the Canucks' strong play, the Sedins (who usually lead the team's offense) have not performed to their usual point-per-game standard. In fact, a large portion of the success they have found this season is just a byproduct of their new linemate's surprising performance.
There's no need for concern, however, as the twins' slow start is actually quite typical. As the season continues and they find their stride, the Canucks will only get better.
Secondary scoring has always been an issue for the Canucks. Other than a few strong seasons for Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows sponging off his linemates, the contribution past the Sedins is quite thin.
This year, however, we've seen Mason Raymond re-find his game while Jannik Hansen continues to outwork the opposition. Zack Kassian is thriving with the Sedins in a way that no one ever has, and even Jordan Schroeder is looking NHL-ready after netting the first two goals of his career.
The Sedins haven't been themselves, but these unlikely candidates have stepped in to pick up the slack.
It's strange to think that the Canucks are getting secondary scoring when you consider they're missing two thirds of their second line—but that is the case.
The Canucks have been without Ryan Kesler and David Booth since the beginning of the season, but may not be for much longer as Kesler has recently resumed practicing with the team. David Booth has also resumed skating, although his prognosis isn't as bright after suffering numerous setbacks during recovery.
As long as the Canucks are playing like this, though, both players can take their time and avoid jumping the gun and returning before they're game-ready.
If the Canucks go with Roberto Luongo, they win. If they go with Cory Schneider, they win.
If they trade Luongo, their forward and defensive lines are bolstered while preparing for the future...and still, they win.
If they keep Luongo, then both goalies continue to dominate, the Canucks continue to win and Luongo's trade value continues to skyrocket.
What first appeared to be a controversy in need of resolution has emerged as an incredible opportunity to defend the President's Trophy and return to the Stanley Cup Final...that is assuming, of course, that both goalies stay healthy.
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