Vancouver Canucks Complete Blueprint to Win the 2013 Stanley Cup
The Vancouver Canucks have lost the last two playoffs series they have been in.
Last spring, the L.A. Kings took apart the President's Trophy-winning Canucks in a short five-game series.
A year prior to that, the Canucks and Boston Bruins went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals before the Bruins ultimately won.
If the Canucks want to make a playoff run, let alone hoist the Stanley Cup, they need to get back to the successful style of hockey they played prior to those two disastrous losses.
Here is the blueprint outlining the key points the Canucks need to work on in order to win in the playoffs again.
Take Advantage of Home Ice
Canucks celebrate an overtime goal at Rogers Arena.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The Vancouver Canucks earned home-ice advantage, in the first round at least, by winning the Northwest Division.
Now they need to take advantage of it.
Over the last five playoff series the Canucks have played in the last two years, they have taken advantage of home-ice advantage to set the tone of the series four times.
Altogether, they went 7-3 over the first two games of a series when starting off at Rogers Arena.
This is especially important in the first round this year. The San Jose Sharks are terrible on the road, with an 8-14-2 record this season. The Canucks, by contrast, are 15-6-3 at home.
If the Canucks can continue trends and jump up to an early series lead before heading to San Jose, where the Sharks are much better (17-2-5) this year, they should have playoff success.
Ryan Kesler and Daniel Sedin
Rich Lam/Getty Images
The NHL playoffs are a marathon, not a sprint.
Every team will have to deal with injuries due to the attrition of two months of brutal playoff hockey. This is the reason that the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy in the world of sports to win.
Still, the Vancouver Canucks need to manage their injuries better.
Whether through luck in avoiding injuries to top players, having depth players step up and fill voids due to injury or acting to deter injuries, the Canucks need to stay healthy to win.
In the loss to the L.A. Kings, the Canucks were largely missing their top two goal scorers.
Ryan Kesler was dressed for the entire series, but he was a shadow of himself after recovering from offseason hip surgery and was largely ineffective.
Similarly, in the Stanley Cup Finals loss to the Boston Bruins, the injured list included Dan Hamhuis, Kesler, Christian Ehrhoff, Alex Edler, Mason Raymond, Mikael Samuelsson and Manny Malhotra.
Kevin Bieksa pummels a frustrated Patrick Marleau.
Rich Lam/Getty Images
The playoffs are a war of attrition, and over a seven-game series, hits can take their toll.
Whether by injuring a player, sapping their energy or just making them hesitate to go into the traffic areas, hitting is a far more effective tactic in the playoffs when you face the same team night after night.
Being physical and not passing up the opportunity to throw a hit can also throw the opposing team off its game as it tries to retaliate and deviate from their game plan.
The Vancouver Canucks aren't noted as a particularly tough or physical team in the regular season, but they find another gear when the playoffs start.
In 2010-11, they averaged only 21.84 hits per game in the regular season, 20th overall in the NHL. In the playoffs, they turned that up by landing 32.24 hits per game, outhitting the opposing team in each of the series they played that spring.
The Canucks finished with 856 playoff hits, far ahead of the next highest team, as the Boston Bruins only landed 673 hits. (Although it is also important to note that a Milan Lucic or Zdeno Chara hit tends to be more impactful than an Alex Burrows or Ryan Kesler hit.)
In 2011-12, the Canucks averaged 22.27 hits per game, good for 18th in the NHL. In their first-round loss to the L.A. Kings, the Canucks still managed to bump that up to 31.6 hits per game in the playoffs.
So far in 2012-13, the Canucks averaged 21.25 hits per game, placing them 23rd in the NHL.
I have faith that they will once again find that second gear in the playoffs and punish their opponents with relentless forechecking and heavy hits. In their last meaningful game, a 3-1 victory over Chicago, the Canucks outhit the Blackhawks 37-23.
Rich Lam/Getty Images
Whether it is Cory Schneider or Roberto Luongo in net, the Vancouver Canucks should have solid goaltending.
Schneider is currently injured and might not start the playoffs, but he went 17-9-4 this season, with a 2.11 goals against average and a 0.927 save percentage.
Luongo was off his pace this year, but that can largely be attributed to his limited starts and the drama surrounding the goal in Vancouver this year. He still went 9-6-3 with a 2.56 goals against average and 0.907 save percentage.
In the playoffs, Luongo has the better resume, with a 32-29-5 record, with a 2.53 goals against average and 0.916 save percentage.
Schneider, on the other hand, has more impressive stats, but a much more limited resume—appearing in eight playoff games, but only three as a starter. Schneider has a 1-2 record with a 1.91 goals against average and 0.940 save percentage.
Either way, the Canucks will get quality goaltending that should at least equal the goalie at the other end of the ice.
Score Some Goals!
Henrik and Daniel Sedin celebrate a goal.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
It might seem odd to state this explicitly, but the Vancouver Canucks need to score some goals.
The Canucks can expect quality goaltending, and if they can stay healthy and play physical to open up the ice, their stars can work some magic on the scoreboard.
If they fail in those earlier points, then the goals will be much harder to come by, and their chances of a playoff run will also diminish rapidly.
The Canucks have been dreadful the last two playoff series at scoring goals. The goalies, particularly Roberto Luongo, have gotten martyred over the playoff losses, but really, it isn't their fault.
The Canucks, whether due to injury or just running into a hot goalie with a Norris trophy defenceman, have been limited to scoring only 1.33 goals per game. That span covers the last 12 playoff games, which were against the Boston Bruins (Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara) and the L.A. Kings (Jonathan Quick and Drew Doughty).
In contrast, the three playoff series prior, which covered 18 games against the Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks, the Canucks scored 50 goals, for an average of 2.78 goals per game.
Not coincidentally, the Canucks went 12-6 when they were scoring goals and playing their offensive style and went 4-8 when they were starved for goals.
This isn't a team built to grind out 2-1 games in a physical, trapping style. To be effective, the Canucks need to play an up-tempo game to allow their skill to shine through.