Are they ready for the playoffs?
It’s almost comical to even pose this question to be honest, considering Vancouver is probably the deepest and most talented team in the NHL. But hockey can be a cruel game, and the Canucks will be facing some incredible pressure in the playoffs.
With just a few weeks left in the regular season, and the President’s Cup within their grasp, the Canucks just don’t look like they’ll be slowing anytime soon. No Canuck team has ever entered the postseason as the No. 1 seed, but maybe that’s a good thing.
San Jose, Washington, St, Louis and Buffalo have all been President Cup winners since the lockout, and none have a Stanley Cup to show for their efforts.
Can they get through the Malhotra injury?
To the casual observer, the Canucks losing Manny Malhotra would not seem to be a big loss for a team as deep and as good as Vancouver. After all 11 goals, 30 points and a plus 9 rating isn’t a huge deal when you look at the grand scheme of their roster.
In reality though, losing Malhotra may spell disaster for the Canucks before all is said and done, especially in the playoffs. He’s second in the league in faceoff percentage and second on the team in faceoffs taken right behind Ryan Kesler. Manny leads the team in shorthanded ice time and has played a huge role in taking the Canuck penalty kill from 18th a year ago to 2nd place this year.
Will Luongo rise in the playoffs?
Roberto Luongo has been excellent again this regular season and faces yet another huge test in the postseason. Without the added burden of captaincy, Luongo now has to be the goalie in the playoffs that the Canucks fans believe he can be.
As deep and talented as the Canucks' blueline is, Luongo will still have his work cut out for him, especially in the first round. The Canucks enjoy an 11 point lead currently in the West, and with Cory Schneider taking more starts and Luongo resting, the first round will be key.
Teams and goaltenders such as Nashville and Pekka Rinne, Calgary and Miikka Kiprusoff, Dallas and Kari Kehtonen will be playing every game in the fight for a playoff spot.
Will the rest hurt Luongo and the Canucks in the first round? Time will tell.