As the puck drops to start the 2011-12 NHL season tonight, the Vancouver Canucks have a target on their jerseys that the other 14 Western Conference teams will be aiming for. That’s what happens when you run away with the President’s Trophy and then win the conference title in the playoffs while gaining a reputation, fair or not, for being a dirty team.
With a similar team on paper to the one that ruled the West last season, the Canucks are favored to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals again this season despite the targets on their backs. However, they’re far from a shoe-in to win the Conference crown and there are five teams with a realistic chance of beating them in a seven-game playoff series.
These teams are chosen based not only on how good they are, but also because of how they match up with the Canucks. Recent history tells us that Vancouver is more comfortable playing some teams, while others have a tendency to give them headaches regardless of where they sit in the standings. This doesn’t necessarily mean the Canucks can’t beat these teams, but it certainly won’t be easy.
In no particular order, here are the teams most likely to wreak havoc on the Canucks' quest to get back to the finals in 2012 and potentially capture their first Stanley Cup in team history: