NHL Playoffs: Canucks put on muscle, depth for 2012 playoff run
Easter is a time of introspection for many Canadians as they contemplate the deeper spiritual meaning of the Stanley Cup playoffs and their pools.
David Booth #7 of the Vancouver Canucks and Mark Olver #40 of the Colorado Avalanche trade punches during their NHL game at Rogers Arena March 28, 2012 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, NHLI via Getty Images
Easter is a time of deep reflection and introspection for many Canadians as they contemplate the deeper spiritual meaning of the Stanley Cup playoffs and their pools. Now here’s something equally profound, the Monday morning musings and meditations on the world of sports.
■ This year’s Canucks didn’t win as many games or score as many goals as last year’s team and it’s a given they weren’t as exciting.
But they are better constructed for the playoffs and here’s why.
The 2010-2011 team was basically carried by its stars with sporadic contributions from its supporting cast. This year’s team has been carried by its supporting cast with sporadic contributions from its stars.
Is that an over-simplification? Maybe. But starting with backup goalie Cory Schneider and running through defencemen Dan Hamhuis and Sami Salo to any one of six forwards who’ve made meaningful contributions, this team is bigger, stronger and deeper than the Stanley Cup finalists from last spring.
Last year’s team, in fact, didn’t have a fourth line and barely had a third line. This year’s team can mix and match 12 forwards who all bring something and while you’d like to see more consistent production from David Booth and Mason Raymond, there aren’t a lot of teams who feature an 18- and 16-goal scorer (Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen) on its third line.
When the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler dried up in the final last year, the Canucks’ offence disappeared with them. It’s hard to see the same thing happening this season. Their biggest stumbling block will be the first round series with Los Angeles and that series boils down to one simple question.
Can they average three goals a game against Jonathan Quick?
If they survive the Kings, they should make it to the final where they’ll meet Pittsburgh.
We’ll reserved final judgment until then.
■ On a related note, the more we think about it, the more we’re convinced Hamhuis deserves the Canucks’ team MVP.
True, you’d like more than four goals from your team MVP but what Canuck was more consistent? What Canuck performed at a higher level from Game 1 to Game 82? Hamhuis finished a team-high plus-29 while playing a shutdown role and finished third on the team in ice time — 24 seconds per game behind leader Alex Edler — without any power-play time.
If Henrik would have played even 40 more games the way he played the final three weeks he’d be the runaway winner. But, game-in, game-out, Hamhuis performed at a higher level.
■ Here’s our ballot for the NHL’s major awards.
Hart: Evgeni Malkin. Runners-up: Henrik Lundqvist, Steven Stamkos.
Malkin basically had the year Henrik Sedin had two seasons ago. He gets the nod over Stamkos, whose 60 goals led Tampa to a 10th-place finish in the East.
The more interesting question here is who’s the MVP of the Western Conference? Henrik was the leading scorer in the West but finished ninth overall. Our vote would go to Nashville’s Shea Weber.
Norris: Weber. Runners-up: Erik Karlsson, Zdeno Chara.
Weber got jobbed last year, losing out to Nick Lidstrom in an absurd vote. It would be less of a travesty this year if he lost to Karlsson but Weber is the most complete blueliner in the game.
Vezina: Lundqvist. Runners-up: Marc-Andre Fleury, Pekka Rinne.
There’s been a groundswell of support for Mike Smith and Jonathan Quick lately but Lundqvist was the most consistent goalie through the life of the season. Rinne and Fleury finished 1-2 in wins and were workhorses on winning teams.
Calder: Gabriel Landeskog. Runners-up: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Cody Hodgson.
If you were paying attention, this one isn’t that close. RNH has the flashy numbers. Landeskog finished plus-22 on a non-playoff team.
Adams: Ken Hitchcock. Runners-up Brad Tippett, Paul MacLean.
Hitchcock is the ultimate no-brainer while Tippett edges out MacLean in the Barry Trotz sub-category of getting a below average team to over-achieve.
■ Finally, you might have wished for more star power atop the leaderboard but for sheer drama and theatre, the 2012 edition of The Masters was as memorable as anything the great tournament has ever produced.
I mean, Louis Oosthuizen’s double eagle, Phil Mickelson’s triple bogey off the grandstand (afterwards, did he really say, “I hit it where I wanted to hit it.”), great shots all over the back nine and, finally, the sudden-death playoff between Oosthuizen and Bubba Watson and the moment of genius by Watson that gave him the win.
The Masters and Augusta National are a lot of things — some great, some not-so great — but the tournament and the course unfailingly gives us the most exciting golf and the greatest champions of our memory. You can put the 2012 Masters into the best-ever conversation and, in this case, that’s saying something.
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