Canucks back in playoffs, shoot for home advantage in final two games

 

 
 
 
 
Vancouver Canucks mob goalie Eddie Lack as they celebrate their shoot-out win over the Los Angels Kings.
 
 

Vancouver Canucks mob goalie Eddie Lack as they celebrate their shoot-out win over the Los Angels Kings.

Photograph by: Mark van Manen, PNG

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VANCOUVER – After the one year John Tortorella reign of error, the Vancouver Canucks are back in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Canucks booked their ticket to the playoff tournament without lifting a finger Tuesday when the Edmonton Oilers, of all teams, knocked off the defending champion Kings 4-2. The result means the Kings cannot finish higher than the Canucks even if they win their final two games and Vancouver loses it final two. The teams would then be tied in the standings with 97 points but the Canucks would prevail in the first tie-breaker, most regulation or overtime victories. The Canucks have 40 and the Kings can only finish with 39.

The next mission for head coach Willie Desjardins is to ensure his skaters retain their hold on second place in the Pacific Division so they can open the playoffs at home. The Canucks entertain the two worst teams in the Western Conference – Arizona on Thursday and the Oilers on Saturday -- to complete their 82-game season.

Chris Higgins, the shootout hero in Monday’s 2-1 win over the Kings, isn’t concerned about the quality of opponent the Canucks will face. He is concerned only about the Canucks themselves.

“I think at this time of year, with the group we have, I don’t think we’re focused on the opponent right now,” Higgins said before the positive Tuesday night result came in from Edmonton. “We just need the points and that’s how we have to approach these last couple of games. I think around this time of year, those teams know they’re not playing until next year so why not play their hardest and have fun? You expect their best. That’s how you have to approach it.”

Alex Burrows agrees.

“At this time of year, we’re still trying to solidify a playoff spot so there is no reason why we wouldn’t come up big in those games,” he said. “Those teams are playing hard, they’re playing for jobs, they’re playing for honour and they’re pros so they’re going to show up. For us, we have to make sure we match the same kind of intensity that we showed against L.A.”

Meanwhile, while most of us turn our clocks ahead in the spring, three Canucks have turned theirs back about five years.

In days of yore, the Sedins twins, with Burrows riding shotgun on their flank, were arguably the NHL’s best line. (Or among the best.) Henrik won a scoring title in 2009-10, followed by Daniel in 2010-11. Burrows had four seasons in which he averaged 29 goals.

Then Father Time and Tortorella appeared to reel them in. All three were injured at various points last season. Their production plummeted. Burrows managed just five goals and 15 points in 49 games. Daniel slipped to 47 points, his worst total in a non-lockout season since 2002-03. Henrik fell to 50, his worst total in a non-lockout year since 2003-04.

So what could one expect in 2014-15? The twins turned 34 as the season began and Burrows turns 34 on Saturday. They were old, slow, on the decline, nearly done, hanging on, over paid and no better than second or third liners in a young man’s league. In other words, practically bums.

Well, ha. The joke’s on everyone who doubted them. In the Canucks’ last two games against Winnipeg and Los Angeles, their five goals have been scored by Henrik, Daniel, Burrows, Burrows and Daniel. The Jets’ game was the Canucks fifth in eight days in five different cities. The Kings’ game was the Canucks’ 12th in 21 days, including two sets of back-to-backs.

So much for those 34-year-old legs.

“Who said they are old legs?” quipped Henrik. “They are young legs.”

With 72 points, Daniel was tied for eighth in the individual scoring race prior to Tuesday’s slate of games. He is the oldest among top-10 scorers by three years. Calgary’s 31-year-old Jiri Hudler also has 72.

Daniel’s 54 assists were third best in the league, tied with the great Sidney Crosby. Henrik’s 51 assists were fifth best.

It seems the old-time magic is still there. Henrik’s no-look, behind-the-back pass to Daniel for the tying goal Monday night still had the populace buzzing on Tuesday.

“I wouldn’t say old-time,” protested Burrows, refusing to acknowledge the ‘old’ part. “They made a nice play and they stepped up. I think it’s just Sedin magic. I think Hank might know that Danny’s around there somewhere but he just throws it. It was a perfect shot and a perfect pass.

“The twins have played in these kinds of games before. I think we had a good game against L.A. We generated a lot on the cycle down low, we carried the play for the mostpart and it was nice to finally see them get one there.”

The significance of the come-from-behind win over the Kings was not lost on Burrows. He is acutely aware of all that is happening around him and his team.

“The two points against L.A. were huge,” Burrows continued before he learned the Canucks had clinched. “Let’s say they had beaten us in regulation and they got two points and we got none, then L.A. could have been ahead of us with a win in Edmonton. So we’ll have to scoreboard watch a little bit but, at the same time, we have to keep on playing our game.”

ICE CHIPS: The Canucks finished 7-6-2 against the three California teams this season after going a dismal 2-9-3 against them a year ago… The Canucks are 2-1-1 against the Coyotes and 4-0-0 against the Oilers.

 
 
 
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Vancouver Canucks mob goalie Eddie Lack as they celebrate their shoot-out win over the Los Angels Kings.
 

Vancouver Canucks mob goalie Eddie Lack as they celebrate their shoot-out win over the Los Angels Kings.

Photograph by: Mark van Manen, PNG

 
Vancouver Canucks mob goalie Eddie Lack as they celebrate their shoot-out win over the Los Angels Kings.
Vancouver Canucks centre Henrik Sedin (33) waves to the crowd after being named one of the three stars of the game following his teams shootout win over the L.A. Kings.
Vancouver Canucks' Chris Higgins scores the shoot out winner.
Vancouver Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa (3) celebrates teammate Daniel Sedin’s goal past Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (32).
Vancouver Canucks' Derek Dorsett, 51, is taken down behind the Los Angels Kings net by Jonathan Quick, 32.
Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack battles the Los Angels Kings Tyler Toffoli in NHL action at Rogers Arena on Monday night.
Vancouver Canucks centre Henrik Sedin (33) celebrates his brother Daniel Sedin’s goal during the third period of NHL action against the L.A. Kings.
Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack makes final save of the night in the shoot out against the Los Angels Kings.
Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack makes final save of the night in the shoot out against the Los Angels Kings.
Los Angeles Kings centre Jarret Stoll (28) crashes into Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31) during the third period of NHL action in Vancouver, B.C. Monday, April 6, 2015.
Vancouver Canucks' Kevin Bieksa celebrates Daniel Sedin's  tying goal as Canucks battle the Los Angels Kings.
Vancouver Canucks' Chris Higgins scores the shoot out winner against the Los Angels Kings.
Los Angeles Kings defenceman Jake Muzzin (6) pulls off Vancouver Canucks centre Henrik Sedin’s helmet.
Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack celebrates his first star of the night in the shoot out against the Los Angels Kings.
Vancouver Canucks' Henrik Sedin, 33, has his helmet knocked off as he battles the Los Angels Kings Jake Muzzin,6.
Vancouver Canucks mob goalie Eddie Lack as they celebrate their shoot-out win over the Los Angels Kings.
Breakdowning some serious Sedinery versus the L.A. Kings.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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