Canucks howling after dumping Coyotes

 

 
 
 
 
Vancouver Canucks Derek Dorsett (51) has puck drift over his head as he battles the Arizona Coyotes Michael Stone (26).
 
 

Vancouver Canucks Derek Dorsett (51) has puck drift over his head as he battles the Arizona Coyotes Michael Stone (26).

Photograph by: Mark van Manen, PNG

VANCOUVER — The nearest team to the Vancouver Canucks was the farthest thing on anyone’s mind last September when people discussed playoff projections.

Of course, the Canucks weren’t in most of those conversations, either. But here they are, getting ready to face the Lazarus-like Calgary Flames in a revival of an old playoff rivalry. One of them should even get to the Stanley Cup Final because that’s where the winner finished the last three times — 2004, 1994, 1989 — the Flames and Canucks met in the opening round of the National Hockey League tournament.

Vancouver took care of new business Thursday, diligently dismissing the Arizona Coyotes 5-0, to bring back some old business against the Flames. Calgary eliminated the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings with a 3-1 win on Thursday, returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

“I think this is awesome, two Canadian teams,” Canuck winger Chris Higgins, an American who has played on three Canadian teams, said after Vancouver’s win. “It will be my first time playing against a Canadian team in the playoffs. I’m looking forward to it. Calgary is a great hockey city and a team that surprised a lot of people this year. It’s a great matchup for Canada.”

Reminded that the Canucks, two points ahead of the Flames with one game remaining in the regular season, also surprised a lot of people, Higgins said: “That’s why it’s so fun. It’s probably a matchup that no one picked. I can’t wait.”

The series will start Wednesday or Thursday, but we won’t know where until Saturday. The Canucks will clinch second place in the Pacific Division — and home-ice “advantage” — if it collects at least a point against the Edmonton Oilers or Calgary loses its final game against the Winnipeg Jets.

“It’s going to be a tough matchup,” Canuck veteran Jannik Hansen said. “I don’t think there are any good draws in the playoffs right now. You see how hard everyone is playing; it’s taking 97 or 99 points to get into the playoffs.”

The 47-29-5 Canucks have 99 points — 16 more than last season when they crashed under former coach John Tortorella and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

“It’s what we wanted,” Hansen said of another chance to play for the Cup. “We believed in it in here. There were a lot of doubters around this team, thought this team was done and needed to get blown up. We never had that thought. We knew last year was a hiccup. We’re back in the playoffs, but that’s it so far. We haven’t done anything. We’re well aware of that. The real work is going to start next week.”

Canuck captain Henrik Sedin said: “It’s been a great year from the get-go. We’ve been battling hard. There’s been a few occasions where I think people counted us out and we stepped up and played really good against some tough opponents. And here we are.”

It might be better if the Canucks were there, in Calgary, next week.

Vancouver has done its best work this season away from the pressure and distractions of Rogers Arena. The Canucks are tied for second in the NHL with 24 road wins. That’s 24 more wins than they have in their last six home playoff games.

Their last playoff win at Rogers Arena was in Game 5 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Who knew Max Lapierre’s winning goal against the Boston Bruins would be the last great playoff moment here?

The Flames may be the only playoff team in the Western Conference against whom the Canucks, if they finish second, will be considered a favourite. Yet, Calgary won the season series with a loser point, going 2-1-1 against Vancouver’s 2-2-0.

And the Flames, of course, have been at their best when people thought their magic act was done. Like when they lost seven straight games in regulation in December, then won eight of 11. Like when captain and top defenceman Mark Giordano, a potential Norris Trophy candidate, was lost for the season at the end of February — right before the Flames went 5-0-1 without him. Like any game in which Calgary trailed in the third period.

This was a Flames team expected to be in the Connor McDavid draft derby with the Oilers, but instead is going to the playoffs for the first time in six years. The Flames haven’t won a playoff series since they lost the Stanley Cup to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004. That was two lockouts and five head coaches ago.

That was the year the Flames eliminated the Canucks from the playoffs in the opening round with a 3-2 overtime win in Game 7. In Vancouver, of course.

That loss merely cost the Canucks a general manager, Brian Burke, who seems to be doing just fine these days as the Flames’ president of hockey operations.

No teams get to choose their opponents in the playoffs. If they could, the Canucks and Flames probably would choose each other.

“I don’t know about pressure,” Sedin said. “I don’t think anyone would have put us in the playoffs before the season started. If they want to put pressure on us now, that’s up to them. We just want to keep playing the way we have and we’ll see where it takes us.”

GAME ESSENTIALS

THE SKINNY

The Canucks scored first for the first time in five games as Daniel Sedin converted brother Henrik’s backhand pass. The Canucks then broke it open in the second on a goal by Ronalds Kenins and two power-play tallies from Yannick Weber. Dan Hamhuis completed the scoring in the third with his first of the season, also on the power play. Eddie Lack made 28 saves to pick up his second shutout of 2014-15.

TURNING POINT

With the Canucks leading 2-0 late in the second period and the Coyotes still within striking distance, Kyle Chipchura took an offensive-zone holding penalty on Kevin Bieksa, which was followed by a penalty to defenceman Andrew Campbell for closing his hand on the puck, giving the Canucks a 5-on-3 for 13 seconds. Weber scored on the 5-on-3 and then again on the 5-on-4 to put the game out of reach.

BY THE NUMBERS

The Canucks led after the first period for the first time in 13 games and just the 22nd time in 81 games … Ronalds Kenins ended a 21-goal famine while Bo Horvat ended a nine-game pointless streak … Jannik Hansen’s assist on the Kenins’ goal was his first helper in 13 games … The Canucks improved to 30-1-3 when leading after two periods … With Ryan Miller expected to start Saturday, Eddie Lack will finish the regular season at 18-13-4.

QUOTABLE

“I think Calgary is a really good team. I have a lot of respect for them. They play hard every night. If you look at the games they’ve won, they’ve won a lot of tough games. So they didn’t get in by luck. They got in because they’re good.” — Canuck head coach Willie Desjardins on his team’s first-round playoff opponent.

NEXT UP

The Canucks will wrap up their 82-game regular season on Saturday night at home against the lowly Edmonton Oilers, a team they haven’t played since Nov. 19. The Canucks are 4-0-0 against the Oilers this season, winning 5-4 in a shootout at home and 2-0, 3-2 and 5-4 in Edmonton. The Canuck power play is 4-for-18 against the Oil, while the penalty killers have allowed two Edmonton power-play goals in 15 opportunities.

Elliott Pap, Vancouver Sun

 
 
 
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Vancouver Canucks Derek Dorsett (51) has puck drift over his head as he battles the Arizona Coyotes Michael Stone (26).
 

Vancouver Canucks Derek Dorsett (51) has puck drift over his head as he battles the Arizona Coyotes Michael Stone (26).

Photograph by: Mark van Manen, PNG

 
Vancouver Canucks Derek Dorsett (51) has puck drift over his head as he battles the Arizona Coyotes Michael Stone (26).
Vancouver Canucks' goalie Ryan Miller makes a glove save against the Boston Bruins during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday February 13, 2015. The Canucks have cleared the way for Miller to return to active duty by sending Jacob Markstrom to the Utica Comets of the American Hockey LeagueTHE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver Canucks Eddie Lack, 31, makes a big stop on the Arizona Coyotes Kyle Chipchura, 24.
Vancouver Canucks Ronalds Kenins, 41, celebrates his goal against   the Arizona Coyotes.
Arizona Coyotes right wing David Moss (18) tries to get a shot past Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31).
Vancouver Canucks Daniel Sedin’s 1st period goal goes in the net as the Canucks battle the Arizona Coyotes.
Vancouver Canucks Yannick Weber battles the Arizona Coyotes Henrik Samuelsson.
Goalie Eddie Lack #31 of the Vancouver Canucks watches the puck go into the corner after stopping David Moss #18 of the Arizona Coyotes.
Arizona Coyotes right wing Jordan Szwarz (21) tries to get a shot past Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31).
Arizona Coyotes right wing Jordan Szwarz (21) tries to get a shot past Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31).
Vancouver Canucks Daniel Sedin’s 1st period goal goes in the net.
Arizona Coyotes left wing Craig Cunningham (22) tries to get a shot past Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31).
Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31) stops a shot from Arizona Coyotes left wing Craig Cunningham (22).
Vancouver Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa (3) tries to clear Arizona Coyotes right wing David Moss (18) from in front of Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31).
Radim Vrbata #17 of the Vancouver Canucks tries to break free from the check of Mark Arcobello #36 of the Arizona Coyotes.
Vancouver Canucks defenceman Chris Tanev (8) goes into the boards with Arizona Coyotes right wing B.J. Crombeen (44).
Vancouver Canucks Eddie Lack, 31, makes a big stop on the Arizona Coyotes Kyle Chipchura, 24.
Vancouver Canucks defenceman Yannick Weber (6) fights for control of the puck with Arizona Coyotes centre Mark Arcobello (36).
Yannick Weber #6 of the Vancouver Canucks and Henrik Samuelsson #15 of the Arizona Coyotes collide along the end boards.
Vancouver Canucks Yannick Weber battles the Arizona Coyotes Henrik Samuelsson.
Vancouver Canucks celebrate with Ronalds Kenins, 41, who scored a second-period goal.
Vancouver Canucks Daniel Sedin’s 1st period goal goes in the net as the Canucks battle the Arizona Coyotes.
Daniel Sedin #22 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates with teammate Alexander Edler #23 after scoring a goal against the Arizona Coyotes.
Vancouver Canucks centre Henrik Sedin (33) celebrates teammate Yannick Weber’s goal past Arizona Coyotes goalie Mike Smith (41) during the second period.
Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31) makes a save from Arizona Coyotes centre Tobias Rieder (8) during the third period of NHL action in Vancouver, B.C. Thursday, April 9, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver Canucks Eddie Lack makes a big stop.
Yannick Weber #6 of the Vancouver Canucks is congratulated by Daniel Sedin #22 and Alexander Edler #23 after scoring his second power play goal of the night against the Arizona Coyotes.
Vancouver Canucks celebrate Yannick Weber’s second goal of the game against the Arizona Coyotes.
Vancouver Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa (3) fights for control of the puck with Arizona Coyotes centre Tobias Rieder (8).
Vancouver Canucks defenceman Chris Tanev (8) goes into the boards with Arizona Coyotes right wing B.J. Crombeen (44).
Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack (31) makes a save against the Arizona Coyotes.
Vancouver Canucks Eddie Lack, 31, celebrates his shutout against the Arizona Coyotes.
The puck bounces away from B.J. Crombeen #44 of the Arizona Coyotes after goalie Eddie Lack #31 of the Vancouver Canucks makes a save.
Goalie Eddie Lack #31 of the Vancouver Canucks clears the puck while pressured by Jordan Szwarz #21 of the Arizona Coyotes.
Sven Baertschi #47 of the Vancouver Canucks tries to check the puck away from Kyle Chipchura #24 of the Arizona Coyotes.
Vancouver Canucks Derek Dorsett has puck drift over his head as he battles the Arizona Coyotes Michael Stone.
Ronalds Kenins #41 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates with Kevin Bieksa #3 after scoring against the Arizona Coyotes.
Vancouver Canucks Sven Baertschi, 47, battles the Arizona Coyotes Andrew Campbell, 45.
Arizona Coyotes right wing Jordan Szwarz (21) tries to clear Vancouver Canucks left wing Ronalds Kenins (41) from in front of Arizona Coyotes goalie Mike Smith (41).
Vancouver has home-ice advantage on its mind while Phoenix looks to have little to play for other than a shot at junior phenom Connor McDavid.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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