“Why you’ve returned?” said the Canucks writer.
“Well thank you!” the writer exclaimed graciously.
When the Dallas Stars take to the Rogers Arena ice Monday night, they may very well be facing their 1st round opponent in the playoffs.
Old news, I know; but the dynamic of this budding rivalry is something rather marvelous. Of course I would like to think the NHL schedule makers simply saw the future last year when they laboured away and manufactured this year’s agenda.
This will be the 2nd meeting of the two teams in what will be a total of four over a span of 34 days. If the two should meet in the first round 2 weeks later, another seven games could put this battle over the top.
I’m talking goalie fights and line brawls; something reminiscent of the Canucks and Hawks rivalry, but all packed into about two months.
Call me crazy, but I’m excited about this becoming a bigger rivalry; especially when we are on the verge of re-alignment. That won’t be happening next season because the players are just silly, but it should be sooner than later and the Stars and Canucks will be able to continue something being processed this month and hopefully next.
Neither of these teams have clinched a playoff spot. Obviously the Canucks are going to but for analogy’s sake, let’s say the playoff door is still locked for both these teams. What are the keys for each to winning the game and opening that door?
Dallas Looking for Breathing Room
The Stars ended up not trading Steve Ott at the trade deadline which was probably a good thing and the main reason why a Canucks v. Stars 1st round matchup would be extra feisty. In that game against Dallas a couple weeks ago, Ott was invisible almost as if he was avoiding ticking off any Canucks should he have been traded the next day.
Alas, he wasn’t and now the Stars are in 8th spot, 1, but possibly 3 points ahead of LA come Monday night; should they beat Calgary Sunday.
While not one of the higher scoring teams, they are averaging three goals for in their last six.
The Canucks on the other hand, who are 2-1-2 in their last five games since beating Detroit, are on a bit of a whirlwind, unpredictable, slumpy sort of stretch. They’re kind of like that guy who’s ahead of you in a 10KM race and while you’re consistently keeping up with him without passing, he all of a sudden trips on his own feet while you catch up a little bit more.
The point being that the Stars really don’t know how the Canucks are going to come out.
How Will Lu and/or Schnu Respond?
Saturday night was a night to forget for Roberto Luongo. I’m not hating on the guy but his stats line was atrocious. I can appreciate that it was just not his night and the Sabres came out fast but his GAA was astronomical, over 30.
Anyhow, we don’t know who will start yet but I’m betting it’ll be Luongo. Cory Schneider did well in relief but Roberto needs a chance to get his strombone mojo back. A game against a team as desperate as Dallas who will fire off many, many shots is the perfect recipe for success.
Bobby Lu shines when he faces more rubber. Kinda like…oh nevermind.
Let’s not forget Kari Lehtonen though. He’s played in only one less game than Roberto Luongo, and actually has a better GAA; 2.30. Luongo sits at 2.35 on the season. Their SV%’s are virtually identical, separated by 1/1000th of a percentage.
Yet another thing that could add to a great playoff series. I don’t disagree that the tandem of Luongo and Schneider is better than Lehtonen and Bachman (not Randy) but maybe it makes for more tight games than wide open ones.
Cody Hod…just kidding…Gelatin
Earlier this month, I likened the Sedins to Ford Mustangs much like Sidney Crosby had been likened to a Ferrari.
They’re thoroughbred horses with lots of gelatin to go around in the form of pretty passes and clutch scoring.
So along comes the trade deadline and the Canucks are the busiest team in the league.
The Canucks were mixed around like a bowl of jello mix last week and Saturday versus Buffalo, they sat in the refrigerator, remained really cold and gelled to a perfect consistency.
Zack Kassian has hopefully found some permanent chemistry with Ryan Kesler and David Booth while Sami Pahlsson actually could’ve been a lot worse. He finished at -1 in 11:27 of ice-time but to be fair, most of the minuses handed out to Canucks are the fault of Aaron Rome.
On top of that, Marc-Andre Gragnani looked like the second coming of Ed Jovanovski with his aggressive style on the power-play.
BEST BET TO WIN: Vancouver Canucks of British Columbia, Canada
Puck drop is at 7PM on Sportsnet Pacific and TEAM1040 Radio.