Here we go
The 2013 playoffs are finally here in Vancouver.
It’s been a year since the Los Angeles Kings knocked them off in the first round en route to the cup, and two years since the Boston Bruins scarred Canucks fans for life.
It truly is cup-or-bust time for a team that has rattled off a series of playoff appearances over the last decade but has advanced past the second round just once.
Is this the team that can top 2011, 1994 and 1982?
The long answer begins with San Jose, who the Canucks defeated easily in the Western Conference Finals two years ago.
In the final week of the season, it was split evenly between the Sharks, Blues and Kings as the Canucks’ playoff opponent.
On paper, it looks as though they got the most favourable result of the three. San Jose is good, but they’re not the defending champions nor a team that would fight you in the trenches and tear you apart.
But can we win?
The Canucks, for their part, believe that a team that is the healthiest since their last series with San Jose and a key addition in Derek Roy can replicate, and perhaps better, the success of the 2011 team.
The core is essentially the same, with some new faces such as Jason Garrison and Cory Schneider switched in for Christian Ehrhoff and Roberto Luongo.
While the Sedins may be older and perhaps lost a step this year, Ryan Kesler‘s body is finally ready to be sacrificed again.
Lack of national backing could fuel the fire
There are no Presidents’ Trophies this year and there is less of a target on the Canucks’ back. Perhaps it will allow them to fly under the radar a bit.
They weren’t even selected by the CBC for broadcast, opting to go with the Leafs and the two other Eastern Canadian teams.
If there is a debate over the merits of being Canada’s team this spring, it will likely involve the Leafs and not the Canucks.
The Alberta attention will still be present, but at the least the east coast is distracted this year.
The first round on TSN will mean no Jim Hughson, but also no Ron McLean and his strange vendettas against the Canucks.
Instead, the veterans Chris Cuthbert and Ray Ferraro will soundtrack the series aided in studio by Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger’s strange vendettas against the Canucks. It will be different at the least.
The lucky bounces will have to fall the Canucks way
The Vancouver Canucks, like half the teams in this tournament, have enough skill to win the cup if everything breaks right.
Those breaks are largely out of their control but will involve some form of goaltending, the powerplay, injuries and surprise heroes.
All we can do is wait and see how it all shakes out.
My expectations are tempered not because I don’t believe the Canucks are good enough to hoist the cup, but rather that half a dozen contenders will be left in the dust come June.
The Canucks aren’t guaranteed anything, as we’ve painfully seen the last two years. I’m just excited for another chance to see if this year is finally the year.