Gaze Not Into The Abyss: A Look At The Opposition - Canuck Forwards
And now we reach the thrilling conclusion to our preview of the Vancouver Canucks. Even relative to the other two aspects that have already been drilled into, this is where things get really icky. During the regular season, the Canucks boasted the number one offense in the league, as well as its top power play outfit. There's no use avoiding this unpleasantness, let's get right at it.
#14 / Left Wing / Vancouver Canucks
Apr 11, 1981
|2010 - Alexandre Burrows||72||26||22||48||26||77||1||1||4||152|
#33 / Center / Vancouver Canucks
Sep 26, 1980
|2010 - Henrik Sedin||82||19||75||94||26||40||8||0||4||157|
#22 / Left Wing / Vancouver Canucks
Sep 26, 1980
|2010 - Daniel Sedin||82||41||63||104||30||32||18||0||10||266|
Nothing like a challenge to kick things off. Shall we start with last year's Art Ross trophy winner, or this year's? The Children of the Corn have played a cute little game of one-upsmanship these last two years, with Henrik winning last years Art Ross and Hart trophies, and now Daniel will lay claim to at least one of those this year, if not both. We know the drill with these two, Henrik is the setup man, Daniel the finisher, to the tune of a career high 41 goals this season. Henrik is dynamite for the most part at the dot, too, winning 52% of his draws. Their passing and cycling is aided by their innate, creepy sense of where one another is, and often leads to prime chances. They're aided by Alex Burrows, who's supposed to provide the physical element on the line, and can finish when given the space...in the regular season. While the twins will obviously get theirs, it's Burrows who's been but a rumor these past two post seasons, save for when he's yapping or slamming Kris Versteeg's head into the ice out of frustration. If Burrows can stay disciplined and keep on his game, this line alone may be too much for the Hawks. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook obviously figure to see as much of this line as possible. With Dave Bolland out until further notice, it will likely be Jonathan Toews that squares up against this monster. But if Bolland comes back, the hope has to be that he can very quickly pick up where he left off in being a major irritant toward all three. The key will be the defensive blue line for the Hawks, as they'll need to prevent clean and unabated entry which will slow the twins in establishing the cycle, as well as authoritative clears of the zone to keep the Twins time on the attack to a minimum. All easier said than done, of course.
#26 / Right Wing / Vancouver Canucks
Dec 23, 1976
|2010 - Mikael Samuelsson||75||18||32||50||8||36||5||0||2||215|
#17 / Center / Vancouver Canucks
Aug 31, 1984
|2010 - Ryan Kesler||82||41||32||73||24||66||15||3||7||260|
#20 / Left Wing / Vancouver Canucks
Jun 02, 1983
|2010 - Chris Higgins||62||13||15||28||5||16||1||0||0||160|
Another line, another post-season award. Center and self-appointed arbiter of cowardice Ryan Kesler has enjoyed a breakout season himself, scoring 41 goals and all but assuring himself of the Selke trophy that he narrowly lost to Pavel Datsyuk last year. He's flanked by the floating Mikael Samuelsson and his oddly taped glove cuffs (seriously, I see no benefit in that whatsoever), and journeyman Chris Higgins at the moment. Kesler, much like Burrows, has to show that he's shaken his playoff disappearing act that's been his lot the past two years, and his offensive outburst suggests that he might. Kesler has been bothered by nagging injuries the past two years which may have hampered him, but otherwise he's got the markings of a killer, even in spite of his douchey Superman crest but with a "K" tattoo. Should he find the killer inside, it will make an already difficult task near impossible for the Hawks.
If Alain Vigneault has a brain in his head (the jury's still out), when at home he'll try his best to get Kesler out against Toews as he has in the past, leaving the Sedins out there to face god knows who if it's not Bolland. And even if AV doesn't bother with it, he's got his choice of other defensively iffy lines the Hawks will trot out there in Bolland's absence. This is where bad things go happen.
#15 / Left Wing / Vancouver Canucks
Nov 29, 1983
|2010 - Tanner Glass||73||3||7||10||-5||72||0||0||1||45|
#21 / Left Wing / Vancouver Canucks
Sep 17, 1985
|2010 - Mason Raymond||70||15||24||39||8||10||2||1||5||197|
#36 / Right Wing / Vancouver Canucks
Mar 15, 1986
|2010 - Jannik Hansen||82||9||20||29||13||32||0||0||2||113|
Were Raffi Torres not suspended and Manny Malhotra not done for the season with an eye injury, we'd likely find them here instead of Mason Raymond, who would find himself with Kesler on the second line. Raymond has been one of the few Canucks over the last two playoff that has consistently given the Hawks fits. He's fast, smart and tenacious on the forecheck, but he isn't Malhotra at the dot, because so few are. These aren't the usual bums that the Stalberg-Johnson-Kopecky line has been slaying over the past couple of months, however Torres' presence should not be overlooked. He's one of the true physical presences in the Canuck forward corps, and likely their best aggressive forechecker, something Hawks are known to not deal with well. With Torres out, that may provide the Hawk D-men even just a blink more time and space to break the puck out cleanly. That he'll be gone in the first two games in B.C. where the Canucks have struggled against the Hawks, and for doubt to creep in early in the series, is all the more reason that it will need to be taken advantage of early.
#10 / Left Wing / Vancouver Canucks
Apr 13, 1984
|2010 - Jeff Tambellini||62||9||8||17||10||18||1||0||0||114|
#24 / Center / Vancouver Canucks
Mar 29, 1985
|2010 - Maxim Lapierre||78||6||6||12||-14||80||0||0||0||129|
#38 / Right Wing / Vancouver Canucks
Aug 15, 1986
|2010 - Victor Oreskovich||16||0||3||3||1||8||0||0||0||19|
On the fourth line, we find Maxim Lapierre, who was certainly enough of a penis to have Anaheim trade for him, but they found him to be enough of a liability that they promptly flipped him to Vancouver for picks, so that'll tell you Bob Murray thinks of his ability to stay focused on hockey. When Lapierre isn't reveling in his own idiocy, he actually can score. Same story with Jeff Tambellini, except he's actually focused, and just lacks the jam. Should any of these three prove to be a liability, prospect Cody Hodgson is prepared to jump right in and gain valuable experience after being called up from Manitoba for the playoffs.
So, yeah, no big deal right?
While the regular season stats and eye test over the last 82 reveal a formidable opponent, the fact remains, as was stated with Kesler, that this team does not have a bona fide killer up front. Bolland's potential return, even not at 100% will greatly help with the matchup game, because there's just not enough up front for the Hawks to truly stack up this time around. The pressure is on them to show they can rise to the occasion. And this team is still coached by Alain Vigneault.