[Inspired by Arsenio Hall's "Things That Make You Go Hmmm…", Clayton Imoo talks about Canucks-related things that make him go hmmm… You can follow Clay on Twitter at (@canuckclay) or on his website, Clay's Canucks Commentary.]
As the Vancouver Canucks embark on the last week of the regular season, it’s quite remarkable that they are in the running for the Presidents’ Trophy after their rocky start to March. While they stare down the New York Rangers, I look at a few Things That Make Me Go Hmmm:
1. The Canucks could possibly play the Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks in the playoffs again. Even with only five days left in the NHL regular season, the final placing of all eight Western Conference playoff teams is still uncertain. The Canucks and St. Louis Blues are still battling for the top spot in the conference; the Detroit Red Wings, Predators and Blackhawks are sorting out fourth through sixth; and there are still four teams, the Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars, Phoenix Coyotes and San Jose Sharks, trying to win the Pacific Division (and hence the attractive third seed) and final two playoff spots.
Depending on how things shake out, there’s a chance (albeit small) that the Canucks could face the same three teams in the playoffs that they did in 2011 – the Blackhawks, Predators and Sharks – but in reverse order! Obviously, the stars have to align just right for this to happen, but it’s not inconceivable. The Canucks could meet the Sharks in the first round. Then, a match-up with the Predators is plausible (especially if the Canucks finish first and the Preds win their first-round series as the fourth or fifth seed). Given this scenario, however, if the Blackhawks (likely to finish sixth) beat the third-seed Pacific Division winner, then the Canucks would face them in the second round (if the Canucks finish first). There are so many possible permutations and combinations that it’s almost fruitless to try and predict the first-round match-ups right now. But it sure would be something if the Canucks had to face the same three teams they eliminated last year on the way to the Finals. And then there’s the possibility of a Stanley Cup rematch. But let’s get out of the first round to start.
2. Chris Higgins has played himself onto the third line in a good way. Despite showing some great chemistry with fellow Americans Ryan Kesler and David Booth back in November, Chris Higgins seems destined to start the playoffs on the third line with Samme Pahlsson and Jannik Hansen. This so-called “checking line” has been playing very well and has Alain Vigneault’s utmost confidence right now. As one of the Canucks hardest-working and most effective forwards, Higgins usually moves up and down the line-up as AV sees fit. With Daniel Sedin out with a concussion, Max Lapierre has played the last couple of games with Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows, with Mason Raymond playing with the two Americans on the second line. With all signs pointing to Daniel returning for the playoffs, don’t expect Higgins anywhere else but the third line. With Higgins there, the line has potential to score – something the third line of last year’s playoff run did a bit but not too much of.
3. A new way to enjoy the national anthems. As of today, I’ve launched a new Twitter initiative with respect to the national anthems at Canucks games. I enjoy music and I enjoy hockey (as evidenced in my Clay’s Canucks Commentaries), so I’m going to be rating the national anthems at games that I witness live. My latest Clay’s Canucks Commentary explains it well so check it out:
Thanks again for reading. It’s going to be an interesting week to say the least. Where will the Canucks finish? Who will their first-round opponent be? And will Daniel Sedin and Keith Ballard be ready for the playoffs? So many Things That Make You Go Hmmm!