Apr 132011

[As we count down the hours until puck drops on the first round playoff series between the Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks, we put together a panel of your favorite Canucks bloggers to answer some key questions.]

Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: Vancouver Sun

Q: Which Canuck will step up the most, elevate his game and erase the ghost of past playoff failures?

J.J. Guerrero, Canucks Hockey Blog: Roberto Luongo needs to be more Luon-GOLD rather than 7uongo. Lui enjoyed what he says this is the best he’s felt in his career. I hope for his sake this carries into the postseason because this city won’t forgive him if he poops the bed again. (And no, I’m not talking about the playoff game against the Ducks a couple of years ago.)

Chris Golden, Canucks Hockey Blog: You can list any number of the players from the Canucks first and second lines as keys to success if they were to improve upon their past playoff performances, but I’m going with the guy between the iron – Roberto Luongo. Based on his steady play throughout the season, I believe he is not only in the zone, but in complete control of his game. He’s been as relaxed as I’ve ever seen him and when you need your goalie to make that “one great save,” Luongo will be there to do it.

Sean Zandberg, Nucks Misconduct: Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows. Kesler scored 1 goal and 10 points in 12 games last playoffs. I would like to see more goals there. He is the go-to guy on the second line and the power play. Burrows scored 3 goals and 6 points in 12 games. That’s not good enough for a top line player. I believe both Kesler and Burrows were playing through injuries last post season but now have no excuses. These guys need to get it done on the scoreboard.

Cam Davie, Canucks Army: Roberto Luongo. He has been open to change all season, and it paid off in spades as he shared the Jennings trophy with Schneider this year. He seems unflappable, poised and calm along with changing his positioning and how he approaches different game situations. He is ready to erase the ghosts of previous playoff losses to the Blackhawks.

Alanah McGinley, Canucks and Beyond: I pick Ryan Kesler as the guy who will step up beyond all expectation. Every member of the team is imperative in their own way, but Kesler is important in EVERY way. A great two-way player can help a team overcome all manner of hiccups and mistakes. Fortunately, Kesler does it all… and in this series he’s going to have to. But I have no worries about that. Kesler has no ghosts to run from really, he’s just driven for success and I think his talents are going to be indispensable from the moment the puck drops in game 1.

Brian Wawryshyn, Canucks Corner: Roberto Luongo is on a mission, and if the Canucks are going to win the Cup he’ll need to step up the most.

Mike Pinzutti, Nucks Misconduct: It has to be Luongo. He’s done everything else in his career except perform at this level. Now he’s backstopped the most dominant team in franchise history, a team that won the top conference seed before most the West even captured a playoff spot. If he can’t get it done, the uproar is going to be some kind of ugly (best not pick up a newspaper until September).

Thom Drance, Canucks Army: I’m going to pick Burrows. He hasn’t had a break-out playoff performance yet, but it’s clear to me that he’s got ice-water in his veins. His style of play – garbage goals scored within a foot of the net – is well suited to the playoffs. He’s been a clutch performer all season and I seen no reason why that wouldn’t continue. Can Alex Burrows defy the odds and morph into the Canucks version of Claude Lemieux? I honestly wouldn’t put it past him.

Apr 132011

[As we count down the hours until puck drops on the first round playoff series between the Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks, we put together a panel of your favorite Canucks bloggers to answer some key questions.]

Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: faceoff.com

Q: What do you think will be the one, key determining factor in the Canucks/Blackhawks series?

J.J. Guerrero, Canucks Hockey Blog: Don’t let the Blackhawks get into their heads.

Chris Golden, Canucks Hockey Blog: I think the key factor in this series will be mental toughness. On paper, the Canucks are the superior squad in all facets of the game. (If you can reasonably tell me otherwise, I’d be happy to lend an ear.) Yet, the Canucks haven’t been able to throw Vince Vaughn off their back and have seen two second round exits when they were already perceived to be a favourite or toss up pick. Knowing this, the Blackhawks will do everything in their power to get into the head of the team.

Sean Zandberg, Nucks Misconduct: Composure in all areas. Too many mental breakdowns against the Hawks in the past. The rebound control was bad. The defensive breakdowns in front of Luongo were atrocious. Even Luongo was not composed or sharp enough. Don’t open it up against the Hawks. I don’t want to see Hossa, Kane and company coming in on a bunch of odd-man rushes.

Cam Davie, Canucks Army: Lineup depth. The Canucks are deeper at each position. While the Blackhawks have some of the league’s best players through two forward lines and top 3 defensemen, the Canucks have a much deeper set of forwards, and have arguably the best collection of 6 defensemen in the league. Then there’s goaltending where the Canucks have a reinvented Luongo and likely the best backup in the NHL.

Alanah McGinley, Canucks and Beyond: I’d say the big factor in beating the Blackhawks — the magic potion to winning the first round… the perfect guarantee of success against the Blackhawks (and anyone else) — is the awesome game-changing talents of the Canucks third line with Manny Malhotra, Raffi Torres and Jannik Hansen!

Oh wait. #$%!@!

Oy. Okay, maybe another way of putting this is that a great shut-down line — particularly, awesome penalty killing — would be my key to the series.

Knock on wood.

Brian Wawryshyn, Canucks Corner: Goaltending. A hot rookie versus a veteran star trying to exorcise playoff disappointments of the past.

Mike Pinzutti, Nucks Misconduct: Discipline. The past two playoff series have been a blooper reel of scrums, after the whistle message-sending and mind-numbingly boneheaded penalties. A good deal of their regular season success was their self-restraint; if that can continue that trend they won’t piss away scoring chances and hand the Hawks powerplays. Every little bit counts.

Thom Drance, Canucks Army: I’m with Brad Zeimer who told Blackhawk Up that “Vancouver’s first-unit power play with the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler up front has been virtually unstoppable all season. It could be the difference in this series.” That’s exactly right as far as I’m concerned. Chicago was the 5th-worst penalty-killing team in the league (only Phoenix, Toronto, Edmonton and Colorado were worse) this season – so it’s a major liability for them heading into this series. Consider the style Chicago has used to defeat Vancouver the last two seasons – crash the net, play chippy hockey to frustrate the Canucks, etc. It’s difficult to play that sort of smash-mouth hockey and avoid taking penalties. In last year’s six-game series, Chicago took 26 minor penalties, but held the Canucks to a conversion rate below 20%. They also scored two clutch short handed goals (they led the league in SHG last season with 13, but only have 6 this season). I really believe that if Chicago can find a way to be effective 5-on-5 without taking penalties, they’ll have a good chance at pulling off the upset. If they can’t – I have a lot of confidence in the Canucks loaded first unit to make the Blackhawks pay.

Apr 132011

[As we count down the hours until puck drops on the first round playoff series between the Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks, we put together a panel of your favorite Canucks bloggers to answer some key questions.]

Daniel Sedin, Manny Malhotra, Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: canucks.nhl.com

Q: What are your expectations of the Canucks this postseason?

J.J. Guerrero, Canucks Hockey Blog: I expect the Canucks to win the Cup every year. And after a regular season to remember, I think those expectations are justified. The Canucks put together what is arguably the best team in their franchise history, and they finished far ahead of any other team in the league. (Washington finished 10 points behind them in the President’s Trophy race.) They led the league in goals scored and goals against. They have the league’s best powerplay and third-best penalty-kill. That said, all that means squat if they don’t win 16 more games from now until June.

Chris Golden, Canucks Hockey Blog: I’d like to say that my expectations are tempered, but then I’d be lying to you and for those of you who know me best, I’m always about the truth. With the season the Canucks have had combined with the quality of the lineup on the ice, I’d expect the team to make it through to the Stanley Cup final.

Sean Zandberg, Nucks Misconduct: The Canucks, given the improvements to the team and the kick ass season, need to win the Stanley Cup for total ecstasy or lose in the Finals in 6 or 7 games for me to be OK (after a while). It has to be a hard fought loss if that occurs. I’m very tempted to say Cup or bust though.

Cam Davie, Canucks Army: My expectations this year were high. And kept rising as the team continued their excellent play throughout the season. I expect the Canucks to make it to the Stanley Cup final, if not win it. Anything other than a conference final appearance will be a huge disappointment.

Alanah McGinley, Canucks and Beyond: My expectations are simply that they play every game like it means something and give us something crazy-entertaining to enjoy while they do it. How far do I expect them to get? I’d be thrilled if they make the conference finals, and I’d be hyperventilating with joy if they play in the Stanley Cup Finals. But if they were to go all the way…? I can’t answer that, though I expect I’d probably have a heart attack and drop dead on the final buzzer. (With happiness, for sure. But after a lifetime of lowered expectations, an actual Stanley Cup in Vancouver could only mean the start of an apocalypse).

Brian Wawryshyn, Canucks Corner: I expect the Canucks to go deep into the playoffs this year. As far as being disappointed goes, anything less than a Stanley Cup will do that for me. Over 30 years of watching this team. I’ve seen the “so close” and “we’ll get em next year” scenario. I know it’s the toughest trophy in sports to win, and the Canucks will be doing their best, but as a long time fan it’s the Cup or bust for me this year. The time to win is now.

Mike Pinzutti, Nucks Misconduct: They have to get past Chicago and get to the conference finals. Without any semblance of post season progress there’s no point in overly celebrating the regular season and Vigneault/Gillis will have to explain their similar failures for a third straight time. Vancouver doesn’t deserve all its recent lofty praise if the spring is cut short.

Thom Drance, Canucks Army: Unfortunately, the media and other fan-bases are going to label the Canucks “chokers” unless they make the finals, which, frankly, is totally unreasonable. For me, I’ll be totally content with a Western Conference Finals berth. Of course, if the Canucks manage to get there, they also need to acquit themselves well and win a couple of games. The Sharks won two playoff rounds last year – but all anyone remembers from their run is the sweep at the hands of the Blackhawks. It’s not just where a team makes it to in the playoffs – it’s also how they lose that shapes the perception of a teams postseason performance. Play entertaining hockey, beat Chicago, win a second round series for the first time in 17 years, and go down fighting – if all of that happens, I’ll be very pleased.

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