Monday, April 11, 2011

Canucks Hopeful Versus Blackhawks?

Vancouver Canucks' fans may be holding their collective breath this year in the first round series against Chicago, but should they be?

Many fans in Vancouver feel the Blackhawks have the Canucks' number - which admittedly is hard to argue.  However, many of those same fans felt as if the Canucks were the favourites heading into the series.  In 2008-09, the Canucks swept the Blues and were a higher seed.  The Blackhawks were young and it was not supposed to be their time.  In 2009-10, the Hawks boasted a better record, but the Canucks were supposed to redeem themselves and get revenge.  That didn't materialize.

Looking back at the past two seasons though, can the Canucks seasons really be considered failures?  If you take a look, the Blackhawks should have been favourites both years.  In 2010-11, the tides may have turned.

Canucks fans, here's some reason to hope:

2009 Points Goal Differential Pts - Div Rivals
Canucks 100 26 341
Blackhawks 104 48 384


Canucks 103 50 331
Blackhawks 112 62 371


Canucks 117 77 310
Blackhawks 97 33 371

Why were the Blackhawks considered underdogs?  Each of the past two years, the Blackhawks had more points, better goal differential, and tougher divisional competition.  Based on these stats, Canucks fans should have some hope that this year could be different.

The largest reason this series may be different is the change in personnel.  The Canucks have a new look.  They're coming into this season healthy.  Ryan Kesler doesn't have a separated shoulder, Sami Salo is in full working order (for now), and gone are Pavol Demitra, Kyle Wellwood, Steve Bernier, and Shane O'Brien.  Instead, the Canucks will expect more from Chris Higgins, Maxim Lapierre, Raffi Torres, and an improved Jannik Hansen and Mason Raymond who are a year older and presumably better.

The biggest changes though are on the blue line.  The Canucks will not have to rely on Shane O'Brien and Andrew Alberts playing 20 minutes a night.  Instead, they will have a healthy Christian Ehrhoff, Alex Edler, Sami Salo and Kevin Bieksa, but the addition of Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard.

On Chicago's side of the coin, the players who drove Vancouver nuts: Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, Adam Burish, and John Madden are gone.  Troy Brouwer and Dave Bolland are hurt, and the Hawks simply do not have the impressive depth they did a year ago.

While former Vancouver Canucks forward Ryan Johnson thinks the Canucks wanted to avoid the Blackhawks, you won't hear that talk from the players themselves.  Either way, the games are played on the ice, and not on paper.  Canucks fans should have some hope that this year will be different.  Click here for more analysis on these two teams.

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