Vancouver Destined For Victory

Rebecca Silberman

Now, I’m not one to always pick the favorite, but for this year’s Stanley Cup, I’m going with the frontrunner Vancouver Canucks.

First of all, the word Canuck is funny. Secondly, Vancouver is a great city. Really, go there now and forget finals. Thirdly, the team has shown a complete command over nearly every aspect of their game and represents the most complete roster in the playoffs. Not only do they lead in goals per game with 3.1, but they lead in goals against with 2.2. Accordingly, the team has held the top spot consistently since Week 18, reminding us all why Canada remains the king of hockey.

Interestingly, the same week that the Canucks bolted into first place, they lost their leading defender, Alexander Elder, to injury (he remains out of commis­sion). I bring this up because, since then, the Canucks have managed to absolutely shame the majority of the NHL with win after win as they went on to take over 50 this season for the first time in franchise history. Not bad for depth, eh? Vancou­ver also flexed their depth chart when center Manny Malhotra took a renegade puck to the eye, removing him from ac­tive duty for the season (and, you know, threatening his future in the sport and his use of the eye). Despite the loss of this veteran, who was second in the NHL in face-offs (61.7 percent) and an architect of the Canuck improvement from 18th to 2nd in the league in penalty killings, the team has managed to keep going. This is largely thanks to the 94 points and 19 goals recorded by fellow center Henrik Sedin, the 41 goals (tied for first on the team) by center Ryan Kesler and the 26 goals scored by center Alex Burrows. All in all, I’d say that the Canucks are do­ing just fine in the face of a few major roster losses.

Of course, all these regular season stats are quickly fading in importance as the real games, the playoff games, are starting up. For Vancouver, so much has been made about their first match, which has probably already been played by the time you read this, against the Chicago Blackhawks, reigning champs. A lot of jaw-flapping has happened to date, so let’s break the argument down to its core. One team features a player (cough, Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks, cough) who is relying on a mullet to see his team through. The other is actually going to win.

Now, you could make all kinds of arguments based on the fact that the Blackhawks took the champion­ship title last year, but I just don’t see the same team in Chicago that took the title. This season, the Blackhawks tripped over their own skates, barely qualifying for the playoffs and ending up in the third spot in the Central Division with 97 points. Although that is perfectly respectable, it doesn’t quite measure up to their 112-point 2010 season. As for the “second life” that Blackhawks play­ers have claimed to feel since making the playoffs, I believe there are numerous teams in the NHL playoffs that received an energy boost from qualifying. The Blackhawks will need more than team spirit if they want to run this thing to the end. Comparatively, Chicago’s averages of 3.1 goals per game and 2.7 goals against, doesn’t seem that far from Vancouver’s stats until you line them up with the rest of the league where they are fourth and twelfth respectively.

Finally, a few commentators that have reported some apprehension on the part of the Canucks have also claimed that the Blackhawks are in the heads of Vancouver players. If this is the case, I’d tell these guys to get off the therapy couch and go play. This is the Stanley Cup: there is no room for head games, just sport.

In conclusion, the Stanley Cup will be journeying to Vancouver for the first time in the team’s history. As much as I respect that other teams in the NHL represent valid threats to the Canucks’ ultimate victory, I believe that Vancouver will be bringing home the prize. Let’s just hope they can get the cup through customs.