Jeff Paterson: While we wait...
As the Canucks wait to see who they'll play in the next round, Jeff Paterson rounds up some facts from the 2011 Playoffs so far.
Some thoughts and observations while the Canucks take a breather on their quest for the Stanley Cup:
SITTING, WAITING… NO PROBLEM
Twice during the regular season the Canucks were forced to sit and wait six full days between games. The rest didn’t appear to bother them. On November 1st, the Canucks blanked the New Jersey Devils 3-0 after nearly a week off and on February 1st, the Canucks resumed the post-All Star portion of their schedule with a 4-1 victory in Dallas. Roberto Luongo earned the shutout in the game against New Jersey while Cory Schneider was between the pipes in the Lone Star State.
Lost in all of the attention Ryan Kesler received for his heroics late in the Nashville series is the fact that the Canucks centre set a new franchise record for power play goals in a single series with three against the Predators. They all came in Nashville in Games 3 & 4 and two of them were game winners. Prior to the series, no Canuck had ever recorded more than two power play goals in a single series.
RECORDS IN TACT
Pavel Bure can rest easy for a little while longer -- two of his long-standing club playoff records were challenged in the last round, but both remain untouched. Ryan Kesler came up one shy of Bure’s franchise mark of 12 points in a playoff series (Bure had a dozen in a seven-game series vs St. Louis in 1995). In that series, Bure also launched 30 shots on goal while Daniel Sedin fired 28 at the Predators Pekka Rinne. Kesler had 24 in the last round.
Mason Raymond opened the scoring with his first of the playoffs in Game 6 against Nashville. He has points in consecutive games and his five points this spring is a career playoff best. The Canucks have to be hoping that the 25-year-old can find the back of the net again soon. With his goal against the Predators, the Canucks are now 12-0 this season when Mason Raymond scores.
HOME ON THE ROAD
While the Canucks fought all season for the President’s Trophy and the right to have home ice advantage in each round of the playoffs, they are showing again that they are right at home on the road, as well. The victory over the Predators was the first time in franchise history that the Canucks went three for three on the road in a single series. It was the first time since 1995 (vs STL) and just the third time the organization had ever posted three road wins in the same series. The Canucks are now 4-2 on the road in these playoffs, and overall 14-3 in their last 17 games away from home and 17-5 in their past 22 since the All-Star break.
Despite the fact Christian Ehrhoff has a share of the National Hockey League playoff scoring lead among defensemen (2-7-9), it seems there is still plenty of room for the Canucks blueline to contribute more offensively in the Western Conference Final. Through 13 post-season games this year, Canucks blueliners have chipped in with 6 goals and 16 assists. In a dozen games in last year’s playoffs, the Canucks got 10 goals and 21 assists from their defensemen.
GETTING GOING AT HOME
A key for the Canucks moving forward in the playoffs will be the power play – particularly on home ice. The Canucks scored 30 PP goals on home ice during the regular season, but have just one to this point in the playoffs (Daniel Sedin in Game 2 vs Chicago). The Canucks are 1 for 18 on home ice on the power play in the playoffs, yet they’re still alive. The power play has been a difference-maker for the hockey team all season long and it’ll get the chance to play that role again in Round 3. But the Canucks will need to get it going on home ice.
The NHL has found a terrific way to capture the drama of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with its many History Will Be Made vignettes. And the Canucks have a chance to make a little history of their own with their next home ice win. Since moving downtown to General Motors Place/Rogers Arena in 1995, the Canucks have never won more than four playoff games in any one year in the building. This marks the first time the facility has played host to the Western Conference Final and as early as Game 1 on May 15th, the Canucks have a shot at making a little Rogers Arena history.
The NHL doesn’t record such statistics, but you have to wonder if anyone has ever been a position to do what Chris Higgins could do in the opener of the Western Conference Final. The Canucks newcomer has opened the scoring in each of the team’s first two series – and on both occasions those goals have stood up as the game winners. He scored a first period goal in Game 1 vs Chicago and a second period marker in the first game against Nashville. Both nights Roberto Luongo posted shutouts making each Higgins goal the winning tally. If he can do it again in Game 1 of Round 3, it would surely be among the most-unique natural hattricks in hockey history.