It’s like déjà vu all over again.
The Stanley Cup playoffs begin today and, like last year, the Vancouver Canucks will be the top seed of the 16 teams that will battle for the NHL championship.
But there are questions that seem to be dulling the team’s bright prospects.
Of uppermost concern is Daniel Sedin’s health. Last season’s top scorer hasn’t played since he was leveled by Duncan Keith’s elbow during a game in Chicago in March. As is typical of most teams at this time of the season, the Canucks aren’t saying much about Sedin’s injury or his prospects of playing in Wednesday’s playoff opener.
While the team continued to win in his absence — even managed to put together an impressive string of consecutive victories to propel them to the top of the league standings — there’s been no shortage of anguish amongst their fans.
The Canucks’ power play has fizzled, Ryan Kesler can’t seem to hit the net anymore and the big trade that sent beloved young prospect Cody Hodgson to Buffalo for an unproven, hard-nosed Zack Kassian so far seems to have been a bit of a bust.
Then there’s the goalie question.
As back-up Corey Schneider has ascended in the hearts and confidence of fans with his steady play and easy-going demeanour, veteran Roberto Luongo remains an enigma.
He can be brilliant for stretches, then suddenly incapable of stopping a beach ball. His body language of abject failure when he’s scored upon, and his knack for sullen, cliché-ridden interviews hasn’t endeared him either.
Over all the team’s drama hovers the lingering stench of last spring’s Stanley Cup riot. Will the people of Vancouver be able to show the world we’re more like the welcoming, celebratory partiers of the Olympics than the looting thugs of June?
All questions, on and off the ice, will be answered in eight or nine weeks.
– Burnaby Newsleader