Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Peepin' Foes Preview Edition: Vancouver Canucks

The losers from 1994 just may be contenders in 2010. Vancouver reloaded and reorganized this summer in an effort to push them over the hump and into Cup contention. The biggest move has not been completed as the C was stripped from Roberto Luongo and has yet to find a new sweater. While Lou clearly was capable of dealing with the media crush that comes with a Canadian captaincy, his on-ice play suffered. Now that the responsibility stripped away, the hope is that his game will return to its near-Vezina form.

The Canucks lost in the second round of the playoffs to the eventual Cup winners but Lou allowed 19 goals in the four losses. I still maintain that the result had less to do with his quality of play and the absence of defensive stalwart Willie Mitchell but with Lou wearing the C, he was hung with the disappointment.

Familiar Foes: The Sedin twins still have that creepy telepathic thing going, leading the offense. They combined for 197 points last season despite Daniel missing 19 games. That is just ridiculous. Ryan Kesler finally began getting some of the credit due thanks to a solid Olympic showing and all-around dynamic play. Kesler and Alex Burrows both have the combination of skill and grit that teams - both real and fantasy - drool over. Former Ranger Mikael Samuelsson continues to quietly contribute - he had 30 goals last season - and the speedy Mason Raymond keeps on improving. Mitchell is gone but Kevin Bieksa was not traded (yet) and he and Shane O'Brien bring the toughness to the blueline that skill guys Christian Ehrhoff and Alex Edler lack. Poor Sami Salo is injured again.

N00bz: Even with Salo out and Mitchell in LA, the Vancouver blueline will be alright as they acquired Keith Ballard from Florida and Dan Hamhuis (from Nashville via Pittsburgh and Philadelphia). The Canucks gave our boy Manny Malhotra a big money deal and also brought in former Islander Raffi Torres. Cody Hodgson, Vancouver's top pick in 2008, supposedly is close to returning after dealing with injuries that limited him to just 13 OHL games last season. Once he debuts in the NHL, all of the top 10 picks from the '08 draft will have made the show (just in case you forgot, the Rangers picked MDZ at 20 in that draft).

Last Year: Tuesday, November 3rd 4-1 Vancouver win.

This Year: Thursday, January 13th at MSG.

What They Mean To Blue: The Rangers are often in their mid-winter slump in January but this season the month should provide a lot of points for the Blueshirts as they face few top tier teams and only one Atlantic opponent. Vancouver will be in town in the midst of a five game road trip and a rip of three games in four days - Isles on Tuesday, Rangers on Thursday and Caps on Friday of that week. Those factors should set up an easy win for the Rangers but, as we saw last November and I found out at the Olympics, Vancouver is still kinda bitter about the whole '94 thing so they are certain to step up their game in the building where they blew it.

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