Canada Kicks Ass

Canucks Playoff Preview
Date: Saturday, April 12 2003
Topic: Sports

One would think the Canucks and their fans are primed and pumped for a good run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this postseason after such a solid regular season but, when you think back to last year, you can never tell with this team.

The Canucks started off miserably last year and had to scratch and claw just to get into the Playoffs. Vancouver qualified at the last minute as the final seed in the West and entered the 2001-02 postseason as one of the League's hottest teams. The Canucks were 28-9-3-3 in the second half last year. They continued their hot streak in the opening round against the top-seeded Detroit Red Wings, winning the first two games of the series on the road.

But the Jekyll-and-Hyde team didn't win another game in the Conference Quarterfinals. They dropped the next four games to the Red Wings and bowed out of the postseason in the first round for the second-consecutive season, after missing out in the previous four campaigns.

After a rough first month this season, the Canucks have shown they are a talented and determined bunch that can play well for an entire season. After going 3-4-4-0 in October, Vancouver got its act together in November and registered 12 wins (24 points) in 13 games. Included in the dozen wins was an impressive 10-game winning streak from Nov. 9 to Nov. 30. In February, the squad again put up great numbers by compiling 20 points off nine wins and two ties in 12 games, adding to what amounted to the greatest regular season in franchise history.

Speaking of numbers, the Canucks boast one of the NHL's top lines in the Todd Bertuzzi-Markus Naslund-Brendan Morrison unit. Bertuzzi and Naslund finished among the League's regular-season scoring leaders. Naslund finished with 48 goals and 56 assists, second in both the Art Ross Trophy and Maurice Richard Trophy races. Bertuzzi had 97 points. Morrison ended the regular season as the third-leading scorer on the Canucks.

While many believe that the offense ends there for Vancouver, that's far from the case. Teams don't lead the League in offense two years in a row riding the coattails of only three players. It takes a team effort to put up those types of numbers.

In addition to Bertuzzi, Naslund and Morrison the Canucks have five other forwards -- Trevor Linden, Matt Cooke, Trent Klatt, Trevor Letowski and Daniel Sedin -- who scored 10 or more goals in the regular season. The defense has even been known to step up to the table to give the team a helping hand in the opposition's end.

Ed Jovanovski led the way for his fellow Canuck defenders by recording 46 points from his blue-line position. Four other defensemen -- Brent Sopel, Mattias Ohlund, Sami Salo and Marek Malik -- contributed 20 points or more to the Vancouver cause during the 2002-03 campaign.

But offense alone doesn't win games, especially in the Playoffs.

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