Stanley Cup Playoffs

Canadian Teams in the NHL Play-offs

Neil Becker

You can bet that enthusiastic hockey fans all across Canada will be glued to their televisions as they watch two Canadian teams, who have a great opportunity of hoisting the Stanley Cup. While a pessimist would point to the fact that only two out of six Canadian teams made the play-offs, an optimist would be excited of the fact that both the Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks have great opportunities of becoming the first Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup since the Canadiens way back in 1993. Goaltending is obviously the most important position in hockey and both the Canucks and Canadiens have two of the best in veteran Canucks’, Roberto Luongo, and Canadiens’   Carey Price, who enjoyed a breakthrough campaign. Vancouver, who won the President’s Trophy with 117 points, have not only a skilled goalie, but also a highly motivated one. At this stage of his career Luongo, who won 38 games this year while posting a 2.11 GAA, has built a reputation of excelling in the regular season, while folding in the postseason. Even though Luongo had back-stopped Team Canada to an Olympic Gold Medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, his critics keep talking about the last two springs, when he was average at best, when the Canucks suffered early play-off exists to the Chicago Blackhawks. Canucks’ management made what will turn out to be a genius move when they played their star goalie in only 60 games. Unlike previous years, when he had a much heavier workload, Luongo seems more energized, as he has posted a 1.67 GAA and a .944 save percentage after the opening three post season games against … coincidentally enough .., the Hawks. Another reason why Vancouver can win the Cup is the incredible scoring depth they have on every line. Defenders have to deal with the talents of Daniel and Henrik Sedin, along with Ryan Kessler, Alexandre Burrows and Mikael Samuelsson on the top two lines. On the third and fourth lines, players such as Mason Raymond, (15 goals, 39 points) Chris Higgins, (13 goals, 28 points) and Raffi Torres (14 goals, 29 points) bring a fair share of offence to their respective games. On the backend Vancouver have many puck movers in the underrated Christian Ehrhoff, who posted 50 points and a +19 this past season. Alexander Edler scored 33 points and was a +13. There is also plenty of ruggedness with veteran, Kevin Bieksa, who is a human shot blocking machine and was a +32 this past season. Rounding out the defence core is Dan Hamhuis, who is strong in his own zone, as seen by his +29 rating. The biggest concern in Vancouver’s Stanley Cup run is that they lost their best defensive player in the face-off artist, Manny Malhotra, who in late March suffered a devastating eye injury.  Meanwhile, in Montreal they are led by 23 year-old Carey Price, who played a large role in leading his team to a 96 point season, which was good enough for sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. Price, who was a former 2005 first round draft choice, came into the season as a forgotten player and emerged with a 38 win season. Not bad for a goalie who last year lost his number one job and was being booed in his own rink. Showing that he could be strong when it counts Price has gone 2-1 in the first three playoff games against the Boston Bruins, with a tidy 1.34 GAA and a .956 GAA. Recently his veteran teammate, Scott Gomez, called Price the best goalie right now in the world … which might be a stretch. Still Price has an impressive resume, which includes back-stopping Canada to a World Junior Gold Medal and leading the Hamilton Bulldogs to a 2007 Calder Trophy. Even though he was relegated to the bench in last year’s play-offs, Price still has plenty of post season experience and has been solid thus far in posting a 2-1 record, thus far in,  the opening round with a 2.35 GAA and a .923 GAA. Montreal doesn’t have the scoring that Vancouver has, but still have enough firepower in the likes of Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec, who led the team in scoring. Cammalleri, who last year  had 19 points in 19 playoff games, is on a role in the early going , with four post- season points in the three games. On the blue line Hal Gill still gives the opposition’s top line fits. Last year in the play-offs he was assigned to cover first, Washington Capitals’, Alex Ovechkin, then Pittsburgh Penguins’, Sidney Crosby, and gave both of them fits. He has been a key reason why in the first three games Boston’s, Milan Lucic, has been held off the scoreboard. The blue line also provides lots of offence in the likes of rookie, P.K. Subban, and veteran, James Wisniewski. The only drawback right now for the Canadiens is that up front they have a very small team. Other than that there is no reason why Montreal is not capable of a long play-off ride that can take them into the Stanley Cup finals against the Canucks, which … of course … would mean a Canadian team lifting Lord Stanley’s mug this coming June. Momma Gouche says good luck Neil!


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