It’s amazing how history repeats itself.
The Canucks are going back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1994, after Kevin Bieksa’s dramatic goal in double overtime sealed victory for Vancouver in 5 games over San Jose in the Western Conference Final.
Amazingly, their berth in this year’s Final comes exactly 17 years ago to the day when Greg Adams scored in double overtime in Game 5 to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs, to send the Canucks to the NHL’s championship round.
You can call it fate or mere coincidence, but one thing’s for sure – this year’s Canucks are planning a different result from ’94. That year they fell in 7 games as the underdog to Mark Messier and the mighty New York Rangers, denying the West Coast franchise their first ever Stanley Cup victory.
This time around, the Canucks will face either Boston or Tampa Bay, where they will surely be the favourite to sip from Lord Stanley’s Mug after their decisive series win over the Sharks.
With a number of Canucks players now in the mix for the Conn Smythe trophy, here’s a closer look at certain Vancouver players who should be in the conversation for Playoff MVP, following their impressive performances in Round 3 vs. San Jose.
After a rough opening round series vs. Chicago, Luongo has turned his game around completely, leading to a remarkable Round 3 vs. the Sharks. With the series still hanging in the balance, Luongo stood on his head in back-to-back wins in Game’s 4 and 5, as the Canucks were being outshot by a whopping 22 shot margin in each contest. His remarkable 54 save effort in Game 5 now puts Bobby Lou as the potential leading candidate in the Conn Smythe debate.
What a Round 3 it was for brother Hank. His final tally of 12 points (1G, 11A) in the Sharks series was a throwback to the era when the Canucks last made the Cup Final, when playmakers like Gretzky and Lemieux lit up the scoresheet on a nightly basis. In the 5 game series win, Henrik had a Game Winner (Game 1), recorded 7 powerplay points (1 more point than brother Daniel had for the entire series) and finished with a plus-4 rating. Oh, and he promptly vaulted himself into top spot in the NHL Playoff scoring lead with 21 points, three ahead of teammate Ryan Kesler, who sits in 2nd.
The unquestionable MVP of the Nashville series cooled off considerably scoring-wise in Round 3 (2 G, 1A), but still showed why he is arguably the best two-way forward in the league today. Much like in the Chicago series, when he was matched up head-to-head against Jonathan Toews, Kesler excelled in the role of neutralizing the Sharks’ Joe Thornton, while still managing to score clutch goals in Game 4 and Game 5 to help lead the Canucks to victory.
While Bieksa has emerged as the clear cut leader on the Canucks blueline, his scoring prowess vs. the Sharks was nothing short of stupendous. Bieksa scored 4 goals against San Jose – on only 7 Shots on Goal – including the almighty Game Winner in Double Overtime of Game 5 to send Vancouver to the Cup Final. To put his incredible performance in perspective, Bieksa scored only 6 goals the entire season. Now factor in a plus-5 rating for the series (he leads all Canucks with a plus-10 rating thru 3 rounds) and it’s not hard to understand why Bieksa has at least put himself into the MVP conversation.
Burrows has emerged this postseason for the Canucks as a guy who truly thrives in the big games. What does the guy who scored the series clinching goal vs. Chicago in Round 1 do for an encore? Well, after a so-so series against the Predators, Burrows responded in Round 3 as a clutch offensive contributor, recording at least a point in all five games, finishing the series with 3 goals and 3 assists (all even strength) while tying for the team lead with a plus-5 rating. His 7 goals during the Canucks playoff run are tied for 2nd on the team with Kesler (D. Sedin has 8).
(Note: Despite his relative solid production in Round 3, Daniel wasn’t included on my list of Conn Smythe candidates largely because I felt he was so heavily overshadowed by the performance of his brother in the Sharks’ series. Had a tough time making an argument for Daniel over Henrik in the MVP race, so alas, I went with the hot hand.)
Daily Faceoff wants to know – Who would be your pick right now for Canucks’ MVP?