1. If there's one thing the Canucks are very, very famous for, it's definitely goaltending controversies. So, who's the starter? Did Eddie Lack do enough to win the job, or is it Ryan Miller back in? Whose net should it be?
vancitydan: As far as goaltender controversies go, this is a pretty minor one. Miller was Willie's guy until he was injured, and he is just back from that. Eddie Lack will have the net, and deserves it on his play. His play was a leap forward from last year, and he seemed more self assured and confident in the net as a result.
Sean Larson: Eddie Lack is the starter, 100%. When Miller went down against the Islanders, it seemed like just a precaution at first, but ended up turning into something much worse. Eddie stepped in and did everything he was asked of and more. He had some huge games and if it wasn't for Eddie's performance, especially late in close games, the Canucks wouldn't be in the playoffs. Since taking over, Lack has a record of 12-6-2 and a save percentage of .928. Eddie earned this starting job, and Miller will be there if absolutely needed. If you asked any Canucks fan, they would also put full faith in Eddie.
Kent Basky: The only goaltending controversy in this series is why Jonas Hiller is so damn boring. Seriously, dude. That mask is terrible. You could put ANYTHING on there. I actually don't give too much thought to the whole thing right now, because if one should falter, the other is ready. It's a strength, not a weakness and those who try to make this into the same thing when it was Luongo and Schneider are just looking for page hits. Right now, it's Eddie's. If that doesn't work, go to Miller.
Yankee Canuck: Aww, look how nice you are. You could have said we're very famous for everything from bad weather to riots, but you kept it civil. STOP THAT I HAVE TO HATE YOU. Unless they're keeping it a secret, Miller isn't ready to roll yet and Lack has done well down the stretch. Honestly it's his spot to lose, though I love having the Miller card to play. Last season with the Blues didn't count and he'll be jacked, if he gets in, to prove that was wrong. But for now you get the Stork. Be nice to him.
Zanstorm: It was reported that Eddie Lack would start game one. Now coach Desjardins is not tipping his hat on his starter. I think the job is Eddie's until there is a bad game not just by Eddie, but from the team. I'm guessing a short leash.
2. I guess you could say the Sedins are "pretty good" players. How much attention do the Flames need to devote to shutting them down vs. the Canucks' other players? And who's going to be their other linemate?
vancitydan: Well, they are the offensive engine on the team, and do seem to enjoy playing against Albertan teams. They have gotten back in the top 10 in scoring, and both seem to be playing well. So, they will definitely be the first problem to deal with. The thing is, Vrbata works better as the engine on the second line. He plays on the PP with them, and will be Willie's option to change it up, but it is Burrows in that place. He has looked almost the player he was a couple years ago there, and will be the first line winger.
Sean Larson: Yeah, I mean the Sedins are decent. By far my favorite quote of the year was when Alex Burrows said the Sedins communicate like dolphins. It's a thing of beauty watching them play (there's a reason we call it Sedinery). They just have a sixth sense, knowing where the other will be on the ice. But the thing about this year's Canucks team is that they have so many ways to beat you. Vancouver's leading scorer (Radim Vrbata - 31 goals), isn't even on the first line. Guys like Shawn Matthias, Burrows and youngsters like Bo Horvat are all scoring threats. It might not be like the Stanley Cup season when the Canucks had a pair of 40-goal scorers, but the Flames need to pay just as much attention to the other lines as the Sedin line.
Kent Basky: Shutting down the Sedins might be advisable, but it's far from the only threat on the Canucks. With Radim Vrbata rolling on line two of late, Brad Richardson looking like he'll be ready to return to the lineup soon, and the Canucks own youth movement on line four, they can come at you a number of different ways. I anticipate Willie will continue with the status quo of late by keeping Alex Burrows with the twins, but it's nice that he can swap Vrbata in to shake things up.
Yankee Canuck: You'll probably see Burrows start with the Sedins and Vrbata may jump up to that slot depending on how the game progresses. Further down the line and assuming he's healthy, you may even get to see Kassian there, which would be good for Calgary because it would suggest something has gone very wrong on Vancouver's end. That said, by all means don't bother shutting the Sedins down. The internet is right, they're total "sisters" who aren't worth the effort. [I know Yankee's attitude here is scorn, but I do want to emphasize this: if you call the Sedins "sisters" on this blog you're banned. Misogynistic insults will not be tolerated. Thanks. - ed.] Instead please focus all your defensive efforts on wherever Kenins is. You're welcome.
Zanstorm: Shutting down the Twins is always the best way to beat the Canucks. This season though, coach Willie said he would roll four lines, which he has done. It has worked out quite well for scoring depth. Many of the players not on line one are prone to cold streaks. Big ones. So covering the Sedins religiously is the key.
3. How are the Canucks going to shut the Flames down? Beyond Alexander Edler and Christopher Tanev, who's made an impact on defence?
vancitydan: The pairing of Dan Hamhuis and Yannick Weber play Top 4 minutes, and proven adept at getting the puck back and moving it up quickly. They are not the Top Pairing that Tanev and Edler are, but Weber has fit pretty well in that spot, and enables Bieksa to be with Sbisa. Which has been a mixed blessing at times, but both players have the talent to lock in when it comes to playoff hockey. Well, not sure on Sbisa, but Bieksa sure does.
Sean Larson: Edler and Tanev are certainly the most reliable defensemen, but you can't forget about the experience and leadership of Kevin Bieksa. While he only played in 60 games after missing some time due to a broken hand, he's one of a handful of guys left over from that 2010-11 Stanley Cup team, and he knows what it takes to make a deep run. When it comes to the playoffs, you always want that guy out there who won't get shaken by being responsible for a goal in these games where every second is high intensity. On the offensive end, Yannick Weber has a mean slapshot from the point and I'll be curious to see if he can rip off a big goal or two during the series. Weber was Vancouver's leading scorer on defense this year with a career-high 11 goals, so I'll be watching to see if he carries that over to the playoffs.
Kent Basky: That all depends on what you mean by impact. The impact of Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa and Luca Sbisa on the Canucks this year has been impressive, if you like to see the Canucks lose. If we don't see the first two gents playing closer to their 2011 form, it's gonna be a frustrating series for the Canucks. In all seriousness, Yannick Weber has really been a pleasant surprise this year. He's been defensively solid, really bought in to the systems from Desjardins and his staff brought in, and has become that big shot PP threat they've been missing since Christian Ehrhoff got tricked into thinking he was worth a bazillion dollars by the Sabres.
Yankee Canuck: You're just insulted the kingdom of Smithers by ignoring Hamhuis; though a step slower, he and Tanev are the ones that should give the Flames fits. Weber has been a solid addition, Edler has put last season behind him and Sbisa can be trusted with the third pairing softer assignments (fun fact: if you let Sbisa score, you have to take a shot, it's in the NHL rulebook. Google it). Bieksa may be showing his age more, but he's still a force in his own zone and, since it's the playoffs, will be shooting at the stanchions at will. #sjsharkssuck
Zanstorm: I would hope they hit and hurt and wear down the Flames' top line. Show no mercy! I am not a big fan of the Canucks' defence in general. All season long they have made blunderous turnovers and given up odd man rushes against. Other times they look solid. Much of the time when they make mistakes the goaltending bails them out or they have scored enough to make up for it. Expect a lot of these odd man rushes going in your favor. Breakaways even! In the playoffs! Weeeeee! I can't praise the goalies and scoring depth enough or we'd be golfing right now.
4. Are the Canucks a win-now team or have the adjustments Jim Benning made expanded their window to be a capable contender?
vancitydan: As long as Jim Benning continues to draft well, I have confidence in the ability of Mr Benning and the rest of the management team to "extend the window". There are several young guys still looking to be the next big thing. The West is a deep, dangerous pool, and of course any team can go on a run.
While there is the bridge coming of what happens when The Twins get too old to play, and while those two are playing well, I would guess they would just take one year deals every year after if they were close at that time their contracts run out, and of course, if they can still play. They sure showed there is a ton left in the tank this year. There is more in the cupboard, as well as a confidence in Jim Benning based on this year, that makes me think "the window" might open a bit wider as we go along.
Sean Larson: That's the exciting thing about this team, the future is so bright, I honestly don't know if this is a team that is looking at their last best window for a long time. Now, it might be their last window with guys like the Sedins, who are likely on the tail end of their careers. Sure, they might keep playing for five or six more years, but it might be more of a leadership role rather than actual productivity. Jim Benning and Trevor Linden mastered the art of rebuilding on the fly this year as we saw the emergence of future stars like Bo Horvat and Ronalds Kenins, both who have the talent to become part of the first line in upcoming years. I think in a few years, we'll see one of the best Canucks teams to ever hit the ice in Vancouver. Do I think the Canucks will make a deep run this year? Nah, but they've surprised us all year and who says they can't do the same in the playoffs?
Kent Basky: Yes and yes. It's some of column A and column B. While the Sedins had a comeback kind of season even the most optimistic fan didn't see coming, they are getting older, and it would be nice to see them do this while at the top of their game. At the same time, this is a team in transformation, as Trevor Linden and Jim Benning begin the process of putting together a new core as the old one starts to be phased out. The dumb thing about this year, is that expectations for the Canucks are nowhere near as high as they've been in the past, but this year's field of teams could be just what they need to finally ascend the peak and raise the Cup. Stranger things have happened.
Yankee Canuck: They're not a win-now team. Sure it would be nice, but since catapulting Mike Gillis and John Tortorella into the sun after last year, the organization wanted a return to the playoffs with responsible, four line hockey. Mission accomplished. As you know, once you're in the playoffs crazy things can happen and I think that's the prevailing mindset. Long term this is still a team in transition and, if you eye their payroll for next season, will have a healthy injection of youth at the expensive of some veterans.
Zanstorm: Management told season ticket holders last summer that the playoffs were an expectation. There isn't much more expectation mentioned aside from that. Like the Flames, we barely made the dance. So all there is is hope for a Cup run because anything is possible.
5. There's always a lot of pressure on the Canucks to do well when they reach the post-season. This first round sees them go against a team they're probably favoured to beat. Will that add any further pressure? How do you think they will handle it?
vancitydan: I am not sure that there is a "favorite" in a series where the two teams went down to the penultimate game to decide home ice for their series. I favour the Canucks, for sure, but the Flames have impressed with how well they have played this year. You might say they "opened their window" this year, or at least opened a lot of eyes. I do think that the amount of experience in the playoffs might be the thing that tips this one in the Canucks' favor, but it will probably go six at the least.
Sean Larson: Playing hockey for a team in Canada is like playing any sport in New York. You're always under such intense pressure from fans and media, and some people (cough cough, John Tortorella, cough cough) just can't handle it. Many expected this year to be the first of a rebuilding process, and honestly, before the season began, most fans would probably have considered the playoffs a pleasant surprise. Honestly, the season has been such a joy to watch after last year's dumpster fire. Players were just happier, and I think a lot of that had to do with a new coach and new management. It just totally changed the culture and we saw the positive results on the ice. I think the whole team is just so happy to be back in the playoffs that they'll play much more relaxed than in the couple years after the Stanley Cup season when they just got dominated by the Kings and Sharks. If they win the series and make a deep run, fantastic. If not, it was still a hell of a season and a great building block for next year.
Kent Basky: If they're favoured to win, you sure can't tell. People are tripping over themselves to pick the Flames in this one right now. And while I get that, this isn't like the regular season. The postseason is an entirely different beast, and in the end this one will come down to experience, something that the Canucks have a clear advantage in. The pressure of the past simply isn't there, and the mindset of the team and its players has been one of the most noticeable changes. They're loose, and really having fun this year. These aren't the Canucks everyone thinks they know, and it's gonna be a blast watching this old and extremely underrated rivalry rekindled.
Yankee Canuck: I much prefer this position over the few times they lugged the Presidents' Trophy into the post season with them and had to shoulder the loftier expectations that came with it. Just as with Calgary, Vancouver isn't supposed to be here. As a group, Desjardins has them playing extremely well and they're very tough to count out even if they drop by two or three goals. They have enough vets with the scars from 2011 to help guide younger players through the pressure cooker and, also, never forget that JOEL OTTO KICKED IT IN JOEL OTTO KICKED IT IN JOEL OTTO KICKED IT IN...cough.
Zanstorm: The pressure will be there from some. But anybody that has a true knowledge of where a team is at knows that a deep run would be a treat. The only pressure from me is that they try their bloody hardest and work as a team. The reality is that a deep run would be considered an underdog performance. You guys know what I mean, right? Nobody is picking our teams to do anything this post season!
Thanks, Nucks Misconduct! Joel Otto did nothing wrong and you know it. Check out our answers for their own questions here. Here's to an amazing playoff series - the Flames and Canucks should definitely put on quite a show!