All of five minutes ago – as I start writing this – the Canucks won the division title for the third time in five years.
Yes, it took until the last game of the season. Yes, it wasn't a particularly great game. So FUCKING what?
It brings up the question – what the hell happened last year? We didn't even make the playoffs – but we won the division in the bread years of that sandwich.
It's hard to forget that early in the new year we had a terrible losing skid of 10 games. It's been that ugly before, but this season did include a record home-ice losing streak in that period. And it needs to be pointed out that last year's Stanley Cup champs had a similar losing streak last season. Bus since then, we have been the best team in the league... bar none. That's a fantastic way to enter the playoffs. At the end of the losing streak it was dubious whether we'd make the playoffs at all – in fact a friend in Calgary stated in no uncertain terms that the Canucks would be lucky if we even made the playoffs. I'm trying not to gloat right now.
The Canucks have played in the Cup final round twice. I do vaguely recall both. The first I was a mere 12 years old, and not much of a hockey fan – it was merely geography that had me interested in that one. For the second they made it all the way to game seven of the final – and barely lost it. I watched that one from the same bar in Montreal where I'd sat out the Stanley Cup riot of the year before. In 1994, the Canucks played a spectacular playoff but only got to the final through character and grit.
Since then there have been some decent chances... 2002 (I think) Naslund was on the verge of winning the scoring title when he was injured for the remainder of the season... that was promising. But the REAL chance was 2003 when the infamous Bertuzzi incident arguably resulted in the Canucks losing game seven of the first round to the team that would lose the whole shebang in game seven. Todd Bertuzzi in his best season could have made that difference – to say nothing of Naslund being less shook up and healthier. It's a long and tired argument all around...
But here we are...
About to start a new playoffs... and to my own surprise – I really had little faith before the season started – we have one hell of a team. The Sedins are playing as well as they have ever played – better even. Luongo is kicking ass and had he not been injured for a good portion of the mid-season might have had a truly outrageous season. Hired gun Sundin is firing on all cylinders and has been for ages. And all of the 'young talent' looks more like they have arrived than they're about to arrive.
It's sixteen wins away and there are lots of great teams who need to fall by the wayside first, but since February there has been no team better than the Canucks.
There are some obvious bottom feeders still in the hunt, and a team or two who despite their position in the playoffs are there largely due to early season success – Calgary I'm lookin' at you.
I'm not going to get overly excited yet – we need to win the first round and prove our mettle to really be able to assess the real-world chances, but I think this may well be the most exciting playoffs for the Canucks since that 1994 run.