For the Vancouver Canucks everything must seem so calm and perfect.
With 69 points, the Canucks currently sit in first place in the Western Conference heading into their last game before the All-Star break Wednesday night against the Nashville Predators. The Sedins (Henrik and Daniel) are scoring on all cylinders, Ryan Kesler has turned into a legitimate threat every time he is on the ice, and the goaltending has been tremendous. Moreover, there is depth on the blue line, andgrit on the checking lines.
It looks like the Canucks’ destiny seems like it is firmly in their own hands. But something ominous lurks in the depths of the Western Conference standings, a foe so vile and menacing that it threatens to derail all of their dreams of a Stanley Cup victory. Only a few have seen this monster stirring in the deep, but none have had the audacity to speak its name for fear of provoking it. If you look at the team currently in eighth place its none other than the Chicago Blackhawks.
Very few Canucks fans could bear to hear the sounds of a raucous Madhouse on Madison jumping to the sound of “Chelsea Dagger” by the Fratellis again this spring. On the other hand, the Hawks are a totally different team than the one that broke the hearts of the Canucks and their fans two playoffs in a row. Much of their roster has changed, having parted ways with Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, and Antti Niemi, to name a few.
But they still retain the threat of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews up front and Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook on the blue-line. They may also retain a leviathan-like mystery and power over the Canucks.
Just two years ago, an upstart Canucks team had won the Northwest division and trounced the St. Louis Blues in four straight games and looked poised to make a significant run in the playoffs. With the series tied 2-2, and Game 5 also tied 2-2, Kane set up David Bolland for the go-ahead goal with just under five minutes to play that turned the game and the series in their favor. The Canucks were left with a summer to ponder what had gone wrong and what could be done to avoid the same fate again.
Flash forward to the spring of 2010. A well balanced Canucks team coming once again off a division championship and a 4-2 series win against the LA Kings looked poised to erase the disappointment of a year earlier. But the Blackhawks blocked their path again and left the Canucks to do some more soul searching after capturing the series in six games (again).
It might be too soon to talk about playoff match ups with over 30 games remaining in the 2010-11 season, but this much is clear: the Canucks will likely finish near the top of the Western standings and the Hawks look like they’ll claim one of the last playoff spots should current trends continue.
Like the discordant strings that accompanied an impending attack in the movie Jaws, could fans be hearing the hushed chorus of “Chelsea Dagger” rising from the deep, threatening to sink the Canucks ship?