Canucks fever has infected much of the B.C. populace these days, and with good reason. After leading the NHL in goals for (262), goals against (185) and points (117), becoming the first team to hit that trifecta since the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens and setting a slew of franchise records in the process, the team downed their old nemesis Chicago in a seven-game first round series. They then edged Nashville to move on to the Western Conference final for the first time since their 1994 run to the Stanley Cup final, and even knocked off the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in the first game of that series Sunday. (Game Two came Wednesday after the Star’s deadline.)
Despite all that success, it’s not hard to find those who will be happy to blast the team and demand sweeping changes if they come up short of the Cup. The Sharks themselves provide an interesting example of that; they earned the top seed in the Western Conference in both 2008-09 and 2009-10, but lost in the first round in 2009 and the third round in 2010. That led to plenty of fans and pundits claiming to have proof that the team’s built the wrong way or doesn’t have enough grit or scrappiness. The same kind of criticism has reared its head in Vancouver before following playoff losses, and likely will do so again if the Canucks don’t drink from Lord Stanley’s mug this year.
That criticism isn’t particularly fair, though. Sports involve randomness, and that randomness takes on new dimensions in the pros where talent is usually relatively equal. Statistical research has found that even the best professional teams tend to beat the worst ones in their league only about 60 per cent of the time in any given game; in the playoffs, where the margins between teams are slimmer, that drops to about 55 per cent. Thus, a playoff loss can still come even with a superior roster. If the Canucks win this series and go on to the Cup, it will be cause for celebration locally, but if they lose, their strong season should still be remembered. Sometimes you get the Sharks, sometimes they get you.
—Andrew Bucholtz, Aldergrove Star