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With the Vancouver Canucks advancing to the Conference finals for the third time in franchise history, the debate is on: Who would they rather face, the Detroit Red Wings or San Jose Sharks? Roberto Luongo celebrates from his knees shortly after making his last save in Game 6 (photo courtesy of Frederick Breedon/ Getty Images) Of course, for the time being, the Canucks have the luxury of taking a well-earned 'breather' until either Saturday or Sunday. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead against the Predators at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville Monday night, guiding home a tight defensive effort to close the series. Henrik Sedin spoke to the feeling of putting away a plucky Predators team, anchored by solid defense and goaltending. "Relief," started the Canucks captain. "It was one of those series where they get on a roll and win this game, and all of a sudden there's a seventh game. That's the playoffs. There were a lot of ups and downs, so we are happy." But Ryan Kesler, who almost literally put the team on his back and delivered the series, insists the team isn't congratulating itself yet. "We have bigger things in mind," stated the leading playoff point producer. We're not just going to be satisfied making it to the conference finals." Kesler set up both goals in the series clincher, and was in on a remarkable 10 of 14 goals in the series overall. Ryan Kesler: "We have bigger things in mind. We're not just going to be satisfied making it to the conference finals." The Canucks now await the victor from the San Jose - Detroit series, where the Wings have erased a 3-0 deficit, and trail 3-2. Another Selke trophy (best defensive forward) finalist, Pavel Datsyuk, has hoisted his team and led the way with several clutch performances. So, who would the Canucks rather play - The Red Wings or the Sharks? Although the regular season encounters can only reveal so much information regarding possible playoff match-ups, let's see how they fared in each 4 game set. Canucks vs Detroit Red Wings: Series tied 2-2 (Canucks take 6 of 8 possible points) Nov. 6 - (6-4 win) Canucks pepper Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard with 23 shots in the third period, scoring 3 times in that span. Niklas Kronwall and Manny Malhotra score twice. Dec. 22 - (4-5 OT loss) Both teams shoot the lights out, combining for 84 shots. The Sedins both score, but Henrik Zetterberg bags a couple, including the overtime winner. Jan. 8 - (1-2 Shootout loss) Roberto Luongo and Jimmy Howard record a dazzling .970 save percentage; Jiri Hudler scores the lone shootout goal, killing the Vancouver fans' Saturday night buzz. Mar. 23 (2-1 win) Both goalies put on another superb display, and the twins produce Daniel's 39th and 40th goals of the season. Luongo stops 39 of 40 shots. Both team captains, Henrik Sedin and Shea Weber, shake hands at center ice - the previous two years this was the Canucks' queue to exit the playoffs (photo courtesy of AP Photo) Canucks vs San Jose Sharks: Canucks win series 3-1 (take 7 of possible 8 points) Nov. 26 - (6-1 win) San Jose outshot the Canucks 33-32, but Luongo stymies the Sharks, Keith Ballard scores his 1st as a Canuck, and Mikael Samuelsson records a pair of goals. Jan. 3 - (4-3 win) The Sharks score 3 in the second period, but Alex Burrows and Daniel Sedin lead the way with a goal and an assist each at the HP Pavilion, dubbed the "Shark Tank". Jan. 20 - (1-2 shootout loss) Roberto Luongo and Antti Niemi headline this affair; San Jose outshot the Canucks 46-37, uber-rookie Logan Couture scores in regulation, and Joe Pavelski scores the lone goal of the shootout. Mar. 10 - (5-4 shootout win) Cory Schneider gets riddled with 48 shots, but is perfect in the shootout. Alex Burrows, Sami Salo, Mason Raymond and Daniel Sedin record singles, with Burrows sealing the shootout with it's only goal. Interestingly, though many Canucks fans have voiced their desire to avoid San Jose in the conference finals, Vancouver sported a better regular season record against them. Fans cite the Sharks physical style of play as being their main deterrent to playing them in the third round of the playoffs. A common thread for the Canucks is that 6 of the 8 games played against the Sharks and Red Wings were decided by one goal. One thing all Canucks fans can agree on, though, is that they hope the Red Wings win Game 6, extending the series and hopefully tiring out their next round opponent. Memories 17 years in the making, I'm Larenzo Jensen with The Canuck Way
After defeating their nearest Western Conference competition, the Vancouver Canucks appear to be in the driver's seat with eight games remaining. Canuck fans have voiced their concern this week over the team's chances heading into the post-season without Manny Malhotra. Signed in the off season to a healthy, though well-deserved contract, the uber-checking line center instantly brought a number of intangibles to the club. Widely considered one of the best face-off players in the game, Malhotra's special teams addition has worked wonders. Addressing the club's mediocre penalty killing (81.6 %, 18th overall) from last season, Manny's presence and change of puck possession time shorthanded is a large factor in the PK's resurgence. They currently sit fourth (85.8%), though Washington, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh all only have a 0.1% edge. In their convincing 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings, Daniel Sedin scored his 39th and 40th goals of the season, moving him into a tie with Cory Perry for 2nd in the Maurice "Rocket" Richard trophy race. Steven Stamkos still leads the race with 43 goals, but has been slumping since the All-Star break, while Perry and Sedin have both been surging. The multi-point night for the Sedins also has them 1-2 in league scoring,Daniel with 95 points, Henrik with 88 points. Runners-up are the other"team-tandem" of Steven Stamkos (86 pts) and Martin St. Louis (85pts). More importantly, the win adds more degrees of separation between the Canucks and the pursuant Red Wings. Though 10 points with 8 games remaining is not insurmountable, it would take a collapse of epic proportions for Detroit to overtake the Conference title. For those watching the President's trophy race, the Philadelphia Flyers sat idle Wednesday night,trailing the Canucks by 8 points, but holding two games in hand. Roberto Luongo, named the games 2nd star, was instrumental in the outcome. He turned all but one of the 40 shots directed at him away, earning a .975 save percentage. With Malhotra's eye injury preventing him from playing the rest ofthe regular season or playoffs, protection has become a hot-button topic herein Vancouver. Kevin Bieksa, who saw his first action after missing 15games to a broken foot, echoed the sentiments of a number of team-mates. "I tried on about three or four (visors) before practice. I don't know, maybe over time. I'd like to get into one, but right now in midseason it would be hard for me to change. But it's definitely something I am considering." Bieksa led all Canucks in ice-time with23:19 in his return; the team continues their four game road trip Friday in Atlanta against the Thrashers. I'm Larenzo Jensen on The Canuck Way
It is not quite the same as winning a Gold medal but a 3-1-0 record for the Canucks in their first week back is definitely reason for celebration in Canucks Nation. And another reason to celebrate is because Number Crunching returns for edition No. 12 as we look back at the best stats from the week that was in Canucks hockey. As always, find out who earns this week's honour as the Number Crunching Player of the Week. THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/01/jan3010_leafs10_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">If the Canucks manage to finish this season with a record above .500 on the road, it will be by far the most difficult path the Canucks have ever taken in franchise history to secure a better than .500 record away from their home arena. This season, the Canucks moved above the .500 mark on the road for the first time in their 32nd road game this past week after their 6-3 win in Detroit gave them a record of 16-15-1 on the road at the time (they ended the week with an overall record of 17-16-1 on the road). Out of the seven previous times the Canucks have finished a season with a record above .500 on the road, the longest it had ever taken them to initially move above .500 was six games. That mark was set in 2003.04 after the Canucks opened their road season 0-2-1 before winning their next three straight games away from GM Place to move above the bar for the first time that year. They would end up finishing that season with a 22-11-8 record on the road. In addition to 2003.04, the Canucks have also finished with above .500 road records in the following seasons: 1991.92, 1992.93, 1995.96, 2002.03, 2006.07 and 2008.09. FIRST TO 40 <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar0710_preds01_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">The Canucks recorded their 40th victory of the season on Sunday afternoon in Nashville and in the process set a new franchise record for being the quickest Canucks team to reach the 40-win mark. This year's team, which recorded the 40th victory in their 65th game of the season, narrowly beat out the 2006.07 team that recorded win No. 40 in game No. 67 that season. The 2006.07 team still holds the franchise record for most victories in a single season with 49 although this year's squad figures to give them a good run for that mark as they have 17 games remaining to try and net 10-or-more wins to break the old record. The following is a list of 40-plus win Canuck teams with the number in the brackets indicating the game in which they reached the 40th win of the season, respectively: 1991.92: 42 wins (71)* 1992.93: 46 wins (76)** 1993.94: 41 wins (81)** 2001.02: 42 wins (80) 2002.03: 45 wins (70) 2003.04: 43 wins (79) 2005.06: 42 wins (74) 2006.07: 49 wins (67) 2008.09: 45 wins (74) 2009.10: 40 wins and counting (65) *denotes 80-game season *denotes 84-game season THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar0310_well_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The Detroit Red Wings typically offer a tough test for the Canucks each time the two teams meet but if you thought Wednesday's game in Motown was a bit of a cakewalk for the visitors, there is one key statistic that would back up that assertion. The Red Wings, who saw starting netminder Jimmy Howard yanked in the contest, did little to support either of their two goaltenders in that game blocking just three shots in the entire contest. The three blocked shots marked the fewest blocked shots by by a Canucks opponent this season. Prior to Wednesday's game, the fewest blocked shots a Canucks opponent had this season in a single game was six which had happened twice: San Jose (November 29, 2009) and New Jersey (December 2, 2009). Up to and including Vancouver's contest against Nashville on Sunday, the Canucks have had an average of 13.1 shots blocked per game. The Canucks, meanwhile, have averaged 12.3 blocked shots per game this season through 65 games played. The Canucks have a record of 7-6-0 this season in games where they have had fewer than 10 shots blocked. 149 TO 100 <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/03022010_van_cbj_raycroft2_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Congratulations to Canucks' netminder Andrew Raycroft for picking up his 100th career NHL victory this past week on Tuesday with a 4-3 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Raycroft became the 149th all-time netminder to 100 NHL victories and joins the likes of currently active goaltenders such as Phoenix's Ilya Bryzgalov, Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom, St. Louis' Chris Mason and Columbus' Mathieu Garon to have recorded their 100th NHL victory during the 2009.10 NHL season. NUMBER CRUNCHING PLAYER OF THE WEEK <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar0310_kes_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Ryan Kesler: Three goals and five points in four games played. If Ryan Kesler carried any frustration with him after narrowly missing out on an Olympic Gold medal in Vancouver just over a week ago, he clearly decided to take out some of that out against his NHL opponents. The Livonia, MI native was a one-man wrecking crew at times leading the Canucks in goals and points this week while in the process extending his career-high point streak to nine games (five games prior to the Olympic break and four games after). Honourable mentions include Alex Burrows, who proved two weeks off wasn't enough time to cool down his hot stick as he also had three goals this week, and Mikael Samuelsson, whose "demotion" to the third line didn't stop his goal scoring abilities as he also finished with three goals this week. CRUNCHED BY THE NUMBERS <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/03/mar0510_hawks01_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Roberto Luongo: 2-1-0 record with a 4.29 GAA and a .875 save percentage. Call it an Olympic hangover but there were times this week when the man protecting the Canucks' net looked quite dissimilar to the man who led Canada to an Olympic Gold medal just over a week ago in Vancouver. The Canucks' captain started his week off with a decent outing in Detroit stopping 28 of 31 shots in a 6-3 win but proceeded to have arguably his worst outing since Game 6 of last season's Western Conference Semi-Final on Wednesday in Chicago. Luongo was yanked after giving up five goals on just 14 shots to the Blackhawks in the first period - the third time in his last nine games that he has been taken out of a game for performance reasons. Discounting his performance at the Olympic Winter Games, Luongo has not managed to record wins in consecutive starts since a six-game win streak from January 16 to January 27. He has a chance to bump that slump this upcoming week after ending last week off on a high note making 33 saves on 35 shots in a come-from-behind 4-2 win over the Predators on Sunday afternoon.