Through most of February and the beginning of March the Canucks were going back and forth between wins and losses and weren’t settling into a dominant groove that has allowed them to pull away from the rest of the field in the NHL to sit comfortably in first place.
Of course, this caused some worry in fan circles because a team so far ahead could easily become too calm and snooze through the last part of the regular season schedule, entering the post-season a drowsy and off-beat version of a once-mighty powerhouse.
But then Vancouver rang off six consecutive victories in nine days to close in on the club’s first-ever Presidents’ Trophy, so everything is suddenly rosy and promising in Canucks-land again as the springtime smell of the Stanley Cup playoffs wafts into the city centre.
Or is it?
The Presidents’ Trophy certainly signifies the successful completion of a seven-month, 82-game schedule where consistency tells the tale. To be able to hold up and battle through injuries, slumps and road trips to stand on top of the world’s best hockey league is quite an achievement, but it far from guarantees any sort of success during the most important part of the NHL schedule.
No, the Canucks mission is far from over. Consider that, since the Presidents’ Trophy started being awarded in 1986, only seven of the 24 recipients ended their season with the silver chalice lifted above their head. If Wayne Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers can post 56 wins and finish nine points ahead of the next best team and not win the Stanley Cup, the same fate can befall this Canucks team and any other.
Recently the Presidents’ Trophy winner has really struggled. The past two winners, Washington and San Jose, both lost in the opening round despite having all-stars such as Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on the roster. The Red Wings won both the regular season award and the Stanley Cup in 2008, but of the four winners before that, none made it out of their conference.
In fact, even just finishing atop the Western Conference may be a bit of a curse: since the lockout more No. 1 seeds from the West have bowed out in the opening round of the playoffs (2) than advanced to the Cup final (1).
So as the Canucks chase down the regular season championship, there is one thing all fans should keep in mind.
Come April 13, when the Stanley Cup playoffs start, none of what is happening now, or up until now, matters.
This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.
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