Battling down the final stretch, the Vancouver Canucks wrapped up their regular season campaign, capturing the Presidents’ Trophy for the second consecutive season with a 3-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers Saturday night at Rogers Arena.
And now it’s onwards and upwards.
The win was a great way to cap an impressive season that saw the team break the 50-win barrier and arm themselves with home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
"It means we've had a good year," said coach Alain Vigneault. "This group has played some real solid hockey, and been consistent, and for us to win the Presidents' Trophy again says a lot about the group of people and the equality of the people we have."
Roberto Luongo turned away 17 shots for his fifth shutout of the season and 60th of his career. Although he wasn't busy all night as Vancouver outshot Edmonton 42-17, he made several key saves to keep the Oilers off the scoresheet.
After opening with energy and dominating throughout the first period, the Canucks were scoreless despite 17 shots. Henrik Sedin on the powerplay finally solved Devan Dubnyk in the second for his 14th of the year, to give the Canucks the only goal they needed in the winning effort.
In the final frame Sammy Pahlsson was quick to pad Vancouver's lead, before David Booth, on the man advantage, dangled his way down the ice to slide another one past the Edmonton netminder and put the Canucks up 3-0.
Fighting right down to the wire to claim first place in the NHL, the Canucks delivered a solid team effort that showcased all of the components coming together – goaltending, scoring depth, solid defence, and an effective powerplay – and now their attention turns to the real battle ahead.
"Now the fun starts," said Henrik. "This is the exciting part of the season, something we’ve all been waiting for. Not only the team but I think the city, so it’s going to be fun."
Home-ice advantage in hand, the team feels prepped for the long haul ahead.
“It was a tight race right to the end and we’re happy with the way that we’re playing going into playoffs," said Kevin Bieksa. "And that’s the most important thing."
Bring on the Kings
The night was packed with action around the NHL as every team suited up for their final game of the regular season.
Dropping their match 3-2 in overtime to the Sharks, the LA Kings slipped to the No. 8 seed in the West and will face off against Vancouver in the opening round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs when they kick off next week.
“LA we’ve had a little bit of a rivalry with the last couple years and we met them in the playoffs a few years ago,” said Bieksa. “It kind of started there. They’re physical, chippy games, and they're probably one of the teams we’ve had the most scrums with I think throughout the season. They’re very, very deep up front, big and strong on the blueline and have probably one of the best goaltenders in the game.”
The Canucks were 2-1-1 against the Kings this season, and faced the LA squad during the first round of the playoffs two years ago. Vancouver won the series in six games.
Prior to tonight's puck drop the Canucks handed out their annual player awards for the 2011.12 season, recognizing their top talent that was later showcased in the 3-0 victory.
Henrik Sedin took home the Cyclone Taylor Trophy as the team’s MVP selected by the fans. Having led the Canucks with 81 (14-67-81) points on the season, the Canucks captain also earned his fourth Cyrus H. McLean Trophy.
Also getting in on the action was Roberto Luongo, who was awarded the Mike’s Three Star Award, having collected the most Three Stars nominations, chosen by broadcasters, during the season.
In his first season with the team, David Booth was honoured with the Most Exciting Player award, as voted by fans this season. Booth who potted a beautiful goal in the third, will play in his first postseason game when the playoffs get underway.
Alexander Edler also earned some hardware in the form of the Walter (Babe) Pratt Trophy, voted by the fans, for the Most Outstanding Defenceman. And closing out the winners was Chris Higgins, who is the recipient of the Fred J. Hume Award for being the Canucks “Unsung Hero” as selected by the fans.