Following a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings Thursday night at Rogers Arena, the Canucks are indeed one day closer to their ultimate goal and they were able to prepare today for tomorrow by winning the first Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history to lockdown home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
Vancouver was victorious for the fifth consecutive game, with the W adding a P to their X, Y and Z in the standings as the Canucks assault the alphabet and the National Hockey League.
Daniel Sedin paced the way with a goal and an assist to reach a league-high 100 points for the first time in his career, Christian Ehrhoff and Ryan Kesler also scored, while Roberto Luongo stopped 18 shots for his NHL-leading 37th win.
All this and it was yet again a comeback win for the Canucks, their second in as many games.
Kyle Clifford beat Luongo with less than seven minutes to play in the first period and Los Angeles clung to its 1-0 lead until the 15:06 mark of the second when Daniel Sedin performed his usual wizardry and roofed a puck past Jonathan Quick to even the score.
Drew Doughty also evened the score on Daniel’s 41st goal of the season, which leaves him one shy of 250 for his career, as he lined up the Canucks forward and sent him to the ice with a blindside hit.
It was taking a hit to make a play at its best, and it was an eye-opener for Daniel.
“You never want to get hit like that, but that’s what happens,” said Daniel, nine goals back of becoming Vancouver’s first 50-goal man since Pavel Bure accomplished the feat in 1997-98.
“I shouldn’t put myself in that situation maybe, but I didn’t see him coming. It’s one of those things; it was a nice goal to get.”
Daniel still hadn’t seen a replay of the hit he missed the first time around, but his teammates had. Ryan Kesler, for one, is just glad Daniel wasn’t injured.
If nothing more than a friendly reminder that the playoffs are around the corner, the hit was affective.
“Absolutely, it was exactly like a playoff game,” added Daniel. “We’ve been playing teams for the past month fighting for a playoff spot and it was no different tonight, maybe a little bit more physical, but we stood up good and we got the win.”
Ehrhoff’s game-winner was scored with 00.9 seconds left in the second period and in the third, similar to Tuesday night in Nashville when Vancouver allowed only two shots against, the Canucks were all business and the result was zero shots for the Kings. It was just the fifth time since 1967 Los Angeles has been blanked in a frame.
Kesler added the insurance marker, on the power play, late in the third period sending another rabid sellout crowd over the top as they witnessed history.
The Canucks saluted the fans at centre ice with a raise of their sticks after the win.
Before any other Western Conference team has secured a playoff spot, the Vancouver Canucks have clinched their first Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history.
Wow, what a ride.
This has been a season of firsts for the Canucks on many fronts and, playoffs aside, it's already the most successful year of hockey in Vancouver in the team’s 40 year history.
What does a Presidents’ Trophy win mean to the team?
Nothing and everything.
The Presidents’ Trophy comes with its share of pressure as since the trophy was introduce for the 1985-86 season, five first place finishers, including the previous two, have lost in the first round of the playoffs.
In nine of 25 instances, on the other hand, the NHL’s top dogs have played for Lord Stanley’s Mug, with seven hoisting it.
The road to the final certainly won’t be paved, but having home ice advantage throughout is an x-factor no other team will boast.
“I’ve said this every year we’ve gone into the playoffs,” commented coach Alain Vigneault, “when you have home ice, you say it’s good, when you don’t, you say it’s not that big of a deal.
“For us to have home ice in front of our fans with the way we can play in this building, it should be an added bonus for us.”
“It’s possible. Never give up, right?” – Daniel Sedin, to Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun post-game, on needing 12 points in four games to match Henrik Sedin’s point total from last season.
Chris Tanev left the game in the third period after being hit by Kyle Clifford, coach Alain Vigneault said he has an upper-body injury and will be re-evaluated Friday; the Canucks finish March with a 13-3-0 record winning 13 games in a month for the first time in team history; Daniel Sedin has 21 points in his last 13 games.