The Vancouver Canucks are poised and ready to make a run for the ages in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Making it certain that the first Canadian team in 21 seasons wins the Stanley Cup will be those twin-engines up front in Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin, who have each topped 70 points this season.
There's the emergence of Bo Horvat, and the dependability of forwards Nick Bonino, Chris Higgins, Alexandre Burrows and Jannik Hansen.
The Canucks played meaningful games down the stretch and got it done with goaltender Eddie Lack filling in for an injured Ryan Miller.
"We were never in this position before," Henrik Sedin said. "There were a few years where we made the playoffs a few weeks before the season was over, and last year we were done a few weeks before the playoffs so it's exciting because every night every game meant something."
At the core of the jump and enthusiasm in the Sedin twins this year has been perhaps the most underrated free-agent signing of the 2014 class, right wing Radim Vrbata.
Vrbata, signed to a two-year, $10 million contract on July 3, 2014, believes the secret to being a dependable linemate for the Sedin twins is just staying out of their way.
"For a half season, I've seen [the Sedin twins] in certain situations on the ice where you would think a play would be impossible to make and they make it happen," Vrbata said. "It has to be something bigger than regular chemistry."
Whatever it is, Vrbata has been a perfect fit in the midst of his best season in three years. He's not only flourished with the Sedin twins but without them, earning a trip to his first NHL All-Star Game and eclipsing the 30-goal mark for the second time in his career.
The Canucks were ninth in the League on the power play, led by Vrbata's career-high 12 goals on the man advantage, and were second in penalty-killing efficiency (85.7 percent).
Defensemen Yannick Weber and Christopher Tanev have provided a lot more than originally anticipated at the start of the season. Whenever the Canucks needed some offense from their defense, it usually came from Alexander Edler, Dan Hamhuis, Weber or Tanev. Weber had career-highs in goals and points.
The voice of reason providing the motivation this season is coach Willie Desjardins. It didn't take him very long to earn the respect and confidence of each player following the firing of John Tortorella at the end of last season.
Desjardins has allowed his players to play to their strengths while he consistently runs four lines and three defense pairs. Defenseman Kevin Bieksa said that there was a lot more freedom to play with speed and creativity. The Canucks had 12 players with 10 or more goals this season. They had eight last season and nine when they reached the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
Not to be forgotten has been the play of Lack since Miller's knee injury in late February. Lack made major strides this season with career highs in wins (18) and save percentage (.921).
"He's been great," Henrik Sedin said of Lack. "We've played a lot of hockey and whenever he had a tough game he came back and got it done. He's been really good for us."