x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Title is Vancouver Canucks' to lose

The Canadian team have never won the Stanley Cup, but have ingredients to do so this time, says Sam McCaig.

Roberto Luongo, centre, has been a pillar in Vancouver Canucks' success this season. Darryl Dyck / AP Photo
Roberto Luongo, centre, has been a pillar in Vancouver Canucks' success this season. Darryl Dyck / AP Photo

Break up the Vancouver Canucks. The pride of Canada's west coast are ripping up the NHL - they are on an incredible 13-0-3 run and have not lost in regulation time in more than a month.

And they appear to be on the verge of a breakthrough after four decades as an NHL franchise.

The Canucks have advanced to the Stanley Cup final twice in their 40 years of existence, and even made it to a Game 7 in 1994 before falling to the New York Rangers, but have never won the big prize.

In the last two post-seasons, the Canucks have been eliminated by Chicago in the second round. Last year the Blackhawks went on to claim league supremacy. It might be Vancouver's turn in 2011.

The Canucks have plenty of strengths and no discernible weaknesses. They boast an all-world netminder in Roberto Luongo - and it does not hurt that he won "the big game" when he led Canada past the United States in the Olympic final last February.

Playing in front of Luongo is a defence corps that is skilled, experienced and deep. Dan Hamhuis, Alex Edler, Christian Ehrhoff, Kevin Bieksa, Keith Ballard and Sami Salo are all good enough to be in most teams' top-four.

The Canucks can rotate all six of them, plus they have got Andrew Alberts and depth defender Aaron Rome for good measure.

It is a blueline that blends talent and toughness, with every rearguard well-tested in the play-off rigours.

Up front, Swedish twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin lead the charge. Henrik, the playmaking Sedin, won the league's scoring title and MVP honours last season, while Daniel, the goal-scoring Sedin, was right there with him but for an injury that cost him a month.

The Sedins' improvement has resulted in a first line - usually with Alex Burrows on the left wing - that is as potent as any in the NHL.

Meanwhile, Ryan Kelser has emerged as an all-star two-way centre, capable of shutting down opponents' top lines as well as contributing offensively while Mikael Samuelsson and Mason Raymond, the wingers, provide more supplementary offence.

There aren't many passengers on the star-studded Canucks and they are a hungry, motivated team after consecutive play-off losses to Chicago.

If the Canucks stay healthy, it could be a very happy time in British Columbia this spring.