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Canucks will need firepower in the playoffs

Vancouver Canucks' Henrik Sedin points at a team-mate during the first period of their NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings in Los Angeles April 1, 2010. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson


The Washington Capitals and Vancouver Canucks play on different coasts, but they have one thing in common heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs next week.

Both will have to outgun their opponents to be successful.

That has been Washington's mantra since superstar Alexander Ovechkin arrived on the scene in 2005. But until this season, the Canucks were known as a defence-first franchise, a team that succeeded because its deep defence corps prevented scoring chances, and because goaltender Roberto Luongo thwarted the few opportunities that were surrendered.

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That identity is gone - long gone - thanks to the sliding play of Luongo, and injuries to five defencemen, three of them late this week.

"Years past, we would've been out of a game if we were down 2-0," centre Henrik Sedin said. "We know we're going to score goals. It's a matter of us staying in games."

The Canucks enter the final weekend of regular-season play with six 20-goal scorers, three lines capable of filling nets, and the NHL's best offence (3.22 goals a game) after Washington. They have comeback 11 times from second-intermission disadvantages to record victories, but whether a run-and-gun style works in the playoffs - when players take fewer chances and when referees call fewer penalties - is a major worry.

The Canucks have also been a dreadful defensive team since the Olympic break, permitting four goals per game in their past 20.

A battered defence, which has taken on a patchwork look in this stretch drive, is not the only reason for the downgrade. Luongo has been below average since the Olympics as well, and admitted that he suffered from a post-Games hangover after Canada's gold-medal victory.

He is 8-4-2 since the season resumed, but is allowing 3.32 goals a game, and stopping fewer than 89 per cent of shots. Those numbers are well off his career averages, and Luongo still must prove himself as a playoff goaltender, having never advanced past the second round, and having just a .500 career record (11-11).

"It's tough enough to score in the playoffs," Sedin said. "We can't give up easy goals, and that's been the case lately."

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About the Author
B.C. sports correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Matthew spearheads the Globe's sports coverage in B.C., and spends most of his time with the NHL Canucks and CFL Lions. He has worked for four dailies and TSN since graduating from Carleton University's School of Journalism a decade ago, and has covered the Olympic Games, Super Bowls, Grey Cups, the Stanley Cup playoffs and the NBA Finals. More

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