For Vancouver Canucks, only a title can erase post-season doubts

The Vancouver Canucks are proving again to be one of the best teams during the NHL's regular season. Roberto Luongo and company know a title will be the only way to erase past post-season failures.

Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks are through licking their wounds from last season's collapse in the Stanley Cup final.
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Roberto Luongo and the Sedins will make people forget past failures with an NHL title, writes Sam McCaig

The Vancouver Canucks have been one of the NHL's elite teams in recent years. They ran away with the Presidents' Trophy as the league's regular season champions last year and came within one victory of winning the Stanley Cup.

And after a slow start in 2011/12 - blame it on the Stanley Cup hangover - the Canucks have climbed back to the top of the NHL standings, vying with the Detroit Red Wings for Western supremacy.

Vancouver have A-list star power and great depth at every position, but the Canucks rarely seem to get the kudos they deserve. Rather, they are a regular target for criticism.

It starts in goal, where Roberto Luongo's play-off inconsistency has not matched his regular season prowess. Even his own coach lost faith in him, opting to start back-up Cory Schneider in Game 6 of the cup final last June.

Truth be told, Luongo had a strong post-season for three rounds, but was mediocre - at best - in the final, and his below par performance paled in comparison to the Bruins goalie Tim Thomas' Conn Smythe-winning heroics at the other end. Luongo seemed to run out of gas before the play-off marathon concluded, and his reputation as a top-tier netminder took a pretty big hit.

But the Canucks' starter has proven his resilience before, and he is aware that he will never be on a better team than he is right now.

Luongo, like the rest of the Canucks team, appears determined to pace himself for the rigours of the 82-game regular season and save some for the play-off push.

Joining Luongo in the Vancouver blame game are the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel.

The Sedins have had more than their share of detractors, which is absurd considering their superstar calibre and relentless point production. Henrik won the NHL's scoring race two seasons ago; Daniel won it last year. Henrik was the league MVP in 2010; Daniel was runner-up last year.

Too soft? That is a ridiculous accusation for a pair of players who make their living along the boards and in the danger zone around the net. Too disciplined, perhaps, since they rarely get baited into retribution.

Too slow? They might not be speedsters, but they are plenty quick enough and have great instincts for the puck.

For Luongo and the Sedins - and the Canucks as a whole - the challenge is clear. They have proven themselves as regular season stars, and now it is about winning a cup.

Do not be surprised if they make it back for another crack this June.