With Roberto Luongo coming off the best season ever by a Vancouver goaltender, and the team committed to playing hard at both ends of the ice, the Canucks hope to write some new history when their best-of-seven NHL playoff series against the Dallas Stars opens Wednesday at GM Place.
“All that matters is winning,” Luongo said Monday as the players left a team meeting. “I don’t care about anything else.
“It doesn’t matter what happened here last year, two years ago or 20 years ago. All that matters is Wednesday night and winning the game.”
The Canucks are returning to the playoffs after missing last year’s post-season. For Luongo, it’s his first playoff appearance in his seven-year NHL career.
“It’s exciting,” said the 28-year-old who set franchise records with 47 wins and by playing in 76 games. “I can’t wait to get it started.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for this and it’s finally here. I’m looking to getting things under way.”
The Canucks got some good news Monday when Kevin Bieksa, a top-four defenceman, said he’s healthy after taking a shot off his foot in Saturday’s win against San Jose.
“I’ll skate tomorrow and have a pretty good practice and ice it down,” said Bieksa. “It will be good to go.”
The 4-3 overtime win against the Sharks gave Vancouver its second Northwest Division title in three years. The Canucks, who are the third seed in the Western Conference, set franchise records with 49 wins and 105 points.
The Stars finished the season with 107 points but are the sixth seed because they were third in the Pacific Division behind Anaheim and San Jose.
There already are fears watching “Dancing with the Stars” may be more exciting than the Vancouver-Dallas series. The teams split four games in the regular season, all 2-1 results.
Vancouver scored 222 goals this season, least among Western Conference playoff teams. Dallas is next at 226.
Canucks centre Brendan Morrison smiled when asked if the teams play boring hockey.
“I like to refer to it more like a chess match,” he said.
Bieksa said the tight defensive style resulted in the Canucks having a 30-11-7 record in one-goal games.
“We’re not looking to entertain here,” he said. “We’re looking to win.”
The Canucks finished the season with the league’s top-ranked penalty kill but the 20th power play.
Dallas’s power play was ranked seventh and the penalty kill 11th.
“Special teams are going to play a big role in this series,” said Morrison. “Our penalty kill has to continue to be good and our power play has to score some big goals.
“They don’t make many mistakes. They are a real solid, real sound team. I think we match up pretty well with them. We might have a bigger team but these guys still compete hard.”
Luongo, who the Canucks obtained from the Florida Panthers last spring in a trade for Todd Bertuzzi, had a record of 47-22-6 during the season, with a 2.29 goals-against average and .921 save percentage.
The Stars’ Marty Turco was 38-20-5, with a 2.23 goals-against and .910 save percentage.
The knock against Turco has been his playoff performance. He has a career 8-14 playoff record and 2.54 goals-against average.
The Stars were Stanley Cup champions in 1999 then lost the 2000 final. Since then Dallas has missed the playoffs once, advanced to the second round twice and been knocked out in the first round the last two years.
Since 2001 Vancouver has won just one playoff series.
The Canucks have had some exciting, high-scoring teams that raced through the regular season like a Ferrari, only to conk out and die in the playoffs like an old Lada.
Morrison said this team has a different mindset after allowing just 201 goals during the season, 54 fewer than last year.
“This year’s team is a completely different team than what we’ve had in the past,” he said. “Come playoff time the games are tighter, you don’t score as many goals.
“When we had those real high offensive powered teams we’d just beat teams on goal scoring. If you’re not doing that in the playoffs you have to fall back on your defensive system and a lot of nights we didn’t have that.”