By Anthem Man
Another spring is apon us and the Vancouver Canucks are looking strong enough to win it all, but will they? And what happened last year? The first question is much harder to answer than the second. With so many quality teams in the NHL now entering the playoffs means you’re a solid team and have a shot at winning the Stanley Cup, but obviously, some have better shots than others. Ten years ago it was down to 5 maybe 6 teams that had a real chnce at winning, but now, with teams so close in the standings, you’d be better off flipping a coin than wrestling over each teams strenghs and weaknesses.
After a dominant regular season April came around and the Canucks faced a familiar foe in the Chicago Blackhawks. They were the defending Stanley Cup Champs, but were stripped of many key players like Canuck killer Dustin Byfuglien due to the salary cap. The Canucks took a 3-0 series lead with scores of 2-0, 4-3, & 3-2. All close intense great hockey games that the Canucks had earned 3 solid victories. Then came the quote of the year: “We haven’t exposed them for who the really are” said Blackhawk Captain Jonathon Toews. Seemed like an out of place comment coming from the captain of the team down 3 games in a series. Then came the shock: Hawks win 7-2 and 5-0 in absolute routs. The difference, Dave Bolland, a smart defensive player who specializes in making life very unpleasant for the Sedin twins. Bolland had missed a month due to injury and his first game back he shadowed the Sedin’s, got in their face and shut them down and the rest of the Hawks responded. After Chicago tied the series in game 6, Vancouver were on the brink of being added to the list their soon to be finals opponents made added to the previous year. The Boston Bruins lost a series they were leading 3-0. An injury to top centerman David Krejci and the Flyers got Simon Gagne back, those one goal game go the other way and a nightnare ensues. The Canucks played a great game 7, Alex Borrows scoring early, held off the Hawks until Cap’t Serious (Toews) himself scores his lone goal of the series with 2 minutes left to force overtime. after taking a bad penalty in the extra frame Alex Borrows redeems himself by scoring the OT winner. Canucks “Slay the Dragon,” defeat the rival Chicago Blackhawks and advance to the second round.
After convincing 2nd and 3rd round victories the Vancouver Canucks were in the finals for the first time since 94 and third time in their 40 year history. This time they were favored, this time they were suppossed to be there. They were up 2-0 in the series against the underdog Boston Bruins and looked poised to take it all. Then just like in the 1st round against Chicago things went south in a hurry. Everything Vancouver did Boston responded stronger, harder and faster. They hit with purpose, they got under the Canucks skin and when the Canucks got some momentum the Big bad Bruins took it away. “Henrik robs Siedenberg of the puck, Thomas robs Henrik of his dignity.” The Bruins answered the call and I couldn’t help hearing Blackhawks Captain’s response from the 1st round “We haven’t exposed the for who they really are.” That quote seemed to ring louder and louder. After tying the series at 2 a piece in crushing fashion the series went back to Vancouver where home ice proved to be the Canucks secret weapon. Winning another one goal game they were on the cusp of their first championship in francise history. Home ice proved to be Boston’s secret weapon too winning another rout in Beantown, outscoring the Canucks 17-3 in those 3 games where the Canucks had won theirs at home by one goal each. Then came game 7, everything on the line. 60 minutes to decide who will be the champs. The team that scored first won every game this series so to see the Bruins score first was not what the home crowd bargained for. Then a second goal by the visitors, but what silenced the home crowd was the short handed goal with 2:25 left in the 2nd period by Patrice Bergeron. With the towering Zdeno Chara in the penalty box this was the moment for the Canucks to get back in the game but to no avail. An empty net goal by “The Little Ball of Hate ” Brad Marchand sealed the Canucks fate in the 3rd period. It was over. Bruins were the Stanley Cup champs for the 6th time and 1st in 39 years and they did it on Vancouver ice. A very telling stat was the Sedin’s were on the ice for all 4 Boston goals.
As we enter another April we are to look back at last year and wonder will this years version of the Canucks win it all? They are a quality hockey team, but will they learn from last years defeat like the Bruins did from theirs. Pedicting winners and losers is not too easy these days, with 16 quality teams entering the playoffs to only thing that should surprise is a 4 game sweep.