By Lisa Ovens
After being pegged cellar dwellers by many a pundit at the beginning of the 2008/09 season, the Canucks managed to finish incredibly strong, and with a rookie general manager at the helm, to boot. Considering the melt down and failing to make the playoffs last year, how much more could fans have expected?
Let’s face it, if you are a Canuck fan, and someone said to you back in October, “Hey, you know what’s going to happen this year? The Canucks are going to start out great, but your prized goal tender will go down in a rare afternoon game in November and be out for a few months. They’ll hold on as best as they can, but eventually they’ll slide into the worst losing slump in the history of the team-oh man, they’ll lose at home over and over again and everyone will want the coach fired. It’ll be nuts. But, a winger, who in the previous season was challenged in the goals scored column, will score one short handed goal at home, igniting the team to turn it around and roll, clinch a playoff spot BEFORE the last regular season game, go on to win the division, and for the first time in Canuck history, sweep the other hottest team at the time, out of the first round, have a nine day break, and then lose the second round in six games to a team that finished higher in points from the regular season.”
Would you have believed them?
This is why we love hockey; often times, we just don’t know what’s going to happen, whether it be the events in one game, or a whole season. The other day, I heard Canucks Coach Alain Vigneault speak about destiny. He had a feeling the Canucks were destined to go deep into the playoffs, based on everything that had happened over the season. He wasn’t the only one fooled by that feeling of destiny. I was too, because darn it, it just felt different this year than other years we arrived at the post season. The team had its health relatively in tact. We had a “triplet”, in Alex Burrows that was working well with the Sedin twins. Mats Sundin was here. No one was taking the St. Louis Blues lightly, and in the end, they couldn’t beat us, because the Canucks found the ways they needed to win. It was looking very good.
What happened in Round Two versus the Chicago Blackhawks? Was nine days not long enough to prepare for battle against only a handful of potential opponents? Or was nine days just too long of a break between the action? As fans, we were sitting around, waiting. In hindsight, those nine days dragged on. It was fun though, watching the Canucks logo sprouting up all over the place like the blossoms of springtime in Vancouver. We were engaging in hockey talk with strangers in grocery store parking lots, while waiting in line, or on the phone with clients and contacts.
Perhaps destiny had other plans, and those plans involved the Chicago Blackhawks. The Vancouver Canucks faced a tightly knit team of young, talented dudes, who were often described by CBC's HNIC commentator, Craig Simpson, as the “they don’t know any better because they’ve never been here before” team. (And when you think of the Blackhawks long history it kind of makes sense for the original Six’er; only three Stanley Cups to their name, this franchise toiled away year after year in the shadows of the entire league, in the shadows of other sport franchises in Chicago, under an old school owner’s self imposed Harry Potter-like invisibility cloak... where else could they go but up?)
The Blackhawks beat the Canucks because they found ways to win when it mattered the most. Sure, there were questionable calls against the Canucks, putting them shorthanded against the highly skilled kids that “don’t know any better” and some of those calls really, really bothered me and everyone else on the ‘Nucks wagon. What are you gonna do?
As I said before, we don’t really know what events will unfold on the ice each night, and for most of the series, the round was anybody’s. But it would be game four that changed everything. Instead of going up in the series, 3-1, the Canucks lost in overtime (ouch), and the series became tied. Game six was a test for anyone’s heart condition. So much happened in that game: it was a blur of goals, answered goals, the big goal horn, THAT catchy Chicago goal song and red jerseys in the stands.
There I was alone in my living room, fooled by the feeling of destiny, as the clock wound down on the 7-5 score in favor of the Blackhawks. That was it. Just like it was it for the Blues, the Sharks, the Flames, the Blue Jackets, the Canadiens, the Devils, the Flyers and the Rangers. And, after this week; the Ducks, the Bruins and The Capitals. It’s the end, and it doesn’t really matter how the series went before the final game, when you’re out, you’re out.
Feeling like the Canucks could win the Stanley Cup is a feeling I ultimately want to feel every season because I refuse to try out the opposite in feelings. It just doesn’t work for me. Each year only one team can win it, and I already think the Canucks can do it next season. Call me crazy, but I won’t jump on the silly “blow up the team/ trade Luongo” bandwagon currently driving around the city. If a Canadian based team is going to win the Cup after what will be 17 years, it’s going to be the Vancouver Canucks.
I often use this quote at this time of year. I saw it written on a wall in a documentary about the 1998 Detroit Red Wings. The Wings won the Cup that year. I don’t know who said it but it makes sense to me...
“Faith is to believe in what you do not yet see. The reward for that faith is to see what you believe.”
(Either its that, or you play like “you don’t know any better” ;o)
Keep the faith, and enjoy the Conference Finals, everybody!