Vancouver Canucks Sami Salo and Edmonton Oilers Eric Belanger crash along the boards in pursuit of the puck in the second period of the last home game in the regular NHL season at Rogers Arena.
Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG
As everyone in this market knows, the Vancouver Canucks have no second line, no power play, no coach and are perpetually one step away from disaster or relegation or some frickin' thing.
OK, they also have the Presidents' Trophy but, really, what does that mean?
OK, it means they have the best record in the NHL. But don't be fooled. Just look at that power play. And the second line. And don't get us started on the coach.
They're just lucky there's no room on that trophy to explain the real story.
“It was one of our small goals at the end of the season,” Kevin Bieksa said of the Canucks newest piece of hardware, captured when they downed the Edmonton Oilers 3-0 on Saturday night. “We'll definitely take it but now we're looking forward to the playoffs and getting a good start there.”
Oh geez. The playoffs. Something else to worry about.
In keeping with the larger themes of their season, much of the Canucks' effort on Saturday night was a source of great concern for their following. For 35 minutes, they failed to beat Edmonton Oilers' goalie Devan Dubnyk, largely because of their mind-boggling ability to hit Dubnyk squarely in the crest of his jersey from everywhere on the ice. At the other end, the Oilers didn't exactly have the Canucks under siege but they did hit the post twice behind Roberto Luongo.
Given the table stakes – we are talking about the Presidents' Trophy after all - it wasn't exactly what the faithful had in mind and the sense of unhappiness at The Rog was intensifying as the game wore on.
But, again in keeping with the larger themes of their season, the Canucks found a way and it was revealing the TSN turning point wasn't a big goal or a big save but, rather, a hit delivered by Max Lapierre on the Oilers' Darcy Hordichuk which drew four minutes in retaliatory penalties.
Bieksa, for one, glowed about Lapierre's effort after the game.
“Didn't see the hit,” he said. “But I'll take your word for it. It seemed like Edmonton wanted t give us power play practice there so we took it.”
Others, however, did take note of Lapierre's contribution.
“Max does a lot for this team,” said Henrik. “He chirps a lot but he backs it up. He's an honest player.”
You might find a different opinion outside the Canucks' locker room but, less than a minute after the penalties, the Canucks much-maligned power play stunned the crowd when Alex Edler got a point shot to the net which Henrik Sedin converted into a 1-0 lead.
A shot. A rebound. A goal. All on the power play. What will they think of next?
The Canucks then added two more in the third, including, zounds, another power-play marker and the last five minutes were all sunshine and cotton candy as the crowd rose to salute their heroes; their flawed, imperfect heroes.
“We stuck with it and we really didn't give them any chances,” said Henrik. “In the last couple of weeks we've played a lot of games like this and we've got comfortable with it.”
The Canucks, of course, now meet the L.A. Kings in the first round for the second time in three years and the postseason will doubtlessly generate a renewed level of angst in this province. But it's funny. While this market continues to work itself into a lather over everything this team is not, it seems the Canucks have a pretty clear idea of what they are.
Bieksa was asked about the difference between this year's team and last year's team.
“We've got a lot of the core guys back and we play a similar system but it's a new team with a new identity,” he said. “We go into the playoffs with a little more experience and a little smarter than last year.”
That almost sounds like they could be better than the team that made it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final last season. Good thing we know better.
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