Canucks-Flames playoff primer

 

10 things to know heading into Game 1 of the NHL’s second season

 
 
 
 
The No. 1 line still consists of Henrik Sedin (18 goals, 55 assists this season) centring brother Daniel (20 goals, 56 assists) and Alex Burrows (18 goals, 15 assists).
 

The No. 1 line still consists of Henrik Sedin (18 goals, 55 assists this season) centring brother Daniel (20 goals, 56 assists) and Alex Burrows (18 goals, 15 assists).

Photograph by: JONATHAN HAYWARD, THE CANADIAN PRESS

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Our long civic nightmare is over.

After a one-year exile into the frozen void of NHL nothingness along with cities like Edmonton and Toronto, playoff hockey returns to Vancouver tonight as the Canucks host the Calgary Flames in Game 1 of the Western Conference quarter-final. Because it’s been nearly two years since a “really” meaningful game was played at Rogers Arena and Canuck fandom has noticeably waned since 2011, we figured a playoff primer was in order.

1. Know the Canucks

The No. 1 line still consists of Henrik Sedin (18 goals, 55 assists this season) centring brother Daniel (20 goals, 56 assists) and Alex Burrows (18 goals, 15 assists). All three enjoyed resurgent seasons after struggling mightily under a former coach who must not be named (VoldeTorts). First-year Canuck Radim Vrbata led the club in goals with 31 and was named team MVP. Happy-go-lucky sophomore Eddie Lack, who took over the starting goaltender’s role when $6-million man Ryan Miller injured his knee on Feb. 22, was terrific down the stretch and will open the playoffs as the team’s No. 1 goaltender.

2. Know thy enemy

It’s been six years since the Calgary Flames last played a playoff game, and the roster has since undergone a complete makeover. They even traded that Iginla guy a few years ago. This year’s Flames shocked a lot of hockey pundits by qualifying for the playoffs. The EA Sports NHL 15 video game predicted the club would finish last overall in a season simulation. Calgary is led by a top line comprised of 20-year-old centre Sean Monahan (31 goals, 31 assists), 21-year-old rookie Johnny (Hockey) Gaudreau (24 goals, 40 assists), and 31-year-old veteran Jiri Hudler (31 goals, 45 assists).

3. History of classics

Every time the Canucks and Flames have met in a first-round series (1982, 1989, 1994 and 2004), the winner has advanced to the Stanley Cup Final. Calgary and Vancouver have met only six times before in the NHL playoffs, but the last three meetings have all been classic seven-game series that were decided in overtime. In 1989, Joel Otto KICKED in the winning goal. And they allowed it. And the Flames won. In 1994, Pavel Bure scored the winning goal — WITH HIS STICK! — in double-overtime. In 2004, current Flames assistant coach Martin Gelinas, a former Canuck turned dirty-rotten traitor, potted the Game 7 winner for Calgary.

4. Most famous Canuck fan

There are a few famous cheerleaders to choose from, but none are as passionate — or as occasionally critical — as crooner Michael Bublé. Bublé has practised with the Canucks, helped call games in the broadcast booth, and even raked former coach Alain Vigneault over the coals in a 2009 piece in The Vancouver Sun. Actors Ryan Reynolds, Pam Anderson and Cobie Smulders are also devout Canuck fans.

5. Most-famous Flames fan

Vancouver, being Hollywood North, has the big edge in this category although Calgary-raised wrestler Bret (The Hitman) Hart, film director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) and Richard Dean Anderson of MacGyver fame, have all pledged allegiance to the Flames at one time or another.

6. Watching the game on TV

Despite the fact that Rogers has exclusive broadcast rights to the NHL playoffs for the next 12 years (thanks to the $5.2-billion deal they inked last year), every game in this series will be shown on CBC. Mother Corp. may not earn a nickel of ad revenue from the games, but the big audience allows them to promote other CBC programming. So, get ready for a steady onslaught of Murdoch Mysteries promos. Hockey Night In Canada’s top team of Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson will call the series, much to the chagrin of some Calgary bellyachers who believe Hughson, a former Canuck broadcaster, is a Vancouver homer.

7. Going to the games

Unlike past playoffs in Vancouver, these games at Rogers Arena aren’t guaranteed sellouts. There are still plenty of tickets available through Ticketmaster — ranging in price from $81.75 to $295.50 (plus fees) — for Games 1 and 2 in Vancouver. If you want to travel to Calgary, you’ll have to buy secondary-market tickets as the Saddledome will be sold out. The cheapest ticket for Game 3 on Seatgeek.com is listed at $317. That’s for a nosebleed seat. It’s still a lot cheaper than playoff-mad Winnipeg, where Jets tickets sold out in five minutes and scalpers are asking for more than $1,000 for an upper-deck ticket.

8. Watching at the bar

Which bars and pubs are showing the Canucks games? Just about every one of them, but you’ll find the largest TV in Vancouver, a 291-inch curved HD projection screen, at the Boston Pizza at 808 Beatty St. Finding a watering hole in the city not showing the games is a much more difficult task. The Storm Crow Tavern (1305 Commercial Dr.), Narrow Lounge (1898 Main St.), Portland Craft (3835 Main St.) and the Alibi Room (157 Alexander St.) are among the proud hockey-free zones.

9. Sociable

This is the first Twitter series between the Flames and Canucks. The social media network has changed the way sports fans interact with each other. It should be fun — but prepare for it to get nasty. For online commentary, The Sun’s own Pass It To Bulis and Canucks Army reign supreme among Vancouver hockey bloggers. Their counterparts in Calgary are Matchsticks and Gasoline, and Flames Nation.

10. Playoff traditions

During the Flames’ 2004 Stanley Cup run, Calgary gained notoriety for its Red Mile. After each game, Flames fans partied along 17th Avenue and women doffed their tops like they were on a Mardi Gras vacation in New Orleans — and not just sloppy drunk in Calgary. Canuck fans also partied during their 2011 Cup run, but many of them got really mad after that Game 7 loss to the Boston Bruins. They smashed stuff and lit things on fire. Fans did the same thing in 1994. Let’s end that tradition.

Sbrown@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/browniescott

 
 
 
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The No. 1 line still consists of Henrik Sedin (18 goals, 55 assists this season) centring brother Daniel (20 goals, 56 assists) and Alex Burrows (18 goals, 15 assists).
 

The No. 1 line still consists of Henrik Sedin (18 goals, 55 assists this season) centring brother Daniel (20 goals, 56 assists) and Alex Burrows (18 goals, 15 assists).

Photograph by: JONATHAN HAYWARD, THE CANADIAN PRESS

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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