VANCOUVER -- The entire city wanted to believe. Who didn't? But down 3-1 in the first round of the NHL playoffs, the Presidents' Cup-winning Vancouver Canucks didn't look too solid heading into overtime in Game 5 at home, especially after giving up the tying goal to the Los Angeles Kings early in the third period.
LOS ANGELES -- Destiny's Doormat lives.
Dustin Brown, roaring down the boards to deliver a malevolent hit that left Henrik Sedin gasping for breath and clawing for help from his bench. As a metaphor, it worked pretty nicely: The captain of the Kings all but knocking out the captain of the Canucks.
Season series: Canucks win, 2-1-1
In the misspent days of my television-watching youth in the 1950s -- this is so long ago that the remote control consisted of getting off the couch, crossing the room and turning the dial to one of the five other channels -- my favorite show was the after-school classic, The Mickey Mouse Club. (This Disney reference is only tangential to hockey, unlike Wayne Gretzky's 1984 off-the-cuff assessment of the Devils as a Mickey Mouse organization, and, of course, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, but please stick with me.) The show's best day was Wednesday, known as Anything Can Happen Day. It's a memory, like Proust's madeleine, that flooded over me like hot Zamboni water recently during a chat with Predators coach Barry Trotz.
VANCOUVER -- British Columbia is still beautiful, as one February walk through its largest city confirms. No burning cars, no broken store windows, no police officers with billy clubs held high, no foolish young men flexing phony muscles for pictures that probably will put some of them behind bars.
You get plenty of correspondence in this business, and my natural guilt complex makes me always want to give at least a sentence or two in reply. You take the time to write, I'll take the time to respond, even to the haters. Of course, when I blow up and become world famous (any day now, any day) that might change.
1. Sidney Crosby and the concussion epidemic. There are many years when you could argue that Crosby has been the focal point of hockey. This is another of those years, unfortunately for less than sanguine reasons. The Penguins' captain bracketed 2011 from Day 1 until the December reoccurrence of his concussion symptoms that have made this something other than a Merry Christmas season.
During the last two calendar years, Roberto Luongo has won Olympic gold and lost Stanley Cup silver, both in winner-take-all final games on home ice. He has laughed and he has cried, been saluted by hosannas and by single fingers. He draws "oooos" from Vancouver Canucks fans everywhere he goes. Sometimes the "oooos" start with an L, sometimes with a B.
Vancouver police said Monday they are recommending 163 charges against 60 people in connection with the riots after the city's hockey team lost the Stanley Cup.
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So, how was your summer vacation?
The pictures from downtown of the aftermath of their Game 7 defeat showed only too well the kind of pressure, the kind of all-encompassing attention the Vancouver Canucks faced in these Stanley Cup playoffs.
Vancouver residents help clean-up damage created when rioters hit the streets after the game. This video has no audio.
The debate of violence in hockey took new meaning in Vancouver, B.C., as fans turned their frustration over losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals into a riot-filled evening on the city's streets Wednesday night, complete with overturning and burning police vehicles and engaging in widespread looting.
Again. That feeling. You, the Canucks fan, should have been expecting it. There on the ice at Rogers Arena the Boston Bruins were passing the Stanley Cup: Zdeno Chara to Mark Recchi to Patrice Bergeron, each of them letting out a "YEAAAAH!"
I feel bad for the 99 percent of Vancouver residents who didn't riot. What a miserable day they must be having. They poured every available emotion and thought into their hockey team, per city ordinance, and their team made it all the way to the last game of the Stanley Cup Final only to get shut out at home, and then a group of highly motivated doofuses trashed the city, which means that all of North America now sees Vancouver as a city of chokers and jerks.
Police battle unruly fans after Stanley Cup loss in Vancouver. KIRO reports.
Shortly after the Bruins arrived at Rogers Arena Wednesday afternoon, injured Boston winger Nathan Horton walked out of the tunnel with a water bottle in hand. On the bench, he glanced to his left, to his right, and surreptitiously squeezed the contents of the bottle onto the Vancouver ice. Every last drop, because if there was something in the water in Boston, where the Bruins thumped the Canucks into submission and outscored them 17-3 in three games, then maybe they could use it on the road.
BOSTON -- And so the hockey world goes one more time to Vancouver, where the locals have seen their share of big, pressure-packed games in the last 16 months.
SOUTH YARMOUTH, Mass. -- As the last clinks of spoons digging for goodly bits of clam in empty chowder bowls sounded -- meaning closing time was nigh -- Gerry Manning summed the overall sentiment of the Chowd Crowd for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final:
VANCOUVER -- All eyes were going to be on Roberto Luongo. Whether he liked it or not, the Vancouver goalie would be the fulcrum of the series. After two substantial losses in Boston, he returned home, needing to prove, yet again, that his psyche isn't made of porcelain. It's not the first time the goalie shouldered that pressure; it wasn't even the first time he felt it this spring.
An unexpected visitor ambled into the Boston Bruins' dressing room after their 4-0 win in Game 4 on Wednesday night. Nathan Horton, who some 50 hours earlier had been lying motionless on the ice after taking a crushing hit from Aaron Rome, came carrying the bomber jacket the team awards to the night's hero, and, of course, he was wearing a smile. It was a most welcome sight to the Bruins, whose last vision of their teammate was of him being taken off the ice immobilized on a stretcher.
BOSTON -- A pall had been cast over TD Garden just five minutes into Game 3. Near center ice laid Bruins winger Nathan Horton, stunned and motionless, after absorbing a late and devastating hit by Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome.
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- This beautiful city deserves a Stanley Cup and it certainly feels like the chalice will be delivered sometime soon.
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Naturally, this is what it would take to get them talking about something else. Alexandre Burrows knew it; his father even reminded him this week. If everyone had to talk about his son, Rodney Burrows would prefer it have nothing to do with that now-infamous (though according to the NHL, still inconclusive) bite on Bruins center Patrice Bergeron.
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Three weeks ago, after the Bruins had lost the opening game of the Eastern Conference finals to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston center David Krejci seemed exasperated by the unceasing questions regarding the team's impotent power play.
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- It was only Game 1, and yet it quickly developed as many storylines as a soap opera: a bitter duel between top goaltenders, crushing hip checks, shoves, shouts. Maybe even a chomp.
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- In the front lobby of Rogers Arena, a mural of a timeline adorns the far wall, mapping out the history of the Canucks. But besides the formation of the franchise in 1970 and the building of its arena in 1995, just two milestone years seem to be worth noting: 1982 and 1994.
Season series: Boston wins, 1-0
If you compare it to a car, the shot that won the Western Conference title for the Vancouver Canucks was a 1975 Dodge Dart, almost out of gas, the muffler scraping along the pavement into the service station as it arrives just in time. It was not the kind of goal one might expect to prompt confetti falling from the rafters and make a city rejoice in the streets.
There were more injuries to report in Sunday's Game 4 of the Western Conference finals between San Jose and Vancouver, including one to Sharks captain and playoff leading scorer, Joe Thornton. No word yet on the rotator cuffs of referees Kelly Surherland and Eric Furlatt.
The game had the flow of California's Highway 101, that slim corridor connecting Silicon Valley to San Francisco and parts beyond. Which is to say, unless we're talking 3 a.m. on a holiday weekend -- and only then -- it was not a game that flowed very freely at all, Friday's Game 3 of the Western finals between the Sharks and Canucks.
Gordie Howe Hat Tricks are rare enough in regular-season NHL games. In the playoffs? You're more likely to see humility from Donald Trump.
This was sort of a typical Game 1 affair in that both sides played hard, but not with the same sense of immediacy that much of this spring's playoff tournament has wrought. After all, the Sharks came in off a dramatic Game 7 win over Detroit and the Canucks also had Game 7 success in the first round and a hard fought six-game set that they'd closed out on the road in Nashville six days earlier.
Season series: Canucks win, 3-1
As dramatic as the Predators made this series by winning Game 5 in Vancouver, the encore performance proved rather anti-climactic. Other than the implication of the outcome, this had all the sizzle of two road-weary teams in February. In the end, the Canucks moved onto the Western Conference finals ... and the Preds go home after their most successful playoff run in franchise history.
Somebody cue the Alec Baldwin, "You guys think you're closers?"scene from "Glengarry Glen Ross." Somebody show the Vancouver Canucks the part when Shelley "The Machine" Levene is told to "Put that coffee down -- coffee is for closers only" by Baldwin.
The NHL's last, best chance for any drama in its conference semifinal series seemed to die a dull death Thursday night in Nashville. With one series already having ended in a sweep and two others at 3-0, it was left to the hometown Predators to create at least one rubber Game 5 to this round.
1. Ryan Kesler, Canucks: Here's a suggestion for Nashville defensemen: Stop taking penalties against this guy in key moments. For the second straight game of this Western semifinal series between the Predators and Canucks, Kesler drew a call on a star Nashville defenseman, then rubbed it in with a game-winning goal off a power play.
1. Ryan Kesler, Canucks: No more "Ryan Kesler is still in search of his first playoff goal" stories. The Canucks center took care of that increasingly popular hockey media topic with two goals -- including the game-winner -- and an assist in Vancouver's tough 3-2 overtime win at Nashville in Game 3 of its Western Conference semifinals. Kesler's tip of Mikael Samuelsson's shot from the point capped off a memorable night, including a power-play marker a minute into the second period to get Vancouver even 1-1. In the third period, he made the play to set up Chris Higgins for a go-ahead goal. True, Kesler's no goals in nine previous games was a bit alarming, but it's not like the Michigan native had been doing nothing. He came into the contest with five assists and a plus-3 and helped limit Chicago's Jonathan Toews to one goal and a minus-4 in the first round.
Regular season series: tied 2-2
If there was a question as to the readiness of the Vancouver Canucks to move on from their first-round series, it was answered early in their 1-0 victory Thursday night over the Nashville Predators. They were the faster, more determined team from the outset.
1. Alex Burrows, Canucks: So what if it was really an up-and-down game for the winger, who scored the opening goal, missed a penalty shot and then took a hooking minor early in OT? Well, burying the overtime game-winner can erase a host of sins, can't it? The winger might not have been the best player on the ice, but the Canucks' second-round ticket was punched on his stick. Gloving down a Chris Campoli clearing attempt, Burrows found himself alone in the slot and launched a shot that beat Corey Crawford, giving the Canucks the 2-1 win to defeat the Blackhawks, the team that has ousted Vancouver from the playoffs the last two years.
CHICAGO -- Wow! ... where to begin with this one. Coming into Game 6, the big news was Brent Seabrook returning to the Blackhawks lineup after missing the past two outings since Raffi Torres felled him with a vicious hit in Game 3. That soon became old news when goaltender Cory Schneider led the Vancouver Canucks onto the ice for warmups. That is the starter's position, not the backup's duty. And with that simple revelation, coach Alain Vigneault's plan to opt for the rookie Schneider over all-star Roberto Luongo became public knowledge.
CHICAGO -- So, the defending Stanley Cup champs have some fight left in them after all.
Down 2-0 in the series, the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks returned home to stare down the Vancouver Canucks. The energy of the fans inside the United Center would lead to a fast start for the locals -- and that was the hope of Joel Quenneville when talking to him Sunday morning. It played out that way, too, with Duncan Keith blasting a slap shot past Roberto Luongo to send the faithful into a frenzy and give the Blackhawks their first lead of the series.
In the beginning, there was the blue and green uniform with a hockey stick "C." If you had ever tried to leave your house wearing that color combination, your mother would have accused you of dressing in the dark.
Regular season series: Tied 2-2
The members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association vote for the following NHL postseason awards, a curious exercise in making the news instead of merely reporting it. The writers, of course, also help make history. When the Hall of Fame committee meets each June, the number of Hart, Norris or even Selke trophies that a player wins during the course of his career often helps frame the deliberations or even tips a candidacy in one direction or the other, changing the life of a player if not the course of human events.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- The Vancouver Canucks have recalled forward Victor Oreskovich from Manitoba of the American Hockey League after losing Mason Raymond to an apparent shoulder injury during Sunday's 3-0 win in Anaheim.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- The Vancouver Canucks acquired defenseman Ryan Parent and forward Jonas Andersson from the Nashville Predators for defenseman Shane O'Brien and forward Dan Gendur on Tuesday.
Game 6 of this Western semifinal was a contrast in conviction. From the outset, the Chicago Blackhawks played as if they knew they could win. Conversely, the Vancouver Canucks started the game tentatively -- with a whiff of losing as a possibility.
The playoff march is an every-other-day saga of games and mini-dramas. The outcome one night leads to off-day questions that are left to be answered on the next. It's a dizzying and exhilarating rite of spring across the NHL. Let's look at some examples from the Conference Semifinals.
It's just as well that Roberto Luongo lost his bid for a second career playoff shutout late in Sunday's 4-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, because a whitewashing might have given the impression that the play of the beleaguered netminder was the reason the Vancouver Canucks live to fight another day.
1. Kevin Bieksa, Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks find themselves in an unwelcome situation against the Blackhawks, down 3-1 heading into Sunday's Game 5 tilt in Chicago. After welcoming this matchup as a way to atone for last season's ouster at the hands of these very same Blackhawks, the Canucks have lost their way. The Blackhawks have reeled off three consecutive wins after the Canucks opened the series with a convincing 5-2 triumph.
This was the series that the Vancouver Canucks wanted. All season long, they craved a shot at redemption versus the Chicago Blackhawks -- the team that ousted them in the Western Conference Semi-Finals a year ago. Be careful what you wish for.
Please excuse Roberto Luongo while he re-attaches his head. It got knocked around pretty good in Game 2 by gentlemen from Chicago. Rarely in the recent and more stringent NHL has a team been able to make as much contact with an opposing goalie as the Blackhawks did with the Canucks' netminder on Monday night.
CHICAGO -- Redemption is a soothing balm indeed, even in the bruising NHL playoff wars. Kris Versteeg was hearing the catcalls from the stands. The Chicago winger had misfired on a couple of shots early and was pressing for his first goal of the playoffs. It didn't help that his Blackhawks had already been blown out of Game 1 against the Canucks at home Saturday night and were down 2-1 in the second game on Monday. In the second period, Versteeg broke his stick on one shift and dropped it to the ice before skating off. Before the next whistle, two Vancouver passes hit the stick as it lay on the ice, knocking the passes away from their intended targets. The 22,000 fans in the United Center were getting grumpy with their team, and Versteeg was an easy target. Before the linesman could remove the broken stick and before the organist could start playing once the play stopped, a loud fan, acknowledging the passes that were deflected by the stick, yelled, "Hey, Versteeg, best shift you've
Season Series: Tied, 2-2 Oct. 21: Vancouver 3, Chicago 2 Nov. 22: Chicago 1, Vancouver 0 Jan. 23: Vancouver 5, Chicago 1 Mar. 5: Chicago 6, Vancouver 3
As they eagerly await the outcome of the Blackhawks-Predators series, the Canucks can take heart in knowing that they've advanced by virtue of several factors that weren't in evidence earlier in their series with the Kings: Vancouver's top players performed in crucial situations, the special teams delivered and goaltender Roberto Luongo saved his best for last. All bode well for the next round.
1. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks: Bobby Lu came up with 30 stops on the night, but it took only one to prove to his teammates that they'd be heading to the second round. He joked after the game that he was, "lucky Smitty doesn't have a heavy shot," but the rolling, desperation glove save Luongo made on Ryan Smyth exemplified how hard he battles and was probably as thrilling an individual highlight as you'll see in these playoffs.
Points to ponder heading into Day Four of the Stanley Cup playoffs ...
Click here for Eastern breakdowns.
MORE BRACKETS: Michael Farber | Darren Eliot | Kostya Kennedy | Jim Kelley | Allan Muir | Sarah Kwak
MORE BRACKETS: Michael Farber | Darren Eliot | Kostya Kennedy | Brian Cazeneuve | Allan Muir | Sarah Kwak
MORE BRACKETS: Michael Farber | Kostya Kennedy | Brian Cazeneuve | Jim Kelley | Allan Muir | Sarah Kwak
MORE BRACKETS: Darren Eliot | Kostya Kennedy | Brian Cazeneuve | Jim Kelley | Allan Muir | Sarah Kwak
"Psst, hey buddy, need a goalie? I've got one. Tim Thomas, with an up-to-date Vezina Trophy on his resume. I can let you have him real cheap, at least as cheap as a bona fide scorer with maybe a prospect and a draft pick if you're interested."
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- There's a reason we come, despite the nonsense. There's a reason we come to the Olympics still, every two years now, despite the fact that sometimes you get William Shatner or the odd, massive inflatable moose. What with all the overdone stagecraft and security hassles, the butt-covering parsing of words or the smugness of IOC officials who speak of an "Olympic movement" that never moves quite far enough when it comes to abuses committed under those oh-so-hallowed rings, it's easy to forget.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- "Ten days ago if you had said the United States would be 4-0 and the top seed and guaranteed to play in a medal game, well, to paraphrase coach Ron Wilson, you would be facing drug charges," says SI's Michael Farber. "But this team has grown up before a nation's eyes."
The topic of the day, class, is which is more surprising: Sidney Crosby leading Alexander Ovechkin in goals or Ovechkin leading Crosby in assists?
The Vancouver Canucks have managed to generate a few less-than-flattering headlines lately.
Just a week or so before the start of the season, I had the occasion to speak to Sean Burke, the newly appointed goalie coach of the Phoenix Coyotes. It was during the chaotic days when the future of the franchise was at the mercy of a bankruptcy judge, Wayne Gretzky was being replaced as coach by Dave Tippett, and Burke himself was taking over for Grant Fuhr, a friend and former teammate of Gretzky who was carefully being eased into the role of roving consultant. With a relatively short time to fully assess the situation, Burke made a simple declarative statement:
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- Goaltender Roberto Luongo chose to finish his career in Vancouver because he believes the Canucks can win a Stanley Cup.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- The Vancouver Canucks have signed veteran free agent defenseman Mathieu Schneider to a one-year contract.
From now on, I'm taking everything Dave Nonis says literally.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin have agreed to five-year contract extensions with the Vancouver Canucks less than an hour before the start of free agency.
A no-movement clause aint worth what it used to be, but for the Sedin twins it was enough to seal the deal that sees them forego free agency to remain with the Vancouver Canucks.
The Dallas Stars hired Marc Crawford as their new coach Thursday, bringing in a well-traveled NHL veteran to replace the fired Dave Tippett.
With the conference finals underway it seems like a good time to address some of your questions and comments. Let's dip into the old mailbag...
The Blackhawks could be on their last wing right now, could be down three games to one heading into Vancouver tonight, and no one, not even their most faithful followers, could rightly complain.
The Detroit Red Wings are a veteran team and, by and large, they don't get overly excited about things that are out of their control. But the blown goal call in Tuesday night's 2-1 to Anaheim has the potential to change all that.
The Canucks played a textbook road game on Tuesday night. Two days earlier, in Game 2, they'd suffered a 6-3 drubbing when outskated decisively by the young Blackhawks, who wrested home-ice advantage. But on Tuesday, the road team withstood an energetic, five-minute opening charge. For the last 55 minutes, the Canucks poured molasses all over the game and clumped away with a well-constructed 3-1 win.
Dustin Byfuglien looks like a middle linebacker on hockey skates. At 6-foot-3, 247 pounds, the Chicago Blackhawks' right wing is stirring up the Western Conference semifinals with his physical play -- a lot of it right in front of the net.
Chicago Blackhawks netminder Nik Khabibulin hadn't beaten the Vancouver Canucks in eleven years. He had lost six-straight to counterpart Roberto Luongo, including Game One of this series. Khabibulin had that history to contend with as well as the fact that he gave up two early goals to the Canucks' power play on back-to-back point blasts from Sami Salo and Alex Edler, respectively.
Regular season series: Teams split, 2-2
Not surprisingly, the two teams with the most experience and owners of the past two Stanley Cups, the Anaheim Ducks and the defending champion Detroit Red Wings, opened closest to peak performance than any of the eight remaining teams. Both clubs knew how to throw the pace-of-play switch for the second round and that they are playing one another, makes that series the most intriguing. Apologies to Mr. Crosby and Ovechkin, et al.
For 40 minutes, the Chicago Blackhawks did all they could to undermine their best efforts. They put the hometown Canucks on the power play seven times in the first two periods. The only possible good news is that the 'Hawks penalty killers got the job done six times. Still, the Canucks easily staked themselves to a 3-0 lead heading into the third.
SI.com NHL writers analyze the aftermath of the first round and look ahead to the conference semi-finals.
Jonathan Toews, the 20-year-old captain of the Chicago Blackhawks, got his first taste of the playoffs and like so many of his young teammates, he found out just how different it is from the regular season. And how difficult.
If I were Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price, I would spend the rest of my offseason trying to remember one thing: Roberto Luongo was a kid once, and so was Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, Dominik Hasek, Ken Dryden, Bernie Parent and all the great and near-great goalies who have populated the NHL.
In spite of the perception that owning a sports franchise is a license to print money, the opposite is often true in the NHL. The most recent case: the Dallas Stars.
Allow me to be brutally honest with the devoted and deflated fans of the St. Louis Blues:
Regular season series: split 2-2 Jan. 9: Blues 6 at Canucks 4 Feb. 10: at Blues 4, Canucks 6 Mar. 19: Blues 0 at Canucks 3 Mar. 26: at Blues 4, Canucks 2
It was just one win, and it came at the expense of a team that was battered both physically and emotionally. But for the Calgary Flames, their 2-1 victory over Dallas on Thursday night still counted for the two points that put them back on top of the Northwest Division.
Canucks forward Taylor Pyatt left the team after his fiancee was killed in a car accident.
Marty Brodeur setting the all-time mark for wins by a goaltender prompted much musing along historical lines and rightfully so. Yet, this is also the time of year when players far removed from all-time status often play vital roles for teams fighting to survive beyond the regular schedule, or once the playoffs commence.
SI.com's NHL writers will periodically discuss the latest news and address hot topics from around the league. This week: a look back at the first half of the season and a look forward to the stretch run.