Well, damn. As we think back to the summer, the 2nd straight loss to the Blackhawks still stinging, we saw the Vancouver Canucks management make some changes to this team. And some of us saw a glimmer of hope. And when the Canucks talked about changing their attitudes, getting the yapping and complaining out of their game, we saw that this was a change that could only lead to good things. And as the season started to unfold, the new players showing their worth over the ones they replaced. The defence, riddled with injuries all season long was a revolving door that led directly to Manitoba. 13 different D men suited up in blue & green during the regular season, and the transition was seamless for the most part. The wins began to pile up, this team found ways to win. The Canucks became known for their growing legion of fans out of town, showing up in sometimes jaw-dropping numbers at road games, most notably the California roadtrip in the spring, where they drowned out fans in LA, Anaheim, San Jose and Phoenix. They clinched the Western Conference before anyone had clinched a playoff spot. The Presidents' Trophy soon followed, and their reward? A 1st round matchup with the team that caused so much heartbreak the last couple seasons.
That 1st round series was a war, wasn't it? 2 years of frustration came out in that series, and the Canucks almost let it slip away as Chicago battled back to tie the series and force a Game 7. And hearts across Canuck Nation pounded, fearful that this amazing season could come to an end once again to this most hated of rivals. Cue Alexandre Burrows, slayer of dragons. His goal sent them off to the 2nd round and a grinding defensive battle against the Nashville Predators. A strong performance by Pekka Rinne and smothering defence from Shea Weber and Ryan Suter shut down the Sedins. Enter the Keslord. Ryan Kesler emerged as a legitimate superstar in that series, putting the team on his back. The term 'beast mode' has never been used more appropriately.
Round 3, and they face a team with as much pressure and expectations as the Canucks in the San Jose Sharks. Two teams derided by many as playoff chokers. The 1st and 2nd place teams in the West, and something had to give. This was the way it was supposed to be. This time, Henrik and Daniel Sedin led the way. Henrik's offensive outburst was nothing short of amazing, and incredible performances from Kevin Bieksa all series long led to the double OT winner.
Roberto Luongo. There is no other goalie in the game that gets as much garbage hurled at him by the media, opposing fans and our own teams. And with the exception of those 2 games against Chicago, Roberto has been so damn good. Sure he's given up some clunkers. Name a goalie this playoff year who hasn't. Three series, three goalies who were supposed to beat him, and three goalies who are on the outside looking in. He stole that game last night, and did exactly what he was supposed to do when the Canucks brought him here from Florida. The Luongo doubters are running out of ammunition. The ones who have spent years bashing the Sedins, Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows are being forced to choke down their words.
This team was built for this. This is where they're supposed to be. For every fan who's been here from day 1. The ones that stuck by them through playoff disappointments and losing seasons. Bad bounces and unexplainable collapses. All of those bad memories can be erased if the Canucks can win their 70th game. In a game where stats and number are devoured by the faithful, little coincidences and quirks have appeared all year long for the Canucks. Winning the Conference Final in the 2nd OT of Game 5 like they did 17 years ago. If you believe in signs, they're all there. If you believe in this team, you feel it. It's coming, friends. And after 40 years of blood, sweat and tears, it's not a moment too soon.
You simply cannot credit the coaching staff of this team enough. Bringing in Newell Brown on special teams, and the adjustments that Alain Vigneault and Rick Bowness made all season long. Getting everyone to buy in. Adjusting their systems to beat other teams at their own game, which was most notable in the Nashville series. And Mike Gillis? The moves he made both in the offseason, bringing in Manny Malhotra, Dan Hamhuis, Raffi Torres and Keith Ballard, and the deadline deals that brought us Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre have paid huge dividends. And the depth this team has amassed has been evident all season long, as the injuries mounted, the Canucks barely batted an eyelash.
So now, a few days to rest up the bruises and aches. And for the fans, we will sit on the edge of our seats, some wanting a matchup with the Bruins that seems fated (see the EA Sports predicition), while others will he hoping the Eastern Final goes 7 leading to a Tampa Bay win. For now, we watch and wait. No album today, I just wanna get this out to y'all. Believe in Blue.