This is the 107th game for the Canucks this season. In the previous 106 we've paid close attention to the lines and pairings, loaded up on the relevant statistics, developed our rallying cries and hunkered down for the assault. No one needs to tell you the next three periods are different.
There is no greater representation of pressure than a game seven with zero room for error and Stanley waiting in the wings. Tonight is hockey's apex. Nothing will top it. Nothing.
You've read the statistics, watched the interviews, seen the press conferences, tolerated the talking heads, inhaled all the opinions. None of it matters. This game won't be won in a discussion thread, in the newspapers or in 140 characters or less. The background vitriol in the past couple of weeks can mercifully go silent. No one gets to vote. No one's opinion is valid. No one can predict the next new hours. No one.
All that remains is the final chance to be the better team. Only a special kind of athlete can endure the two month trek and remain dedicated to the vision, resolve and sacrifice it takes to earn the Cup. So the question is this: does Vancouver have the craving and desire to leave every ounce of effort - and then some - on their home ice and finish what they started 106 games ago? Only they know the answer.
For those of us in the nosebleeds: be proud and crack a smile. Seriously. You've exhausted how many hours, lost how many nights of sleep, invested how much of your hard-earned for the right to revel in this experience? All the nicknames this community has come up with, the chants, Photoshops, videos and animated gifs that gunked up the internet tubes? It was all for this moment. This blog has over 4,200 Canucks stories, many of them inspired by your faithful writers for the slim chance to even scribble notes about a game like this. Never forget what a unique and gut-wrenching pleasure it is to see your team engage at the highest level the sport offers with absolutely everything on the line.
Which leads me to the only thing I know for certain: it's been my pleasure to have written for you this season. With every comment, email and tweet you've made the dizzying highs and perilous lows worth every step of this long haul. Before the puck drops there will be a drink (or two) in my hands raised for you and, by extension, all hockey fans tuning in to see the best in the business battle until only one is left standing. Thank you.
I have, for some time, been thinking it would be a good thing if there were a challenge cup, which should be held, from year to year, by the champion hockey club of the Dominion.
- Lord Stanley, 1892
Earn this. EARN THIS.
Bring it home.