The dog days of summer are slowly coming to a close and the month-long tease of training camp and preseason is nearly here, meaning that real NHL hockey is will soon be upon us. As I anxiously wait for October 6, and continue to try to remind myself about how amazing the 2010-11 season was in spite of the way it ended, I have put together a Top 10 list of goals from the year.
The list is very arbitrary. Ask another Canucks fan and perhaps only two or three of these goals would appear on his or her list. Some goals are obvious (e.g. Burrows' Game 7 OT-winner against Chicago) while others were/are meaningful to me for other reasons. The list is quite playoff heavy, which is not surprising given the magnitude of those games. Feel free to share any gems I've missed in the comments section.
A garbage goal by the fourth line to put the Canucks ahead 5-1 in a relatively meaningless midseason game would not usually qualify for such a list. The goal is included not for its quality or its impact, but for the hard work of Rick Rypien, who earned an assist on the goal and a well-deserved shout-out from John Garrett. It was Rypien's only point of the season and his final point in the NHL. RIP Rick. You will be missed.
The Canucks clinched the President's Trophy in this victory, defeating the Kings 3-1, and Ehrhoff scored this game-winner with milliseconds left in the second period. I remember feeling elated watching this goal, as its hustle, precision, and ridiculous under-the-gun timing all combined to make it a thing of beauty. I seem to recall a particularly excited intermission on the NM game thread that night, as we all ranted and raved about Ehrhoff's goal. Another great thing about it? The Canucks did not allow a shot in the third period - meaning that this goal preceded 20 minutes of defensive dominance.
The goal that brought the Canucks within one game of the Stanley Cup. Sadly, this was the high point of the Finals and I try not to think about what followed. But for one glorious night Lapierre brought Canucks fans one step closer to that still-elusive championship, and for that this goal is worth cherishing.
This pretty goal held up as the game winner in Game 2 against the Blackhawks. It showcases the Sedins and Burrows at their best, criss-crossing at top speed and keeping the defense on its toes. Watch how hard the line makes Duncan Keith, one of the best defenders in the game, work to not even get a sniff at making a defensive play. The sweet shot by Daniel is the cherry on the top of this sundae.
In arguably the most exciting regular season game of the year, this beauty by Henrik stood out. Beautiful pass by Daniel and ridiculous finish by Hank. Amazing.
Coming into this game Ryan Kesler had never scored an NHL hat-trick, though he had come within a post of bagging a couple earlier in the season. That all changed in overtime against the Blue Jackets, when a nice feed by Daniel Sedin gave Kesler a chance he couldn't miss. I remember yelling loudly when Kesler popped this goal some time around 1 A.M. EST, and vaguely wondering whether I might have woken up my neighbours. It was just so exciting to see Kesler get the hat-trick in such dramatic overtime fashion. And once the floodgates opened, they did not close - Kesler netted two more hat-tricks in the latter half of the season.
#4. Raffi Torres vs. Boston Bruins (June 1, 2011)
See #8 for my abbreviated thoughts about this series. Nonetheless, this goal was the best memory of the Finals for me. I was out at a bar, and settling in for what looked like it would a lengthy overtime, when seemingly out-of-the-blue the puck went cross-ice from Kesler to Jannik Hansen and then back into the middle for a charging Torres to poke past an over-committed Thomas. I threw my hat across the bar, hugged friends, and high-fived random Torontonian strangers. It was an incredible start to the series.
#3a. Ryan Kesler vs. San Jose Sharks (May 24, 2011)
I wanted to include this goal because, without its last-second drama, we would have had no Stanchion-to-Bieksa magic. I wasn't thrilled about the prospect of dropping Game 5 to the Sharks, as it would put them one home-ice victory away from forcing a deciding Game 7. Thankfully Kesler had this beautiful tip to tie the game, meaning we would soon get...
#3b. Kevin Bieksa vs. San Jose Sharks (May 24, 2011)
Not the prettiest goal. In fact, maybe the ugliest conference winner ever. But it is now the stuff of Canucks legend, and it ranks this high because of its significance not because of its aesthetic value. "AND THE VANCOUVER CANUCKS ARE GOING TO THE STANLEY CUP FINAL!!!"
#2. Ryan Kesler vs. Nashville Predators (May 5, 2011)
The most brilliant moment from Kesler's brilliant 2010-11 season. Two words: BEAST MODE. That is all.
#1. Alex Burrows vs. Chicago Blackhawks (April 26, 2011)
Yes, it was only Round 1. But if the Canucks lost this game it would have gone down as the worst choke job of all-time. The President's Trophy winners, with a 3-0 stranglehold on the series, fall apart and lose to the rival Blackhawks for the third straight season. Can you imagine? This would have been the worst off-season ever had the Canucks lost this game. I felt physically ill for the two days leading up to this game, and spent the entire game nervously gulping beer, chewing my nails, and fidgeting. I was nervous as hell. And when Jonathan Toews scored to tie it with only a few minutes remaining, shorthanded to boot, I just had this horrible sinking feeling that we were going to blow this. Sadly, 25 years as a Canucks fan has conditioned me to expect the worst.
Enter Alex Burrows. I have never had as emotional an outburst following a sports event as I did when Burrows scored. My brother slid on his knees towards the TV, yelling and pumping his fists. I half-hugged, half-tackled him, and suddenly we were rolling around on my living room floor half-laughing and half-crying in excitement and relief. I have watched this YouTube clip dozens of times since it happened, and it doesn't get old. For me, this is up there with Pavel Bure's OT-winner against the Flames and Greg Adams OT-winner vs. the Leafs in 1994 in the pantheon of epic Canucks moments. What a ridiculous way to end that series and to, finally, slay the dragon.