You get the feeling somewhere out there - behind a pile of Tim Horton blueberry fritters and a dipping cup of mayonnaise - Kyle Wellwood is giggling softly? Back in March the plucky center said Vancouver still had lessons to learn. We laughed that off, but then again Wellwood never said when we'd see it.
It's already being called the biggest game franchise history. I disagree, but can understand the sentiment. The last six periods of hockey have been tremendously disappointing. Vancouver has been uncharacteristically lazy and predictable in their offensive drives and dangerously delinquent and nervous in their own zone. We can debate scoring chances and defensive pairings until we pass out, but if the team lacks the drive to compete, it's an empty exercise. Getting the Cup is supposed to be brutally difficult and if you have to lose, go out on your shield. We've seen none of that.
The good news is these are all game sevens now and we get to see precisely who these guys are; reminds me of that Jack Dempsey quote, "A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t." Vancouver's been bloodied, but not beaten and if the fact their mistakes pissed away a 2-0 series isn't enough, then being openly criticized and mocked from sea to shining sea should force some much-needed introspection and atonement. The Canucks have to find their responsible puck management that defined their season. Sure they need the Sedins and Kesler to produce and execute, but it's more than that. The PP success will come, owning the neutral zone will come, putting the Bruins on their heels and making Thomas look human will all come, but the basics that got away from them have to come first. That's explains Tanev: he isn't flashy or risky, he's as focused and accountable in his limited role as they come. Tanev personifies the acumen of a professional hitman: cool, composed and precise. If they strive to emulate that result up and down the ranks, no one can ask for more (though a bounce or two wouldn't kill).
Lastly to my fellow fans: be brave. Ignore all the free-floating hostility. There are 28 other teams and fans who would kill to have this game. Have some faith, be proud of this roster, that jersey and this moment. Vancouver is here for a reason.
We know that hockey is where we live, where we can best meet and overcome pain and wrong and death. Life is just a place where we spend time between games.
- Fred Shero