Even with the success of the Canucks over the last while, when I think of this team, this is the jersey I picture. Even with the years of Sedinery we've been blessed with, and the glory days of the West Coast Express, the team was never more fun to watch than the 90's. Trevor Linden. Kirk McLean. Cliff Ronning. Gino Odjick. Dave Babych. Jyrki Lumme. And of course, the Russian Rocket: Pavel Bure. I feel genuinely sorry for those of you who never got to witness him play live. Television simply did not do him justice in those days. His skating stride was so powerful, his acceleration other-worldly, and he was the first player of this franchise who could literally bring the long-suffering fans of the Canucks out of their seats every time he touched the puck.
That season started well, the Canucks got off to a 7-3-0 start (remember ties, kids?), but from that point on they were a .500 hockey team essentially, and in April they went 3-4-0, backing into the playoffs in 7th in the West, seemingly fodder for a Calgary Flames Cup run. The Flames were only a couple years removed from their only Cup, and were still a dominant team. Heading into the first round, it didn't look like the Canucks had a prayer, but it was what went down on March 14th that changed everything.
The St Louis Blues had signed Canucks 1st round bust Petr Nedved and were owed compensation according to the NHL, so they sent Craig Janney and a 2nd round pick to the Canucks. Pat Quinn was the coach and GM at the time, and he would make a trade a week later at the deadline that will go down as one of the best in the team's history. He sent Janney back to the Blues, and brought over 3 pieces that would be huge in the run that the Canucks were about to go on: Jeff Brown, Bret Hedican and Nathan Lafayette.
The additions of Brown and Hedican made the Canucks D a lot better, joining Dave Babych, Gerald Diduck, Dana Murzyn and Jyrki Lumme, a core that would help the Canucks moving forward. It didn't look like they were going anywhere though. They went down 3-1 to the Flames, blowing a 1-0 series lead to lose 3 straight, and looked like they were done in Game 5, when Geoff Courtnall ended it in OT, giving the Canucks some life and hope heading back to Vancouver.
They would need more overtime magic in Game 6, and this time they'd get it from their heart and soul leader, Trevor Linden.
That set the stage for Game 7, and well... we all know how that one turned out.
Though he would go on to score a much bigger goal later in the playoffs, how about that goal by Greg Adams to tie the game? Total power move to the net to tuck it past Mike Vernon.
The Canucks might have had to face another powerhouse team in Round 2, but they were done a serious solid by the San Jose Sharks, who upset the Western Conference leading Detroit Red Wings in 7 games, setting up a 2nd round tango with the Dallas Stars.
Dallas proved to be a somewhat easier opponent, this Canucks team now riding a wave of confidence, led by Bure, Linden and Kirk McLean, who had a goaltending performance for the ages in that run. After an OT winner from Sergio Momesso in Game 4, the Canucks looked to wrap things up against the Stars at home.
They'd get the opening goal from Nathan Lafayette, a rookie whose name will live in infamy in Canucks history. They'd take a 2-0 lead as Trevor Linden stole a puck from Grant Ledyard and set up an unguarded Pavel Bure out front against Andy Moog, and that was his 5th of the series, and tied him with Linden for the goal scoring lead at the time with his 8th of the playoffs. Mike Modano would narrow the lead, but the Canucks replied with a Murray Craven goal to make it 3-1 in the 2nd.
Bure was a man possessed in this game, every time he touched the puck you got the feeling he could score. By the way, check out the world class flop by Moog around the 16:20 mark of this video. Classic. Bure would score another breakaway stunner and make it 4-1, Modano would score again to make it 4-2 late, but that was as close as they would get. The Canucks would move on to the Conference finals against... the Toronto Maple Leafs? The Leafs would need 7 games to dispatch the plucky Sharks after eliminating Chicago in 6 during the quarter finals.
The Leafs were also a formidable opponent, finishing one point ahead of the Flames, and coming off a disappointing loss to the Kings in Conference Finals the previous year. Toronto would win the first game in OT, with Peter Zezel's 2nd of the game. The Canucks would even things up at MLG with a 4-3 win, getting goals from Bure, Brown, Craven and Lumme. That set the stage for Kirk McLean, as the Canucks returned to Vancouver. He would shut out the Leafs twice, 4-0 in Game 3 (2 goals from Bure plus Adams and Martin Gelinas), and 2-0 in Game 4, Bure again and Cliff Ronning. Game 5 would go to OT as well. The Leafs got goals from Mike Eastwood, Wendell Clark and Doug Gilmour, and the Canucks responded with Adams, Craven and Lafayette before Greg Adams ended it 14 seconds into the 2nd OT, sending the Canucks to the finals to meet the New York Rangers.
I could go on about that series, but here's a link that has all of the games for you in one playlist.
On to tonight's game. The Canucks have played better the last couple games, getting a couple wins, whereas the Leafs, fresh off trading Captain Dion Phaneuf to their hated rivals in Ottawa, are in full on tank mode. There's also a huge milestone tonight, as Henrik Sedin becomes the all time leader in games played for the Canucks. They will also be looking to extend their home ice dominance over the Leafs that dates back to 2003.
Ryan Miller will go for the Canucks, and James Riemer will be playing the role of Felix 'The Cat' Potvin tonight for the Leafs. Another interesting storyline for tonight is the return of Frank Corrado to Vancouver after he was claimed by the Leafs on waivers. Will Corrado be a difference maker? Probably not, but if he does anything, expect it to be blown out of proportion. Brendan Leipsic will make his NHL debut tonight, so look for him to score on a Sbisa giveaway. Apparently he's a Brad Marchand wannabe, so let's keep your heads on swivels tonight as this future dbag tries to make a name for himself.
FRESH HOT LINKS
- It's awesome to see Jeff Patterson back at it, and here's his first piece for the Province, on Ben Hutton and hope for the future
- Speaking of the future, Hunter Shinkaruk knows his time is coming
- They're raising money for the BC SPCA tonight to help take care of the 66 dogs rescued from a puppy mill recently, and to bring attention to it, the Canucks brought their own dogs to the rink
- The GMan thinks the Canucks should avoid going full tank
GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN
1994 was a stellar year for metal. Pantera's Far Beyond Driven stormed to the top of the charts with no radio play whatsoever, and we saw the emergence of black metal from Norway with 4 massive releases by Emperor, Burzum, Mayhem and Darkthrone. It remains one of my favorite years for metal, so many hugely influential releases seeing the light of day, so picking one wasn't an easy task. I settled on a track from another massive debut in 94: Machine Head's Burn My Eyes. Machine Head featured former Vio-Lence guitarist Robb Flynn, and the album came out of nowhere to kick everyone's ass. They've been pretty hit and miss over the years, but this album stands up pretty well as a start to stop rager. Here's Davidian for ya, and here's to a big win over the bloody Leafs, just like old times.