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Ranking the Most Emotional Playoff Series in Canucks’ History: #10 to #1

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The Canucks have played in 43 playoff series throughout their history. You’ll find the 10 most heart-stopping matchups here.

Chicago Blackhawks v Vancouver Canucks - Game Seven
Alex Burrows #14 of the Vancouver Canucks is congratulated by teammate Daniel Sedin #22 as they celebrate their overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Seven of the Western Conference quarterfinal during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at Rogers Arena on April 26, 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The Canucks won in overtime 2-1.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

The Vancouver Canucks have played in 43 playoff series throughout the 50 year history. Which ones made you feel the most emotional?

This is part three as we’ve gone through to rank the emotional appeal of every single Canucks playoff series. You certainly know some of the series on this final list, but perhaps we can surprise you once or twice.

When you’re done, go let us know in the comments what the most emotional playoff series was in your mind.

Before you get started, go check out Parts One and Two if you’ve yet to do so already.

10. Towel Power is born (1982)

The result: Vancouver defeats Chicago 4-1 in the Conference Finals.

What Happened: Despite the quick series finish, this was your typical physical, chippy and heated 1980s playoff series, capped off by one of the most famous moments in Canucks history.

After Jim Nill gave the Canucks a Game One win in double overtime, Game Two was the emotional climax as 185 penalty minutes were dished out, many of them which went against the Canucks. That inspired head coach Roger Neilson raise the white towel of surrender to the referees early in the third period.

Chicago went on to win the game, but Vancouver was clearly inspired by Neilson, who had only been head coach for 22 games at that point. They won the next three games en route to their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance in franchise history.

Emotional Pull: After 12 years without a playoff series win, the end of this series capped off arguably the largest moment of elation during the Canucks’ first 20 years of existence.

9. Canucks lose in seven to eventual cup champs (1989)

The result: Calgary defeats Vancouver 4-3 in the Division Semifinals.

What Happened: The Canucks (33-39-8) were big underdogs against a dominant Flames team (54-17-9) in 1989, but that didn’t matter much once the puck dropped on the series.

The drama started in Game One, when the Canucks stole a victory on the road thanks to Paul Reinhart’s overtime winner. Calgary would win the next two before the Canucks tied the series 2-2 in Game Four, during a contest that featured a ridiculous 28 minor penalties.

Calgary won Game Five before a dominant performance on home ice by the Canucks tied up the series at three games a piece, setting up an unlikely Game Seven between two teams that had 43 point gap between each other in the regular season.

Against all odds, Vancouver nearly pulled off the upset too. Calgary had three different one-goal leads in Game Seven, but three separate tying goals from Robert Nordmark, Trevor Linden and Doug Lidster sent the Game to overtime.

Of course, fate would not go the Canucks way in this contest.

Regardless of the result, it was a valiant effort by a young Canucks team on the rise. Trevor Linden had seven points in seven games despite not turning 19 until Game Five. 23-year-old Kirk McLean also did everything in his power to give the Canucks a chance for this series.

Emotional Pull: Despite the mismatch, this was one hell of a series from start to finish. The Canucks suffered through a couple losing seasons after this, but these seven games gave the fan base hope that better days were ahead.

Not to mention, the Canucks gave Calgary more trouble than any other team in the playoffs. The Flames lost three games to Vancouver, but only lost three more in three series en route to their first Stanley Cup victory in franchise history.

8. The Vancouver, Chicago rivalry begins (2009)

The result: Chicago defeated Vancouver 4-2 in the Semifinals.

What Happened: The rivalry already started to brew between these two teams during a feisty regular season match-up in 2009. By the end of the 2009 playoffs, it was already one of the best rivalries in hockey.

This was a back and forth, entertaining series that once again, ended in heartbreak for the Canucks. Two of the biggest swings of momentum went in Chicago’s favour, which ultimately decided the series.

The Canucks had a chance to go up 3-1 in the series on the road in Chicago. In Game Four, they led 1-0 throughout almost the entire contest before Martin Havlat tied it 1-1 with less than three minutes to go in regulation. Andrew Ladd then scored less than three minutes into overtime to tie the series at 2-2.

After a tough Game Five loss, the Canucks were positioned to tie up the series, leading 5-4 in the third period of Game Six. They would go on to give up three goals in three minutes in the third period to lose the series.

Emotional Pull: This was an emotional loss, so emotional that Roberto Luongo started to get the label as the guy who couldn’t win the big game, a narrative that still sticks in the minds of some Canucks fans today.

7. Canucks look like team of destiny against Sharks (2011)

The result: Canucks defeat San Jose 4-1 in the Conference Finals.

What Happened: To be honest, everything about this series just felt good.

During the franchise’s third ever appearance in the Conference Final, they were absolutely dominant against a San Jose Sharks team that had a similar label to the Canucks. Both teams were good, but they both had the label as clubs who couldn’t win the big game.

That narrative would only change for the Canucks in this series, as they took at 3-1 lead, before Kevin Bieksa’s stanchion goal sent this city into pandemonium during the second overtime of Game Five.

Emotional Pull: Nine stanchions out of 10. After this series win, it felt like the Canucks were unstoppable.

6. West Coast Express Era blows final shot against Calgary (2004)

The result: Calgary defeats Vancouver 4-3 in the Quarterfinals.

What Happened: Aside from the impending Cup Finals battles ahead, this is arguably the most crushing playoff loss in Canucks history.

Despite the fact that Todd Bertuzzi was missing in action, it really felt like the West Coast Express era was destined for more in the early 2000s. They had a good shot at moving on against a talented Flames team in the 2004 Quarterfinals, and they ended up earning that shot by pushing the Flames to Game Seven in this tightly contested series.

Truth be told, it wasn’t easy for the Canucks to force a Game Seven. Not only were they missing Bertuzzi, but Cloutier went down with an injury in Game Three. That forced Johan Hedberg into action for five periods, but after he lost Game Four 4-0, third-stringer Alex Auld was thrust into action.

Auld and the Canucks lost Game Five 2-1, but they held on for a dramatic, triple-overtime win capped-off by a Brendan Morrison goal.

That set up a Game Seven, which delivered even more drama. When it looked like the Canucks were all but done, Matt Cooke scored with six seconds left, while Ed Jovanovski was in the penalty box, to force overtime. Of course, it didn’t go the Canucks way in the extra frame, and this loss to a division rival represented the last hurrah for the West Coast Express era.

Emotional Pull: The drama throughout this series had fans on the edge of their seats, but it was yet another crushing playoff defeat to the Flames.

5. Canucks defeat Leafs to advance to Cup Finals (1994)

The result: Vancouver defeats Toronto 4-1 to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

What Happened: If you’ve read anything up to this point, you know that a five game series can still be filled with drama.

The stakes were high for both the Canucks and Leafs in this series. The Leafs hadn’t (and still haven’t) won a Cup since 1967, and the Canucks, of course, had never won.

Game One was an intense battle, one that saw Linden tie the game in the dying seconds. Ultimately, Peter Zezel won the game in overtime for the Leafs.

Game Two was another coin flip. The back and forth affair was tied 3-3 late in the third period, Jyrki Lumme eventually scored the winner for the Canucks on the power play with less than five minutes to go.

As the series progressed, the Canucks slowly took over. Bure scored three of the Canucks’ six goals during wins in Games Three and Four to give the Canucks a 3-1 series lead.

The final game of the series also wasn’t without drama. The Canucks trailed 3-0 after the first period before tying the game up at three. This led, once again, to one of the most important goals in Canucks history, one that set the team to its second-ever Cup Final appearance.

Emotional Pull: Again, this wasn’t just your typical Conference Final, but one filled with dramatics, and one that saw the Canucks defeat the Leafs to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. It doesn’t get much better than that.

4. Pave Bure’s goal caps off crazy Canucks comeback (1994)

The result: Vancouver defeats Calgary 4-3 in the Quarterfinals.

What Happened: In many regards, Vancouver never should have come back in this series.

After a surprisingly dominant 5-0 performance in Game One, the underdog Canucks lost three straight games to the Flames to go down 3-1 in the series.

Cue the overtime heroics.

Geoff Courtnall scored the overtime winner in Game Five, and Trevor Linden scored the overtime winner in Game Six to tie the series up at 3-3. Still, the Canucks had to go back to Calgary and win a third straight game, which was no easy task.

In fact, the Canucks trailed for most of Game Seven, until Greg Adams scored with less than four minutes left to send the game to overtime, yet again.

Then, McLean and Bure played hero, with a huge save from McLean and a dramatic breakaway goal from Bure that gave the Canucks the unlikeliest of victories.

Emotional Pull: Think about that for a second. You’re up 3-1 in the playoffs, with three separate opportunities to finish off your opponent in overtime. The fact that the Canucks overcame their odds of defeat to win this series made the victory that much more memorable. Not to mention, it came against a Flames team that handed them a crushing Game Seven overtime defeat five years earlier.

3. Crushing Cup Final loss to Boston (2011)

The result: Boston defeats Vancouver 4-3 to win the 2011 Stanley Cup.

What Happened: This series loss is still too painful for an in-depth dive here. Maybe ranking this at number three is too low...

Petty fandom aside, this series had the drama, physicality, timely goals, ups and downs that a fan should crave in a Stanley Cup Final. All three of the Canucks game-winning goals in this series scored by Maxim Lapierre, Alex Burrows and Raffi Torres all happened in extremely dramatic fashion.

Combine that with either euphoric or horrific performances from Roberto Luongo in net, and you had a series that was truly an emotional roller coaster.

Emotional Pull: Every Canucks fan has their story of horror and sorrow from June 15th, 2011. It’s something that no Vancouver sports fan will ever forget.

2. Burrows slays the dragon (2011)

The result: Vancouver defeats Chicago 4-3 in the Quarterfinals.

What Happened: As everyone in Vancouver well knows, this victory was so much more than your typical first round win.

The President’s Trophy winning Canucks went up against the defending Stanley Cup champions, who narrowly squeaked into the playoffs. In fact, it’s easy to forget that Chicago actually “backed into” the playoffs after a Dallas Stars loss on the final day of the regular season.

At first, it seemed like a total mismatch, with the Canucks winning the first three games of the series. Then, Jonathan Toews’ post-game comments after Game Three, followed by Dave Bolland’s arrival in Game Four, changed the outlook on the series.

After three straight wins by Chicago, you wouldn’t have been blamed by your employer for taking a week of stress leave. Then, Game Seven came along, and the drama only intensified.

That game has to be one of the most emotional and intense in all of Canucks history. It cannot be understated how large the ramifications of that game were. If the Canucks lose to Chicago for a third year in a row, wholesale changes would have been made, not to mention that a third straight loss to the rival Blackhawks would have opened a scar that never would have healed.

Alex Burrows had the most emotional game of his life that night. He scored the opening goal, then failed to score on a third period penalty shot, then he took a penalty early in overtime that nearly led to Chicago’s series-clinching goal, before he himself scored the series-winner in dramatic fashion.

Emotional Pull: For an entire generation of Canucks fans, the Burrows goal goes down as the biggest goal in franchise history. I’d argue that, because of how crushing that loss would have been, this goal ranks slightly higher than Bure’s legendary game-winner in 1994. Goosebumps still race down the spine when you watch highlights of Burrows slaying the dragon.

1. Canucks miracle run ends in agony against Rangers (1994)

The result: New York Rangers defeat Vancouver 4-3 to win the 1994 Stanley Cup.

What Happened: After a middling regular season, the Canucks won in dramatic fashion over the Flames, swiftly beat the Stars, and then swiftly beat Toronto in dramatic fashion.

They embodied the underdog, and that only continued in their series against the New York Rangers. Nearly 30 points separated these two teams in the regular season, not that it really matters once you’re in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Canucks started off the series strong, with a 52-save performance from Kirk McLean and another overtime winner from Greg Adams.

The Rangers were the better team in Games Two and Three, but Canucks from the ‘94 team probably still rue the fact that they lost Game Four on home ice. That game was tied 2-2 late in the third period before late goals from Alex Kovalev and Steve Larmer put the Canucks down 3-1 in the series.

Then, those pesky underdog Canucks looked like they were going to pull an upset for the ages. Game Five was full of dramatics, with eight of the nine goals scored in the game coming in the third period, Thankfully, the Canucks scored six of those goals to win 6-3.

The Canucks arguably played their best game of the Finals in Game Six, winning 4-1 on home ice, which was capped off by one of the most legendary photos in club history, and one of Jim Robson’s best calls of all time.

Game Seven was yet again another emotional roller coaster, but the Canucks just couldn’t muster that third goal to tie the game, and the Rangers were named Stanley Cup champions.

Emotional Pull: Nevermind the fan bias here. This Stanley Cup Final was one of the best of all time.

Unfortunately, Vancouver’s miracle run ended in crushing defeat, but the ups and downs of this series makes this one the easy choice for the most emotional playoff matchup in Canucks history.

After everything they did in the first three rounds, you felt like they were somehow going to win this one. It was still, to this day, one of the most entertaining and emotional playoff series in club history, and quite possibly league history.