Wednesday, June 15, 2011

17 more years of waiting?

I publish this post after two periods of Game Seven in Vancouver. My team is losing 3-0. I am resigned to the Boston Bruins hoisting the Stanley Cup in our rink. This will be a bitter pill to swallow. I went downtown today on errands - and stopped not three blocks from the rink at midday. The atmosphere was electric, the mood incredibly anxious. Nearly everyone was wearing the team colours. I thought back to last year when my father and I were two of the lucky spectators at the Olympic gold-medal game. I could well imagine what the atmosphere was going to be in a few hours when the game would start and the Canucks would have a winner-take-all Game 7 to win the Stanley Cup on home ice.

I could rant about this series for hours, but the bottom line was this: this was the first Finals appearance by the Canucks in franchise history where they were the clear favourites to win the Cup. If this series had been played 100 times, I think Vancouver would have won at least 70 times. But this is real life. In a given season, you only have one opportunity to become a champion. You don't get a do-over or a large sample size to determine who wins the post-season tournament.

The Canucks didn't get the job done. Mostly, this was their own fault. Some of it was atrociously bad luck. And a very small part of the blame should be laid at the door of the NHL's inconsistent officiating, which definitely did the Canucks no favours. But make no mistake, over the balance of play of these seven games, Boston was the better team. That's why they play the games; in professional team sports the best team often doesn't win the championship. And that's what I believe happened here.

This was a gut-wrenching series to watch, especially for the last five games. The Canucks' luck was ridiculously bad - all the bounces of the puck went against them; the Bruins' superior goal-tending and defensive system negated much of Vancouver's league-best offense; significant injuries to nearly all of the Canucks' best players - most notably the Game One injury to Ken Hamhuis, the team's most reliable defenseman, and the clearly hobbled Ryan Kesler, the heart and soul of the team who soldiered on at half-strength - as well as the Aaron Rome suspension, robbed the team of its cohesion at the worst possible time. And you could just see the Canucks being worn down, their speed and skill advantages over Boston blunted as the series wore on.

Above all, this series will be remembered as one where the Canucks were blown out in all three games in Boston with sub-par performances by Roberto Luongo and most everyone else in a Canucks uniform.

I really hope the Canucks can make it back to the finals and take care of unfinished business before my nephew, aged 18 months, graduates from high school.

I hope Mason Raymond recovers fully from a gruesome back injury he suffered at the :20 second mark of Game Six.

If a miracle of biblical proportions occurs in the third period and the Canucks come back to win the series, I will probably end up collapsing after a week-long bender. If the Bruins win, I will undoubtedly be a morose grump for a few days. Either way, my liver is in for a world of hurt.

A very, very small part of me admires the achievement of Tim Thomas. He's the same age as I am - and he just put up a goal-tending performance for the ages.