Tuesday, June 14, 2011

We Are All Homers

Green Men Unite!

Although the Vancouver Canucks have not looked like champions on the road in the 2011 Final, there is some strong historical data backing a win tomorrow. No team has won three Game 7s in a single playoff year and there's some hard evidence of bouncebacks in Game 7s for teams with that one-game home-ice advantage.

Of teams in the Final who were beaten in Game 6 by a margin of at least three goals, all those Game 6 "losers" came back in Game 7s to win the Cup.

In the 1954 and 1955 Finals the Detroit Red Wings were beaten 4-1 and 6-3 respectively in Game 6s in Montreal. In '54 they had to go to OT in Game 7 but Tony Leswick flipped the puck at the Habs' net and Hall of Famer Doug Harvey accidentally gloved the puck into his own net for a 2-1 Wings' victory. In '55 the Wings had a bit more breathing room with a 3-1 win in Game 7 over the Habs in a series in which all home games were won by the home teams.

That's ancient history really and you have to fast-forward to '94 when as many of you may remember the Canucks beat the New York Rangers 4-1 sending the Final back to Madison Square Garden where we all know what Lafayetted out there.

In '03 the then Mighty Ducks of Anaheim beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 in Game 6 before heading off to the New Jersey swamp to be shut out by Martin Brodeur for the third time in the series in a 3-0 Devils' Cup win. That '03 Final saw all home teams win their home games.

Even the Canucks' division annoyances the Edmonton Oilers beat the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 6 4-0 before the Canes took Game 7 at home 3-1.

Bruins Fans Not Cuddly Bears?
As you'll have read or seen on the Net, B's fans gave traveling Canuck fans in the crowds at the TD Garden plenty of verbal, and even some physical, abuse. Of course, no sane fan condones this but here's a news flash: Sports fans, especially in East Coast cities, are rabid (and you don't need a player to bite you to know what that means). Yes, you may have money to burn. Mr. Yaletown or Mrs. Point Grey, but you have to realize you were going into enemy territory and once Aaron Rome pancaked Nathan Horton, the worse came out in New Englanders.

This is one reason once Tampa Bay lost, our own plans here at Canucklehead HQ to try to attend Games 3 and 4 of the Final were scotched. Boston may be a great city to visit but not dressed up in any opposing teams' colors in any sport. So, basically, win or lose, where's the fun in spending thousands of dollars to expose yourself to getting at the very least a verbal takedown. We've been in European soccer crowds so we at least know what to do and what not to do. I'm sure the vast majority of Canuck fans who flew out to Boston, despite years of watching hockey on TV, had ever really comprehended what opposing rinks are really like come playoff time outside of Canada or the laidback West Coast.

Being Puckheads
Being a hockey fan I get the whole bandwagon thing, and I get people who don't understand what the neutral zone trap is (let alone icing) being on board. The thing is there's blind optimism, and there's reality. Sure, we all want the Canucks to win it all, but some of us "hockey" fans were really hoping if that day finally came that they'd do it with style. Oh well, joining the likes of the '06 Hurricanes or any of the Devils' Cups isn't all that bad, is it?

Can't complain too much as the '94 Final will always go down as one of the all-time classic finals in hockey history. It's just was it asking too much that if Boston can carpetbomb the Canucks 8-1 and 4-0 that the Canucks couldn't reciprocate?
Of course, Tim Thomas is playing goal at a level not achieved since the age of the Dominator, but Tampa were able to ventilate him for 5 goals in four different games in the semifinals. Even Montreal put 4 past Thomas in one of the games in the first round.

Boys, time to stick it to the B's

Which Sedin's Not Scoring?
Yes, the 2010 Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Toews had only 3 points and was -5 in the Final for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Yes, Sydney Crosby got only 3 points and was -3 in the Final as the Pittsburgh Penguins took the Cup in 2009.
There's also another Conn Smythe winner in Henrik Zetterberg but he did lead the Wings with 6 points in 6 games in the Final as the Wings won the 2008 Cup.
I get it--checking is tougher, the goaltending can be insanely great and the penalty killing is more intense--but after taking so long to actually get good, couldn't the Sedins fight (and I don't mean this after-the-whistle nonsense) through all that and at least look like the Art Ross Trophy winners they are supposed to be.

Bingo Bango Bongo Indeed
Roberto Luongo is certainly the surliest and most inconsistent goalie the Canucks ever rode to the Final with. As bizarre as that is, he's one more walk around the Seawall from leading (and it looks like he will have to lead given the lack of offence) the Canucks to the Holy Grail.
He's also one more game from walking the plank on the flip side of that equation.
That's sports. One minute you're the hero, four minutes later you're being fitted for goathorns.

Shh, Don't Mention The Wounded
What is amazing about the Canuck run is the players now out of the lineup for Game 7. We all know all playoff runs that players play with injuries. The key word is "play" which Ryan Kesler will do even if it's on one leg (or is it one groin?). Given no Mikael Samuelsson for most of the playoffs, no Dan Hamhuis after Game 1 of the Finals, no Aaron Rome after Game 3, no Mason Raymond now, maybe that's why the Canucks have struggled in the Final. It's hard enough winning it all with everyone healthy but Nathan Horton aside, you take away Zdeno Chara's D partner, Dennis Seidenberg, and, say, either Andrew Ference or Johnny Boychuk and one more forward like a veteran somewhat in Samuelsson's vein per chance Michael Ryder or Mark Recchi...and now go out and play Game 7. No excuses but should the Bruins take the Cup, just imagine what could have been if these Canucks could have "played."

What Does It All Mean?
I suppose for many Canuck fans it will be a dream come true, a relief and a cathartic experience all wrapped in one. Given how truly awful the hockey has been in this Final, all I'm hoping for is please let Game 7 be a classic and, if the Canucks actually blow this, let it be one where they go out with their guns blazing.

Let's see some goals.
Let's see a few lead changes.
Let's see the Canuck powerplay score a couple of goals.
Let's stop making what was possibly the worst playoff powerplay unit going in look now like the '50s Habs.

And, please, Lord Canucklehead, whatever happens, make sure Luongo does not impersonate Frank Caprice anymore.

Lastly, if the worse all you litterbugs who are heading downtown tomorrow do is leave trash on our city streets, I'll be OK with that. Just don't trash our city's reputation or anything else by being a yahoo. That's just so '90s, dude.

Win with class and, should worse come to worse, lose with class. In between feel free to crosscheck the opponent in the head after the whistle. The refs won't call it anyway.

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