There’s a different aura around the Canucks this season. I can’t place my finger on it, but if you listened to the guys after dispatching the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday, you can hear a quiet confidence from them.
Last year, the Canucks, fresh from a four-game sweep of the St. Louis Blues, faced a young and (supposedly) inexperienced Blackhawks team and lost their composure. They faced a Blackhawks team that they beat up – on the scoreboard and during a line brawl – in their last regular season meeting, and then lost the last three games of their second round series. They headed into the second round full of confidence back then, but perhaps a bit too overconfident.
Here in Vancouver, the consensus is that the Canucks have learned their lesson from a year ago.
When Vigneault said his group can get it done, he wasn’t talking only about the Kings.
A year ago, the Canucks gagged in Game 4 in Chicago, broke mentally and never recovered. When the Kings’ inflicted some adversity, there was no panic among the Canucks. Vancouver just needed to kill a penalty and get a save.
That makes these Canucks different. Hope is at the end of the Fraser Valley. This team is planning to win, and that started at training camp.
How times have changed. Then, it felt monumental. Now, a first-round win feels like a step, one that will be rendered meaningless if the Canucks can’t find redemption in their second round sequel against Chicago which begins Friday.
To understand Vancouver’s changed approach, check out the video of Vancouver’s locker room “celebration” after eliminating the L.A. Kings Sunday.
Featured on canucks.com, it shows a quirky Ryan Kesler dance, a Shane O’Brien headlock, a high five and a series of restrained fist bumps (aren’t they always?).
It is staid and familiar. It could be a team after a win in January or October. It belies the fact the Canucks just made it to the NHL’s elite eight. That quiet restraint spoke volumes. It was a business-like approach for a team that has unfinished business.
To a man, the Canucks seem hell-bent on atoning for their failures of a year ago. While some Canucks fans were plotting out a way to avoid the Blackhawks (and the Wings and Sharks for that matter) in the playoffs, this year’s Canucks welcome the opportunity for sweet revenge.
Here’s Alex Burrows:
“It should be a pretty interesting matchup,” said Canuck winger Alex Burrows. “There are a lot of guys on their team that we know and we have rivalries against. We’d like to play them again and beat them.”
And Ryan Kesler:
“Chicago is a tough oppponent and it would be nice to have another crack at them,” added Ryan Kesler. “I think we’re a more complete team this year.”
And Kyle Wellwood:
“We’re back to the point to where we were last year. For us, it’s a starting point. We have something to prove.”
But perhaps the most telling quote comes from Kevin Bieksa:
“We approached that series different than we approached L.A.,” defenceman Kevin Bieksa said. “I think we invested a little too much emotionally in that series. That definitely affected us, yeah. Did we learn from it? Hopefully.”
After the LA series, it sure looks like they have. The Canucks have something to prove – to themselves and their fans – and beating Chicago would go a long way in doing just that.