May 252011
 

One of the biggest misconceptions in movies today is that Rocky Balboa won that fight at the end of one of the greatest movies of all time. I honestly hope that isn’t a spoiler but I figure if a movie’s been out 35 years, most people should just know. Something similar happens with Miracle, which I don’t know if you’ve all seen but if you love hockey, you really should. I know it’s about an American team but that’s just the name on the front of their uniforms. It’s a movie about hockey at it’s finest.

People think that the movie is about Team USA winning the gold medal against the Russians at the Lake Placid Olympics but actually, it’s about the Americans earning themselves a spot in the gold medal game by beating the Russians. They would eventually go on to defeat Finland in the final game but the Miracle on Ice commonly refers to the rag-tag American team that mounted a comeback and vanquished the heavily-favored Soviet juggernaut.

While neither team in last night’s Canucks 3-2 double overtime thriller against the San Jose Sharks could really be considered a viable underdog considering they were the first and second seeds in the West this year, last night’s game was the stuff that movies are made of. I’m not saying that the Stanley Cup Final between the Canucks and either the Boston Bruins or Tampa Bay Lightning won’t also be a thriller but last night’s game is certainly worthy if anyone from Hollywood is making a film on the 2011 NHL Playoffs.

It was a game with everything.

It had special effects. Right from the start we were treated to some advanced Sedinery as the twins activated their powers yet again to put on a Harlem Globetrotter-like, one-touch display of passing brilliance that resulted in an easy tap-in for Alex Burrows. Sharks goalie Antti Niemi and defenseman Dan Boyle were shaken so hard, they had to get new jock straps from the equipment manager since theirs were nowhere to be found after the play. If you listen closely, you can hear the crowd’s exclamations get louder… and louder… and louder with each development in the play. Even the sound effects come with this big budget production.

It had heroics. I don’t have to remind Canucks fans of Ryan Kesler hobbling off with an apparent leg/groin injury that was bad enough that he needed a couple trainers to help him down the tunnel to the dressing room and then returning less than 5 minutes later. He would tip in the tying goal with 13.2 seconds left in the game that if they lost, would mean a long trip back to San Jose. All of Vancouver gasped and worried when we saw Kes limping down the corridor but deep down, I don’t think any of us had any doubt that he would play. The Sedins have dazzled with their skill, Kesler has done it with grit and determination. It’s been 17 years since the last time we absolutely knew that a certain player would play.

But perhaps even more impressive than Kesler’s return was the fact that Joe Thornton was playing at all. If you’ve ever separated your shoulder before, you know how much that hurts and how little you can do with your arm which might as well be a very large and oddly shaped paperweight. What really disturbs me is that some San Jose fans are already on his back for not doing enough in this game and that he can’t shake the choke artist label. If anyone from California thinks this way, I don’t think they were watching the same game I was. Jumbo Joe showed some jumbo heart but there’s no getting around an injury like that. Sharks fans can be proud that their captain showed up this year and any blame can’t be on him.

Patrick Marleau had a heck of a series and showed JR he’s got some guts in him. I have a huge respect for guys like Joe Pavelski, Ryan Clowe, Logan Couture, and Douglas Murray. Even Dany Heatley had his best game of the series. He didn’t score but he had six shots and made key defensive plays at important times. Did you see the tip he made to keep Raffi Torres from what was pretty much an open net?

And what can you say about Roberto Luongo? This city is not kind to goaltenders. Yes, Luongo made some mistakes, including a poor decision to come out to play the puck (something that still happens way too much), but without Louie’s 54 saves, Kesler’s goal would be a footnote in a blowout loss rather than sending us to overtime. Whether the criticism is justified or not, Luongo gave us that opportunity to win when we needed him the most and this city has him to thank as much as that funny piece of glass that gifted Kevin Bieksa with a bouncing puck.

It’s really a shame the series had to end with a weird, lucky bounce that only Juice was aware of. I admit I was fooled along with everyone else and had no idea how we had won until I saw the replay after much yelling and jumping. The Sharks played a heck of a series and it was a lot closer than the score would indicate. I mean, the Canucks were badly outshot in the final two games and the Sharks dominated for stretches. I don’t know what people in San Jose are talking about. Their team had their backs against the wall the entire series. They could’ve given up but they came back harder and tougher after every game despite being tired and beat up. They just ran against a team that took it a step further than that. It’s something they can build on and be proud of. If the Canucks had played the way they had and lost, I wouldn’t be happy about it but I’d be proud of their effort. All you can really ever ask of your team is that they leave it all out there on the ice. When your team gives it everything they got and come up short? Well, no one said winning the Stanley Cup was easy.

I have a feeling this could be a big rivalry for years to come. Action was end-to-end with very few calls after a tightly officiated series. Big chances, big saves, and bigger goals made this the defining game of the series, a game that shows why the Stanley Cup playoffs are unmatched when it comes to entertainment.

By the way… you can’t choke if you are the lower seed…

  • http://twitter.com/CanuckClay Clay Imoo

    Great post Ed!  And I totally agree with you about not being able to choke if you’re the lower seed…it’s technically what’s expected.  Same goes with being over-rated…I couldn’t stand people calling the Canucks over-rated during the regular season when they were the top team in the NHL…the points spoke for themselves.  (Although I do realize that the people calling them over-rated were likely referring to playoff (un)successes as opposed to this regular season).

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