Photo credit: Vancouver Province
Respect is a life and death struggle on that 85 x 200 sheet of ice. Most players are tight-lipped with the word in the locker room, but beyond just salaries and winning or losing games, respect is the richest prize in hockey.
If you know anything about the Vancouver Canucks, you know they’ll be looking to reclaim some respect on Saturday when they meet the Boston Bruins for the very first time since the B’s won Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals and flew out of a rioting city with hockey’s most cherished prize in tow.
Ever since that warm June evening the Canucks have, in one word, been haunted. Haunted with questions about their team personnel and character; haunted about whether or not they were good enough or tough enough to get back to and win in the Stanley Cup Final.
Tomorrow’s game may just be another ordinary regular season match on the calendar, but it goes beyond just any ordinary game. For the Canucks, it’ll be their first shot at redemption. The playoffs won’t begin again for another four months, but defeating the NHL’s most vaunted team in what should be an emotionally-charged affair would go a long way to re-assuring Vancouver and their fans that they can get the job done.
Anyone who’s anyone knows just how good the Bruins are. They’re frighteningly good, winning 23 of their last 27 games dating back to the beginning of November. Their goal differential is a league-best +69. Looking at their roster from top to bottom, they’ve got the pieces to compete for the Stanley Cup for the foreseeable future, so you can see why they can call themselves the absolute best in the league.
That said, the Canucks aren’t all that dissimilar from the Bruins. Down the middle, the club is just as deep and their blue line is just as potent. Goaltending, as chastised as it’s been in this city, is capable of much more than it’s been labeled. Really when it comes down to it, all that separates the two clubs is that one team won the Stanley Cup and the other team lost.
Tomorrow morning’s epic tilt will go a long way in earning some of that respect again. In the regular season and going into the playoffs, that’s the prize the Canucks covet the most.