Tuesday, April 24, 2007

BC develops an outbreak of Canuck fever

The forecast is calling for rain for most of coastal British Columbia today, but in the hearts of Canuck fans it's nothing but a sunny day, with the promise of more to come.

From Fort Nelson to Cranbrook, Fort St. John to Prince Rupert, the Okanagan and Thompson valleys, and Vancouver Island to the Lower Mainland, the steps seem quicker and the smiles brighter. That after the Canucks eliminated the Dallas Stars in game seven of their opening round showdown.

To give those outside the province a sample of just how much Canuck fans have been longing for their heroes to move past a first round. We reprise an item we put together earlier today for our local portal, a town called podunk, our blog of items of interest to this part of the province.

Today, as the TV commercials go, it would seem that "we are all Canucks".

Cautious fans that they are, Vancouver Canuck fans had to make sure that the Stars were dead, before they could begin to move the bandwagons down the road.

They began to believe when Trevor Linden deflected that Mattias Ohlund shot for the go ahead goal in the third, they heaved a sigh of relief when Roberto Luongo stared down Stu Barnes and denied him a goal, and then they truly began to believe God was on their side when Mike Modano rattled a shot off the cross bar. They officially took the parking brake off the bandwagon with one minute to go in the game, when two empty net goals sealed the victory.

With the traditional handshakes signaling the start of the parade, across the province they streamed out into the streets to celebrate some long forgotten territory in BC, the second round of the NHL playoffs.

Vancouver police kept a wary eye on Robson street revelers mindful of a similar exhibition a few years ago, which got far too out of hand and stained that city for years.

Richmond RCMP, apparently not used to crowds, called in reinforcements from other lower mainland detachments when a crowd on the Richmond/Delta border grew from 400 to 700 strong. (We wonder how the officials in Richmond might fare during your average salmon season or all native basketball tournament both of which attract numbers larger than that, with much less in the way of local resources!)

Reports from all corners of the province have local residents honking their horns and waving their flags in celebration of the home province squad advancing in this years playoffs.

Here in Podunk the traditional caravan of the believers were finally secure in their hopes that they could hit the streets. Released from their personal shackles and now able to do the 2nd Avenue circle tour and wave their signs in rapture in front of Tim Horton’s.

It was a wise corporate buyer at Shoppers Drug Mart that stocked up on those Canuck flags and windsocks currently on sale (or maybe sold out by now). The bandwagon is officially underway now and anything with a Canuck logo is soon to be as good as gold, wanna make a buck this week, list your Canuck stuff on eBay or htmf, you’ll find a buyer.

The next step for the believers will be the corner gathering of young children with their honk for the Canucks signs, you can begin to watch for them to grow in larger numbers on Wednesday night on street corners city wide.

To get a true understanding of the relief of a near disaster turned to victory, here’s Ed Willes article from today’s Vancouver Province.

It’s a wonderful walk down the lane of disappointments past and a fine primer as to why the fever has struck again across the province. Podunkians will be intrigued with his shout out to Rupertites, steeped as it is in the oldest of Prince Rupert stereotypes…

We may be wet and soggy, but you can bet that there will be many waving those flags no matter what the conditions are!

Fans finally have Luongo to float their hopes
Trade with Florida was aimed at exorcising demons of Cloutier et al
Ed Willes
The Province
Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Vancouver Canucks fans, who are preconditioned to expect disaster the way the citizens of Prince Rupert are preconditioned to expect rain, refused to believe it could happen this way because so many catastrophes are burned into their memory banks.

Why, just three years ago, they watched their team cough up a 2-1 lead to the Calgary Flames. And the year before that, they watched in horror as their team blew a 3-1 lead to the Minnesota Wild. And the year before that, they watched their heroes piddle away a 2-0 series lead to the Detroit Red Wings.

Did we mention on all three occasions the Canucks were eliminated on home ice?

So given recent history, to say nothing of a larger pattern of futility which has cursed this franchise since its inception, it's no wonder the faithful approach occasions such as Monday night the way a man approaches a proctology exam.

Right now, the image of Dan Cloutier or Johan Hedberg or Alex Auld fishing the puck out of the net is just a little more powerful than the image of Roberto Luongo at work. But give them some time. They might get used to this new guy.

On Monday night, the man who's changed so many things around this city changed the run of black luck the Canucks have endured since 1994, beating Marty Turco and the Dallas Stars 4-1 in a series that didn't provide much in the way of high art, but did produce one of the most mesmerizing goaltending duels in recent playoff history.

OK, this win had as much to do with the Sedin twins, a Canucks power play that picked an opportune time to climb out of the deep freeze and a Dallas Stars lineup depleted by the loss of diabolical defenceman Sergei Zubov. But the Canucks have been in this position so many times before and always found a way to break their fans' hearts.

This time it wasn't going to happen. More to the point, Luongo wasn't going to let it happen. He made that his mission statement when he arrived here from Florida via a trade of incomprehensible good fortune for the Canucks. On Monday night, he made good on his promise. He also had considerable help from his teammates.

With the 172nd straight GM Place sellout whipped into a frenzy, the Canucks came out in the opening 20 and played tighter than the skin on Joan Rivers' face. They handled the puck like it was radioactive. There was no purpose or confidence in the game.

The Stars, admittedly, weren't much better, but when rookie Joel Lundqvist scored -- he of the three regular season markers -- beat Luongo with a laser, an eerie sense of foreboding descended upon the throng.

And then it happened. Early in the second, whatever fog the Canucks were in dissipated and they started to carry the play.

The precise turning point came during a 48-second 5-on-3 in which they didn't score, but pelted Turco with five shots and engaged the crowd. From that point to the final horn, the ice tilted towards the Dallas goalie with Henrik Sedin, on a seeing-eye pass from his brother Daniel, finally beating Turco after he'd blanked the Canucks for almost eight periods.

Old-folk Trevor Linden then scored a goal for the aged, tipping in Mattias Ohlund's power-play point shot seven minutes into the third period and from there the Canucks turned to the shutdown game, which keyed their regular-season success.

It helped that the Stars, who were clearly whipped and a step behind over the final 40 minutes, were forced to take a series of penalties over the final frame.

It also helped that Mike Modano's fluttering one-timer went off the crossbar with four minutes left. But Luongo also provided the defining save of the game when he robbed Stu Barnes from the kill zone midway through the third and even threw in saves off Trevor Daley and Stephane Robidas in the final two minutes for good measure before empty-net goals by Taylor Pyatt and Bryan Smolinski inflated the final score.

The heartbreak hotel was closed for this night. For once, Canucks fans unconditional level for this team was returned.

© The Vancouver Province 2007

No comments: