Canucks and Beyond

Nothing About This Will Be Easy

04/30/2009 at 4:07pm EDT

I was accused many times of being a “cocky” Canucks fan on Tuesday, for my whimsical breakdown of the Canucks/Hawks series. And I was a bit cocky… but that was before game day. Once that arrogance was drained from my system, I was able to revert back to my natural state of existence: a terrorized, vodka-infused, historically downtrodden, glass-half-empty, Vancouver Canucks fan.

The Chicago Blackhawks, unlike the St. Louis Blues, scare the sweet bejeezus out of me.

The St. Louis series was a unique experience for me as a Canucks fan. Not just that they won it in 4 straight games, but the fact that I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that they were going to win it. Before the first puck dropped on the first game, I was certain. Not 4-games-straight certain, but I had no doubts they’d win, and the series barely elevated my blood pressure. I enjoyed the ride, but it seemed weirdly inevitable to me from the start.

It wasn’t that I disrespected the Blues, either—St. Louis has a talented, determined team. But we’d also watched them work that enormous talent at 110% for four straight months leading up to that series. Being Canucks fans, we know first-hand how fighting tooth and nail just to make the playoffs can come back to haunt you… at some point, gas runs out and the players hit a wall. Between that—and Roberto Luongo’s impressive play leading into the series—Vancouver had a huge edge which they could have only lost by having a historical meltdown.

And while ‘historical meltdowns’ aren’t out the question in Vancouver, I was glad to see them validate my confidence and take the series.

But Chicago is different. I was grateful not to face them in round #1, and now that it’s finally happening, it’s got me on edge. Man, people are gonna get hurt...

I get the sense that many Vancouver fans feel that Chicago is playing at a level higher than they deserve, that they don’t have a chance in this series. Howard Berger of FAN 590 (h/t Kukla’s) even tried to curse Vancouver this morning with this assessment:

I saw enough of Roberto Luongo in the opening round sweep of St. Louis to determine that no conference opponent will defeat the Canucks four times in seven games. That task will be left to the Boston Bruins during the Stanley Cup final, and the Beantowners will prevail.

(And people call me cocky??)

Perhaps Chicago doesn’t have a chance, but as a commenter the other day pointed out, they seem to possess “a healthy amount of ignorance that helps them forget that they shouldn’t be doing well.” That’s an astute observation, and there’s no reason to believe that attitude will change in this series against Vancouver, either. If they maintain that ignorance, who knows where it will lead?

Vancouver has many advantages, of course. They played the ‘Hawks very well late in the season, and while Chicago sports some of the most talented players in the league, the Canucks’ overall preparedness for this series is much more likely. They’ve had enormous amounts of rest; they have a coaching system they’ve bought into; they don’t make a lot of mistakes; and even when they do make mistakes, their goalie sees every puck like it’s the size of a beach ball.

But I’m also mindful that most of these things are realities of round #1, and have nothing to do with round #2. They’re starting from scratch here and, for starters, it’s fair to wonder how much this time off will affect them, at least for game #1. Will they be in the same groove, or will they be lagging a bit?

My feeling is that game #1 won’t be a pretty experience for the Canucks. The ‘Hawks are high on success, and if the coaching is as good as it appears to be, they’ll be refoccused and ready to tackle the world now. The Canucks might very well take a sound beating.

On the other hand, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Canucks are perfectly re-focussed for this new series and ready to bring their game in at 100%. Anything’s possible.

Anyway, while I personally believe there’s much to be nervous about, I’m also quite optimistic about the eventual outcome. I think the Canucks will probably play better as the series progresses, that they are better positioned and prepared for this playoffs, and if their defense plays anything like they did in round #1, they’ll be nearly impossible to eliminate in this matchup.

That being said, it could be an equally tough endeavor, beating Chicago four times. Aside from facing Nikolai Khabibulin’s prowess, the physical nature of this series is going to take its toll. I expect Vancouver has budgeted plenty of band-aids for the next two weeks. :)

But at the end of the day, they won’t be feeling any pain. Prediction: Canucks in 6

Go Canucks!

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