Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Canucks can erase 40 years of heartbreak

Categories: Boston Bruins, VAN vs. BOS, Vancouver Canucks

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Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, centre, and defenceman Kevin Bieksa, right, hope to end up in the middle of another celebration on the ice at Roger Arena. (Rich Lam/Getty Images) Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, centre, and defenceman Kevin Bieksa, right, hope to end up in the middle of another celebration on the ice at Roger Arena. (Rich Lam/Getty Images)
By Tim Wharnsby, CBC Sports

VANCOUVER - There are ghosts in the majestic Coastal Mountain range that frames the beautiful city of Vancouver. Hockey ghosts.

Will Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday wipe out the frustration of the past 40 seasons in Canucks history? Will there be a victory to supplant the disappointments against the Chicago Blackhawks in the last two years, the 1994 Game 7 loss to the New York Rangers, the way the referees conspired against the late head coach Roger Neilson and the Canucks in the 1982 final?

That being said, the Bruins also pine for their moment with the Stanley Cup. They haven't won the prized trophy since 1972, the second year the Canucks were in existence.

The Canucks were on the fast track this year. Even though they began the regular season eight months ago without injured veterans Sami Salo and Alexandre Burrows, and dropped their season opener at home 2-1 in a shootout to the Los Angeles Kings, the Canucks were 10-4-2 by mid-November and cruised to the Presidents' Trophy.

They finally skated past the Blackhawks with a Game 7 victory in the first round after plenty of difficulty because they blew a 3-0 series lead. They got by the pesky Nashville Predators in the second round and had little trouble with the San Jose Sharks in the West final.

The Stanley Cup final has been a different story. The league leaders in offence have checked in with only eight goals in six games. They also led the NHL in defence, but have surrendered a whopping 19 goals to Boston. The NHL's top-ranked power play has gone 2-for-31 - it also has yielded two shorthanded goals - and the third-best penalty killing unit in the regular season has allowed the Bruins' power play to go 5-for-26 in the series. This wouldn't be such a big deal, but Boston scored only five power-play goals in the previous three rounds.

Never before has a team been outscored in the final and won. The Canucks can certainly become the first team to earn that dubious honour with a win tonight.

"We all believe in this dressing room we'll get it done," Burrows said. "We played a lot of Game 7s in our basement growing up."

"This is it," Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa said. "This is what we've dreamed about our whole lives. Now it's time to get it done."

The Canucks have had to overcome serious ailments to Manny Malhotra, who recovered from his eye injury in time to play in Game 2 of the final, Mikael Samuelsson, Dan Hamhuis and now Mason Raymond. The dependable Hamhuis was lost in the final's opener with an undisclosed injury and Raymond suffered a vertebrae fracture on the first shift of the 5-2 loss in Game 6 on Monday.

The Bruins also have endured their share of suffering. They arrived at training camp to discover that their top player, Marc Savard, had yet to fully recover from a concussion. They also were still dealing with the embarrassment of blowing a 3-0 series lead to the Philadelphia Flyers last spring.

After a retreat in a Vermont resort, the Bruins played an exhibition game in Belfast and started the season in Prague. Savard returned in November and then was lost again for the season a few months later.

The Bruins got behind early in the first round when they lost both games at home to the Montreal Canadiens, but rebounded to win the series in seven games. They took care of the Flyers in a sweep to avenge what transpired 12 months earlier and survived the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games in the East final.

Now the Bruins and Canucks will clash for one final time in the ultimate, dramatic winner-take-all-game at Rogers Arena on Wednesday.

"You've got to stay the course," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "I think it's served us well. Our group right now seems calm and focussed and ready."

Julien received a good luck call from Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, a two-time World Series winner.

Meanwhile, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault spoke about his journey to get to the final.

"I know how hard this journey is, not just to get to the Stanley Cup Final," he said. "I've said many times how privileged I feel to be one of the 30 head coaches in the National Hockey League. It's a tough business to get into, it's a tough business to stay in, and I was out of this business coaching in the NHL for six years so it took me a long time to get back at it.

"This is my fifth year in Vancouver. I knew what was at stake this year. I knew I was in my window of opportunity, and to get a chance to play for the Cup, to get a chance to play in the seventh game for the Stanley Cup, I'm real excited. Doesn't it show?"

Lineup news

The Canucks will employ Jeff Tambellini in Raymond's spot on the second line with centre Ryan Kesler and right wing Chris Higgins. Tambellini was a free-agent signing last summer and started the season alongside Henrik and Daniel Sedin with Burrows on the shelf. Tambellini, 27, has seen limited action on the fourth line in five playoff games this spring.

Vancouver defencemen Andrew Alberts and Alex Edler did not finish Game 6 after getting banged up, but Vigneault claimed both will play in Game 7. Edler did not participate in the team's morning skate. In his spot was veteran Nolan Baumgartner.

On the Bruins side, it will be the same lineup as Games 4, 5 and 6. There were questions about the possibility of a return for Nathan Horton, who was lost in Game 3 with a concussion. He has made the trip and his equipment has been hung in the Bruins dressing room. While Julien acknowledged that Horton wants to play, the Bruins forward has not been cleared to play.