Linden 2.0

Thursday, 19.04.2007 / 12:00 AM / News
Vancouver Canucks
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Linden 2.0
Those of you old enough to know the jazz-rock band Blood, Sweat, and Tears will remember the first line of their song "Spinning Wheel."

"What goes up...must come down."

It's not just a song lyric-it's a basic law of physics. And its inverse is also true: What falls must also rise again.

True, but some things are more likely to rise than others.

Take the American South: They lost the Civil War to the North, and they won't rise again. Not going to happen.

And now, in the Western Conference quarterfinal between the Vancouver Canucks and Dallas Stars, we have another battle of North and South.

Down 3-1 in games and growing desperate against a Canucks team backstopped by Vezina Trophy candidate Roberto Luongo, you can hear the first strains of the Dallas rallying cry, borrowed from days gone by-The South Will Rise Again.

Hmmm...

RISE AGAIN

For a likelier story of resurrection, let's take a look at Canucks assistant captain Trevor Linden, who scored the game-winner Tuesday night in Game Four. His is an almost biblical tale of ascent, fall, and redemption.

Linden first rose into the hockey firmament as a teenager, helping his hometown Medicine Hat Tigers to consecutive Memorial Cup victories, in 1987 and 1988. Then a bright-eyed 18-year-old, Linden was selected second overall by Vancouver in the 1988 Entry Draft.

The player who went first? The Dallas Stars' Mike Modano, who in the present series is doing his best impression of a pair of designer jeans-overpriced and fading fast.

Linden scored 59 points in his 1988 debut, and finished second to Brian Leech in rookie-of-the-year Calder Trophy balloting.

A few years later, in 1994, No. 16 captained Vancouver to the Stanley Cup Final, where, even with his valiant two-goal effort in Game Seven, the Canucks fell short, losing the bitterly-fought game, 3-2.

Darker days were coming for Linden.

The first indignity was surrendering the captaincy to Mark Messier in 1997, an event few Canucks fans remember fondly.

Later, after falling out of favour with Mike Keenan, who in 1997 succeeded Tom Renney as head coach, Linden began his sojourn around the NHL. He was traded to the New York Islanders for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan McCabe, and a third-round draft pick. He was later dealt to the Montreal Canadiens and then on to the Washington Capitals. He spent two seasons with each of the three Eastern Conference clubs.

Linden returned to the Canucks in November of 2001. The sojourn was over.

"It's a place called home," he said at the time.

SETTLED IN

Now, Linden has settled into a new leadership role. Although with 25 points this season (12 goals, 13 assists) he's not the offensive force he once was, Linden's experience is a boon in a locker room with a number of guys getting their first taste of the post-season.

And, with timely goals like Tuesday's game-winner, people will forgive him if he never again tallies 33 goals and 47 assists, as he did in 1995-96, his best year.

After an optional skate Wednesday, at Burnaby's 8-Rinks, head coach Alain Vigneault spoke warmly about Linden as a player who "challenges himself to bring his game."

"That shift by Trevor on the winning goal last night," marveled the coach. "You're talking about a third effort, about taking it up another notch. He did that for us."

Linden knows the ups and downs of life in the NHL. And having been on teams that won after being down 3-1-and lost after being up 3-1-he isn't taking the Stars lightly in Game Five.

"These games have been very close and hard-fought, and, as a group we expect the same tonight," he said.

"Hopefully we've got them doubting themselves, and we just have to push through."

To this point, it's been a tight series. As Alain Vigneault pointed out, this season the Canucks have actually played nine games against the Stars, if you count the seven periods of Game One as two games. And six of the contests have been decided by a 2-1 score.

Tight games don't bother Linden a bit.

"When we get into one-goal games and overtime," he said. "We get a little momentum going and feel pretty good about what we're doing."

His plan for finishing the Stars off is one of aggressive wariness: "I've never liked the word patience because I think it means sitting back.'"

"We don't want to sit back-we want to be smart and stick with our game plan."