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Not The End

Friday, 04.05.2007 / 12:00 AM / News
Vancouver Canucks
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Not The End
One moment, Rob Niedermayer hit Jannik Hansen up high. The next, his brother Scott delivered the ultimate body blow to the rest of Canucks and their fans. And just like that the season was over and the summer is now underway.

There will be a sting for Canuck players and fans alike - a sting that won't soon go away. But the cold, hard reality of playoff hockey is that the better team won. The better team won Game 5 and the better team won the series in five. Alain Vigneault said as much immediately after Thursday's double-overtime loss in Anaheim and many of his players admitted it as well.

There is certainly no shame losing to a team like the Ducks, a team built on defense, depth and a desire to go far into the playoffs. The Canucks had varying degrees of all of those qualities, but in the end, it was clear there just wasn't enough of each for them to prevail.

While they gave the Ducks everything they could handle after the first period of the first game of the series, that same Achilles heel that plagued the team for much of the season returned to bite them in the end. They simply couldn't get the one goal they needed when they needed it most. It somehow seemed fitting that the Canucks' season ended in a 2-1 hockey game since 19 of the 94 games they played all year finished that way. The Canucks won most of those close ones, but Anaheim, as the really good teams do at this time of year, found a way to win three one-goal hockey games to put the final dagger through the hearts of the Canucks.

The Canucks had a combined nine cracks at the Ducks during the regular season and in this series and only managed to win twice. More than that, the Canucks only scored 14 goals against Anaheim all year and managed to score more than two on just one occasion. As much as the Canucks might like to believe that defence wins championships, even the stingiest defence needs a little offensive support. And unfortunately, on Thursday night and throughout the series, the Canucks came up short in that department.

But give the Canucks some credit for not going down without a fight or a goal - although for the first two periods on Thursday it looked like that might happen. There was just no way the Canucks could let the heroics of Roberto Luongo go to waste in a 1-0 loss. They had to find a way to even that hockey game and give their star netminder a chance to win a game that started at 6pm, but one every Canuck but Luongo arrived for sometime around 8:30pm. And who pegged Alex Burrows to be the guy to tie the game?

But playoff hockey can make a hero of anyone and Burrows picked a fine time to score his first post-season goal. Throughout the playoffs, though, the Canucks got what they needed from the third and fourth lines and not nearly enough from the proven scorers. That's a point that's already been made a thousand times over on the radio call-in shows and one that will certainly be analyzed by the coaching staff and management over the summer.

Could a healthy Matt Cooke, Ryan Kesler and Jeff Cowan have helped the Canucks in their series with the Ducks? There's no question that trio would have made life difficult on Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer. Would any combination of Cooke, Kesler and Cowan have been enough to get the Canucks past Anaheim? Probably not. And certainly nobody in the Canuck locker room was looking for excuses in the moments after the season came to a halt.

The Vancouver Canucks gave the Anaheim Ducks a much tougher fight than the final outcome of the series will ever reflect. But on Thursday night, as was the case all year against the Ducks, they just didn't have enough. And with one seemingly harmless shot from the left point, it was over - the game, the series and the season.

Losing can never be an acceptable outcome and no one on the Canucks can be happy with the results against the Ducks. But in a city searching for silver linings right now, all you have to do is turn your clocks back one year.

The hockey season had already been over for a month, there were no towels waving or flags-flying, there was none of that agonizing anticipation waiting for the opening face-off on game day and there certainly wasn't gut-wrenching overtime with the pulse of an entire city hanging on every shot. And there was no Roberto Luongo.

For the first time in a few years, playoff hockey was back where it belonged. It didn't last as long as -- or end the way -- anyone associated with the Canucks wanted. But it was back and it was great to see. And with Luongo serving as the foundation of the franchise, there should be playoff hockey here for quite some time.



Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight. E-mail him at jeff.paterson@team1040.ca