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The Moment That Could Have Changed Everything: The Vancouver Canucks and the 2011 Stanley Cup Victory.

Updated: Jan 28

What if the 2011 Vancouver Canucks won the Stanley Cup?

It was the first time in team history that the Vancouver Canucks had finished with the league’s best record, 54-19-9 good enough for a franchise-high 117 points. Yet despite their dominance in the standings, the Canucks were not exactly run-away favorites to win their first Stanley Cup. Yet after two failed efforts in 1982 and 1994, this was the team’s best chance to bring Lord Stanley’s mug to Western Canada. 

Facing the Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins, a team in search of their first championship in nearly forty years, the victor of this series would alter the history of their franchise forever. 

Daniel and Henrik Sedin, two of the Vancouver Canucks greatest players of all time

Known for their potent offense, led by Henrik and Daniel Sedin, the grit and grind of Ryan Kesler, and the exceptional goaltending of Roberto Luongo, the Canucks had the hockey-craved city of Vancouver buzzing from the start of the season all through the playoffs with their incredible skill and chemistry. Known for its passionate but sometimes delusional fanbase, accustomed to decades of “almost there” and “this is the one” seasons, Rogers Arena becomes almost intolerable with noise. 

Holding a 2-0 series lead following two solid performances on home ice, the Canucks would drop a pair of games right back to the Bruins in Boston. With the series now a best of three, the two teams would capture one more home game each sending the seventh and final game back to the West Coast. 

As the clock ticks down to game time, the hometown crowd is electric, occupying the outskirts of Rogers Arena with the NHL’s first-ever tailgate party since early in the morning, creating a sea of blue and green throughout downtown Vancouver. 

Game 7 kicks off with a frenetic pace as the Canucks, behind the Sedin twins pepper Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas early and often. But it would be Kesler who opens the scoring for the home team, powering his way to the net. Responding with resilience, Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron would take advantage of a defensive lapse on behalf of the Canucks, something that had plagued the team throughout their history, tying the game heading into the first intermission. 

Starting the second period in front of a raucous crowd, the Sedins would find their line-mate Alex Burrows through a magical display of puck handling and passing for a highlight-reel goal to retake the lead. Refusing to go quietly, defensive giant Zdeno Chara unleashed one of his famous slap shots from the point, rocketing the puck past Luongo to tie the game once again. 

Deadlocked at two goals apiece, the tension of the game could be felt throughout not just the arena, but all pubs, restaurants, and homes in Canada’s western province. 

Pandemonium takes over Rogers Arena during the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals

Whereas the first forty minutes featured four goals, the final period was a goaltender battle as Luongo and Thomas each made a series of “did you see that” acrobatic saves to keep their respective team’s chances alive. 

Withstanding the chippiness of Brad Marchand, and Milan Lucic, not to mention the aggressiveness of the fourth line known as the “Merlot Line”, the more finesse-minded Canucks refused to be outmuscled and bullied in front of their hometown crowd who had been on their feet since the start of the period. 

Relatively quiet for most of the previous six games and forty-plus minutes, Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa, known for his offensive flair, found himself joining the rush midway through the third period, firing a rocket through traffic and past Thomas to give Vancouver a 3-2 lead. With the red light on, Rogers Arena mimicked a sound level that would make CenturyLink Field and the Seattle Seahawks proud. 

With time ticking away, the Bruins mounted a desperate comeback attempt, dominating the puck as the Canucks scrambled to protect their lead. Pulling Thomas for the extra attacker, the Bruins hoped for one final comeback. Unfortunately, an errant pass in the defensive zone would lead to an interception by Burrows, pocketing the puck deep in the Bruins net, sealing a 4-2 victory and the Canucks first Stanley Cup title. 

As Canucks’ captain Henrik hoisted Lord Stanley’s mug overhead in front of 19,700 delirious fans, the city of Vancouver would become a sea of celebration as fans emptied into the streets to share the historic moment. Unlike the infamous riots of 1994 (and the real-life riots of 2011), the blue and green-clad Canucks faithful, who had spent years filled with disappointment, rocked the downtown streets with high-fives, honking horns, and a jubilant unification. 

The 2011 championship would prove that the Vancouver Canucks were not a one-hit wonder, but rather a springboard for future success as the team continued to be a perennial Western Conference contender built off of their newfound confidence and experience. 

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