Vancan Outta The Blue


Rivalries: NHL to the Canucks

**Author’s note: This post is ANOTHER in Josh Hall’s bid to Replace the KB as part of The Province Newspaper’s Hockey Blogger Competition. When sharing on twitter or facebook, please use the hashtags #ReplaceTheKB and #ProvNeedsVancan. Thank you for supporting Josh in his quest! For more info on the details of the contest and other bloggers, click HERE!**

By Josh Hall

RIVALRY (noun)Competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field.

Synonyms: Competition, Emulation, Contest, Contention

Origin

The NHL was whittled down to just six teams in 1942 due to WWII and so began the ‘Original 6 Era.’ Naturally, with only six teams, they would play each other so often in those 25 years prior to expansion, that great rivalries were born.  For example, the Toronto Maple Leafs played the Detroit Red Wings SIX times in the Stanley Cup Final. In that same 25 year span from 1942-1967, the Leafs and Habs each won 10 Stanley Cups.  Rivalry indeed.

 The 1980′s

Skip ahead now to 1983 and the Stanley Cup Final featured two of the most dominant teams in NHL History. By that, I mean they each won consecutive Cups during an era with more than six teams. The Islanders, winners of three straight championships, were facing off against the highest scoring team in the league, the Edmonton Oilers. Led by none other than The Great One, Edmonton faltered. The Isles ended up with a 4th straight victory, and had limited Gretzky to just four assists in the sweep. These two teams met once again the following season, with the Oilers winning their first Stanley Cup, and first of 5 in 7 years. Now imagine those two teams in the same conference.

Present Day

Fast forward to present day NHL, and really only one of the aforementioned rivalries still exists. Games between the Leafs & Canadiens are still bloody brilliant to watch. The fans in both cities know the history and that plays into each game’s atmosphere. The Leafs and Red Wings still entertain; although that one has been squashed out a bit since the two were separated into different conferences. Perhaps with Detroit possibly moving into the East with the upcoming re-alignment, that rivalry will be renewed. Obviously the final one with the Islanders and Oilers is completely non-existent today. This is due to the fact that over the last decade, both of those teams have sucked, but it also doesn’t help they’re in different conferences as well. That being said, Oil-Isles games could get pretty exciting over the upcoming seasons with all the young talent each side possesses.

Why are rivalries important today?

GARY BETTMAN. The way he’s expanded hockey throughout the USA has put teams in locales that don’t exactly scream hockey market. Without a doubt the greatest rivalry to hit the NHL in recent years has been that of the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. Sure, it’s primarily because of Ovechkin and Crosby, but regardless, that rivalry has piqued interest in hockey south of the border. Unfortunately regional rivalries like Tampa Bay & Florida haven’t exactly worked out but if rivalries could be built stronger, maybe, just maybe teams in sunbelt markets could succeed. Florida should take a page out of Los Angeles’ book and snag a player in the realm of Gretzky. Hey, it worked in LA-LA Land.

It’s crowds like the ones in Florida that make me think a team in Seattle would do the NHL wonders. Seattle being home to an NHL team would provide a new geographical rival for teams like San Jose, LA, Anaheim, Colorado, Minnesota and oh yeah, Vancouver. Of course the idea is more rivalries are created amongst American teams but let’s be honest, what American hockey fan doesn’t love seeing the talent the Canucks have any time they can. The key to remember here is I said American Hockey fans, meaning they do in fact enjoy and can appreciate the sport. The whole arena situation is another story but it is safe to say Seattle is home to hockey fans. Many Seattlites already cheer for the Canucks.

Now on to our beloved Vancouver Canucks.

There is one team that automatically comes to mind when you think rivalries with the Canucks, that being the Chicago Blackhawks. Whaddya know; an Original 6 team. Of course it’s got to be fate; the Canucks could’ve easily played another team three straight times in the playoffs had a game or two each season gone another way, but that’s the beauty of it all. Rivalries occur because they are meant to.  The hockey gods may have chosen the Nucks to lose the first two times, but at least it was hella entertaining. Imagine playing Nashville or Minnesota three years in a row. Of course the Canucks rivalry with the Hawks does date back to the 80’s when Roger Neilson waved a white towel on the end of a stick, inspiring what we all now know as Towel Power. This rivalry, as clear as day, will continue into the future for sure.

Roger Waves The Towel 

Burrows Slays The Dragon << It’s really fun if you just keep clicking the :08 and :09 second marks

Without a doubt, the Hawks take the cake when it comes to Canucks rivals but what are the next closest? Here is my take on the top three after Chicago, starting with #4.

4) Boston Bruins

This past June, the Canucks played the Boston Bruins Seven times. That’s twice more than the amount they faced each other since the lockout. Needless to say, a rivalry was born. If there was one team Canucks fans would want their team to win a championship against now, it would likely be those pesky Bruins. All you have to do is look at that series. There was the trash talk between Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo. No one will ever forget the phrase, “Pumping Tires,” now.  The Canucks were up 2-0 in the series, and then Rome smashes Nathan Horton. He is then suspended for the rest of the Series. We then have consecutive blowouts by Boston, IN Boston amid reports of it being literally unsafe for Canucks fans to wear Canucks things inside the TD Gardens and around Boston. Proceeding to Mason Raymond’s back being broken and of course, Brad ‘the Rat’ Marchand punching Daniel Sedin in the face six times.  Eventually Cory Schneider came into backstop, only worsening Luongo’s mental situation and the Canucks lost in Game 7 here at home. These teams play once or less each season, but hopefully with re-alignment coming, the NHL can work out a more balanced schedule that includes a home and home against Boston. As much as the Canucks and their fans hate Boston, it’s not like Vancouver CAN’T beat them.

Aaron Rome Takes Out Horton

3) Detroit Red Wings

Are you picking up on a trend here? All Original 6 teams so far. It’s widely known that Vancouver and Detroit have very similar team makeups. A lot of European influence, particularly Swedish, represent each squad. This rivalry is unfortunately a dying one as we will likely see the Wings move East in the aforementioned re-alignment. That means the Canucks and Wings will go from playing each other four times a season to potentially one or less. While this rivalry doesn’t contain so much disdain as the Chicago and Boston ones, the level of skill we see each time they face off is certainly a sight to see. Players like the Sedins for the Canucks and Zetterberg and Datsyuk for the Wings light it up consistently. Nowadays, both teams have great depth and pride themselves on strong defense.  Going back to the West Coast Express era though, the two teams do have a playoff history.  In 2002, Nik Lidstrom wired a slap shot from center ice and it snuck past Dan Cloutier. Up 2-0 in the series, the Canucks then lost four straight and were eliminated. Pieces of that rivalry still live on today in players like the Sedins and even Todd Bertuzzi who now plays for the Wings.

Lidstrom Ruins Cloutier 

2) Calgary Flames

Geographical connections aside, this rivalry has perhaps been the most consistent over the last 20 years. Nowadays, the Northwest Division is weaker and Calgary is a part of that. That hasn’t prevented Canucks-Flames games from being extremely entertaining. For example, the Canucks scored more goals against Calgary last season (24) than they did against any other team. Obviously they play the Flames more than most others but still 4 goals per game is considerably high. Once again, with the Flames and Canucks, there is a playoff history. In recent generations, you look straight to the 1994 Western Conference Quarterfinals. Vancouver, down 3-1, won 3 straight OT games to take the series 4-3. Game 7 which ended in 2OT, featured what Canucks fans now know as “The Save” and Pavel Bure’s breakaway goal to win it all. Jump to 2004, and again the Western Conference Quarterfinals. With the series knotted at three games apiece and the Canucks down a goal with 30 seconds left in Game 7, at 5 on 5 with an empty net, Markus Naslund make a streak down the left side, puts it on net and Matt Cooke roofs it sending the game to OT. Martin Gelinas scored about a minute into OT to send the Flames onwards and upwards to what would eventually be an appearance in the SCF. In conclusion, apart from Chicago, Calgary is the best rivalry the Canucks have simply due to the amount of amazing plays that have occurred during Flames-Canucks matchups and the consistency of great regular season games.

The Save 

Nazzy and Cooke Tie It Up

GOING FORWARD

Future rivalries that could heat up involving the Canucks include:

a)      The Oilers. With the youth there, they are bound to be the next Chicago. The Kid Line will be something to be reckoned with.

b)      The Sharks. After a WCF Matchup last May, this rivalry can only get hotter. SJ still has their core from that series and with the Canucks potentially being re-aligned to the Pacific division, we could see more regular season tilts than in the past.

c)       The Jets. In the Eastern Conference now, once re-alignment is completed, these two could take things to the next level, especially if the Canucks remain in the NW and Winnipeg is inserted into the NW.

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