In this depressing edition of Throwback Thursday, we take a look at the Vancouver Canucks losing Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final to the Boston Bruins. Little did we know that this loss signaled an end to the most dominant era in franchise history.
The Vancouver Canucks were going to do it in 2011. They were going to finally get over their playoff heartbreak and capture their first Stanley Cup in NHL history.
Throw in the Chicago Blackhawks having to trade away Canuck kryptonites in Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Antti Niemi, and there was zero doubting that Vancouver was the favourite to win the Stanley Cup, let alone the Western Conference.
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Sure enough, the Canucks lived up to all the hype. They led the NHL in goals for (262), and surrendered the fewest (185). Daniel Sedin won the scoring with 104 points, while he and Ryan Kesler each hit the 40-goal mark, with the latter winning the Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward.
Oh, and the Canucks ran away with the Presidents’ Trophy after finishing with 117 points. Indeed, this team was a juggernaut.
As expected, Vancouver did indeed reach the Stanley Cup Final. They finally got through the Blackhawks in the opening round, before making fairly easy work of the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks.
Vancouver set up a Stanley Cup Final showdown with the big and bad Boston Bruins, known for using their size and physicality to intimidate opponents.
As many remember, Vancouver took series leads of 2-0 and 3-2, but every showdown in Boston ended in a blowout victory for the Bruins. That set up a winner take-all Game 7 at Rogers Arena.
Game 7 disaster
Patrice Bergeron opened the scoring late in the first period for Boston. Myself, along with other colleagues I talked to, knew deep down that the Bruins were going to win once they scored that crucial first goal.
Of course, Brad Marchand just had to continue being an ultra pest and scored in the middle of the second period. That put the Bruins up by 2-0. Bergeron added a short handed goal late in the frame to give Boston an insurmountable 3-0 lead.
Marchand added an empty netter, and the Bruins won 4-0. To make matters way worse, a riot broke out in downtown Vancouver. Easily, it was the worst moment in Canucks history. Just an absolute disaster.
The Canucks had the pieces in place to make another run in 2012, but nobody at the time knew that Vancouver had just blown their only opportunity to capture a championship.
End of an era
Over time, the Canucks would experience a number of controversies and troubles. In the blink of an eye, they went from a class of the NHL to one of the worst.
They were embarrassed by the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings in the opening round of the 2012 playoffs. A year later, the San Jose Sharks swept Vancouver and fired Alain Vigneault — replacing him with John Tortorella.
The 2013-14 campaign with ‘Torts’ was miserable. Vancouver finished among the NHL’s worst teams, prompting both Luongo and Kesler to ask and eventually receive trades.
Vancouver has since undergone a rebuild, one that doesn’t look to end for at least two or three years. The front office refused to tear it all down until this offseason, further delaying the inevitable need for a youth injection.
Though general manager Jim Benning has done a wonderful job restocking this team’s prospect pipeline, Canucks fans just can’t help but wonder what could have been in 2011. It’s the last time they came close to a championship, after all.
Heading into 2018, it will have been seven years since the Canucks won a playoff series. For the fifth consecutive season, fans can’t feel optimistic about the franchise winning its first Stanley Cup, either.
While the future is looking bright, the Canucks are still learning the painful loss of Game 7 from the Stanley Cup Final. It ended a decade-long run of dominance, and put the team on the path to a frustrating rebuilding stage.