Nine years ago, Alexandre Burrows scored the biggest goal in Vancouver Canucks history. But what if he never “slayed the dragon”?
With the 2019-20 NHL season on pause, it’s an opportune time for Vancouver Canucks fans to reflect on the moments that shaped the franchise.
Sportsnet has been broadcasting classic NHL games during the season suspension. On Saturday night, I watched their replay of the Canucks’ unforgettable Game 7 showdown with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2011.
You all remember the story. The Presidents’ Trophy winners had blown a 3-0 series lead to the arch rival team that eliminated them in the second round of the 2009 and 2010 playoffs. Game 7 required overtime, and the Blackhawks were one goal away from ending the greatest regular season in Canucks history.
Alexandre Burrows was all over the ice that night. He scored the game’s first goal. He failed to convert on a third period penalty shot. He missed a chance to put the game away in the waning minutes during a 2-on-1 rush. He took a penalty in overtime that the Canucks killed off.
So it was only fitting that Burrows would be the one who finished it. He intercepted Chris Campoli’s clearance attempt and rifled a shot past Corey Crawford Vancouver get past their kryptonite once and for all.
And with that, Vancouver had finally slayed the dragon.
But if Burrows hadn’t played hero, what would have happened to the Canucks? Let’s just assume for a moment that Crawford makes that save (or Burrows misses the net), and Chicago goes on to win Game 7.
Just imagine how disastrous this would have been for Vancouver. There’s no dragon slaying. There’s no stanchion goal. There’s no magical run to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
Once again, a team with championship aspirations would have failed to reach the Western Conference Final (something they hadn’t done since 1994). They would bowed out to their archenemies for the third straight year. But blowing a 3-0 series lead after winning the Presidents’ Trophy? That would have been especially humiliating.
If Burrows didn’t slay the dragon, you have to assume that changes would have been made. One has to assume that then-general manager Mike Gillis would have fired head coach Alain Vigneault. Maybe ownership fires the both of them.
If he managed to keep his job, Gillis would have been forced to change up his core, one way or another. Burrows, the Sedins and Ryan Kesler would have been safe. But would Gillis have looked to trade Luongo, which would have made Cory Schneider the new franchise goalie?
The Canucks let Christian Ehrhoff walk in free agency that summer. Maybe they wouldn’t have extended Kevin Bieksa, who was also a pending UFA.
And if Gillis had made those changes over the 2011 offseason? Either the Canucks come back stronger in 2012 and go on a deeper playoff run, or they once again endure an early elimination. In that case, Vancouver’s rebuild/retooling phase would have started well before 2017 — when then-team president Trevor Linden finally uttered the word “rebuild.”
But thanks to Burrows’ heroics, the Canucks never had to answer those questions. He helped Vancouver extend the most exciting season in their history as they cruised to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
And even though the Canucks weren’t able to finish the job — losing to the Boston Bruins on home ice in Game 7 — we’ll forever look back fondly on the 2010-11 season. Just the fact that they came within one game of capturing hockey’s ultimate prize made the whole season worthwhile.
If it weren’t for Burrows’ career-defining moment, Vancouver wouldn’t have gotten to experience two months of thrilling and life-changing hockey. One goal simply changed everything for the Canucks and their fans.