Rise of the unexpected: The Vancouver Canucks’ 2023-24 season story

Everyone underestimated the character and resilience of the 2023-24 Canucks.
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Long after the final horn sounded on Monday night, the Vancouver Canucks faithful remained in their seats. As the emotions of a game seven loss faded into those of appreciation of what their team had accomplished this season, they cheered.

The fans applauded and waved their towels as the last of the players and coaches made their way through the handshake line marking the end to their series against the Edmonton Oilers, a bittersweet end to a playoff run that no one had seen coming.

“Silovs! Silovs! Silovs!” the crowd chanted. The third-string goaltender had become Vancouver’s playoff hero, similar to how Thatcher Demko had during the team’s 2020 playoff run where they pushed the Vegas Golden Knights to seven games, also in the second round. Heroes emerge in the playoffs. And for the Canucks, Arturs Silovs was just that. It was Silovs who had shut out the Nashville Predators in game six of the first round to allow his team to advance. It was Silovs who had given Vancouver a chance in game seven against Edmonton as his offence struggled to produce shots

The Thrill of Regular Season Victories

Seven months ago, we saw the beginning of what would become a magical season. Many didn’t expect the Canucks to do much — very few predicted they’d win their division, let alone play in a game seven at home in the second round.

That 8-1 season-opening win against the Oilers on October 11, 2023 set the tone for the season. The Canucks surprised everyone. Their star forward Brock Boeser scored four times that night, en route to a career-high 40 goal season. J.T. Miller eclipsed the 100-point benchmark. Quinn Hughes set a new team record for points by a defenceman with 92. By Christmas, Vancouver was first in the NHL. Everything was clicking for this team. They played with structure and accountability under head coach Rick Tocchet, and Demko played like a Vezina Trophy candidate.

Stanley Cup Champion and ESPN NHL Analyst Mark Messier praises Vancouver Canucks. Stanley Cup Champion and ESPN NHL Analyst Mark Messier praises Vancouver Canucks. dark. Next

Those Magical Playoff Moments

U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name,” the Canucks’ famous playoff intro song, blared over the speakers as the Rogers Arena crowd roared before game one against the Predators. As they took the ice, the players realized what hockey meant to Vancouver. J.T. Miller said after game one that the intro was a moment he’ll always remember. “When we came out on the ice today was one of the more special things I’ve been a part of other than the birth of my children and my wedding,” Miller said. “It’s hard not to get choked up when you see that, that literally is everything — that emotion, the noise, the towels.”

Against Edmonton, the Canucks were seen as massive underdogs. Many analysts picked the Oilers, and through the first half of game one, it seemed like they would steamroll Vancouver as they led 4-1.
Then came the greatest playoff moment in Vancouver since 2011. Lindholm cut the lead in half late in the second, banking a shot off Stuart Skinner’s stick and in. The climb seemed doable. In the third, the Canucks pressed, and Miller tipped in the 4-3 goal from a bad angle.

Then, like they had done against Nashville, Vancouver took under a minute to rewrite the narrative of game one. Zadorov walked into a point shot, one that would’ve hit the arctic circle if he had missed the net, some YouTube comments remarked. Rogers Arena erupted again as the Canucks tied the game. 39 seconds later, Conor Garland skated down the wing, faking a slap shot as he approached the goal line. The puck slid under Skinner and into the net. The fans, many still standing from the Zadorov goal, erupted again.

The Canucks pushed the Oilers to the final horn of game seven. This is not the end. It’s the beginning of a new era of Canucks hockey — hopefully one that next year will come with a happier ending.