Welcome back to Last Word on Hockey’s summer series where we look at the biggest game in team history. Each day we will be back with a new team to look at. Looking at things like the lead-up, what happened, followed, and why it makes it the biggest game. The biggest game does not automatically mean a win, either. Sometimes, it can be a loss that set the franchise back massively. Sit back and enjoy as we break down all 31 teams’ most important game. In this article, we will discuss the Vancouver Canucks biggest game in franchise history. The full series is found here.
Vancouver Canucks Biggest Game
Thinking back, there have been many memorable games in the Vancouver Canucks franchise history. Throughout many years of success, asking which game is the biggest poses many different options. The answer varies depending on the age of the person who is asked. Some may mention games from Vancouver’s 94′ cup run, Trevor Linden returning to Vancouver, the Sedin’s Brothers final game, Kevin Bieksa‘s OT winner against the Sharks, Pavel Bure‘s OT winner against the Calgary Flames, or even Henrik Sedin scoring the winner in the fourth overtime back in 2007 against the Dallas Stars. None of these earn the title as biggest game, though. The Canucks biggest game took place on April 26, 2011. The night that Alex Burrows slayed the dragon.
The Back Story
For a few years, games between the Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks could be summed up by one word: heated. The start of this rivalry came in a game in late March of 2009. The game saw Vancouver win 4-0, but it also saw some ugly stuff happen in the third period.
A chaotic scrum broke out after Blackhawks defenceman Dustin Byfuglien gave Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo a shove following a partial breakaway. Bieksa ended up getting into a fight with Ben Eager. Burrows and Duncan Keith also dropped the gloves. While all this was happening, Vancouver defenceman Shane O’Brien was trying to shake off the linesman who had a hold of him and was trying to also find a dance partner.
A few months later, the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs saw the Vancouver Canucks matched up against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Semi-Finals. The series ended with Chicago winning 4-2, which gave a sour taste in the Canuck’s fans mouths as Vancouver had entered the series red-hot, following a first-round sweep of the St. Louis Blues.
The Canucks got a shot at redemption the following year, facing off against the Hawks in the second round of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs as well. Fate would have it that the Blackhawks would defeat the Canucks in the series 4-2, yet again, and go on to win the Stanley Cup.
After two straight years of being eliminated by the Blackhawks, Canucks fans had an outright hatred for the ‘Windy City’. The Hawks had become a mountain that seemed impossible to climb. Luckily for Vancouver, though, they received one final chance to defeat the terrific Hawks lineup the following year, when the two teams faced off in the first round of the 2011 post-season.
2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs
At this point, the hatred these teams have for one another was evident, fueled by three straight years of matching up in the playoffs, with Chicago winning the first two series. This time around, the Canucks jumped out to a quick 3-0 series lead, only to have the Blackhawks come right back and tie the series 3-3 after an overtime victory in Game Six. You could flip a coin to see who had the most pressure on them going into Game Seven. The Blackhawks could have felt more due to the fact they won the Stanley Cup last year. However, the Canucks just saw their 3 game lead vanish. For the third straight season, the Canucks faced elimination by the hands of the Blackhawks.
The Dragon Slayer
April 26th, 2011. A day die-hard Canucks fans remember vividly. The Vancouver Canucks biggest game. The game started fast-paced as the Blackhawks applied pressure right off the opening faceoff. It didn’t take long for the Canucks to change the pace, though, as they opened the scoring only 2:43 into the first period. The goal saw Ryan Kesler burst down the wing, blowing by Keith, then passing it out to Burrows who put it by Corey Crawford. 1-0 Canucks. That goal would be the only one scored in a very intense, hard-hitting first period.
The second period was much like the first, the Canucks dictated the physicality and were suffocating the Blackhawks. Crawford was easily the best player for the Blackhawks during this game. He was phenomenal. He eventually finished the game with 36 saves including stopping all 15 shots he faced in the second period. No goals were scored during the second period, sending Vancouver to the third period with a slim one-goal lead.
20 seconds into the third period, Burrows was awarded a penalty shot. Crawford ended up stopping the penalty shot, giving the Blackhawks a lot of momentum. Chicago came firing back, dominating in the Canucks zone, but Luongo was shutting down every scoring opportunity. Keith ended up taking a penalty with under four minutes to go in the 3rd period. This gave the Canucks a crucial power-play but they were unable to do much of anything with it. Instead, with 1:56 left in the third period, the Blackhawks got a shorthanded goal from Jonathan Toews, tying the game. You could hear a pin drop in the arena. The game was headed to overtime.
Just 24 seconds into overtime the Blackhawks got a powerplay opportunity as Burrows took a holding penalty. Patrick Sharp had a chance to end it in the first-minute, receiving a beautiful back-door pass from Toews, but Luongo kept the game going. This lead to one of the biggest moments in Canucks history.
Just over five minutes into the first overtime, Blackhawks defenceman Chris Campoli tried to chip the puck out of the Blackhawks zone. He ended up chipping it right into the hand of Burrows who was sat just inside the blue line. Burrows corralled the puck and let go a slapshot just before the hash marks. It sailed over Crawford’s blocker and went right under the bar, ending the game and the Hawks hot-streak. Absolute chaos erupted on the ice, as the Canucks finally got over the mental hurdle that was the Chicago Blackhawks. The broadcast call by John Shorthouse is what made it even sweeter. His iconic, “they’ve slayed the dragon,” is a call that Canucks fans will remember for the rest of their lives.
After getting over the hurdle and defeating the Blackhawks, the Canucks moved on to face the Nashville Predators in the second round. Vancouver won in six games and went on to meet the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Finals. Making quick work of the Sharks in 5 games, the Canucks saw themselves heading to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second time in franchise history, to face the Boston Bruins.
The Bruins ended up spoiling the Canucks Stanley Cup hopes, drawing the series out to seven games before shattering Vancouver fans dreams with a 4-0 Game Seven win. It was a heartbreaking game for the Canucks, that was felt throughout the city. While the Bruins were celebrating their victory inside the arena, absolute carnage was happening outside on the streets. The city of Vancouver turned into a brutal riot as rioters were out causing as much damage as they could. Yet, despite the horrid ending, the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs will go down as having the Vancouver Canucks biggest game in franchise history. It had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.