The Missing Rings is a series looking at some of the best teams in NHL history to not win the Stanley Cup. Whether they lose in the first round or game seven of the finals, these great teams have been forgotten because they could not win the big one. For the next installment, the 2010-11 Vancouver Canucks are the focus.
The Missing Rings: 2010-11 Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks entered the 2009-10 season as a team on the rise. They had won the Northwest Division and put up 100 points the season prior. While they would come up short in the playoffs, it was still viewed as a positive season. The Canucks continued playing well in 2009-10. They would again win the Northwest Division with 103 points. Lading the way was Henrik Sedin. Sedin led the league in scoring and won the Hart Trophy. Daniel Sedin also had a strong season putting up 85 points despite playing in 63 games. The Canucks had a balanced attack with six players scoring at least 20 goals. Backstopping the Canucks was Roberto Luongo. Luongo had a solid season putting up a 40-22-4 record with four shutouts a 2.57 GAA and a .913 save percentage. The Canucks entered the playoffs looking to improve on their second-round loss the year before.
Vancouver defeated the Los Angeles Kings in the first round 4-2. This set up a rematch with the Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago beat Vancouver in the second round in 2009. The Canucks had hoped to get some revenge. Unfortunately for Vancouver, the series played out the same as Chicago won the series in six games. Adding some salt to the wounds of Vancouver was the fact that Chicago would win the Stanley Cup as well.
Coming off another playoff disappointment, the 2010-11 Vancouver Canucks hoped to take another big step and become a true Cup contender. The Canucks had a sluggish October, posting a 4-3-1 record. When the calendar turned to November something clicked. The Canucks dominated the NHL. They would post a 54-19-9 good for 117 points. The Canucks won the Presidents Trophy by 10 points. To go along with the Presidents Trophy, the Canucks led the league in goals for and goals against. Leading the way Daniel Sedin. His 107 points led the league in scoring and he was awarded the Ted Lindsay award. Brother Henrik put up 94 points good for fourth in league scoring. Ryan Kesler had a career year scoring 41 goals and winning the Selkie Trophy.
In goal, Roberto Luongo has another stellar season. He posted a 38-15-7 record with four shutouts, a 2.11 GAA and a .928 save percentage. Luongo and Cory Schneider would combine to win the Jennings Award for fewest goals against in the league. The Canucks definitely took the big step that was expected of them. Heading into the playoffs, the Canucks were a heavy favorite.
What Went Wrong
In the first round, Vancouver met their playoff foe Chicago. Things started perfectly. Vancouver raced out to a 3-0 series lead. Chicago bounced back with 7-2 and 5-0 wins to get back into the series. Luongo was replaced in both games by Schneider. Corey Schneider started game six with Luonog struggling in games four and five. Schneider suffered an injury in the third period, forcing Luongo back into the net for the overtime. In a back and forth affair, Chicago forced a game seven with a 4-3 overtime win. Shockingly, the Canucks had squandered their 3-0 series lead.
Game seven was a tense matchup. While Vancouver took an early lead through an Alex Burrows first-period goal the atmosphere was tense. The lead would hold until the third when Jonathan Toews scored a short-handed goal with just over two minutes remaining adding to the tension. Game seven needed overtime as well. Fortunately, the Canucks exercised their Chicago demons when Burrows scored 5:22 into the extra period to advance.
Stanley Cup Finals
Vancouver would face the Boston Bruins in the Finals. For two teams that have little animosity or history, the series did not take long to get acrimonious. Game one saw Vancouver win 1-0 on a Raffi Torres goal with 18.5 seconds left in the game. While there was not much goal scoring, the physical fireworks started right away. The game was marred by an incident in which Alex Burrows appeared to bite the finger of Boston’s Patrice Bergeron. The incident went unpunished due to lack of evidence. Burrows responded to the incident by scoring two goals, including the overtime winner in a 3-2 decision. The animosity was ratcheting up as Maxim Lapierre taunted Bergeron over the biting incident. Clearly, this was going to be a story throughout the series.
Back in Boston, something shifted. The Bruins found their game and began to push Vancouver around. After a scoreless first period, the Bruins scored four goals in the second period and won game three 8-1. The animosity also continued to crank up. Aaron Rome‘s questionable hit on Nathan Horton knocked both players out of the series. Horton to the IR and Rome received a four-game suspension, disqualifying him from the rest of the series. The biting issue was not resolved either as Burrows continued to be a target and was even taunted by the Bruins. Game four saw the Bruins dominate again, winning 4-0 and evening the series.
Back in Vancouver the Canucks retook the series lead with a 1-0 win. The Canucks now had two chances to win their first Stanley Cup. Back in Boston, the Canucks’ issues continued. Boston roared out to a 4-0 first-period lead, scoring the goals 4:14 apart. Boston would win the game 5-2 and set up a game seven back in Vancouver.
So far all the game were won by the home team. So there was that going for the Canucks. Unfortunately, that’s not how sports work. Boston won game seven 4-0 to win the Cup.
The aftermath was the Canucks had to watch Boston celebrate their Cup win. Leaving out the fan fallout of the loss, there were a lot of questions around Vancouver. While the team had an excellent season, there were questions brought up about their mental toughness. As the series with Boston went on, it seemed Vancouver shrunk as the games became more difficult. It was on full display in the games in Boston where the Canucks were outplayed and outscored 17-3. Boston’s physicality completely threw Vancouver off their game. This was most evident during the pumping tires incident between Luongo and Boston’s Tim Thomas.
Still, the 2010-11 Vancouver Canucks blew a chance at being remembered as one of the best Cup champions ever. They dominated the league but came up one game short of the ultimate goal. Definitely, a bitter pill to swallow. Unfortunately for the Canukcs, this was their peak as things began to go south after this.
Vancouver would return to win their second consecutive Presidents Trophy in 2011-12 but were disposed of in the first round by the Los Angeles Kings in five games. The Canucks began to trend downwards after this. While they would win their fifth straight Northwest Division title, they would be swept by the Sharks in the first round. Since then, the Canucks only have one playoff appearance in the last six seasons.
Perhaps the Canucks can take some solace in the fact that among all the teams in this series, they are the only team to actually reach the Stanley Cup Finals.