Canucks sneak into third straight Conference Finals
It wasn't easy. It wasn't pretty. But the Canucks are back in the Conference Finals.
After taking a three to one series lead back home in Game 5, the Canucks played two lackadaisical games to let it get to a Game 7. Although the result was in their favour, by a final score of 3-2, it was hardly convincing.
The hero was Antoine Vermette, the mid-season acquisition who had struggled throughout the playoffs. He scored the Canucks' first and third goals, with the winner coming in a third period that looked all too familiar. The team has struggled in the third period of late, blowing a couple of leads, and after getting outshot 10-3 last night, the club is probably lucky the trend did not continue.
The win caps off a difficult series for the Canucks' top players. Evgeni Malkin and Eric Staal were generally invisible after seemingly hitting their production quota in game one with five points each. Martin Brodeur was inconsistent throughout the series, being pulled twice and prompting fans to call for Carey Price for game 7.
All of that is now behind them though, as they move on to face division rival Calgary. This is the third straight year the Canucks have made it to the final four in the HFNHL, both previous times losing in six to the eventual Cup champion.
In previous years though, the Canucks came in the obvious underdogs, but this year things are less clear. The Flames were predicted in the preseason to finish ahead of the Canucks, and at the midway point of the season it was true. In the second half things shifted, but after the first two rounds of the playoffs, it is hard to see a clear favourite.
One thing is for certain though. The Canucks won't win without their best players being their best players. For the better part of the series' versus the Stars, it was Kevin Bieksa and David Krejci who were leading the way for Vancouver, a fact that is evidently unsustainable.
Congrats Sean - really deserve to make it to the Conference Finals again - and Congrats to Zac for turning things around after that slump, guiding the team into the playoffs and then making it so far. Bring on the conference finals!