The Vancouver Canucks will also play one of their 82 regular-season hockey games on Saturday, and it at least sounds like they’re treating it as such.
While the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins have nothing to prove on Saturday against the Canucks, the defending Western Conference champs do have something to prove to the rest of the league, and more importantly, to themselves.
The Canucks can sit here and tell us all they want about how winning two points on Saturday with a win in their Cup Final rematch in Boston won’t change the course of history and make them the 2010-11 champions of the NHL. And that certainly is true. That banner hangs in Boston (they’ll get a good look on Saturday), and it will remain there until that barn comes down, regardless of what the Canucks do.
They especially can’t do anything on Saturday — during a regular-season game — to change that, but Alain Vigneault‘s bunch does have a chance to at least gain some retribution. Whether or not they get it will tell us a lot about what kind of group of guys they have out there in the Pacific Northwest.
The Bruins took some incredible liberties against the Canucks in last year’s Final, and in the process, they humiliated the star-laden Vancouver bunch. The series may have went seven games, but when the B’s won, they poured it on. And in doing so, they abused the Canucks on the ice. Brad Marchand did his thing, both upending Daniel Sedin and then using his face as a Bozo doll. Daniel’s brother, Henrik Sedin, was abused, too, even by Tim Thomas. Goalie Roberto Luongo left Boston with a nice base for a tan on the back of his neck thanks in part to the B’s tuning the goal light on 15 occasions in the three games in Boston.
There are scores to settle everywhere you look.
However, Luongo won’t get his chance, which could be a sign of the embarrassment that is coming for Vancouver, but they still have a chance to prove otherwise. If they’re going to be considered a team that can play the type of hockey that will win you a Stanley Cup, they can at least start to prove this year can be different with a strong showing Saturday.
That may involve coming out of their comfort zone. The Sedins have proved throughout their careers that they can be abused. Instead of fighting back and defending themselves, the Sedins have shown over the years that they would rather take the abuse, take the embarrassment and hope that the referee’s arm goes skyward to give Vancouver’s vaunted power play unit a chance to score. Look no further than Marchand’s Cup antics for proof of that or Joe Thornton‘s more recently.
Saturday will give the Sedins and the rest of the Canucks a chance to prove that they are capable of standing up for themselves. They’ll never do so on the same scale as the Bruins — not with the way their roster is currently assembled — but for one day, the Canucks can say enough is enough.
They’re already looking at an uphill battle. The decision to not play Luongo in front of the Garden lions could be a sign of things to come: more passive play from the Canucks. They’re even battling the schedule, too, as they’re set to drop the puck at 1 p.m. ET — or 10 a.m. PT. Most importantly, there will be a Bruins team lining up across the ice from that has outscored its opponents 15-1 this week.
Yet the Canucks come into Boston riding a hot streak of their own. They’re the best team in the Western Conference. They have just as many points as the Bruins do. They’ve won seven of their last 10. They’re at or near the top of the NHL in just about every statistic. In short, they’re the exact team that they were last year. Or so we suspect.
Saturday will give the Canucks a chance to show that they’re not the same team as they were last season. They can show that they will stand up for themselves. They can prove they can get a little nasty when they need to. They can prove that when adversity hits, they can persevere.
They can prove that they are a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
If the Canucks are able to do any of that on Saturday afternoon in front of a raucous, sold-out TD Garden crowd, it has the potential to be a marquee moment for a team that has all of the talent in the world, but has yet to show that they have what it takes to win when it matters most.
That by itself is worth so much more than just two points.