There's no sugarcoating the fact that the Canucks were embarrassed in Boston last year, losing the three games in the Stanley Cup Final played on Garden ice by a combined count of 17-3.
On Saturday, they return to Boston for the first time since the Bruins humbled them in the Hub in Game 6, then hoisted the Cup in Vancouver in Game 7. So do the Canucks have something to prove in this rematch, even if the stakes are considerably lower in a midseason matinee?
"I don't know, that's a tough one to call," Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo said after the team's practice at Harvard University on Friday. "We'd love to obviously come in here and win the game. But at the end of the day nothing is going to change the outcome of what happened last year. It would be nice to get a big win here at the start of the road trip."
That win will have to come without Luongo in goal, as Canucks coach Alain Vigneault announced his intention to start Cory Schneider instead, and the Marblehead, Mass., native knows the area well enough to expect the Garden faithful to have no doubts about the importance of this clash.
"The fans here are so passionate and so loud," Schneider said. "There's clearly some bad blood between us and the Bruins. I think it's just going to be an electric atmosphere."
Vigneault, however, did his best to downplay the significance, even questioning how important the game could be if it's not even being played in primetime or being broadcast on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.
"It can't be that big of a game, we don't have one of the networks that's delivering the game tomorrow," Vigneault said. "It's a 1 o'clock game. I think like everybody else everybody understands that's it's Game 42. It's a non-conference game. Probably for the players at stake here is the fact that both teams competed real hard for the Cup. Obviously I think both teams will be ready, but I don't think if we go in [Saturday] and win they're going to give us the Cup back. We lost that last year. This is a different year, a different team. It's Game 42. It's a non-conference game."
But not all of the Canucks were staying on message. The significance of what a win in Boston would represent to Vancouver seeped through in the comments of several Canucks.
"When you play these guys seven games and you lose in the Stanley Cup Finals, it's something to come back to," forward Mason Raymond said. "I think for a lot of us there will be a lot of emotion out there. I think we have something we want to prove. Go in [Saturday] and nothing will feel better than a win."
Raymond has more bad memories of Boston than even the rest of his teammates. His season ended a game earlier than the rest when he suffered a broken vertebra on a hit into the boards in Game 6 at the Garden. But as painful as that injury and rehabilitation were, the sting of the loss in the Final hurt worse.
"It's a place to remember because of the incident and injury that I had," Raymond said. "But to be honest, I think the way we played here and lost to these guys sticks out more."
Still, most of the Canucks were more reticent about putting too much importance on this game.
"It's two points on the line, that's No. 1 for us," Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said. "It's always special when you play a team you faced the year before in the playoffs, but again, we played Chicago, we played Nashville, we played San Jose and now it's Boston, so that's it."
Sedin did relent a bit, giving this game, and the chance to atone at least a bit for last spring's poor showing in Boston, a little credence.
"It's going to be a big game," Sedin said. "We know we didn't play good enough here to beat them. We have to show [Saturday] that we are a better team."
"Obviously we were here last year for the Final and we didn't have some very good games here," said the netminder, who was pulled in two of the three games in Boston. "We're going to try to erase that a little bit by having a good one and hopefully get a win. It's a regular-season game. It's an important one as far as who we're playing."
Defenseman Kevin Bieksa refused to fall in line with that thinking. He doesn't believe his club has to prove itself after coming up a game short of the franchise's first Cup, and a January win in Boston wouldn't be much of statement if that was what they were after anyway.
"Not really, we don't have too much to prove I don't think," Bieksa said. "The playoffs last year were a different time. It's a regular-season game. It's an inter-conference game. I like Alain's comment the best, unless they're going to give us the Stanley Cup after the game, it's just going to be another game for us."
If it's another game like the three they played in Boston last June, that will be just fine with the Bruins.
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