Counting down to the Stanley Cup playoffs

That 3-2 double overtime win by the Canucks last Tuesday was just meant to be. For four decades, the team and the fans have endured enough bad luck, disappointment and heartache in pursuit of the Stanley Cup.

But this season the focus and the talent have been stronger than ever, pushing boundaries and reaching deeper than ever.

There was that goal by Ryan Kesler who seemed to have hurt his groin earlier in the game only to come back and tie it up with just 13.2 seconds left in regulation play. He tipped a point shot by Henrik Sedin and the puck found its way through the legs of San Jose goalie Antti Niemi. Then there was that moment when the puck bounced off the glass and Patrick Marleau’s stick right into Kevin Bieksa’s wheelhouse for him to bunnyhop it into San Jose’s net in the second overtime. For a second he was the only player who seemed to know where the puck was!

With a chance at the finals, the goal likely launched a few new NHL legends. After all, it happened exactly 17 years since the 1994 overtime moment when the Canucks beat Toronto Maple Leafs to face the New York Rangers.

Hockey is full of legend, lore, rituals and superstitions. From playoff beards supposedly begun by the NY Islanders in the 1980s to untouchable trophies en route to the Stanley Cup, hockey binds with all great sports for good luck rituals. Last Tuesday, nobody touched the Clarence Campbell Trophy when it was presented to the Canucks for winning the Western Conference finals.

Good luck is all in how to tape the stick, the favourite old T-shirt under the uniform, the rhythm of gearing up, the order of go leaving the dressing room, the loonie burial at centre ice during international games, talking to the goal post, not talking to anyone, tapping the stick, eating chicken, what to drink, when to drink, and shooting the first warm up goal.

The rituals are the individual hallmarks of hockey in pursuit of that elusive Stanley Cup, the oldest trophy competed for by professional players in North America. It comes with its own stories having been kicked into the Rideau Canal, served as a flower pot and a christening bowl, left in a snow bank, stolen, displayed in the Kremlin, been duplicated in stunning Lego knock-offs and finally retired to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Just which team will triumph holding the cup above their heads is down to seven games, max.

“This play-off the Canucks have had more trouble with so called inferior teams,” said Chilliwack hockey enthusiast Ken Lewis. “Chicago took them to seven. Nashville took them to six and San Jose, picked by a lot of people to take it all, barely lasted five games. San Jose was far and away the deepest team the Canucks faced.”

Now the Canucks face the Boston Bruins who last won the cup in 1972.

“Boston is here because of the stellar play of one line, one great defenceman and one very good goalie,” said Lewis. “It’s not even going to be close to being enough (especially) if the Bruins starts taking penalties. Vancouver on the power play has been absolutely lethal. They are converting at about 30%. Boston’s power play is staggering along at about 7%. The Sedins are playing at MVP level. Seeing Kesler come back reminded me of Trevor Linden coming back in 1994 with a broken nose and a smashed face. If Luongo plays like he did against the Sharks, we’ll be just fine.”

Prediction?  The Canucks win it in five. One more sleep and it’s finally go Canucks go!

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