October 29, 2013

1994 Vancouver Canucks: Bure-ing The Flames

The following is an excerpt from my unreleased book: Remembering The 1994 Vancouver Canucks. Please see below for the full table of contents.

Coming off of a so-so regular season, there was little expectation for the 1994 Vancouver Canucks. The previous two seasons saw the Canucks really establish themselves as league power-houses, recording 96 and 101 points during the regular season. However 1993-94 was a season of regression. The team slipped to 85 points, just one game above the magical .500 mark. They finished second in the relatively weak Pacific Division, and weren't expected to make it much farther past the second round if that. But sometimes things don't go according to plan!

Round One saw the Canucks facing off against the arch-rival Flames from Calgary. Game one was played in the Saddledome in Calgary. The Canucks won the game handily with a 5-0 shutout. Kirk McLean was simply spectacular while the Canucks got some timely bounces to bury Calgary early.

Game Two was quite a different story however. Calgary would even the series in a high scoring 7-5 Flames' victory. The game featured Flames' forward Gary Roberts running McLean twice, thus knocking Captain Kirk off of his game somewhat.

Calgary would take a commanding 3-1 series lead with victories in games three and four. The games were played very evenly, but Calgary goaltender Mike Vernon now was the hot goalie, perhaps stealing a victory from the Canucks. But the Canucks would refuse to die. Despite the monumental task ahead of them, the Canucks were determined to come back and win the series in 7 games.

Game five went in to overtime tied at 1-1. Pavel Bure had the Canucks' goal, his first of the post season. Mike Vernon continued to frustrate the Canucks with spectacular saves. But in the extra period Geoff Courtnall managed to spring lose on a semi breakaway and wire a "Gretzky-like slapshot" into the top left corner. The goal suddenly revived the Canucks' confidence in being able to beat the hot goaltender, and people started talking about a series comeback.

The Canucks had managed to elude elimination once, but would have to do it again in game 6. This time at least the game was played in Vancouver, and the boisterous fans might have given the Canucks' enough support to pull out a series-tying victory. With the game tied 2-2 after the period, the game would once again be decided in sudden death overtime. The Flames' were called for a too-many-men penalty during the extra frame. The resulting powerplay saw Trevor Linden scoop a Pavel Bure rebound behind a fallen Vernon. Suddenly, the series was all tied at 3 games each, but the Canucks definitely had the momentum on their side.

Game seven would once again be decided in over time. The Canucks' Greg Adams would score late in the third period to tie the game at 3, thus forcing the extra frame. The over time period was dominated early by the hometown Flames. Kirk McLean stymied the attackers time and time again, including one save which is now considered on of the greatest moments in playoff hockey history. At roughly the halfway mark of the fourth period, Theoren Fleury and Robert Reichal came in on a broken 2-on-1 rush with only Jyrki Lumme back to defend. Fleury perfectly faked a shot and turned it into a pass over to Reichal, forcing McLean to make a split second jump. McLean flung himself feet first and managed to get his left toe on the puck just in time to deny the Calgary shooter. Even the goal judge signalled it was a goal because he couldn't believe McLean was able to make that stop! Video replays show the puck was stopped right on the goal line.

Late in the overtime session the Flames dumped the puck out of their zone and on to the stick of Dave Babych. The veteran Canuck would move it over to new Canuck Jeff Brown, who would in turn spot Pavel Bure streaking at the Flames' blueline. The airborne pass managed to find its way through a maze of players right on to the tape of Bure's stick. The Flames' defense is caught almost off-guard as Bure splits the defense to go in on Mike Vernon all alone. Bure would quickly fake to his backhand before returning to his forehand to slide the puck past the outstretched Calgary netminder.

The miracle was complete. The Canucks came back from a 3 games to 1 game deficit to win the series, and were riding a wave of momentum into the next round.

June 11th/14th, 1994 - The Highs, The Lows

Bure-ing The Flames
The Russian Rocket
Captain Kirk

Shooting Down The Stars
The Elbow
The Mighty Pat Quinn
Cliff Ronning: The Little Man That Could

Be-Leaf It Or Not!
Forever A Canuck: Trevor Linden
Greg Adams! Greg Adams!

New York: All The World Is A Stage
The Penalty Shot
Nathan Lafayette And That Damn Goal Post
What A Mess!
Doug Lidster: The Lone Ranger
It Was A Riot!

June 15th, 2011: Looking Back At 1994

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