It is never easy being a Vancouver Canucks fan, even on nights of what should be great celebration.
Every franchise has it's share of disappointments. But for 50 years now the Vancouver Canucks have continually found ways to torment their loyal fan base unlike any other in all of pro sports.
Friday night was the perfect example of what it is like to be a fan of the Vancouver Canucks. Up 3-2 in a best of seven series against the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues, the Canucks hold a 4-0 lead heading into the second intermission. Sounds like a sure thing? Victory is in the bag? Bring on the Vegas Golden Knights?
Not in Vancouver. Canucks fans are nervous.
When St. Louis finally did get on the board with a goal half way through the third period, there was a collective "oh oh" in Vancouver. It wasn't until the Canucks scored the 5-1 goal with seven minutes left that I finally felt comfortable with the lead. That's when I thought to myself, this is really happening.
The hockey gods have never been good to the Canucks or their long tortured fan base. And that has created an interesting dynamic in British Columbia. Canucks fans are the most loyal hockey fans of all, but also the most apprehensive and fatalistic.
The Canucks have had a very good season and so far are having a fantastic playoff. Jacob Markstrom is the clear MVP, though coach Travis Green is right there, too. The future looks so bright, with Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser all emerging early. They're getting great support throughout the line. Somehow much-maligned players like Jay Beagle, Brandon Sutter and Loui Eriksson have emerged as key contributors.
It is an exciting time in Vancouver. That being said, not a single hockey pundit will pick them to be the Vegas Golden Knights, including this pundit. The only people who believe the Canucks will beat the Knights are the Canucks themselves. And that's all they need.
Hopefully this is just the beginning of a long run of success for the franchise. Things don't always progress linearly however. Ask the Calgary Flames, who back in 2015 looked ready to emerge as a Cup favorite for years but have never really gotten back to that story line since.
Maybe the hockey gods will smile on Vancouver finally. But don't count on it.
Predictions for Round 2
Vegas over Vancouver - I picked the Wild to beat the Canucks. Like almost everyone, I picked the Blues to beat the Canucks. I won't stop now, I will take the Golden Knights to beat the Canucks. The Wild and Blues are impressive teams and the Canucks deserve a lot of credit for defeating them. But they both had weaknesses. I'm not so sure Vegas has a weakness. Other than Tampa Bay in the East, Vegas may very well have been the Stanley Cup favorite since the beginning of the playoffs. Surely the Canucks can't stop this juggernaut, too, can they?
Dallas over Colorado - If there is going to be an upset in this round, it will be the Stars upending the Avalanche. Alright I admit it's not likely. But I'm going with it anyway. Miro Heiskanen is that good. And there's a feel good story line building with Dallas coach Rick Bowness. So I'm calling for the upset.
Tampa Bay over Boston - Boston hasn't missed a beat since starting goaltender Tuukka Rask left the team. But Tampa is a whole different beast.
NY Islanders over Philadelphia - The Islanders are the new Devils, playing that suffocating defensive hockey that is so effective in the playoffs. It's almost like Lou Lamorello is in charge or something. Oh wait...he is? That explains a lot. Anyway, Philly didn't show me enough in their series vs Montreal, and the Islanders will be a much bigger test. I'm taking the Islanders.