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March 9 - Here We Go Again?

As the NHL season winds down, teams are starting to get revved up for the playoffs. Barring an
unfortunate collapse, the Canucks appear poised to make the playoffs and do well. However,
something is different this year than other years. We've seen other good Vancouver teams before with
a lot of hype behind them. They've been touted before as a team to look out for in the playoffs, but they
haven't been to the finals in ten years. The Canucks are almost always a sexy pick before every
season and around playoff time as a Cup Winner or Contender. People are talking about this team
as a Cup Contender once again, and for once in my life I can look at them and agree. This team could
legitimately go all the way, and for once back up the hype.

Every year, the Canucks have gotten into the playoffs only to inevitably fall at some point. Fans would
get their hopes built up only to be disappointed as the Canucks would go out. A few years ago when
the Canucks came back from 3-1 down to beat St. Louis in the first round in 2002-03, the city
exploded. People celebrated as though the cup was already coming. In the next round, they blew their
own 3-1 lead against the Minnesota Wild. They appeared poised to play in the Conference Finals
against Anaheim. However, they would lose the next three games and once again be on the golf
course instead of the rink when the Finals were going on. The season prior to that, the Canucks had
been the hottest team in the NHL in the second half. Even as an 8th seed, many people had them
picked to defeat heavily favored Detroit. They went up 2 games to 0, and then in game 3, we had one
of the more infamous moments in Canucks history.

The game was tied 1-1 in the second period. Red Wings defenseman Nick Lidstrom took the puck at
centre and slapped it in, most likely just wanting to get the puck into the Canucks' zone. However, fate
intervened and the puck went past Canucks goalie Dan Cloutier and right into the net. That one goal
turned the entire series around, and the Red Wings won 4 straight games to win the series in six
games. They later went on to win the Stanley Cup, leaving many Canucks fans once again wondering
what might have been. If that goal doesn't go in, who is to say the Canucks may not have won the Cup
that year?

One could look at stories like that and wonder why this year would be any different. The answer to that
question came on June 23, 2006. In a deal that many are already calling one of the worst in NHL
History, the Canucks goaltending curse was put to an end when we received Roberto Luongo from
the Florida Panthers. For once, people can watch Canucks games and Goaltending is not an issue.
For a franchise that has seen the likes of Troy Gamble, Corey Hirsch, Felix Potvin, Garth Snow, and
Bob Essensa as main goalies, it is a relief to not worry about the guy in the net. Many are already
touting Luongo as the best goalie in the history of the team, and he appears poised to shatter many
Canucks goaltending records. His play has been at the level where I feel he has been the MVP of the
League this year. He's been that good.

I've seen people watch Canucks games with their eyes covered when the other team had the puck on
the powerplay, because they basically knew what was going to happen. The confidence in the team
was high, but the disappointment would always come. Now, with Luongo looking like an MVP
Candidate in goal, the Canucks are armed with the best penalty kill in the League, and they finally
look like the team that everyone has waited for all these years. Now, whether they can back that all up
with a Cup is another story, but for once the hype on this team as a contender is finally justified. They
have the goalie in place, the team has gelled very well in front of him, and they look ready to go all the
way to the top and bring that elusive first Cup to Vancouver. Let's see if they can do it and end the
futility.