The Paper Feature is a weekly column and sidebars that appears in the print edition of the Vancouver Courier newspaper. Track it down!
There are some Canucks fans that are enlightened souls, content to let the past stay in the past. Old rivalries and past slights are now just water under the bridge. All is forgiven; can’t we all just get along?
Every other Canucks fan still hates the Boston Bruins.
It’s not necessary to rehash all the reasons why Canucks fans can’t stand the Bruins, but it all stems from the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. It’s not just that the Bruins won and the Canucks lost, but all the cheap shots, devastating injuries, and trash-talking along the way, combined with a narrative in the media that cast the Canucks as the villains. Time and distance hasn’t changed that narrative — few would paint Tim Thomas as the humble hero over Roberto Luongo now — but Canucks fans have long memories.
It’s understandable that the refrain I keep hearing from Canucks fans in these playoffs is, “Anyone but the Bruins.”
It doesn’t help that the Bruins are led by some familiar faces. Most of the 2010-11 Bruins have moved on to other teams or retired, but Brad Marchand is their leading scorer, followed closely by the likes of David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, while Zdeno Chara still patrols the Bruins blueline for 22+ minutes per game.
The Bruins also stand as a stark reminder of what the Canucks haven’t done since 2011. While the Canucks haven’t won a playoff series since their run to the Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins got back to the Final in 2013 and, after missing the playoffs for a couple seasons, bounced back with the type of quick re-tool on the fly that the Canucks attempted but failed.
Now the Bruins are Stanley Cup favourites, particularly after the powerhouse Tampa Bay Lightning were surprisingly swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round. The Bruins summarily dispatched those same Blue Jackets in six games in the second round to get to the Eastern Conference Finals. There, they’ll be facing the upstart Carolina Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes have already won over a lot of new fans with their exuberant post-game “Storm Surge” celebrations during the regular season. They’ve long been darlings of the fancy stats aficionados, as the Hurricanes have embraced analytics as a small market team, with former hockey blogger Eric Tulsky in a senior role in hockey operations. Now they’ve also won over the old school crowd with all the intangibles they love: hard work, grit, determination, heart, and leadership.
Most of all, the Hurricanes are the polar opposite of the Bruins. They’re the David to the Bruins’ Goliath; the underdog versus the favourite; the team that’s been in Carolina for just over 20 years versus the Original Six behemoth; the small market versus the hockey hotbed; the lowest payroll in the NHL versus one of the highest; the likeable “Bunch of Jerks” versus the literal bunch of jerks.
Also unlike the Bruins, the Hurricanes didn’t make the playoffs in nine-straight seasons. It’s a lot easier to like a team that hasn’t had a long string of success.
Frankly, Boston sports fans have won enough championships in recent years. In the last twenty years, the New England Patriots have won six Super Bowls, the Boston Red Sox have won four World Series, the Boston Celtics have won an NBA Championship, and of course the Bruins have won the Stanley Cup.
That’s quite enough, thanks.
The Hurricanes are coming off a sweep of the New York Islanders in the second round and their underlying analytics have been just as dominant in the playoffs as they were during the regular season. The Bruins will be the favourites, but the matchup is about as even as it could be. There might be no better chance to stop the Bruins from winning their second Stanley Cup in the last ten years.
It seems clear: if you weren’t already cheering for the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, now is the time to start.
Stick-taps and Glove-drops
A tap of the stick to Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who completed their first ever marathons on Sunday at the Vancouver Marathon. The twins ran even splits over the first half of the race — literally the exact same time of 1:28:52 — before Daniel pulled away in the second half to beat his brother with a time of 3:11:42, which is not far off the qualifying times for the Boston Marathon.
I’m dropping the gloves with Michael DiPietro’s ankle. Canucks prospect DiPietro and the Ottawa 67’s were on the verge of an historic achievement: sweeping through the OHL Playoffs. Instead, DiPietro suffered a high ankle sprain and the 67’s dropped their next two games 7-2 and 5-4 with backup Cedrick Andree in net.
16.3 - According to salary cap site CapFriendly, the Carolina Hurricanes are just short of $16.3 million under the cap. They’re easily the team with the lowest cap hit in the league, nearly $2 million lower than the next lowest team.
99 - The Hurricanes barely snuck into a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference with 99 points, but that same number of points would have had them one point out of first in the Central Division in the West. That should provide some perspective on just how good the Hurricanes are.