They were supposed to be planning parades this summer in Vancouver.
Instead, they may find themselves planning public executions.
Not literally, of course, but it wouldn't be too far off either. After all, this was supposed to be the year.
The year, the Canucks finally cashed in on years of steady building through the draft and slick free agent pickups. When the cup finally went back to Canada.
Now, the Sedin Twins and Co. are in a fight for their hockey lives, their backs up against an almost unprecedented wall.
They stormed through the regular season—the best in franchise history—to much fanfare. A favorite to win the Cup coming into the season, they didn't disappoint. The Sedin brothers picked up where they left off, cycling teams to death and racking up point at a feverish pace. Lungo had a Vezina worthy season and was recently nominated for the award.
And most importantly, the team seemed to have the role players necessary to make a run at the ultimate prize.
When the first-round matchups were finally settled after the hectic final day of the regular season, Canucks nation may have seen a bit of a problem.
Their Kryptonite: The Chicago Blackhawks.
Kane and his mullet. Toews and his stare. The crowd at the United Center and their anthem. And that damn goal celebration song.
Yet, it seemed fitting that the Canucks would be given the chance to exercise their collective playoff demons against this team. This squad that had knocked them around, embarrassed them on home ice, and sent them home earlier than expected for two consecutive seasons.
The Hockey Gods had presented this Vancouver Canucks team with an opportunity.
And they seized it mightily. For the first time, they were the aggressors against their tormentors. They out-skilled and out-gritted the Hawks, and took the first game—a sigh of relief heard round the hockey world.
See? The Canucks could beat these Blackhawks.
And then they did it again in the second game. And then again in the third where they bested the Hawks at the United Center, securing a three games to none lead, and presumably the series.
If the Blackhawks were a fighter, they'd have been face down on the mat. Limp with a jacked up nose and rubbery knees. Blood running into the eyes while the referee towered over them, slowly counting down the last seconds in their defense of Lord Stanley's Cup.
Then, seemingly, they remembered who they were. The "Lets Go Blackhawks" chant echoed about in their brain, and there was a jolt of life.
The team came to, slowly stood and placed their hands back up. They were ready to battle again.
We know the rest already. Chicago won the next three games. There aren't enough adjectives to describe what has happened in the last six days. They put the Canucks' $10 million man on the bench for a really-need-to-win game after scoring 10 goals on 40-some shots in two games, then won a third. They zeroed out two of the best five hockey players in the world and cruised.
Now, anything can happen.
This game is a tale of two very different opportunities. The Hawks can become the fourth team to ever recover from a three games to none deficit. The drama shouldn't be lost on sports fans, much less hockey fans.
Chicago barely made the playoffs and got whopped on for three games in a row. Where did this come from?
And while this has been a major speed bump for the Canucks, they still have a chance to prove that all the press they have received this year hasn't been for waste. They don't have to join San Jose and Washington as playoff floppers. That time isn't here quite yet, and they shouldn't be counted out.
The Canucks can still win this series, and continue their story book season.
It would be appropriate after all, wouldn't it?
If there ever was one, now is the time for the Vancouver Canucks to show that they have the heart, determination, and will to win. That they are willing to pay the price to win a game of this magnitude.
The team that deserves to win will do so. It won't be the referees. It won't be the fans. It won't really even be the coaches. These two teams have pushed each other to their respective brinks, and it comes down to a 60-minute hockey game.
Who will be the hero? Which squad will come up with the extra gear needed to go on the the next round? This is playoff hockey, and sport, at its very best.
It doesn't get much bigger or more dramatic than this.