“The series will go down as the most one-sided seven game series in the history of the Stanley Cup [Final],”– Dan Russell, former host of Sportstalk
Canucks’ third cup final appearance ends in disappointment
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
June 2021 marked 10 years since the Vancouver Canucks advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in franchise history. Prior final appearances were in 1982 and 1994 with the Canucks losing both series. The Canucks would take a 2 to 0 series lead on the Boston Bruins. It looked like a Stanley Cup would finally be coming to the city of Vancouver after 41 years.
However, when the series moved to TD Garden in Boston for games three and four, there was a momentum shift in favour of the Bruins. The pivotal moment that changed the series occurred in game three: Canucks defenceman, Aaron Rome, hit Bruins player Nathan Horton leaving Horton concussed and out for the rest of the series. Rome received a four-game suspension (and missed the remainder of the cup final). Boston won game three by a lopsided score of 8 to 1. The Bruins dominated the Canucks again in game four, winning by a score of 4 to 0. The Canucks won game five by a score of 1 to 0. Then the Bruins evened the series in game six, winning 5 to 2 forcing a game seven at Rogers Arena.
In April 2020, Rome spoke with then TSN 1040 morning show hosts—Mike Halford and Jason Brough—about the hit. Rome said the incident was a very “tough memory.” He was shocked that he had received a four-game suspension. “I didn’t think that that (a four-game suspension) was a possibility. I think that was the biggest shocker,” Rome said. “For me, I didn’t think that it would be four games. Looking back, based on things that have happened since, watching the NHL, I still don’t think that those four games were totally justified, especially when you take into account the playoff games are magnified even more than regular season games. So, I feel like that four-game suspension was closer to a 10-game regular season suspension, which is tough, and at that time totally unprecedented.”
The Boston Bruins won game seven by a score of 4 to 0, hoisting the Stanley Cup around the ice at Rogers Arena. The game was a letdown for Vancouver fans as the Canucks played poorly. The only highlight from game seven occurred after the game had ended. NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, received his annual deafening chorus of boos from fans when presenting the Stanley Cup to Bruins captain, Zdeno Chára.
The Canucks looked mentally and physically tired and several players were injured. Among the wounded were Dan Hamhuis (leg injury in game one), Christian Ehrhoff (shoulder injury), Ryan Kesler (groin injury), and Alex Edler (broke two fingers in game six). The Bruins got stronger as the series progressed, relying on heavy physicality punishing the Canucks with hard body checks. Vancouver was unable to counter the Bruins’ tactics. It was a nasty series with lots of cheap shots and trash talking from both teams.
A lasting image that resonated negatively with Canucks’ fans was late in game six when Daniel Sedin absorbed several punches to the face delivered by Boston’s Brad Marchand after the whistle. Sedin did not retaliate and Marchand received a roughing penalty and a misconduct. Oddly, Sedin received a misconduct as well. After the game, Marchand was asked by reporters why he kept punching Sedin in the face. Marchand replied, “Because I felt like it.”
In April 2021, former Canucks defenceman, Kevin Bieksa, reflected about the 2011 final on the Halford & Brough in the Morning show on Sportsnet 650. Although Bieksa is disappointed that the Canucks did not win the Stanley Cup, he has fond memories of that cup run: “There’s times when I think about that game and I just think was there a little bit more I could have given in game seven? But we were playing on fumes, I know I was. I was absolutely exhausted. I thought I left it all on the table, I think all my teammates can say the same thing.”
Dan Russell, former host of Sportstalk (1984 till 2014), was hosting his nightly program at CKNW radio during the Canucks’ 2011 cup run. Following the Canucks’ defeat in game seven, Russell held a seven-hour post game show. “The series will go down as the most one-sided seven game series in the history of the Stanley Cup [Final],” Russell said in an email interview with the Other Press. “Four one sided Boston wins [versus] three very close Vancouver wins. The Canucks scored only eight goals in the entire series. I believe that’s the lowest [goals for] total of any team in an NHL seven game playoff series. Boston had triple that goal total [scoring 23 goals in the final].”
Unfortunately, the Canucks’ offense and especially their powerplay (which was the best in the regular season) went silent at the wrong time with them scoring only two powerplay goals in the final. In contrast, the Bruins scored five powerplay goals in the series including three shorthanded goals. In addition, goaltending was another factor as Boston’s Tim Thomas outplayed Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo. He struggled in Boston, letting in eight goals in game three and four goals in game four. Thomas won the Conn Smythe Trophy as NHL playoff MVP. During the 2011 playoffs, in 25 games played, he had an astounding 1.98 goals-against-average, four shutouts, and a save percentage of .940.
Kevin Bieksa chooses to be positive about his memories of 2011. He says he has no regrets about not winning the Stanley Cup. “What are you going to do? We came up short,” he said. “If we played that game over again (in game seven), maybe we win it seven out of 10 times. But it doesn’t matter, we didn’t win that one. We didn’t play great. I think we were pretty tired. I don’t know, just some games you just don’t play good. Boston played really well. It was a close, close series. But I certainly don’t regret any of that time. It was a great time.”
For Dan Russell, who has followed the Canucks since their inception in 1970, he can’t help but wonder if he will ever witness a Vancouver Stanley Cup victory in his lifetime. “I still look back, having followed this team since they began, as to having their best chance ever, a seventh game at home in the Final,” he said. “And like so many I wonder [about] that opportunity, when that moment might happen again?”