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End of An Era?

by Sunny Dhillon / Vancouver Canucks
 The Vancouver Canucks lost by six goals Saturday night. No one at GM Place really could have cared less.

Trevor Linden played what might be his final game in the National Hockey League and was treated to several standing ovations as his Canucks were blitzed 7-1 by the Calgary Flames.

The score was largely inconsequential. This night was about Linden from start to finish.

As he made his way to his locker after the game, Linden politely walked around the media scrum wrestling in front of it. Then, with a chuckle, he semi-pondered, “What do you guys want to talk about?”

The answer was clear. Was Linden hanging up his skates for good?

“At this point I don’t feel right talking about it,” said Linden. “You know, it’s been an emotional week from a lot of standpoints, from having an opportunity to go to the playoffs to not getting there. At this point I just need to take some time and reflect. Just take some time right now.”

But just because Linden hasn’t reached a final decision – so far as we know – that doesn’t mean he wasn’t touched by the response he received from the crowd. The Linden signs were out in full force and not only did the crowd chant his name, they also begged, “ONE MORE YEAR!”

“It’s quite overwhelming, you know, overwhelming at the same time, not surprised,” said Linden. “I’ve been treated incredibly by the city of Vancouver for a long time and the fans of the team. For someone who doesn’t like attention it was a little difficult.”

Again, while Trevor hasn’t formally stated if he’ll return, it’s fair to suggest the end of this game hinted otherwise. Linden not only embraced every single one of his teammates after the horn, but he skated across the red line and shook hands with many of the Flames, who were told to get back on the ice by captain Jarome Iginla.

Linden spoke glowingly of Iginla afterwards.

“I think it was a very classy thing to do. I think Jarome is one of the most classy players in the league, not only that, he’s probably the best player in the league. When you have a captain like that, it was certainly a very classy move on their part, no doubt.”

Iginla, for his part, was just as complimentary of Linden.

“The career he’s had, a lot of us watched him when we were younger, and the runs he’s had when he first broke in. He’s played for so long, and also playing against him, he’s a guy that plays hard all the time. He’s a leader. He’s a guy that’s a good, honest, hard player to play against. He’s not cheap. We have a lot of respect also for what he’s done for us off the ice as a group of players. I’m not sure if it’s his last for sure, but if it is, it definitely was an honor to play with him.”

As Linden and Iginla shook hands at centre ice, the former Canuck captain whispered something in Iginla’s ear – or at least whispered as loudly as you can when 18,630 people are simultaneously screaming. Whatever Linden said, Iginla wasn’t sharing. “No, sorry, it’s personal.”

Adrian Aucoin – who was a teammate of Linden’s in the mid-90s – said it was a nice moment to be a part of.

“I think that was one of the truly classiest things I’ve seen with Jarome calling all our players back on there to live the moment with Trevor and to congratulate him on a great career,” said Aucoin. “Who knows, maybe he’ll have us all fooled and come back next year, not by the looks of it. The way the fans reacted, the way the Canucks reacted, it was an amazing thing for an amazing player.”

For Vancouver, the game plan from the outset – when Alain Vigneault inserted Linden into the starting lineup – was clear: get Trevor a goal. Try as linemates Henrik and Daniel Sedin might, they just couldn’t get it done.

Linden’s best chance came early in the first when, on a Vancouver power-play, Henrik found him unmarked in the slot. Linden unleashed a one-timer but didn’t get his A-shot away. The puck clanged off Flames goaltender Curtis Joseph’s mask and stayed out.

There were other chances, to be sure, but they agonizingly slipped away. Daniel found Trevor alone at the side of the net later in the period but Linden couldn’t handle the saucer pass. Similarly, in the third, the Canucks got a fortuitous bounce off a linesman but a Henrik backhand pass went right through Trevor’s skates.

Linden’s final line wasn’t a particularly flashy one. He logged a season-high 18:11 of ice-time on 23 shifts. Like many of his teammates, he finished in the minus. He had two shots on goal and won one of the two faceoffs he took. Trevor also collected one body check and drew both Flames penalties on the night.

While he didn’t score the goal that would have sent GM Place into hysterics, Linden’s sendoff, if that’s what it was, was fitting according to his compatriots.

“Trevor has been a very good player, not to say, outstanding player in this league for quite some time and I don’t know what his decision is going to be,” said Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault. “The fans showed a lot of class tonight towards him and Markus [Naslund]. And I thought the Calgary Flames showed a lot of class at the end there by doing what they did.”

“It’s obvious how much he’s loved in this city,” said captain Naslund. “It was great for him to have an evening. I wish we could have helped him out and make it a more fun evening winning the game and getting him a goal or so, but it says a lot how much he’s meant to this city and to this organization the way that the fans treated him.”

95 – Points in 118 playoff games as a Canuck for Trevor Linden (34 goals, 61 assists).

318 – Career goals as a Canuck for Trevor Linden in the regular season.

415 – Career assists as a Canuck for Trevor Linden.

733 – Career points as a Canuck for Trevor Linden.

Saturday’s offense was geared toward getting a goal for Trevor Linden.

It ultimately fell short.

The defense played like it was a game that meant nothing and it showed.

There were breakdowns and giveaways galore.

Alain Vigneault astutely described it afterwards as a “summer hockey game.”

Special teams didn’t really play a role in this one, as only three penalties were called all night.

The Vancouver PP finished 0-for-2, the PK finished 1-for-1.
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