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Even-keeled Canucks

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

Alex Burrows had a heavy heart Sunday.

The Canucks forward watched, in anguish, as Rory McIlroy fell from grace in the final round of the Masters.

Burrows had McIlroy in the Masters’ pool and he couldn’t believe his eyes when the 21-year-old from Northen Ireland shot a final-round 80 to erase his four shot lead and finish tied for 15th.

It wasn’t until Monday morning when Burrows got to the rink that he found out Vancouver will be facing the Chicago Blackhawks in Round 1 of the 2011 NHL Playoffs.

The Canucks have preached for weeks that they had no preference when it came to their first round opponent. Burrows, presumably a lazy boy in a La-Z-Boy Sunday, was more focused on golf than the do-or-die games for the Blackhawks and Dallas Stars.

That speaks volumes about how far the Canucks have come as a team; there’s no statistical measurement of maturity, but if there were, Vancouver would have set a new franchise record for it this season.

Or maybe it’s that Burrows turned the big 3-0 Monday and he’s now wise beyond his years. Either way, he’s excited to be facing the Blackhawks for the third consecutive season.

“They’re a great team, we have a lot of respect for them,” said Burrows. “They’re still the Stanley Cup champs and obviously any team we were going to play in the West was going to be good, they’re all good teams, and we know this is going to be a tough matchup.

“We’re going to approach it like we’ve been doing all year and that’s one game at a time. That seems to work for us.”

From the outside looking in it would be safe to assume the three Rs – revenge, redemption, retribution – would be in play for the Canucks after being ousted by the Blackhawks in the Western Conference Semifinal the last two years.

Sorry to report that there are no demons to exorcise for Vancouver. Although the superstars remain for both teams, the line-ups are drastically different from a year or two ago, which threatens to douse, or at least hamper, the once heated rivalry between clubs.

The Canucks actually have the Blackhawks to thank for their Presidents’ Trophy-winning season.

After suffering a 7-1 defeat by Chicago at Rogers Arena in November, Vancouver’s second loss to Chicago in 13 games to start the season, the Canucks re-grouped and reassessed things in a player’s only meeting, revealed defenceman Kevin Bieksa.

Vancouver was 10-6-3 following their most lopsided home loss of the season. A closed door meeting later and the Canucks finished the regular season winning 44 of 63 games, earning at least a point in 50 of them, including two wins over Chicago.

After bringing out the worst in the Canucks, the Blackhawks brought out the best in them and a fresh approach to the season hatched.

“It’s taken about six years now for some of us,” laughed Bieksa, “but just the mentality of being even-keeled and using quiet confidence around here, it’s definitely helped us.”

“You try to grow as a team throughout the year,” added Roberto Luongo. “You learn from your past experiences and all year I thought we were focused the whole time, we didn’t have a lot of ups and down and when we did, we tried to remain as even-keeled as possible.”

Even as Rory McIlroy fell apart to start the back nine Sunday with a triple-bogey, bogey and double-bogey costing Burrows bragging rights, he was cooler than a polar bear’s toenails.

There is definitely something different about these Canucks.

Bring on the Blackhawks.

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