WRITTEN IN STONE
It's been three years since the Canucks have seen post-season action and Wednesday represents a well-deserved return to the playoffs for a new-look team built upon hard work and defence.
"It's exciting, I can't wait to get it started," said Roberto Luongo
, the Canucks team MVP. "I've been waiting a long time for this and it's finally here so I'm really looking forward to Wednesday."
And while the season started a little shaky, the Canucks 32-8-2 record since the Christmas helped correct some early stumbles.
With a club-high 49 wins and 105 points, the Canucks narrowly edged out the Minnesota Wild for the Northwest title, their second in three seasons. The Canucks also claimed the division in 2003-2004, the last time they made it into the playoffs.
In spite of all those accomplishments, only nine members of the 2004 team returned this year and seven players have no NHL playoff experience whatsoever.
But if you're going to judge the Canucks' by their track record, they've been to the Cup finals twice in their 36 year history - once in '82 and again in '94. Each appearance was 12 years apart. The last playoff run was exactly 12 season's ago.
Of course history doesn't tell the whole story, especially when it comes to this year's Canucks.
"This year's team is a completely different team than what we've had in the past," said Brendan Morrison.
"There's a lot of adrenaline, a lot of excitement, a little nervousness but we're ready to go."
The 12-year myth has been surfacing more frequently of late and the city's starting to believe it could happen. And although technically, this is the 13th year, because of the lockout, we'll make an exception - it's an old myth.
The Canucks and Stars have met five times in the playoffs. Vancouver won the last match-up 4-1, and that was back in 1994 - the last time the Canucks made it to the Stanley Cup finals.
Both times the Canucks' made it to the finals in 1982 (the first visit to the Cup finals) and 1994, they finished 2nd in their division.
This season will be the fourth consecutive time the Stars have made it to the playoffs, getting out of the first round just once in that span.
Stats can say a lot about a team but in the end, they're just numbers.
"It's a whole new season in the playoffs," said Matt Cooke. "You can't really look at their standings for anything. There are eight good teams in the Western Conference, there's no easy series."
The rest is just history. MATCHED UP
Dallas and Vancouver may be a match made in heaven. Heaven, maybe not, but certainly appropriate.
All four games this season ended 2-1, and the season series wound up tied 2-2. Each side won both games at home, and won one in regulation and one in extra time.
The Canucks ended the season with 222 goals-for, while the Stars have 226.
Vancouver ended the regular season at 49-26-7 and 105 points. Dallas finished with 107 points recording a 50-25-7 record through 82 games.
The numbers aren't the only things the teams share - their style of play has been compared all year. Both teams employ a very methodic, disciplined style out on the ice.
Of course the Canucks have something extra, at least they think so.
"We've got a great group right here," says Henrik Sedin
. "We've got four lines playing the same way and an unbelievable goalie back there so we all think we've got a great chance of going all the way."
And goaltending, and they say, makes all the difference in the world come playoffs.
Marty Turco has only made it past the first round of the playoffs once, and he's 13-3-1 against the Canucks in 18 career games.
In 10 games against Dallas, Luongo is 4-4-1 averaging 1.93 GAA, but will play in his first playoff game this Wednesday when the Stars visit GM Place.
"I think both teams are strong in goal, I think we both rely on the defence to create offence, but also very smart defenders," says Trevor Linden, who's garnered 92 points (32-60-92) in 112 career playoff games. "I think it's going to be a tight series. I think goals are going to be tough to come by and special teams are going to play a big part."
Comparisons are made to death, and fear not, there will be plenty of comparisons to come. Of course only one comparison really counts in the end, and it's the final score.
"This is the playoffs so all that matters is winning and I don't care about anything else," says Luongo. 25TH ANNIVERSARY
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Canucks 1982 playoff run, when the Canucks shocked everyone and charged all the way to the Stanley Cup finals.
Everyone's hoping the excitement of the anniversary will rub off on the guys this year, so to kick off the playoff fever, the Canucks will honour the '82 heroes in game one on Wednesday night.
Relive the memories with Stan Smyl, Richard Brodeur, Darcy Rota, Harold Snepsts, and Jim Robson and help us celebrate.