VAN Game 7 postgame

VANCOUVER -- Arturs Silovs sat at his locker for what must have seemed like an eternity, staring out into space, wearing a blank look on his face and still donning his pads on his legs.

The sense of disbelief was part overwhelming, part sobering. His Cinderella journey, like that of his team, was over.

Silovs and his Vancouver Canucks were one of the feel-good stories of the regular season and, certainly in the case of the rookie goaltender, of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But the clock struck midnight on their Cup dreams Monday, their aspirations coming to a screeching halt with a 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round at Rogers Arena. 

The Oilers move on to face the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Final. Game 1 is at American Airlines Arena in Dallas on Thursday (8:30 p.m. ET: TNT, MAX, truTV, CBC, SN, TVAS).

The Canucks? They have an entire offseason to ponder what might have been.

That didn’t stop coach Rick Tocchet from exuding extreme pride for his team and how much his players had progressed since he replaced Bruce Boudreau behind the bench of an 18-25-3 team on Jan. 22, 2023.

“Let’s face it, a year and a half ago it was ‘this guy can’t play, this guy’s that,’” Tocchet said. “Well, I told them before the game they put respect back into that jersey, and this city, and gave the fans something to be proud of.

“That’s all because of the players.”

Very few preseason prognostications had the Canucks making the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2023-24 but Vancouver went 50-23-9 with 109 points, good enough to finish first in the Pacific Division.

After defeating the Nashville Predators in six games in the first round, the Canucks stretched a star-studded Oilers team that featured elite forwards like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to a seventh and deciding game before finally succumbing Monday.

Along the way, they were forced to deal with their share of adversity.

When the final horn sounded on their season, they were without goalie Thatcher Demko and forward Brock Boeser. Both were sidelined with undisclosed ailments. Both were described by Tocchet as “all-stars.”

With Demko and backup Casey DeSmith unable to play after three games because of undisclosed injuries, Silovs got the call for Game 4 against the Predators and backstopped the Canucks all the way to a do-or-die game against the Oilers. In the end, he went 5-5 with a 2.91 goals-against average, .898 save percentage and gave his team a chance to win every night he played.

“’Artie’ played his (butt) off,” Tocchet said. “What a playoff for that kid. That’s going to be huge for his growth.”

As for Boeser, Tocchet said he found out on Sunday that the forward would be unavailable for Game 7. He tied for the team’s postseason lead with 12 points (seven goals, five assists) and was a key cog on the power play.

His absence was evident Monday when the Canucks failed to register a shot with a four-minute man-advantage in the first period.

“I don’t feel sorry for us, I feel sorry for him,” forward J.T. Miller said. “He’s worked his (butt) off all year, had a career year. He’s come so far as a player since I got here (in 2019), out there blocking shots and such. He’s that type of player now.

“For him not to be out there tonight and to be suffering, I feel for him.”

Miller pointed out the Canucks were just a bounce away from tying the game. In that respect, he was right, given the one-goal margin.

In reality, however, the majority of the game wasn’t that close. The Oilers built up a 3-0 lead and a 22-4 shot advantage before goals by Conor Garland and Filip Hronek in the final 8:33 led to a nail-biting finish.

In the end, it just wasn’t enough.

“It’s hard to reflect and take it in right now,” captain Quinn Hughes said afterward, trying to find an explanation that was not yet there.

He glanced to his right over the sea of cameras and microphones. There, he saw Silovs, looking stunned, saying nothing.

No words needed be said. Not on this heartbreaking night.

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