-- Time has not healed all wounds for the Vancouver Canucks
Less than a week removed from a Game 7 loss in the Stanley Cup Final, a contingent of Canucks descended Tuesday afternoon upon Las Vegas for the 2011 NHL Awards show at the Pearl Theater in the Palms Casino on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; Versus, CBC).
, Daniel Sedin
, Roberto Luongo
and coach Alain Vigneault
are all in town, hoping to take home some hardware to at least partially erase some of the sting of losing the Stanley Cup in a winner-take-all Game 7.
"There is only one trophy we play for,” said Kesler, who is nominated for the Frank Selke Trophy as best defensive forward.
That trophy is the Stanley Cup, and the Boston Bruins
ripped it out of Vancouver's hands with an impressive 4-0 victory in last Wednesday's Game 7 at Rogers Arena.
While the Vancouver players were still coming to grips with the what-ifs that have plagued their every waking moment for the past six days, Boston's Tim Thomas
, up for the Vezina Trophy, and Zdeno Chara
, nominated for the Norris Trophy, arrived in town still riding the wave of happiness enjoyed by all Cup winners.
"When you listen to players that have won it and they go on about how hard it is and what it takes to win it, until you have actually done it and you are playing hurt and tired, the mental pressure and the physical exhaustion, you don't really realize how it is,” said Boston captain Chara, almost unrecognizable with his face shorn of its playoff beard. "I am so glad I had a chance to experience it, go through it and live it. The best part is to see the whole team, all my teammates, being so happy and relieved. That is just a memory I will never forget -- to look in their faces and see their smiles; everybody just having that joy and happiness. That is the best feeling. "
It is a feeling that the Canucks can only guess at after watching a 3-2 series lead evaporate in just 72 hours.
Kesler can't even think about it.
"It is too early to even talk about it,” Kesler said Tuesday afternoon. "Right now, I am here to focus on the Awards.”
Does seeing the Bruins and the Stanley Cup, which also made the trip to Vegas make it an even more difficult process?
"I haven't seen any Bruins yet,” Kesler said. "I will let you know how I feel when I do.”
Will it be awkward for Kesler when he sees Chara or Thomas on the casino floor or at Wednesday's Awards show?
"It would probably be awkward, yeah,” he said.
Luongo, battling Thomas for the Vezina Trophy as top goalie, hasn't come to grips with the loss but seems a bit closer than Kesler.
"Obviously we didn't really have time to digest what happened last week yet, so it is a bit touchy to probably see those guys and them holding the Cup and stuff like that,” Luongo said. "It's not easy, it's a tough loss, but it's something that's going to heal with time."
What about the perceived rift between him and Thomas that came about during a contentious series that featured several wars of words? After Game 5 of the series, Luongo said he could have stopped the game's only goal -- the game-winner by Maxim Lapierre
. The next day, Luongo complained that Thomas had not given him enough credit in the series. Those comments remained a storyline for the final three games of the series.
Luongo said Tuesday that there's no rift.
"I think everything's cool,” he said. "We had a few words after the series was over and, you know, I've always had a lot of respect for him and I've always said that from the start. Wish him all the best tomorrow and hope he enjoys the Vezina because he's probably going to win it."
Thomas also took the high road Tuesday.
"I remember one of the things I told him going through the (handshake) line is: ‘For the record, I think you are a great goalie and you had a great season.' Whether (the comment) was taken out of context or whether it was just part of the mental game that was trying to be played, it was just something that happened.
"What matters in the end is who won; who won the Cup. It doesn't matter. I hold no ill feelings or ill will toward anyone about what was said."
Eventually, everyone will move on for the elation or disappointment of last week's Game 7. For some, like Kesler, it may take more time. But according to Vigneault, nominated for the Jack Adams
Trophy as the League's best coach, it will happen because that is the way hockey players are programmed.
"I had a good talk with Chara a couple minutes ago and when I came in, I came in with Thomas; those are great people,” Vigneault said. "They are competitive. They wanted to win. We wanted to win. They did everything they had to win and we tried everything we had to win.
"Any guy that is in this business, whether you are a player or a coach, you know what you have to do to get it done and you know what the opposition is going through, so respect for that is huge. So, after a couple of days, you are able to turn the page."