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A tale of two cities, a tale of the Canucks

Four days ago, the Vancouver Canucks iced the best team they ever had—two different scoring champions, a Selke-winning checker, and the deepest blueline in hockey. Four days ago, Roberto Luongo was proclaimed the best goalie we have ever seen, the twins were tape-to-tape, and the parade was, well, planned.

The defence was aggressive in the neutral zone. Team speed caused fits for the battered Hawks. Luongo was sharp, and Glass hit everything that moved.

Tonight, however, the city of glass is draped with a red-and-black pall, as Vancouverites’ Twitter cries of #3venge went, well, unavenged in a 5-0 drubbing that was probably as painful to play in as it was to watch.

Minutes into the game, Marian Hossa moseyed past four Canucks to wrist a weak goal past Luongo. Seventeen seconds later, on the energy shift intended to draw the crowd back into the game, Luongo was beat on a screened shot, with Hamhuis and Edler flat-footed, watching at the posts, as if waiting to tip a puck into their own net on their own power play.

And with MVP candidate Daniel Sedin sitting in the penalty box while he was supposed to breathe life into the team he is supposed to carry, Patrick Kane tipped a Keith shot past Luongo, he of zero saves in three scoring chances in thirteen minutes.

The night was over early; in thirteen minutes, the once proud, puffed-chest fans of this great city saw their high-scoring, record-setting, Cup-winning team disintegrated to an ungainly conglomerate of guys who couldn’t quite find the puck, couldn’t quite keep it in the offensive zone, and couldn’t quite make a play to save this town’s dreams.  

In the span of thirteen minutes, Mason Raymond went from marvelous speedster to some cruel reincarnation of Maxim Afinogenov: dazzling getting to the neutral zone but infuriating past center ice. Indeed, his awkward dipsy-doodle at the Chicago blue-line in the first period cost the Canucks a pivotal goal.

In the span of thirteen minutes, Kevin Bieksa went from ferocious physical presence to decidedly dunderheaded goon, pinching and hitting in vintage Bieksa moments to spring Chicago on (yet more) breakaways. In truth, I don’t know which is sadder—some of the decisions he made today, or having such common brain farts that your namesake “moment” can become lexicon for Canuck fans.  

In the span of thirteen minutes, Mikael Samuelsson went from clutch Cup-winning goal-scorer (oh, how long ago Sunday seems now!) to master blue-line puck bobbler, wristing wimpy tries that not only failed to get on net, but even to the corner.

And in the span of thirteen minutes, the best goaltender to have ever put on a Canucks uniform, Roberto Luongo, went from demon exorcist to the Luongo of May 2009: positioned too far out, going down too quickly, and not being able to catch a beach ball in his Spanish Banks-sized glove.

The saddest part of this narrative is that Vancouver is all too familiar with how it goes and how it ends. We’ve seen our Canucks play like this before—May 2010 and May 2009.

If the Canucks don’t re-ignite last week’s spark, the 2011 addendum’s only change will be that we would not even have lived to play in May.

Four days ago Vancouver’s pride and joy was in the green and blue. The team oozed confidence. The city dripped with swag. There was nothing to be prouder of than the orca on your chest as you walked down the street—this was our year.

Of course, it still can be. But tonight, this city is very different than the one we knew on Sunday. Rogers Arena had cleared out midway through the third. The boo-birds hatched after a season of dormant satisfaction. And on the streets, fans renounced their team’s play if not the team itself, removing their jerseys with disgust on their faces and expletives on their lips.

Poor defence, poor goaltending, silent Sedins and a distraught city- this is the way the Canucks went out last year and the year before that. This city, four days ago, knew this year would be different. A much different city today is having its doubts.

“I won’t be gone again, [not] in this manner,” Charles Dickens wrote in his 1859 classic, A Tale of Two Cities.

On Sunday, we’ll see whether the Canucks will go in the manner of years past—and we’ll see which city they’ll leave in their wake.

Game Six is on Sunday at 4:30 on CBC.

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