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The Canucks Never Win That Game

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - APRIL 28: Arturs Silovs #31 and Teddy Blueger #53 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrate after defeating the Nashville Predators during overtime of Game Four of the First Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on April 28, 2024 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Arturs Silovs; Teddy Blueger
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

I had written off the Canucks. I have watched enough Canucks hockey in my lifetime to have done so confidently. Their Cinderella regular season when everything went right was over and they were going Pumpkin Mode. Thatcher Demko, such a big part of their success, is out, reportedly for the long haul. Backup Casey DeSmith, who had turned in one stinker and one shiner, was out for Game 4. The goalies were falling like flies and the offense looked moderately cursed. Elias Pettersson might have the yips. Quinn Hughes might be hurt. It felt like so many other promising Vancouver seasons where enough things go wrong that it's nobody's fault, exactly, but it becomes eminently clear that whatever force controls the cosmic order is not backing the Canucks.

I felt entirely justified by the time the Predators went up 3-1 right off the opening faceoff of the third period on Sunday. Arturs Silovs may have won tournament MVP at last year's Worlds for Latvia, but he's currently a third-string NHL goalie for a reason. Even though the Canucks were up 2-1 in the series, the drama felt like it'd be whether we eventually got a fourth goalie, and not whether the Canucks could battle back. After just two shots on goal in the first 15 minutes of the final frame, and 17 total up to that point, it felt inevitable. This was not the sort of game the Canucks ever win.

And then Vancouver pulled their goalie with a whopping 3:20 left, and then Brock Boeser scored his second to make it a one-goal game, and then Colton Sissons clanged an attempt off the post of an empty net, and then Boeser tucked in a puck to complete the hatty and tie the game with eight seconds remaining. The Canucks did this.

A minute into overtime, before I could articulate the thought that it would be extremely Canucks to have done all that and lose anyway, Elias Lindholm completed one of the unlikelier comebacks I can remember.

Whew buddy! “That was a pretty special moment for our group," J.T. Miller said.

It felt appropriate in a season where the other shoe has never quite been allowed to drop. "It's been like that all year," head coach Rick Tocchet said. "Certain spots we've been put in, somehow we get out of them. It might not look pretty, you know? Like tonight wasn't pretty, and we got out of it somehow."

I honestly don't know how to process this version of the Vancouver Canucks, where everything doesn't go straight to hell at the first sign of crumbling, and where they win games even on nights they're not the better team. This is, like, behavior you expect from a good, normal, healthy hockey franchise. They're up 3-1; how far can they take this? Will they settle for being just the third team in NHL history to win games with three different goalies in a single series, or will they trot out Nikita Tolopilo on Tuesday? In a theoretical all-Canada second-round pairing, is it possible they match up well against the only other team who has historically been more self-defeating? Is Canucks Magic real? Or is Canucks Magic's real trick doing just enough to get you to believe before yanking it all away, and it's feeling particularly cruel this year? Rapt and jittery, a province waits to find out.

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