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Canucks are in finals, and Blackhawks could’ve stopped it

Jonathan Toews had congratulate Canucks goalie RoberLuongo after Hawks lost seven-game first-round series.  |  Jeff Vinnick~Getty Images

Jonathan Toews had to congratulate Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo after the Hawks lost the seven-game first-round series. | Jeff Vinnick~Getty Images

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THE SCHEDULE

VANCOUVER CANUCKS
vs. BOSTON BRUINS

All games at 7 p.m.

Game 1: Wednesday,
Vancouver, Ch. 5

Game 2: Saturday, Vancouver,

Ch. 5

Game 3: Monday, Boston,
Versus

Game 4: June 8, Boston, Versus

Game 5*: June 10, Vancouver,
Ch. 5

Game 6*: June 13, Boston,

Ch. 5

Game 7*: June 15, Vancouver,
Ch. 5

*-if necessary

Updated: September 3, 2011 12:33AM



VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews wasn’t long removed from shaking the hands of the hated Vancouver Canucks, sourly congratulating them after the Hawks’ first-round playoff ouster.

‘‘It wasn’t fun,” Toews said while meeting with the media two days after Alex Burrows’ game-winning goal in overtime April 26 snuffed the Hawks’ near-historic comeback from a 3-0 series hole. ‘‘What we could have done to ruin the parade in that city — I don’t know. I guess I shouldn’t take so much satisfaction in that, but it would have been something special, especially coming back from a 3-0 deficit [with] the expectations Vancouver has in their city with the media and all that stuff.

‘‘Obviously, that’s why it’s such a great rivalry right now.’’

There are a ton of story lines in the Stanley Cup finals between the Canucks and Boston Bruins, which start Wednesday in Vancouver. The Canucks, the best team all season, are in search of their first Stanley Cup title after reaching the finals in 1982 and 1994. The Bruins, with all of their Original Six history and baggage, have a shot at their first Cup title since 1972.

The Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, goalie Roberto Luongo and the rest of the team finally can shake the ‘‘playoff loser’’ tag after being overwhelmed by the Hawks the previous two postseasons. The Bruins have Tim Thomas, 37, an unorthodox goalie with an inspiring back story. There’s the growing stardom of Canucks center Ryan Kesler, the possible return of center Manny Malhotra from eye surgery and so on.

But in Chicago, where 2 million packed the streets last summer for the Hawks’ championship parade in a definitive sign that hockey never left, the story is, ‘‘Do the Bruins have what it takes to beat the Canucks four times?’’ And it’s safe to declare that any poll would show Chicago siding with Boston.

The Hawks often say there’s a
level of hatred, annoyance and aggravation between them and the Canucks that doesn’t exist between them and other teams these days — not even the Detroit Red Wings.

So the toughest part to swallow is that they almost ruined Vancouver’s party weeks ago. The Hawks, with all their inconsistencies, came the closest — not the trapping Nashville Predators in the second round, not the San Jose Sharks and goalie Antti Niemi in the conference finals.

‘‘I felt if we found a way to beat Vancouver, it would have created a huge hurdle we overcame,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘And I felt we were ready to take off.’’

Regardless of all their personnel changes, there’s no denying the Hawks grossly underachieved and left themselves with plenty of ‘‘what ifs.’’ What if they hadn’t blown all those third-period leads or been awful at the United Center early in the season? What if Dave Bolland had returned earlier from his concussion? What if Brent Seabrook hadn’t been knocked out by the Canucks’ Raffi Torres, and Tomas Kopecky hadn’t been injured moments into Game 1? What if Quenneville hadn’t been forced to dress John Scott, or if Bryan Bickell didn’t have to sit out Game 7 after wrist surgery?

‘‘It’s obviously real hard to watch [the playoffs],’’ goalie Corey Crawford said. ‘‘I think maybe if we came up with a win in the first couple of games [against Vancouver], then it would have been completely different.’’

But all the “what ifs” can’t negate the glaring truth that the Canucks — with their talent, depth, speed and special teams ­— are a very good hockey team. They were favored against the Hawks, and they’re the favorites against the Bruins. As they showed against the Hawks, it will take a lot to beat them four times.

‘‘We know it’s going to be a challenge,’’ Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said Monday. ‘‘It’s going to be a battle. We know what we are playing for.’’

So do the Canucks.



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