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Shootouts aren’t fun, even when they totally are. (Photo “courtesy” of 680 News)

#FirstWorldProblems

That’s likely what anyone will say or Tweet (Jesus…) when referring to the struggles of the Vancouver Canucks. That struggle? “We keep winning… but in the shootout! Doesn’t look good!”

7/10. Seven in their past 10. That’s how many times Vancouver has had to go to a shootout since January 17. They’ve won four of them.

You’d be right to put a Canucks fan or critic (and, they’re often the same) in their place by telling them that points are points, and it doesn’t matter how you get them. 

After all, hockey fans north of the 49th have this weird tradition of comparing all Canadian teams to each other… even though they span three time zones, two languages, and vastly different ways of life.

And, in comparison with Canadian teams, the Canucks have absolutely nothing to complain about…

Vancouver is second in the West, and two points back of first-place Detroit with a game in hand. Winnipeg and Montreal are out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, and Calgary and Edmonton are out of the Western Conference playoff picture. Ottawa and Toronto are seventh and eighth in the East, respectively, and their seasons are considered as massive successes.

The Canucks, meanwhile, are acting like Goldie Hawn’s character in Overboard… “Caviar should be round and hard and it should burst in your mouth at precisely the right moment.”

For the Canucks, it’s, “7th? 8th? Let them eat cake!”

The Canucks complaining about only winning games in overtimes and shootouts is like when Alberta premier Ralph Klein fought that homeless guy at an Edmonton shelter. It’s the classic battle of the elite and the commoners. It’s like hearing the problems of university students whose parents pay for them and university students who are working two jobs to pay their own tuition. It’s like hearing billionaires complain about tax breaks. It’s like hearing Daniel Radcliffe complain about not getting an Oscar nomination. It’s like… well, you get it.

But, to really understand the problems the Canucks are facing, you can’t listen to those six other Canadian teams. With the exception of Calgary and Edmonton – who are both now in a rebuilding/stagnant mode and are therefore irrelevant to Vancouver’s playoff fortune – the six other Canadian clubs have no relation to the Vancouver Canucks.

The Canucks are in their championship window, and they have to win now. Ottawa blew theirs, Toronto blew theirs, Calgary blew theirs, and Edmonton blew theirs, and Winnipeg is still searching for its first one. Montreal… whatever, 23 Cups. Get over it.

The Canucks don’t relate to a team that has a $7.3 million player who hadn’t scored in 369 days. They don’t relate to a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since before the 2004 lockout. They don’t relate to a brand new franchise that’s just happy to be alive.

The Canucks are not playing Canada. They’re playing Detroit, Chicago, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and San Jose.

They’re playing the Western Conference, not Calgary or Edmonton.

They’re playing the Bruins and the Penguins, not the Maple Leafs or the Senators.

The Canucks are in that very lucky but very heartbreaking scenario of “Cup or Bust.”

It’s a scary window, and one that needs caution. That’s why the Canucks aren’t happy about winning in shootouts. They want to beat teams to a pulp and save enough for the playoffs… so, they can do it again. They want to be ready for Boston, or Pittsburgh, or New York, or Philadelphia, or whoever may come out of the East. At the same time, they need to be ready for Chicago, or Detroit, or San Jose, or even St. Louis, Nashville, or Los Angeles.

The Canucks aren’t playing Canada. They’re playing themselves.

That’s why shootouts blow.

 
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