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The Vancouver Canucks joined the NHL for the 1970-1971 season along with the Buffalo Sabres. The team played its first NHL game on October 9th 1970 losing to the Los Angeles Kings. The team recorded its first win on October 11th when the Canucks beat the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The first years of the team were difficult and the Canucks struggled to find any success. The team finished its debut season in sixth place of the Eastern Division. The following year the Canucks finished last in the league with a record of 20-58-8.
The Canucks finally found some success in the 1974-1975 season after the NHL was divided into divisions. The Vancouver Canucks won the Smythe Division but their playoff run was short-lived since the team lost to the Montreal Canadiens in five games.
At the turn of the decade the Canucks returned to the playoffs after disappointing seasons in 1976-1977 and 1977-1978. In the 1978-1979 season Ron Sedlbauer became the first player in Canucks history to score 40 goals and a year later Stan Smyl lead the team in scoring with 31 goals while also recording 47 assists. The team still didn't pass the first round of the playoffs since the Buffalo Sabres eliminated the Canucks in four games.
In 1982 Canucks coach Harry Neale was involved in a brawl with a fan and suspended for the playoffs. Charismatic assistant coach Roger Neilson became the acting head coach and led the team all the way to its first Stanley Cup Final against the New York Islanders. The Canucks battled hard for a win in the first game but Mike Bossy's overtime goal gave the Islanders a 6-5 win. The Islanders went on to sweep the series.
Following its first appearance in the Final, the Canucks entered another set of disappointing years. In 1991 Smyl retired and the Canucks needed a new star, so the club acquired Russian Pavel Bure. The skilled forward, nicknamed "The Russian Rocket" scored 34 goals in his rookie season and went on to win the Calder Trophy. The Canucks finished first place and entered the first playoff round against the Winnipeg Jets. The Canucks were down 1-3 in the series before a strong comeback with three consecutive wins to win the series 4 games to 3. The Edmonton Oilers, however, eliminated the Canucks in the 2nd round.
In the 1992-1993 season Bure became the first Canuck to reach the 50 goal and 100 point mark with a total of 60 goals and 50 assists. The Canucks won their second straight division title and also recorded an 18-game unbeaten streak at home. The team's playoff run ended in the division finals as the Los Angeles Kings eliminated the Canucks in six games.
The 1993-1994 season turned out to be one of the greatest in Canucks history. The Canucks finished 2nd in the Pacific Division but had a difficult start in the playoffs. The team was down 1-3 to the Calgary Flames but eventually came back to eliminate the Flames in seven games. In the 2nd round of the playoffs the Canucks eliminated the Dallas Stars in five games and reached the Western Conference Finals against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Canucks were lead by goalie Kirk McLean, who posted two shutouts and the club advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in six games. In the Final the Canucks faced the New York Rangers, who were the clear favourites looking to break their "40-year curse". The Canucks managed to extend the series into Game 7, but the Rangers eventually won the Stanley Cup with a 3-2 win in the decisive game.
After their 2nd Stanley Cup Final appearance the Canucks returned to the bottom of the table, and their darker years culminated before the turn of the millenium. In 1996-1997 the Canucks missed the playoffs for the first time in seven years before finishing in last place in the next two seasons.
In the 1999-2000 season the Canucks started to reshape the team. Head European scout Thomas Gradin convinced General Manager Brian Burke to draft Swedish twins Henrik (#3)and Daniel Sedin (#2), who became the core of the team in the 2000s. Markus Näslund became the team's captain and formed a strong offensive duo with Todd Bertuzzi .
In 2002-2003 the Canucks enjoyed the best season in franchise history. The team entered the playoffs with a record of 45-23-13-1 and won in the first round against the St. Louis Blues after coming back from a 1-3 deficit. In the 2nd round the Canucks faced the Minnesota Wild. The team already had a 3-1 lead but suffered heavy losses in the next two games losing with a combined score of 3-12. In Game 7 the Canucks had a 2-0 lead in the second period but the Wild came back scoring three goals in the final 12 minutes and eliminated the Canucks.
The Canucks remained one of the top teams of the Western Conference in the coming seasons but failed to find success. In the 2005-2006 season the Canucks again started to rebuild their roster starting with head coach Marc Crawford, who was replaced by Alain Vigneault.
The team started the 2006-2007 season with a fresh look after making several changes to the roster, including the signing of goalie Roberto Luongo . The Canucks had issues with goal scoring but improved in the second half of the season. The team finished strong and won the Northwest Division with a franchise record of 49-26-7, while Luongo becoming a finalist for the Vezina and Hart Trophies. The team struggled in the first round of the playoffs with Luongo giving up four goals in Game One. In Game 2 Luongo once again carried the team facing a playoff record of 76 shots. The game went into quadruple overtime before Henrik Sedin scored the winning goal finishing the 6th longest game in NHL playoff history. The Canucks eventually took a 3-1 lead in the series but a Dallas Stars comeback took the series to Game Seven, which the Canucks managed to win and advanced to the 2nd round. In the 2nd round the Canucks faced the Anaheim Ducks, who won the series four games to one.
The following season the Canucks missed the playoffs by three points winning only one of their final 8 games. However, the disappointing finish was overshadowed by the passing of young defenseman Luc Bourdon .
For the 2008-2009 season the Canucks lost Trevor Linden , who retired after 17 years with the team, and Näslund, who signed with the New York Rangers. The Canucks named Luongo their new captain, and the Canadian became the first goalie to be named captain since Bill Durnan in 1947. The Canucks started strong with a 12-6-2 record in their first 20 games before losing Luongo to an injury. The team's performance dropped until a new rise in the latter half of the season and eventually winning the Northwest Division. In the playoffs the Canucks first swept the 1st round series over the St. Louis Blues before losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.
The next season didn't start well as the Canucks split their first twenty games and Luongo was out of action due to an injury. Once Luongo returned, the Canucks were back in form winning 17 of the next 24 games. Vancouver hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics and the Canucks had to go on a record-breaking 14-game road trip for six weeks. The Canucks finished the season with a 49-28-5 record and Northwest Division champions, and Henrik Sedin became the first Canuck to win the Art Ross and Hart Trophies. The Canucks started their playoff run against the Los Angeles Kings and won the series in six games. They didn't make past the second round, however, as for the second year in a row the Chicago Blackhawks eliminated the Canucks four games to two.
A year later the Canucks returned to the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in the team's history. The Canucks had a strong team with a deep roster and General Manager Mike Gillis had made good moves in the pre-season and during the season acquiring players like Manny Malhotra , who was the 2nd best in faceoffs in the NHL before suffering a serious eye injury. Malhotra eventually returned after months of recovery with a full-face mask to face the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final. In the regular season Daniel Sedin had followed his brother by winning the Art Ross Trophy and the Canucks were one of the biggest favourites in the playoffs.
The team started against the Blackhawks, who had eliminated them in the last two years. After losing a 3-0 lead in the series, Alexandre Burrows won the series for the Canucks with an overtime goal in Game 7. In the second round the Canucks faced the Nashville Predators. Luongo became one of the key players of the series, facing another Vezina finalist, Pekka Rinne . Ryan Kesler was the team's leading scorer against the Predators and the Canucks won the series in six games. In the Western Conference Final the Canucks were challenged by the San Jose Sharks. The Sedin twins found their form and recorded 18 points in the five games the Canucks needed to win the series. The Final series turned out to be filled with home wins until Game 7, which the Bruins won 4-0 to win the Stanley Cup.
2011 Western Conference Championship Lineup
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alex Burrows
Chris Higgins - Ryan Kesler - Mason Raymond
Raffi Torres - Max Lapierre - Jannik Hansen
Tanner Glass - Manny Malhotra - Victor Oreskovich
Alex Edler - Sami Salo
Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Aaron Rome - Christian Ehrhoff