The Respectful Rivalry: Vancouver and Detroit

The Canucks and Red Wings have had a very good (and understated) rivalry over the past decade or so. For so long, the Canucks were the little brother to Western Conference juggernauts from Colorado and Detroit, teams that would routinely feast on the Canucks and their subpar goaltending.

The Canucks were close to bucking that trend back in the 2002 postseason, but Dan Cloutier’s infamous meltdown prevented them from stepping out of Detroit’s massive shadow in the Western Conference. However, since that time, the Canucks have emerged as a viable adversary to the Red Wings, and hockey fans have been treated to some classic regular season contests.

The Detroit rivalry is unique for the Canucks. When they play teams like Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Chicago, a huge part of the matchup is the post-whistle trash talking, scrums, and physical gamesmanship. During games between Detroit and Vancouver however, we are usually treated to great hockey. Emphasis on hockey. 

Read on for some of the best and most memorable highlights from this respectful rivalry (from a Canucks perspective, of course).

Luongo’s first game as a Canuck:

Luongo’s first game as a Canuck came in Detroit, and it was a memorable one. His glove save on Henrik Zetterberg, in particular, set the tone for the rest of the game (and season). Luongo would go on to have an incredible campaign, and the Canucks would finally have some stability in goal. He stopped 27 of 28 Detroit shots on this night.

Jim Hughson got to debut his “great save, Luongo!” call during this game, and he has gotten a lot of practice at it in the past seven years (and counting). 

Daniel’s special night:

February 24th, 2004. Daniel Sedin recorded his first career hat trick (and, not-so-surprisingly, his first career four-goal game too).  Sedin finished the season with 18 goals – he hadn’t arrived as a premier scorer just yet, but on a wet and cold (I am just guessing) February night he showed a glimpse of what was to come.

Stellar post-game analysis from Marek Malik that night:

"When he’s hot, he’s hot," added Canucks defenceman Marek Malik, who had two assists.

Daniel’s third goal (an absolute beauty) comes at the 1:25 mark of the following clip. The Sedins played that game with Todd Bertuzzi, as Markus Naslund was out with a concussion (Steve Moore hit).

The streak:

I wrote about this in greater detail at the end of last season.

To say that the Vancouver Canucks players struggled to get up for every single game in the 2011-12 regular season would be accurate. The magnitude of a Tuesday night game against Minnesota simply doesn’t compare to a Stanley Cup Final contest (sorry, Wild fans), and the Canucks seemed to meander through the regular season (for the most part).

There were several notable exceptions. Early January in Boston was a huge game for the team, as was a date with the Red Wings in late February.

Detroit had reeled off 23 straight wins at home, setting a league record in the process. At the time, they were two points clear of the Canucks in the NHL overall points standings. The league’s best home team (Detroit) was facing the league’s best road team (Vancouver).

It really was a phenomenal regular season game – one of the best in recent memory for the Canucks.

Manny, Manny, Manny

November 6th, 2010. I was lucky enough to attend this game, and it was the best hockey game (not the biggest stage, but in terms of the sport itself) I have witnessed in person.

Luongo and Jimmy Howard both had forgettable evenings looking at the stat sheet, but it was a wide-open game with a ton of chances either way. Manny Malhotra had his best game as a Canuck – two goals, 10 shots directed at net (six of which made it to – or through – Howard), and 11 faceoff wins.

Alex Edler also had a great game – two points, and he dominated with his physical play. Where has this version of Edler gone? This game also featured Andrew Alberts absolutely blowing up Datsyuk – something that doesn’t happen very often. The highlight package above doesn’t really do this classic game justice.

Rick Rypien’s finest hour

The Rypien-Brad May scrap from November 2009 may have been one of the best hockey fights in the history of the Canucks organization. Wherever you stand on fighting (for, against, apathetic), there is no way you can deny that this fight energized both benches. It also symbolized the passing of the torch from one former Canuck pugilist to another. RIP, Ryp.

Enjoy the game tonight.