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Brutal summer of what-ifs awaits Canucks after losing Stanley Cup

The pictures from downtown of the aftermath of their Game 7 defeat showed only too well the kind of pressure, the kind of all-encompassing attention the Vancouver Canucks faced in these Stanley Cup playoffs.

It's perhaps an unfair analogy, but perhaps no less true: when it comes to sports, the Canucks are everything in Vancouver, but the frustration that followed their Game 7 loss in the Stanley Cup Final to Boston Wednesday night can be best explained not by the postgame looting and burning of much of the city, but by the frozen-in-their-seats fans long after the final horn had sounded inside Rogers Arena.

Those were the real hockey fans of the wonderful city of Vancouver. The idiots outside the building who cheered on burning police cars and broken store windows couldn't have cared less about what happened on the ice in this last game of the season.

How Vancouver picks up the pieces -- in the metaphorical, hockey sense --shouldn't be that tough to do. They've got two good goalies and a young core of players in front of them.

For those who care about hockey in Vancouver -- and they far outnumber the thugs with nothing better to do after Game 7 -- that will be enough to carry them through what will nonetheless be a brutally tough summer of what-ifs for their team.

For the Bruins, this arguably was their last, best chance at a Cup for a while, and they hit that clay pigeon with two brilliant final games.

Think about it: the Bruins had a 37-year-old starting goalie and a 43-year-old winger among their top six forwards. Will Geer (sorry, before your time) should have been the team mascot.

The goalie, Tim Thomas, will continue on, but the 43-year-old, Mark Recchi all but officially announced his retirement after Boston's 4-0 Game 7 victory.

What a way to go out.

This series can be summed up in two parts: what happened before Aaron Rome's hit on Nathan Horton and what happened after. Boston seemed dormant emotionally at the time, down 2-0 in the series and looking too much like "Mac" in the old Charles Atlas comic ad -- at least the pre-lifting Mac who got sand kicked in his face. The hit on Horton was a cheapie, but for Boston it proved ironically priceless. It gave them a rallying cry, and from there it was all different.

Aside from a fluky goal and subsequent victory in Game 5 at home for the Canucks, was there any doubt which was the better team after that hit on Horton? Truth is, Boston totally dominated most of Games 3-7, and now the Canucks are left to ponder how a seemingly smooth Presidential run to the Cup went so ghastly wrong in the end.

Did coach Alain Vigneault get too casual after Game 2? Why did the Canucks seem to have no physical answer for Boston when "Mac" got serious about hitting the weights in Game 3? What kind of pregame speech did Vigneault give his troops before their miserable showing to start Game 6, when the Cup was inside the TD Garden just waiting for them to take it? Why did Vigneault not call a timeout with his team down 2-0 in Game 7, but ready to go on the power play? Wouldn't a nice, solid, "Hey guys, this is the game here -- we score here, we get the crowd back into it and we put them on their heels" reminder have served his team well?

Instead, the power play seemed over before it started. Once it was killed off, so too were Vancouver's chances for a Cup.

The Canucks should have learned a valuable lesson from this series, too, if they get another shot at the Cup that is: until you've got the chalice in hand, keep your mouth shut.

Roberto Luongo's "It would have been an easy save for me" jibe at Tim Thomas, along with his plaintive cry for more attention from his counterpart, will go down in the Cup's Dewey-Defeats-Truman history of infamous quotes.

So, too, will Daniel Sedin's "guarantee" of a win in Game 7. The Canucks acted too much like a team that had already won the Cup before it really had taken the title.

GALLERY:Sedin in famous sports guarantees

The Bruins had a cheesy Journey song called Don't Stop Believing as one of their themes for the playoffs. For them, the journey proved one of everlasting joy. For the Canucks and their fans, the long, hard trip of painful self-analysis has unfortunately only just begun.

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