Game 7 in any professional sport is a true testimate to all players skill but more so it is an extreme test of all players determination and their willingness to compete. On Saturday evening, after losing game 6 and after being held off the scoreboard for the third time in the series, the Canucks coach Alain Vigneault called out his players. Namely, he called out the 'player's that have been Canucks the longest'. By that he was calling on the names of Markus Naslund, Mattias Ohlund, Brendan Morrison to name a few. There is one name that I did not mention there because well, Trevor Linden came through with an absolutely amazing performance in Game seven.
There was not a player in last night's game that knew more about playing in game seven, there was probably not even a player that was more neverous about game seven. Yet, there was probably not a player that was more prepared, more focused and more determined than Trevor Linden.
In 1989, as a young 18 year-old Trevor Linden donned the Canuck colours for the first time. After a stellar rookie season, Trevor and the Canucks faced the Calgary Flames in the first round of the Stanley Cup tournament. The Canucks forced the Flames, the eventual Stanley Cup Champion, late into overtime before Jim Peplinski ended the Canucks season. Needless to say Trevor got an early lesson as to what game seven was all about.
Trevor would then captain the Canucks to a game seven in the first round of the post season in 1992 vs Winnipeg and again the following spring (1993) vs. the same Winnipeg Jets team. The Canucks were successful in both those game seven's and their captain was part of the reason, setting the stage for what all Canucks fans refer to as....the ride of a life time.
In the spring of 1994, Trevor and the Canucks had finished a subpar regular season; seeded 7th place in the Western Conference and faced the 2nd place Calgary Flames. The Flames jumped to a 3 - 1 series lead and everyone in Canuckland thought, lets get this over with. Taking their captains lead, the Canucks stormed back to even the series and force a do or die game seven. Canucks won that game, and carried the momentum straight to the Stanely Cup final where they would again storm back from a 3 - 1 series deficit.
Trevor Linden, 24 years-old at the time, captain of the team, again took the team on his back scoring 2 crucial goals as the Canucks tried to pry Lord Stanley's mug from the hands of Mark Messier and the New York Rangers. Of course, we all know what happened that night, I can still hear Nathan Lafayette's shot ring off the crossbar. Yet, another lesson along the way for Trevor.
Following a massive restructuring of the organization, Trevor would leave the Canucks in the fall of 1997. Several seasons later he would return and in the spring of 2003, as Trevor was approaching the twilight of his career, the Canucks would face another game seven versus the St.Louis Blues. Again, Trevor and his mates had come back from a 3 - 1 deficit and what do you know, Trevor stepped to the forefront and scored a backbreaking goal early in the third, putting the Canucks ahead in the game for good.
He may not have the regular season numbers that you'd expect from a second overall pick. Several comparisons are always made between him (855 career points) and Mike Modano (1,226 career points) and that maybe a just argument. However, sometimes you have to look deeper to determine a players value. Yes, Mike Modano has a Stanley Cup but ever since the first time Trevor has donned the Canucks colours, he has felt that he owes something to them. Not only to the organization that brought him into the NHL, but the fans that have (more often then not) cheered his name.
All those lessons that Trevor learned along the way, brings me to last night's game seven. No, he does not have near the offensive numbers that he once did, nor does he come close to the statistics that Mike Modano has, nor has he lifted the Stanley Cup as Modano has but Trevor Linden knows when it is time to show up.
Alain Vigneault did what was neccessary when he called out his players after game six and his players got the message. In my mind, Alain could have said nothing, cause in my mind Trevor Linden was going to show up, Trevor Linden did not need to be told it was slipping aways, Trevor Linden knew what had to be done, Trevor Linden got the job done.