Despite Game 7 Win, Vancouver Canucks Still Face Pressure Cooker

VANCOUVER, CANADA - APRIL 26: Henrik Sedin #33 (middle) and Ryan Kesler #17 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates after defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1in overtime of Game Seven of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 26, 2011 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Jannik Hansen #36 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on in the background. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Vancouver prevented a historic collapse by winning Game 7 in overtime. But while the team's fans celebrated for one night, it's still just a first-round victory -- and the pressure's on for more.

Shortly after the Nashville Predators defeated the Anaheim Ducks to win their first playoff series, I sent a congratulatory message to On The Forecheck's Dirk Hoag and told him that I hoped Preds fans were soon in a position where the second round was a disappointment. It was sent half-jokingly (since I'm in the Bay Area and a San Jose Sharks fan), but Preds fans can get a good look at this type of pressure in the next round since they'll be seeing that from  their opponents' fan base.

The look of dread on the faces of Vancouver Canucks fans when Jonathan Toews scored his shorthanded, game-tying goal late in the third period said it all. The fans couldn't quite believe that their Presidents' Trophy-winning team, the team that led in practically all statistical categories, the team with last year's MVP and quite possibly this year's too, this team blow a 3-0 lead in the FIRST ROUND. It couldn't happen, could it? What would it mean if it did?

Fortunately for them, Chris Campoli couldn't clear the puck for the Chicago Blackhawks, and Alex Burrows took a shot. As it whizzed past Corey Crawford, it let out a sigh of relief across British Columbia. For now.

The celebration on ice looked like the team won the Stanley Cup. Of course, any overtime celebration looks similar, and factoring in Game 7, it's understandable. But with the smoke clearing up, the task ahead remains the same: that was just one round, and there are three to go for a team that was meant to challenge for Lord Stanley.

The second round won't cut it. If the Nashville Predators take their physical, gritty game to Vancouver and eek out a win, the demon-exorcising win against Chicago will be a footnote for a team that should have done better. Even the Conference Final won't cut it -- this team plowed through EVERYONE once it got in a groove, and was statistically by far the best team in the NHL.

Only a trip to the Stanley Cup Final seems reasonable, what with the media circus and hysteria surrounding the Vancouver Canucks. That's probably a bit unfair considering the parity in the league. Of the other three remaining Western Conference teams, a loss to any of them certainly isn't impossible, nor the end of the world.

But such is life for the Vancouver Canucks these days. Blame the fishbowl of the hockey-mad Canadian media, or blame the raised expectations of a Presidents' Trophy season, or pour all those ingredients into a mixing bowl and stir it around; whatever the case, great simply isn't good enough for the Canucks.

Vancouver's march into the playoffs feels like a mix of joy and dread -- the joy of fulfilling destiny and the dread of "Oh dear lord, what if they fail?" Today, the media hordes (the same group that sought advice from professional psychics on bringing good vibes to the team) will celebrate the brutal Game 7 win against the Chicago Blackhawks, and perhaps they'll be able to objectively place the game in its proper context.

But rest assured, the win wasn't an omen from Thor, nor a curse from Hades. No, a series win is a series win, however you got there. And there's still three more series to be played.

For more on the Canucks, check in with SB Nation's Nucks Misconduct.

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