Sunday, April 24, 2011

Blackhawks force Canucks to Game 7

Where does one begin? This series is clearly like two heavyweights duking it out.  Don't think you can find a series with more drama and story lines than this one in recent memory.  Game 6 begins with a shocking announcement that Vancouver will start Cory Schneider in goal instead of Roberto Luongo.  Luongo, named a Vezina trophy finalist only 1-2 days prior is being yanked in favour of his rookie back up for the biggest game of the Canucks season.  If that isn't an indictment of Luongo's playoff failures in Chicago, I don't know what is.

Well, perhaps you could argue it is a stroke of genius on behalf of Canucks' coach Alain Vigneault.  If you win, you look like a hero.  Perhaps it rallies the rest of the troops to show up and defend the honour of Roberto Luongo so to speak.

Here's ESPN's box score.  Once the puck dropped, the Canucks came out strong and grabbed an early goal from Daniel Sedin.  Cory Schneider robbed Patrick Kane and settled into the game, but a bobble of the puck after a fire drill behind the Canucks net with Dan Hamhuis let Brian Bickell pounce on a loose puck to tie the game at 1.  Undeterred, the Canucks pressed on and Alex Burrows got the Canucks their second goal to make the score 2-1 after one.

The second period so the Canucks kill a very long five on three for the Blackhawks, as the referees made some curious calls.  The Canucks failed to extend their lead to 3-1 on a powerplay.  Alex Burrows hit the post on a man advantage that likely had Chicago fans scratching their heads.  Troy Brouwer received a soft call for apparently tapping Schneider's mask with his stick.  Could be a penalty, but given the way the refs were let them play, it seemed a bit of a marked departure from the flow of the game.

After the Canucks failed to capitalize, the Blackhawks got a couple of calls of equally troubling severity.  Nevertheless, the Canucks killed those off, as well as a delay of game call to Cody Hodgson.  The Canucks were playing confident and nearly took the 2-1 lead into the 2nd intermission, but Cory Schneider's puckhandling reared its ugly head once again.  This time, he handed the puck to Patrick Kane who made a great pass to Dave Bolland in front to tie the game.

The Canucks showed resiliency however and Kevin Bieksa - in perhaps one of his best games as a Canuck - scored 58 seconds into the period to silence the United Center.  The lead would be fairly short-lived once again as Michael Frolik would get in behind Vancouver's defense (a troubling trend in this series) and drive to the net.  Frolik was tripped by Dan Hamhuis, forcing a penalty shot.

Frolik converted on the penalty shot to tie the game, and as if this game was written by Aaron Sorkin, Cory Schneider was injured on the play.  Roberto Luongo now enters the game in a surreal moment.  The Madhouse on Madison was jeering him and Canucks fans held their collective breath.   Would Luongo help the Canucks to victory, exorcising his Chicago demons?  Would he join the team in another collapse in the last three years?

Luongo was eased into the game as he only saw one shot.  The Canucks owned play in the third period, culminating in Chris Higgins hitting the post with a few minutes remaining.  The Canucks threw everything at the Hawks but could not get the puck past Corey Crawford.

In overtime the Canucks were on their heels for the first while, but took over most of the second half of the extra frame.  Once again they could not solve Corey Crawford who was solid but unspectacular.  Then, on what seemed like a harmless foray into the Vancouver zone, Roberto Luongo gave up a rebound that Ben Smith was able to put back and send the Hawks to 7th heaven Tuesday night in Vancouver.

Some key points from the game:
  • The Canucks showed up tonight, and were it not for two goal posts, and a couple of brain cramps in the defensive zone, they could have easily won tonight.
  • Cory Schneider's ailment apparently was cramps.  Coach AV says he's good to go if needed on Tuesday, but would not tip his hand about who would start.  "Would you believe me if I told you?" he said.
  • The Sedins were very strong tonight, playing most of the time with Mikael Samuelsson.  They played often and generated a lot of chances.  
  • The second line of Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond and Alex Burrows looked dangerous and skated miles.  Burrows got on the scoresheet and Raymond terrorized on the forecheck, tracking down Brian Campbell a couple of times - once resulting in a ridiculous 'hooking' call.  Didn't know tapping someone's elbow constituted a hook.
  • Higgins, Hodgon and Hansen pretty much gave you what you'd expect from a third line, and the rest of the Canucks forwards were solid.
  • On Defense, Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis were very solid.  Edler and Ehrhoff also played well.  Sami Salo left with an injury which forced some mixing of pairings.  Newly injected Andrew Alberts played fairly well aside for when Toews walked around him early in the evening.
  • Roberto Luongo was average.  He was not tested much and didn't come up big with any key saves. Then again, no one in front of him could score a key goal either, so let's not jump on him.  Luongo's sudden arrival in the third period could have been a tale for Canucks history and a defining moment in his career, but we'll have to wait for Game 7 to see what happens.
Also of note, Kevin Bieksa took a big hit from Bryan Bickell behind the Canucks net in overtime in a play very reminiscent of the Raffi Torres hit on Brent Seabrook.  The only difference being that Bieksa had the puck.  There was no call on the play, so the NHL was consistent in not calling the big hit a penalty (Torres received a penalty for interference because Seabrook did not have the puck yet).  Let's hope Chicago fans shut up about Torres being dirty after seeing the Bickell hit on Bieksa.  I won't hold my breath.

If recent history is any indication, the Canucks may very well win Game 7.  Why you ask?  Well, many teams that endure losing streaks usually tend to correct their bad habits, but lose a game they should win before they turn things around.

If you believe the Canucks played a much better game and deserved a better fate tonight, then you can probably bet on them winning Tuesday.  They did a lot of the things you need to win, but they didn't.  The same type of effort in Game 7 could result in a win, but it's game 7 - anything can happen.

For the core of the Canucks franchise, this puts them under a lot of pressure and adversity, but also affords them the opportunity to show the city they represent that they were the President's Trophy winning team by no fluke, and that this core can win.  Indeed for the Sedin twins, and Roberto Luongo, this Game 7 will be a defining moment in their careers.  If that trio hope to shed their labels of not being playoff performers, it's now or never.  The likes of Ryan Kesler, Alex Edler and others are a bit younger and have only come of age of late.

This version of the Canucks is supposed to be different. More mature and more composed.  From what we've seen so far, it's a lot of the same.  A team that has the talent to do great things, but loses its game at the worst time, only to put together a 'too little too late' rally.  Let's hope for Vancouver's sake that the Canucks don't go down as easy as Patrick Kane.

If the Canucks win Game 7, this series may well prove to be a watershed moment for the franchise and a launching pad for a deep run in the post-season.  The Sedins and Roberto Luongo would escape their labels at least for another series.

If the Canucks lose Game 7?  Expect this to happen.


  1. I know you have a responsibility to be objective and diplomatic with your words, but your article should really call it as it happened. The officiating was horrendous. The Blackhawks were the victim of the one bad call you pointed out, but you made no mention of how the Canucks got hosed on two icing calls - both for which the advantage was negated for a commercial break and an "ice maintenance issue", respectively. Or how about the delay of game non-call on Leddy when he "cleared it into the bench"? Or granting Frolik the penalty shot when Hamhuis took him down from the side?

    Shady, shady, officiating.

  2. We try to be objective, but it's pretty obvious we are Canucks fans. The refs were horrible tonight. I don't understand a bunch of the calls. In the first period, anything went. In the second period, everything was a penalty. In the 3rd and OT, we couldn't buy a call.

    I think it's laughable that the Canucks haven't had more than 2 PPs in a game except for when it's a 5-0 blowout. In 6 games the Canucks haven't had more PPs than the Hawks? C'mon... get real.

    In game 6 alone, the ice repair in OT was stupid, there was the too many men call they let slip, the Bickell hit on Bieksa which could have been something. The blatant Bolland tomahawk chop on Henrik.

    Some people are complaining about the penalty shot call too. I also thought the Raymond 'hook' was silly.

    Bottom line is the Canucks had their chances and yet again didn't bury them, but no, the refs are not doing them ANY favours whatsoever.

  3. Yeah the refs may have not made all the right calls. But lets not forget all the cross checks Vancouver has been getting away with the whole series. Towes must have a perminant imprint of stick on his back by now. The fact is Vancouver is getting a lot of penalties called on them because they have been commiting alot of penalties.

  4. Yes, there definitely have been a lot of head scratchers both ways. Aside from the number of calls against the Canucks (28-16) its been pretty inconsistent across the board - and naturally that discrepancy doesn't suggest a conspiracy, but mostly a lack of discipline. Torres alone is responsible for a handful.

    Over 7 games though, you'd figure things would balance out a bit.

  5. Big shout out to Sami Salo for forcing the Canucks to go with 5 D-men the rest of the night. I wonder what the Canucks record is in games Salo gets inujured?

  6. AV Should dress the following:

    Sedin - Sedin - Samuelsson
    Raymond - Kesler - Burrows
    Higgins - Hodgson - Hansen
    Tambellini - Lapierre - Oreskovich

    Edler - Ehrhoff
    Hamhuis - Bieksa
    Ballard - Salo/Rome


    Tamby for Torres... he's taken bad penalties and our record with Tamby for some reason has been excellent.

  7. Every losing team blames the refs. The blame should be on your players for the inability to put the puck in the net.

  8. To Anonymous - Apr 26 1201am...Just like the Hawks did after Torres hit Seabrook?

    Canucks haven't lost yet.