Rob The Hockey Guy

// A Vancouver Canucks Hockey Blog

Do or Die: Canucks-Blackhawks Game 7 Preview

For the first time in the Canucks-Blackhawks Trilogy, we will have a game 7. And it will happen in the most improbable way. As you must know by now, the Canucks have squandered a 3-0 series lead and now face elimination on Tuesday night.

A few of my observations from last night’s game:

-I wasn’t a fan of the Cory Schneider start in net, but he played well… Apart from his two major puck handling blunders. In many ways, those two errors cost the Canucks the game.

-Despite losing 4-3 in game 6, the Canucks were the best team on the ice last night, but the best team doesn’t always win.

-Kevin Bieksa had the best game of his career last night. He logged over 36 minutes of ice time, had a clutch goal and was a plus 2. Every decision he made seemed to be the right one, and he wasn’t playing a conservative game by any means.

-Bieksa had to play big minutes in part because the Canucks lost Sami Salo to injury. It’s the playoffs so nobody is saying what is wrong, but I wouldn’t count on him playing in game 7. In true Sami Salo fashion, he injured himself simply skating up the ice.

-Maybe with Salo injured we will see Keith Ballard inserted back into the lineup. It makes absolutely no sense to me why he has been benched time after time. He’s clearly better than Andrew Alberts and Aaron Rome. Why this isn’t clear for Alain Vigneault is a mystery. To make matters worse, Alberts was a central figure on the winning goal, as his mobility was an issue dealing with Marian Hossa.

-Alex Burrows arrived last night. It was his best game of the series by far, as he picked up a goal and two assists.

-I thought the referees absolutely shafted the Canucks last night and Mike Gillis agrees. Somehow, with the Canucks carrying most of the play, they were given only two power plays. I’m all for letting the players play, but on two occasions there were ‘automatic’ penalties that were overlooked. The first came when Daniel Sedin was high sticked on an offside call, the second came when Henrik Sedin’s stick was slashed in half.

-Roberto Luongo is getting some heat for his play in game 6 and I think it’s unwarranted. Sure, he looked a little shaky coming in cold in the third period, but the bottom line is he only let in one goal and you can’t blame him for it. He needed to make an acrobatic save on a deflected shot. To expect great rebound control or to make the second save is asking a lot.

Lineup Changes

-Bryan Bickell is injured and will miss game 7. Tomas Kopecky appears ready to return from injury, he’s traveling with the team to Vancouver.

-Sami Salo will likely miss game 7 as well, perhaps he will be replaced by Keith Ballard.

-It will be interesting to see if Alain Vigneault decides to play Cody Hodgson in game 7. Personally I think he should play Maxim Lapierre on the 3rd line and re-insert Tanner Glass at 4th line centre. We probably won’t find out until game time.

-Of course the biggest lineup change is the starting goalie, Roberto Luongo.

Keys to Game 7

A quick start. It goes without saying that the first goal is important, but perhaps more important will be the second goal. If Chicago gets the first two goals, the pressure will mount.

Special teams. It remains to be seen how many penalties will be called in game 7, but the Canucks will need to be better on the penalty kill and power play. I would love for Alain Vigneault to put Alex Edler back onto the first unit power play in place of Mikael Samuelsson. I know he reads this blog, so that should be no problem…

Pressure. There will be lots to go around, especially for the home team, especially for Roberto Luongo. How he and the players in front of him deal with that pressure will absolutely be the biggest key to the game. They need to harness the energy from the home crowd and play smart with controlled aggression.

History

This will be the 10th game 7 in Canucks history, the first without Trevor Linden. They’re 5-4 in game 7s, 3-2 in game 7s at home. The Blackhawks will try to become just the fourth team in NHL history to win a series after trailing 3-0.

This game is one of the most important games in franchise history and undoubtedly the most important game in franchise history that didn’t take place in 1994. It may well define the legacy of Alain Vigneault, Roberto Luongo and the Sedins. If they are unable to win this series, serious questions will be asked and Vancouver will have a very grim summer. On the other hand, if they win this series this propel this team to greatness.

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