The biggest game the Canucks franchise has played since game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup finals did not disappoint on Tuesday night. It wasn’t easy, but the Canucks finally got their revenge over their arch rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks. It took good goaltending from Roberto Luongo, a smart defensive corps and a gritty effort by their forwards to edge the Blackhawks, 2-1 in overtime.
While the victory was a great team victory for the Canucks, in many ways game 7 was the Alex Burrows show. Burrows, who up until game 6 had many wondering if he simply didn’t have an extra gear for the speed of the Stanley Cup playoffs (due to his lack of production in the playoffs in his career), was all over the ice. He scored the first goal after a great power move by Ryan Kesler. He took a penalty shot in the 3rd period (which I think if he used his patented forehand-backhand deke, he would have scored). He was the one who gave the puck away at centre ice which lead to Jonathan Toews’ improbable game tying shorthanded goal. He was the one who took the ill-timed penalty in overtime. And of course he was the one that scored the clutch goal in overtime to send the Canucks to the 2nd round of the playoffs.
Head coach Alain Vigneault kept his new look lines from game 6 in tact for game 7 and it paid off. The Kesler-Burows-Raymond unit was their best line. While the Sedins struggled with Mikael Samuelsson, the 3rd line (Lapierre-Higgins-Hansen) was a pleasant surprise. The fourth line was a rough and tumble line, and looked capable despite limited minutes. Of course, he also started the right goaltender in game 7: Roberto Luongo.
I noticed a different style of play from the Canucks in game 7. There was a clear direction from the coaching staff to not get too spread out through the neutral zone. Even early in the game, the Canucks were loathed to chase the Blackhawks when one of their defencemen brought the puck up the ice.
Home Ice Advantage
I was a little worried that the pressure of the home crowd might work against the Canucks in game 7 but clearly it didn’t. I was impressed with the constant noise from the home crowd. More importantly, I was impressed that the crowd didn’t sound nervous at all.
The Overtime Power Play
Thank goodness Roberto Luongo was able to stop Patrick Sharp while shorthanded in overtime because otherwise the Canucks would be left to answer a lot of uncomfortable questions. The Canucks played a great game in game 7, but their lack of finish almost allowed the Blackhawks to pull off the upset. Had Sharp scored, Alain Vigneault likely would have been fired and Roberto Luongo’s reputation as a big game choke artist would be solidified. The Sedins (no points in game 7) and Ryan Kesler (no goals in the playoffs) would also be called into question. Every aspect of this franchise would have been unglued, had one more shot gone wrong. But Luongo made the save, the team killed the penalty and Burrows made Chris Campoli pay for a poor clearing attempt and the rest is history.
Where was Gillis?
Were you wondering where Mike Gillis was during the overtime winning goal? Well, he was in the washroom!
Luckily the Canucks avoided being added to the list of teams to blow a 3-0 series lead, because that would have lived on forever. Instead, for the first time in team history, the Canucks won a game 7 in overtime at home. Of course, the only time they’ve won a game 7 overtime came in Calgary on a breakaway goal by Pavel Bure (kind of ironic that one of the lyrics to Kyprios’ song is “Burrows, looking like Bure”). As far as where this goal will sit compared to the other great goals in team history, well that will all depend on how far this team goes. Congratulations boys, the job is 25% done. And the job only gets tougher.