The better team won. Face it. I have heard lots of whispers from the Canucks players and from fans that somehow the Hawks aren’t the better team, which boggles my mind. They were the better team during the last two regular seasons, they were the better team the last two playoffs. Sure there were some mitigating factors. Willie Mitchell’s injury sure hurt. Playing game 6 with a less than 100% Sami Salo and losing Alex Edler made things difficult. Lots of the Canucks forwards were banged up. Injuries ARE excuses, legitimate excuses. Injuries don’t mean you automatically lose, but they make things more difficult. These injuries meant that the Canucks had to be extra good, seeing as how they were underdogs to begin with. In the next few days I’ll take a retrospective look back at the Canucks season that was, but for now, lets concentrate on what happened in the deciding game, game 6 versus Chicago.
After an impressive 4-1 win, the Canucks will live to play another game. So just how did this team, that looked so beleaguered on home ice in game 3 and 4, manage to extend the series? Remarkably, the keys to victory have become astonishingly clear (to this blogger at least).
Apologies for not getting the game 4 recap out sooner, but all of the Canuckz.com team were out drowning their sorrows after one of the most disheartening games in recent memory. For the second straight game the Canucks were outsmarted, getting scored on and getting laughed at by the stronger, faster, cockier and so far better Chicago Blackhawks. Without getting into it too much, I’m sure we want to forget it by now, the Canucks need better goaltending from Roberto Luongo, more disciplined play, and better penalty killing.
What a debacle game 3 of the second round turned out to be. A 5-2 result in which the Canucks looked out of it past the 10 minute mark of the 1s t period. At the end of the night I felt like the Blackhawks had won, and won easily. In game 2 they had to scratch and claw their way to victory, but not in game 3.
What an entertaining game we saw on Monday night. High intensity, high drama, complete with a last minute goal to win the game. Unfortunately for Canucks fans, the Blackhawks prevailed on this night, winning 4-2 and evening the series coming back to Vancouver. Lets take a look at the bad, good and what to look forward to.
The Canucks looked like a team still pissed off about their series loss last year, storming the Blackhawks right off the hop, while the Blackhawks looked a bit surprised by the push and never really seemed to recover. They’ve earned at least a split in Chicago, which is huge for a team like the Canucks who are so much better at home than on the road.
Roberto Luongo saved his best game in the first round for game 6, and was the best player on the ice. Everyone will be talking about his big save off of Ryan Smyth, dubbed the “save of the series” by Jim Hughson, but his game was more than that save, as big as it was. The Los Angeles Kings were the best team on the ice for the first 40 minutes but it was none other than their team captain Roberto Luongo that kept them in it. They were outshot 26-11 through the first two periods, but were bailed out by Luongo until the Canucks finally found their groove and grossly outplayed the Kings in the third.
Game 5 was the first one sided game of this entertaining series. For the first time in the series, Roberto Luongo clearly outplayed Jonathan Quick, who was chased in the second period. For the second game in a row, the Canucks power play equaled the Kings power play, perhaps indicating that this penalty killing jinx is at least close to ending.
Game 4 had a similar feel to it to Vancouver vs Chicago in game 6 last year. The main difference, of course, is that the Canucks found a way to win this one. They did it on the backs of their top players.
What a bizarre, infuriating game it was. Vancouver came out and dominated most of the first period, hitting like they’ve never hit before, making the right plays, getting scoring chances, causing turnovers and getting the first goal by Mason Raymond on the reunited speed line with Ryan Kesler and Mikael Samuelsson. Then it happened.