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.
It goes without saying that tonight’s pivotal game 6 is the biggest game of the year. If anyone knows what to expect, please let me know, because I can’t figure this team out. They’re down 3-2 in the series but both of their wins were by fairly large margins. They were great at home all year, but have dropped both home games in this series, and looked terrible while doing so. With that said, lets take a look at the ten most important questions heading in to today’s matchup:
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 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.
The so-called “parity” of the salary cap era is on display, as the three top seeds are now eliminated in the East. But what about the parity between the West and the East? It seems as though the only strong team remaining in the East is the Pittsburgh Penguins and compared to their counterparts in the West; San Jose, Chicago, Detroit and Vancouver, they look overmatched.
This image (along with this song) has haunted Canucks fans for almost an entire calendar year. Patrick Kane, mouth guard dangling and all, scoring the insurance goal late in game 6, his third goal of the night. The Canucks insist that they should have won that series, to which I disagree (they had fewer points than Chicago, and were beaten in six!). The Hawks were the better team last year, and throughout the regular season have been the better team this year. No doubt, they are the favourites. With that said, this series should be a close one and could go either way, depending on a few keys of the series:
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.