Blackhawks 5, Canucks 1 (Blackhawks Win Series, 4-2)
It was on this date last year that Patrick Kane sent the Vancouver Canucks home in six games with a hat trick to lead the Chicago Blackhawks to their first Western Conference Finals since 1995. It also drove Roberto Luongo to tears.
Bobby Lu might want to break out the crying towel after yet another season ending Game 6 loss to the Blackhawks. Kaner didn't have a repeat hat trick. But his third period goal at the 8:17 mark snuffed out any hopes the Canucks had of coming back in this one.
The scoreboard will say the genesis of the three goal deficit that Vancouver found themselves in after two was a 36 second span early in the second when Chicago got consecutive goals by Vancouver native Troy Brouwer and Kris Versteeg to go up 2-0.
But I think you'd have to go back earlier to the first period.
After the jump, an in-depth look at the only game on the NHL docket for tonight.
It was in that opening frame where the nervous energy from both teams was readily apparent. Razor wasn't kidding a few minutes in when he said the score easily could have been 2-2, thanks to careless turnovers by both teams and lax defending.
Jonathan Towes was set up nicely by Niklas Hjalmarsson about a minute in, but he shanked the shot. Marian Hossa took advantage of an egregious turnover by the Vancouver defense but shot the puck wide. Henrik Sedin allowed a chance in front to slide through the crease. Ryan Johnson was denied by the skate of Antti Niemi. Patrick Kane had a shot go off the goal post and Brent Sopel was denied on the rebound. Pavol Demitra had Niemi down but couldn't corral the puck to get a shot off.
And that was all the prime scoring chances in the first five minutes. Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows led a mini 2-on-1 into the Hawks zone after a terrible change minutes later and the glove hand of Luongo robbed Patrick Sharp on a breakaway later in the period.
As it was, the frame remained scoreless. My theory on that is when you have a start like this one in a Game 6 where the home team is trying to stave off elimination, it's vital that they take advantage of the loose play and at least pot a goal to keep the crowd in the game and keep the road team on their heels.
And the inability of the Canucks to cash in on the few chances they had in the first came back to haunt them very early in the second when Brouwer beat Kyle Wellwood on a 2-on-2 and redirected a Patrick Sharp pass past Lunogo to open the scoring. 36 seconds later, Kris Versteeg took advantage of a brutal Kevin Bieksa neutral zone turnover and scored on a 2-on-1 where O'Brien backed up so much that Steeger had plenty of time to slow things down and pick his spot on Luongo.
For those scoring at home, he went over Luongo's right shoulder. Two goals that not even the return of Sami Salo and his ball of steel could prevent.
After that, the Hawks put on a defensive clinic reminiscent of the one Vancouver displayed in Chicago just two nights earlier after they took a 2-0 lead. Passing lanes were clogged, 50/50 pucks were won along the boards. And when Vancouver was able to get off a decent chance, Niemi was there to shut the door.
The Canucks persistence eventually paid off as they were awarded a power play after s
ome miscommunication between Niemi and Duncan Keith. Keith thought Niemi was going to cover it. Instead, he played the puck and a flat footed Keith was forced to chop Henrik Sedin's stick in half right in front of Bill McCreary.
Finally the Canucks had a golden chance to get back in the game. But a bobble from Pavol Demitra at the point was all it took for Dave Bolland to deny Vancouver some much needed momentum as he picked up the loose puck and burst up the middle on a short handed breakaway before depositing the puck past Luongo.
Speaking of Bobby Lu, I'm not going to necessarily be too hard on him. All three second period goals were primarily the fault of Vancouver's pourous defensive coverage. But he could have helped his team's cause by bailing them out with a tremendous save. That's what the playoffs sometimes call upon you to do, and he wasn't up to that task tonight.
Vancouver put the press back on after O'Brien broke through 3:44 in. But Chicago waited for them to make a mistake while leaning on their netminder to keep it a two goal game. And when they did, Luongo couldn't come up with the key save on Patrick Kane's goal and it was pretty much game over at that poiint. Dustin Byfuglien added insult to injury just 25 seconds later and both teams just spent the final 11:18 playing out the string.
Another post season failure with Canuck fans pondering the obvious question of whether or not Luongo is a big game goaltender. If the last two season ending losses to the Blackhawks are any indication, the answer to that question is no.
As for us Hawks fans, I'll imagine we'll get a few days to enjoy the series win and recharge for what should be a wonderful series against the San Jose Sharks.