Canucks 3 – 4 Blackhawks

Let us step back from our book-stealing, cheerleader-tossing, muffler-biting, pool-flipping ways for just one moment and take stock of what we just observed: that was an incredibly exciting hockey game. It was a nail-biting, innard-twisting, heart-pounding thrill ride filled with unexpected plot twists. The Canucks, after two complete no-shows, returned to form and played well enough to win the game; unfortunately, due to a couple puckhandling errors, an unfortunate bounce in overtime, and the posts not counting as part of the net, they didn’t. That shouldn’t take away from the sheer entertainment value of the game, nor should it take away from the excellent play of the Canucks. But it does. It takes everything away. In these few hours since the game ended, I can’t shake the feeling that the game sucked and that the Canucks were terrible. Because I’m a reasonable human being, capable of logical deduction, I can convince myself that such is not the case, but the emotions remain. This game was both exhilarating and excruciating. I watched this game.

  • Alain Vigneault is apparently good at keeping secrets: thanks to some well-placed comments after game 5, everyone was convinced that Roberto Luongo would start game 6. No one suspected differently until Cory Schneider led the team out on the ice for the pre-game skate and took the first shots that are normally reserved for the starter. Rumors flew that Luongo was injured or that it was just a mind-game and Luongo would still be starting. Neither was the case: Schneider was the planned starter and apparently had been for a couple days. If Vigneault had been named the Secret-Keeper for the Potters, the adventures of Neville Longbottom would be bestsellers.
  • This game was a tale of two Schneiders: one made a series of incredible saves, including egregious saves on Kane and Toews in the first period and some stellar work on a 5-on-3 powerplay for the Blackhawks in the second period. The other made two ugly blunders while handling the puck, leading to two Blackhawks goals. Schneider certainly played well and made some essential saves, but he also cost them the game with his two gaffes. Like Natalie Imbruglia, I’m torn. Add in his leg cramp that took him out, bringing in a cold Roberto Luongo to finish out the game, and Alain Vigneault is left with a difficult decision. If Schneider is healthy, does he come back with him in game 7 or do the reins return to Roberto?
  • Schneider’s puck-handling will definitely be a big story and was likely exacerbated by him not starting a game in over two weeks. On the Blackhawks’ first goal, he set up Hamhuis with a suicide pass with Dave Bolland steaming in on the forecheck. Bolland, unsurprisingly, runs over Hamhuis, creating a turnover and a goal by Bryan Bickell. It’s especially frustrating as Schneider had a chance to cover it up before it reached Bickell and didn’t. The second goal by the Blackhawks comes from a more blatant mistake, as Schneider puts the puck directly on Patrick Kane’s stick instead of leaving it for Alex Edler. Kane feeds Bolland, Bolland feeds the net.
  • Schneider starting in place of Luongo wasn’t the only change Vigneault made to the lineup: Andrew Alberts played his first game since breaking his wrist against the St. Louis Blues back on February 14th. He played 14:55, around the same time Keith Ballard played in his last game. That’s not a good thing: that includes overtime and and the increased time he saw when Sami Salo left the game in the first period with an undisclosed injury. Salo’s absence and Alberts’s not-being-good-ness led to Kevin Bieksa playing a ridiculous 36:33 and all three other defensemen breaking the 30-minute mark. Alberts finished minus-1, but it could have been worse: at one point in the second period, Jonathan Toews drove wide around Alberts and powered to the net. It took a savvy poke-check from Bieksa and a solid save by Schneider to bail him out. If that’s Keith Ballard on the ice instead, there’s no way that Toews gets around him: that’s hip-checking territory.
  • Kevin Bieksa had a hell of a game. He led the Canucks in icetime, playing more than four-and-a-half minutes more than his closest teammate, Edler. He scored the Canucks’ third goal, seen above, with a well-timed jump into the rush after a great bank pass to Mason Raymond by Alex Burrows. He was plus-2, recorded 2 hits, and was a key member of the Canucks’ clean sheet on the penalty kill. He was contributing all over the ice and even found time to contribute to the headshot debate by making himself the recipient of a Bryan Bickell hit to the head behind the net, in a play that bore a strong resemblance to the Torres hit on Seabrook (key difference: Bieksa had the puck on his stick, so no interference penalty). Dan “Community Man” Hamhuis tried to get him to contribute to a more worthy cause, such as the Red Cross relief efforts in Japan, but Bieksa rebuffed him: I’m a little busy, Dan. Let me finish clearing the zone first.
  • As mentioned, the Canuck penalty killers were exceedingly excellent, killing off all 4 Chicago powerplays, including a lengthy 5-on-3 when the Canucks were still leading 2-1. Hamhuis led the way, playing 4:39 shorthanded, followed by Burrows and Kesler with 4:17 and 3:20 respectively. After giving up 6 powerplay goals against in the last 3 games, it’s a nice switch. Not a nice switch? The tamarind switch.
  • Speaking of switches, the most unexpected switch came when Schneider awkwardly twisted his leg attempting to stop Michael Frolik’s penalty shot goal. With Schneider unable to continue due to an apparent leg cramp, Luongo came lumbering down the tunnel from the dressing room. Unsurprisingly, he looked like a goalie who had been sitting down for over two hours, but he still made 12 saves and gave the Canucks a chance to win in overtime, which they came achingly close to doing. Ben Smith’s overtime winner for the Blackhawks was just unfortunate: after fighting off a tipped shot from the point with his blocker, Smith happened to be in just the right spot. Luongo will likely get some flack for giving up the rebound, but the original save was legitimately difficult and impressive. And yet, even as I type this, I know there is a lede being written about Luongo losing the game for Schneider, glossing over Schneider’s giveaways to write another screed about the Blackhawks being in Luongo’s head and the gamewinning goal being just another chapter to that story. Don’t do it, hypothetical journalist! Refrain from writing the lazy lede! Do not let mediocrity win the day!
  • The Sedins were certainly better in this game than they have been in the last two. Daniel Sedin opened the scoring after some good old-fashioned hard work on the forecheck, an element that has been sadly missing recently, and they looked consistently dangerous in the offensive zone. Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and roses for the twins. Or, if it is, there are some unruly bees in the roses. The Sedins were on the ice for three of the four Blackhawks goals. The fourth was scored on a penalty shot. That’s not good. On the plus side, Daniel led the Canucks with 7 shots and the Sedins came this close to winning the game in overtime. But they need to get the defensive side of their game in order: Ben Smith was Daniel’s check when he scored the gamewinner.
  • Alex Burrows, on the other hand, had a superb game. He scored a goal and added 2 helpers, meaning he contributed to all three Canuck goals tonight. He was reunited with BFF Ryan Kesler on a line with Mason Raymond. The trio gave the Blackhawks defense fits with their relentless forechecking and speed over the blueline. It was this speed that led to Burrows’ goal, as Campoli fanned on a rushed clearing attempt. Credit Schneider, as well, for handling the puck well at least once in this game, hitting Mason Raymond with a perfect pass from behind the net after his other options were shut down by Chicago’s forecheckers. It would not be the least bit surprising to see Vigneault keep this line intact going into game 7, as they are very capable going up against Toews and Kane and can potentially create offense simultaneously, something Kesler has not been able to manage thus far.
  • Vigneault shortened his bench significantly at the end of the third period: Raffi Torres and Victor Oreskovich were stapled to the bench after the 13:05 mark of the third and Cody Hodgson didn’t even make it that far, taking a seat at the 8:36 mark. The Torres benching is understandable: he’s been a bit of a liability in the penalty department and tonight was no different as he gave the refs the perfect excuse to call a goaltender interference penalty. Oreskovich and Hodgson, however, were playing reasonably well, and seemed to deserve more than the few minutes they received tonight. Maybe they could pick up some old minutes from a yard sale.
  • Finally, game 7 is on Tuesday. After tonight’s performance, it is not unreasonable to be optimistic. Neither is it unreasonable to be pessimistic. But please don’t riot if the Canucks lose game 7. Take comfort in the fact that you will have witnessed something unique and special: the worst collapse in NHL playoff history. It’s something you may never get a chance to see again. And, if they win, please don’t riot. It’s unbecoming. Stay classy, Vancouver.
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17 comments

  1. Canuckfin
    April 25, 2011

    It’s very, very difficult to not want to dump all over Schneider for his gaffes, but mistakes happen. But why tonight? I found the officiating questionable as well, but I guess when your the defending Stanley Cup Champs, the refs tend to look the other way, right?
    What was with the timeout given to the Blackhawks after they iced the puck so the ice crew could clean the ice? Bickell’s hit on Bieksa went uncalled as well. If that was reversed and Bieksa blindsided Bickell, the media would be helping spread Toews whining about it to the heavens!
    If the Canucks play as well as they did tonight, we’ll take game 7, no doubt.

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    • madwag
      April 25, 2011

      i agree. as well i thought bolland’s slash breaking sedin’s stick definitely worth two minutes in the box. it’s okay to let them play but some things need be called.

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  2. SomethingBurrowed SomethingBlue
    April 25, 2011

    If we lose game 7, we should definitely flip the pool!
    Nah.

    The Canucks played their hearts out for game 6. I’m wondering if they still have enough “Juice” to get them through game 7.
    Fans going to game 7 should be as loud and rowdy as the madhouse crowd. I’ve been to a couple of playoff games and can say that Rogers Arena (GM Place) can get really quiet at crucial times — when the Nucks are trailing. We can’t even get a decent wave going. Our wave looks like a midget fart. (no offense to midgets)

    Fans should become the Canucks’ 7th man. (unless the refs decide to call a penalty against that, then no we shouldn’t)

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  3. Reece
    April 25, 2011

    I hope Bickell receives supplemental discipline for that hit on Bieksa – blatant headshot and he left his feet!

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  4. beninvictoria
    April 25, 2011

    this was a good game, and the first one in the whole series that i actually enjoyed watching, i am really looking forward to game seven.

    also could the cody hodgson benching be due to his delay of game penalty? it was exactly the kind of mistake that rookies make and with the pressure on, perhaps vigneault didnt want to risk it happening again.

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  5. Kezzi
    April 25, 2011

    That was a great game, the first really great playoff level game of this series. It had everything in it. It would have been nice with a different ending, but these two teams just have to be all dramatic and take it to seven. A much better performance from the Nucks and they have a good chance to win Game 7. Almost as good a chance to lose too. Can we stand the tension? Can they?
    You have to give Lou the chance to win game 7. Schneider had a great game but those mistakes kept the Hawks in this. And the refereeing in Chicago, all three games? So suspect. Really, the Hawks are being handed every opportunity to take this thing. Maybe if they lose game 7 it’s them that choked!

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  6. antro
    April 25, 2011

    Thanks again Skeeter for the post. I watched a dominant Canucks performance, and a lot of lucky bounces for the Hawks. Crawford was beaten several times and only posts and near misses kept it out of the goal. And I agree it was an exciting game. AV managed to change the storyline with the goalie change, and it seems to have worked. The Sedins maybe should cover their zone a bit better, but two of those goals were uncannily lucky, and Dave Bolland had a pretty nothing game except for Schneider’s passing. The gods were against us. Never mind, it sets up a dramatic game 7.

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  7. peanutflower
    April 25, 2011

    that was a great game. great. Bieksa was amazing. I live continuously with that little niggling thought that I was one of the ones who wanted him gone. I hope I don’t have to pay for that thought somewhere down the line. I wonder if Schneider really got a cramp or if he just got all messed up in his head and thought he’d better leave . Poor Luongo — he will be blamed as always. I really hate Vancouver fans and Cam Cole sometimes for being so mean.

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  8. from the flock
    April 25, 2011

    Resume

    It’s one-none two minutes in
    This goal won’t be enough to win
    Cory Schneider won’t shut them out
    Of that there isn’t any doubt

    The Hawks come back they gain a tie
    Dave Bolland is the reason why
    Then Burrows scores and we have two
    It’s not enough to get us through

    Elsewhere the Preds beat Anaheim
    So for the Ducks it’s golfing time
    Perhaps the Preds the Nucks will play
    We’ve first to win this game today

    The Blackhawks tie it up again
    Dave Bolland scores from Patrick Kane
    It’s tied at two into the third
    The Nucks will win we’ve Kessler’s word

    It’s two on one Bieksa scores
    A penalty shot the tie restores
    And Cory hurt won’t get the win
    Will Luongo let a soft one in

    And now we’re into overtime
    So will the Hawks join Anaheim
    Or will the Nucks lose this one too
    Corey Crawford or Bobby Lu

    The Blackhawks win against the flow
    So to a seventh game we go

    Chicken Chick

    Image

    The Hawks prolong their playoff race
    With Bobby Lu flat on his face

    Whisky Jack

    Game Six

    Who would have thought when “Three and 0”
    That there would be one game to go,
    A seventh game which will decide
    Which team is to be shoved aside.

    Vancouver played its best game yet
    With all four lines a scoring threat
    They play that way on Tuesday night
    Hawk history they would rewrite

    However I don’t think they will
    This loss today a bitter pill
    Which well they won’t recover from
    Should we score first they will succumb

    By this I mean no disrespect
    The Hawks are champs last time I checked

    Chicken Hawk

    Canucks Fantasy Hockey

    Since the Nuckleheads lost tonight
    Vancouver fans are most uptight
    And come next game it would be mete
    If no one occupied a seat

    Then when the teams took to the ice
    And saw none chose to pay the price
    To park the car or ride the train
    That sure would be utmost germane

    Or what if just three thousand came
    To cheer and boo throughout the game
    Might not that send a message clear
    Nucks better win or else next year

    There just could be a franchise move
    For Gary Bettman to approve

    Jenny Wren

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  9. madwag
    April 25, 2011

    danielson

    a truly excellent blog! your remaining rational and thorough when all one wants is to emote is most pleasing. i hope for the sake of PITB and the fans of Vancouver, who have been treated to a most entertaining season of hockey, that the Canucks do win game seven. it would be karmatically incorrect for them not to do so; however, it’s certainly not a certainty. cheers.

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  10. DanD
    April 25, 2011

    That was one of those OT periods where you just felt like something fluky would happen if Chicago was able to break out of the pressure Vancouver was putting on in the offensive zone.

    Sure enough . . .

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  11. nsk
    April 25, 2011

    Thank god for your blog – especially with the lack of perspective from many of your MSM colleagues. It was a very exciting and engrossing game – so much so that I literally felt (and still feel) that I can’t watch Game 7.

    As hard and maddening as this loss is, I will take this kind of heartbreak over the previous two games (I understand that it can happen once, but I did not expect it for two consecutive games).

    Chicago is a good team and look forward to a Game 7 win with Luongo in net (I like Cory as well, but I don’t really think that Roberto is playing badly). He has been pretty good in the series despite the two horrible games where his team hung him out to dry too many times.

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  12. peanutflower
    April 25, 2011

    Just wondering if that was the first time in history two rookie goalies named Cory played in an NHL playoff game. one of those useless bits of possible trivia. anyone? what about the first time two rookie goalies played? surely that can’t happen all that often.

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  13. phil
    April 25, 2011

    Iwas suprised the nucks didnt score in OT They were dominating but Corey Crawford was up to the task…to me it was that, and Hossa so strong with th puck able to one hand the stick and use his other arm to ward off nuck d-men Luongo made a great stop on Nick Hk’s shot but the rebound ….and Ben Smith, just a rook with 6 NHL games under his belt flips the shot in

    I live in Colorado now but attended many Hawk games during my 40 plus years of living there. I heard about some Hawk fans acting like thugs, sorry about that, especially with the wife and kid story…most people in Chicago are really pretty nice and despite some emotional posting, we Americans really do love the folks from Canada….love playoff hockey Hawks 3 zip is my read

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  14. Cathylu
    April 25, 2011

    Win or lose tomorrow night I just want to say thanks to PITB. I really enjoy the commentary. I didn’t discover PITB until late in the season. I’m a noob when it comes to hockey in general and the Canucks in particular. (But I’m not a bandwagoner; I became a fan after attending a pre-season game in September). Anyway thanks for the education, and I hope it doesn’t all end tomorrow night.

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  15. chicken chick
    April 25, 2011

    Since you didn’t I guess i should
    Just tell it like it really was
    I guess you are too sweet and good
    To truly set your fans abuzz

    I hate it when the reffing sucks
    And victimize the poor Canucks
    That blind side hit behind the net
    What Torres got it didn’t get

    A slash that breaks a Sedin stick
    Was good for two right double quick
    But both officials it ignored
    Because the Nucks just might have scored

    And trip it was but it was not
    A cause to call a penalty shot
    No way he gets a shot on goal
    Some line I need that ends with “stole”

    That’s what they did not unawares
    Took from the Nucks the win was theirs

    Chicken Chick

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  16. mongo
    April 25, 2011

    good thing the jets are coming back

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