The Canucks had no choice but to step up and prove their critics wrong, after talking about all the right things throughout the playoff series against the Blackhawks, the Vancouver Canucks executed their game plan to perfection, jumping on the favoured Blackhawks early and often on Sunday.
After Brent Seabrook’s early wrist shot surprised Roberto Luongo in game four, Christian Ehrhoff opened the game five scoring with a high slapshot that came from the Sedin’s great work with their patented offensive zone faceoff win.
Vancouver’s goal stunned the Chicago crowd forcing them to quietly settle in to the game; after the Canucks had made their presence felt so quickly, they wouldn’t leave anything on the ice on Sunday.
After Alex Burrows and Marian Hossa traded tripping and hooking calls in the first period, another Canuck defenseman extended the Vancouver lead. Kevin Bieksa joined in the rush and Kyle Wellwood fed him over a perfect pass to send the tough Canuck defender in alone on Niemi, with a quick move to the backhand the Canucks had a two goal lead.
Probably the nicest goal Bieksa has ever scored, but he wasn’t done there.
Half way through the second period Kevin Bieksa blasted a one timer on the Canuck power play that was deflected in front of Niemi and over the pad of the Blackhawk goaltender, it was a dagger for Bieksa and the Canucks who were put on the power play by none other than public enemy number one, Dustin Byfuglien.
It was a nice turnaround for Bieksa and the Canucks on Sunday night, instead of seeing their own teammates constantly allowed out of the box after ‘Hawk power play goals, Dustin Byfuglien was the guilty man leaving the sin bin with his head down.
Jonathan Toews goal late in the third period was the only offensive spark for the Blackhawks, outmatched by the helter-skelter Canucks who found their game through forechecking, skating, and discipline.
The Canucks skaters certainly answered the bell on Sunday, and Roberto Luongo wasn’t prepared to allow his teammates to outperform their captain. In game five, Roberto Luongo was the busier of the two goaltenders’ as usual; however Luongo made certain his coach couldn’t deny that the Canucks keeper wasn’t the best on the ice on Sunday night. While Chicago continued its crease crashing campaign with a constant net presence in front of Roberto Luongo, the Canuck defence was able to allow Luongo to make the save when necessary in game five.
Up and down the Canucks lineup from goaltender to first line forward the Vancouver Canucks played a consistent team game on Sunday night. Game five was another impressive road victory from the Canucks very similar to game one of this series. Just as the Canucks simply couldn’t win given the number of power plays the Blackhawks earned early in the series, any team that gives up two goals in the first period at home doesn’t stand much of a chance to win the hockey game. The Canucks should be well aware of that fact tonight.
Having proven both teams can handily win a game when they play their best, which version(s) of the Canucks and Blackhawks show up tonight at GM Place? The frustrated, undisciplined Canucks from early in the series have been replaced by the focused team oriented Canucks who dominated game five, however after haven already given up three losses, the Canucks simply cannot afford to slip up and lose their cool tonight. Roberto Luongo and the Canuck defence will have to maintain order in front of the crease while refraining from giving referees any opportunity to make a call against them. One would hope a game six wouldn’t be decided by a parade to the penalty box, however in this series nothing more from the men in white and black stripes will surprise me.
The Blackhawks head into Vancouver attempting to do just what they have done with ease all series, win on the road. GM Place has been a haven for the Vancouver Canucks this series, while Canucks fans have been known to be fairly unwelcoming during the Playoffs, the ‘Hawks have simply been better in games played at the garage. Is it the Canadian connection, BC boy comfort, or just plain hard work? Who knows, but the ‘Hawks have simply been better in what was the one of the NHL’s toughest buildings to play in during the regular season. Tonight the Canucks need to take back their beloved home rink and push the series to a game seven back in Chicago.
The keys to game six are the same as those to game five; the Canucks have to remain disciplined, play solid defensively and remain focussed on winning in order to beat the Blackhawks. Roberto Luongo and the penalty kill will again have to be great in order to keep the high scoring Blackhawks power play off of the score sheet tonight. At five on five the Canucks have looked dominant at times in the series among a myriad of poor decisions and stupid penalties, if they are able to keep penalties to a minimum and create a strong forecheck early crowd and early momentum should swing in their favour, opening the door for the first goal of the game, a quick start is key for the Canucks.
News and Notes
- After taking a Duncan Keith slapshot to the testicle in game five, Sami Salo miraculously participated in the morning skate today for the Canucks proving that somehow behind that glass exterior he is a tough hockey player.
- Given the possibility that Salo could play tonight Shane O’Brien doesn’t trust the Blackhawks to hold back on Salo and his very sensitive injury.
- If Sami Salo is unable to go tonight due to the injury Lawrence Nycholat will take his spot on the blue line.
- The Canucks have the highest goals per game average of all teams remaining in these playoffs at 3.82, considering we have an Olympic goal medal winner in net, frustration is understandable.
- Also frustrating: The Canucks score 1.87 goals for every one allowed at five-on-five, the ‘Hawks number is 0.9. In other news, the Blackhawks have done fairly well on the power play.
- The trash talk in the battle of Vancouver vs. Chicago has extended to city vs. City; however Vancouver city mayor Gregor Robertson had only one thing to say “Let’s kick some Chicago ass.”
- The Kurtenblog compares the Canucks to dumb and dumber in a first we were dumb, no we’ve redeemed ourselves kind of way.
- Willie Mitchell has been spotted in the Canucks locker room helping the Canucks mentally prepare for pushing the series to game seven.
- Ed Willes points out that the Canucks don’t always play as they speak, saying all the right things but making all the wrong plays earlier in the series.
- Over confident, or just efficient? The Chicago Blackhawks have already packed their bags for San Jose in case they are able to finish the Canucks tonight in game six.
- Why the series between the Blackhawks and Canucks is just like high school. Yeah, I always hated that drama club guy too.
- I mentioned it yesterday to friends of mine but aren’t the Canucks’ playoff troubles looking a lot like Team Canada’s early struggles? Roberto Luongo believes so.
Well this is what we were hoping for, The Canucks have the chance to push the series to a seventh deciding game, potentially eliminating their early series deficit and evening the series. The Canucks when they have been on their game in this series has simply been the better team, however in the playoffs execution is paramount and the Canucks have simply lacked the consistency that is necessary to win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs; another impressive performance tonight would go a long way in demonstrating their ability to win big games. It’s that, or the season is over for the Canucks, and a loss tonight would simply be too soon for the 2010 Canucks who many agree have more to show than what has been displayed so far in the second round.
Game time is 6:30 PM Pacific tonight on CBC, it should be a gem from GM Place tonight – I’ll be a few rows behind Alain Vigneault and the boys tonight, hopefully the change of seating will bring some new puck luck. (Sitting behind the ‘Hawks bench during game three didn’t turn out so well now did it?)
Get your towels ready.
Filed Under: Vancouver Canucks
About the Author: Kevin Vanstone is a long time sports fan and Canucks die hard from White Rock, British Columbia. He is currently attending the University of Victoria pursuing a Writing degree, and in his spare time writes about all things Canucks hockey as well as news and notes from around the NHL.