Okay, now I get it. The Canucks were so embarrassed by the way they played the last couple of nights in Vancouver they sent a bunch of ringers to Chicago. It let them celebrate the day with their moms, or at least be consoled by them.
Besides they apparently found some pretty good replacements. Gave ‘em good instructions too. Simple ones really - stay sharp, stay focused and stay in control. Everything the Canucks didn’t do at home to fall behind 3-1 in the series.
Somehow it worked because the guys in the road jerseys won Game 5 by a 4-1 count to narrow the series gap and bring it back to Canada’s West Coast. Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising since Vancouver had the best offense in the West and won its division, but after watching it systematically pick apart the Blackhawks, it was hard to believe this was the same team that dropped the last three games to Chicago.
The Canucks turned in a clinic on survival in what amounted to the perfect road game. No panic, just sticking with the plan. Nothing fancy, but Vancouver just made safe plays, locked down the neutral zone and kept Chicago mostly to the outside in the offensive zone by collapsing effectively and cutting off lanes.
Equally important, the Canucks scored early to suck the life out of the building, and then Roberto Luongo did the rest. The often-maligned goalie rebounded from two nose-pinching games with a strong effort that should give him and his teammates a much-needed psychological boost.
And he was at his best right off the bat when Vancouver took control and a 2-0 lead.
“I knew it was going to be important to have a good first period,” said Luongo, who only lost his shutout on a deflection by red hot Jonathan Toews late in the third period. “I made a couple of saves, we scored a couple of goals and that helped us get off to the start we wanted.”
The finish wasn’t bad either and left several good takeaways for Vancouver, even if Sami Salo, who left in the second period is gone for any length of time. In the meantime though, three of Vancouver’s goals came courtesy of defensemen, who score more than any other group of blue liners in the league this season. That’s a good sign. So is the way the Canucks kept their cool. And beating Chicago in every aspect of the game bodes well too.
If that wasn’t enough to put some fresh doubts in the Blackhawks mind, then the way rookie goalie Antii Niemi looked on a couple of goals should. Then again, Niemi didn’t get much help though from his teammates who played this game as if they believed what a lot of people saying about this series being done.
Chicago didn’t generate more than sporadic pressure, and for a change couldn’t goad the Canucks into taking penalties the way they had in Vancouver. The Blackhawks did get four power plays, but couldn’t convert against the worst penalty killing unit in the playoffs.
So now they have to go back to Vancouver while the San Jose Sharks sit and wait. The bright side for Chicago is that Vancouver hasn’t won at home in this series. But if the Blackhawks don’t find another gear Tuesday, they’ll be up against it in a Game 7 in Chicago where the Canucks have been the better team.
Keeping cool was key for Canucks
Posted on: May 9, 2010 11:37 pm