Exactly one year ago to the day the Chicago Blackhawks eliminated the Vancouver Canucks in the Conference Semi-finals with a similar offensive beating, only this time the score was more lopsided. Last year the Hawks lit up Bobby Lou for seven goals including a hat trick by Patrick Kane. This year the Hawks scored five times against the overrated and beaten down goaltender as they disposed of the Canucks 5-1 in GM Place.
It was roughly a month ago when the postseason began that I talked about the Ex-Panther factor and how it would effect teams and their ability to advance in the playoffs. In baseball there’s the Ex-Cub factor and it usually rings true. Well, here in the NHL, I may be on to something. The Canucks are saddled with five ex Panther players. Tanner Glass, Darcy Hordichuk, Ryan Johnson, Mikael Samuelsson and the most visible and responsible villian victim of the curse, Roberto Luongo. Potentially to be known in the future as Bobby Lose.
The Canucks have displayed a very Jeckyl and Hyde personna in this playoff series. After winning game one, they lost three in a row, then won game five in Chicago, but then layed a real egg in game six in their own building Tuesday night. Their home record and performance at home has been miserable, their special teams have been awful, and their goaltending has been inconsistent to say the least. Trust me, I’m being kind about that one.
The Canucks had a chance to keep the momentum after Sunday night’s win in Chicago as they played the perfect road game winning 4-1, and had the Hawks potentially second guessing themselves. After letting Dustin Byfuglien get into their heads and paying more attention to him and other shennanigans, the Canucks played selfishly and undisciplined. Causing them to lose focus and three games in a row. I blame head coach Alain Vigneault for that one as he needed to make some changes as game four progressed. However in game five the game plan changed. They settled down, they slowed things up, they clogged the middle, and Luongo gave up no rebounds. The Hawks couldn’t use their speed, or their passing skills and were frustrated all night.
Tuesday night however, things were different. A pretty wide open first period with scoring chances for both teams saw both goaltenders, Chicago’s Antii Niemi and The Canucks Roberto Luongo keep the scoresheet blank after one. You had the feeling that the first goal was to have a dramatic effect in the game and boy did it ever. Troy Brouwer of Chicago inserted in the lineup in place of Tomas Kopecky got the Hawks on the board first on a bad turn over by Nucks D-man Shane O’Brien to give the Hawks the lead. Just 36 seconds later Kris Versteeg , on a two on one, wristed a shot past Lou, and the air went right out of the building. Right then the momentum changed.
The knife however that went through the heart was the shortie scored by Dave Bolland moments later giving the Hawks a 3-0 lead midway through the second. And while Vancouver did get on the board with an O’Brien marker making it 3-1 and giving a little bit of life to Vancouver, the Hawks just proved to be too much and continued to pepper Louie and drive the net and take the game to the Canucks. As one of my fellow blogging friends texted me last night said, “The Hawks wanted it more”. They did. Patrick Kane and Big Buff added goals making the final 5-1 and allowing the Hawks to advance to the Conference Finals for the second year in a row. They will take on the San Jose Sharks in a series that will start sometime this weekend.
While three of the Ex-Panthers didn’t figure much at all into the outcome of the series (Hordichuk, Glass, Ryan Johnson), it was the play of forward Mikael Samuelsson who had only one goal and three assists and the inconsistency and utter floundering of Bobby Lose that did them in. It didn’t help that the Sedin sisters, Hank and Dank, really stank! (Stole that from by blogger friend).
Daniel Sedin-One goal three assists. Ryan Kessler and Alex Burrows had two goals combined. Both by Burrows.
I will give one significant compliment though. Sami Salo showed what a true warrior he is by playing in that game. For someone to have the injury that he did (ruptered testicle) and play, shows all the guts, or balls (sorry) in the world. However, shame on Alain Vigneault for not dressing a seventh defenceman in case Salo couldn’t last. Bad enough Alexander Edler left the game in the first after he was given a rough ride by Big Buff.
There are a ton of questions to be asked in Vancouver. Do they keep this group together? Where can they add pieces for improvement? Do they have too many Euro’s (YES). Do they need to address their defence? Does Vigneault stay or go? Is he on a short leash?
The biggest question however is how do they figure out what to do with Luongo. Not only from his playing ability, or lack of, but his mental state? They are saddled with a long term contract (12 years) for a goaltender that cannot win the big one. His playoff performance over the last three seasons is average, or below. What can they do?
Here’s a couple question’s for you Panther fans. Do you still miss him? Are you still upset at what we got back? Does it matter?
To me it doesn’t matter. We didn’t win with him, and we aren’t winning without him. I would make that trade again if we had to do it all over again. Things haven’t changed much since he left. For the Panthers or Luongo.
GM Mike Keenan said at the time that Luongo’s demands were not representative of a player that has won anything, so we are moving forward without him.
And now, so are the Hawks.
Thanks for reading.
Your comments are always welcomed and appreciated.
Follow me on Twitter @TheRatTrick.