Nine days off maybe just right for football players but in hockey it is like a month. Hockey players are used to playing every second day and no matter how many practices, scrimmages and extra training, you cannot duplicate game conditions.
Last night it really stood out as the Blackhawks owned the Canucks in the first ten minutes of the first period. Shots were 8-2, giveaways looked like free sample handouts, and there was no compete from the Nucks. Now thrown in a Vancouver power play that had a double minor with NO SHOTS ON GOAL.
Okay, let’s be honest here, that was the worst period of hockey the Nucks have played in the playoffs.
The best Canuck on the ice was a guy that I dubbed “Magic” (Kyle Wellwood) in a blog entitled “He’s the Magic Man” back on Nov. 5, so I won’t reiterate why I called him that, you will have to read it.
Let’s see now, sliced above the eye, lost a tooth, (now he looks like hockey player) drew 10 minutes in penalties, one of those resulted in a power play goal, which he assisted on. Then he goes 7-0 in the face-off circle, played close to 20 minutes, had a hit, two assists and was a plus two on the night.
This is one fine player with gifted (magic) hands, has eyes in the back of his head, defensively responsible, great wheels and hangs in there when the going gets tough. To think back in October, Magic was put on waivers and no one claimed in.
Pavol Demitra’s goal came on the power play, set up by Magic to Sundin to Demitra but don’t let the 1-0 score at the end of the period fool you. The Canucks showed nine days worth of rust and if not for Luongo’s stop on Martin Havlat, it could have easily been 1-1.
The second period was a bit more even, as the Canucks found their legs and started producing chances off the rush. Steve Bernier had a great opportunity where he cut in off the wing driving to the net but Nikolai Khabibulin took away the down low shot.
The Sedins finally got untracked with Daniel dishing off a nice pass to brother Henrik, cutting across in front and left unguarded, he deposited it in to make it 2-0.
The next goal featured Magic, who was hustling all night, going behind the Hawks net, backhands a pass out to Ryan Kesler out front and the third goal rang up on the score clock.
The game just about put away when Kesler broke in all alone and rang one off the crossbar. So the period ended 3-0 and it looked like the game was over, or so the Canucks thought.
The Hawks came out in the third period motoring. Duncan Keith’s point shot was stopped by Luongo but the rebound went to Patrick Kane, who roof daddied it, and suddenly Chicago was within two.
The ice definitely was slanted towards the Canucks end, as the Hawks poured it on. Once again Patrick Kane scored off a rebound, this time from Brent Seabrook, to make it 3-2 with half a period still to go.
Khabibulin at the other end was no slouch either, has he made some fine pad saves off of Alex Burrows and Mason Raymond, to keep the Hawks in it.
Did I mention that the Sundin line was on for both goals? Coach V needs to consider whether Pavol Demitra is going to be worth the risk, because Taylor Pyatt is a big improvement on the defensive side of things, and will go in the corners.
Chicago was winning all the battles and they fought back on a Dave Bolland goal to tie it up at 14:31 and that goal sucked the life out of GM Place, as the Nucks had just blown a three goal lead.
The one thing about the Hawks, they throw caution to the wind when they come at you. Now maybe the Calgary Flames could not capitalize on it but the Canucks sure did.
Not sure what Seabrook was doing down in the Canucks corner, but a breakout pass from Magic to Bernier, created a three on one rush until Sami Salo jumped in, to make it a foursome.
Mason Raymond’s pass to Bernier resulted in a great save by Khabibulin but the rebound went back out front to a lonesome Salo, who banged it in to give the lead back to the Canucks.
The empty goal was scored by Ryan Johnson, once again on an out-manned rush.
Make no mistake about it, because Chicago was heads and tail better than Vancouver in the third and only the Hawks breakdown saved the Canucks the embarrassment of blowing a three goal lead.
Warrior of the game, who else, Magic.