You could feel the electricity in the building. It was spine-tingling as Mark Donnelly belted out “O Canada” and the GM Place spectators were supplying the backup. The crowd was pumped, but were the Canucks?
Chicago started out with the pressure and better scoring opportunities, and forced Luongo to make the stop off Samuel Pahlsson on the down-low shot.
The Hawks ran into early penalty trouble and at least we know the Canucks' power play is working. Sami Salo and Alex Edler scored on two of those, to jumpstart Vancouver to a 2-0 lead.
In the second period, the Hawks started to take control of the game, helped out by the rash of penalties that the Canucks took, giving Chicago a two-man advantage. Patrick Sharp scored two goals, one on that two-man advantage, and to rub it in further, Dave Bolland scored shorthanded, to make it 3-2 Chicago by the end of the second.
In the third period, Patrick Kane and Ben Eager both scored to make it 5-2, and the game was pretty much over. Henrik Sedin scored on another power play, and Bolland added another to make the final score 6-3.
I had to look back at the game stats for the regular season and my suspicion proved correct. Only Anaheim in March and April and San Jose and Detroit during the losing spell in December (without Luongo) scored three goals in any period against the Canucks. None of these was ever in sequential games.
The Hawks have completed this in back-to-back games in this series. This is concerning.
So, why is this happening? Because Chicago could easily be up 2-0.
First of all, the Hawks are outplaying the Canucks, beating them to the puck. Chicago’s physical play is basically coming from four players (Brower, Eager, Burish, and Byfuglien), which is setting the tone and causing the turnovers.
The Hawks are also springing the open man through centre ice, with a step on the 'Nucks defense, while the other winger is heading for the open spot down low. Once Chicago gets to the Canucks net, there is mayhem; a rugby scrum, rebounds, and several goals have come off that.
Now, I’m going to put on my coach’s hat and repeat again, which I have done in many of my previous blogs, why this is happening to the Canucks.
Think back when the Canucks were on that horrible losing streak and again the three-game losing streak at the end of the season.
We all know that the Canucks' success has been built on a tight defensive system. The wingers come back deep to help out the defense, the short pass is made, and the escape out of the zone starts the attack. When they do get in trouble, the puck is chipped out along the boards.
Vancouver has been successful in pressuring the other teams’ defense and clogging up the middle. This usually results in a turnover and the transition game attacks with the puck.
The other point is that the Canucks' defense and forwards are usually forcing the other team to shoot from the perimeter, and if the shot gets through to Luongo, the 'Nucks defense collapses down low. With the help from the centre, they smother the rebound shot or play it to safety.
This system has also allowed the Canucks to be one of the top (seventh) five-on-five teams in the NHL. The problem here is, Chicago was No. 5.
Two seasons ago, with a challenged offensive production, the Canucks won the N.W. Division. Last season, they played the same system but, with the many numerous injuries to the top four defensemen, they just could not recover.
The next game in Chicago is crucial, as the Canucks have to get back to their system, and when they do, it will bring success once again.
No one said that the Canucks were going to be 16-0 in the playoffs, even if they did start at 5-0.
The Iceman predicted a seven-game series. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Final note, look for Coach V to replace Pavol Demitra (-3) with Taylor Pyatt and Ossi Vaananen for injured Sami Salo.