Canucks-Blackhawks: Game Six, and Now the Eulogy

Nucks IceMan@nucksiceman@twitter.comCorrespondent IMay 12, 2009

CHICAGO - MAY 11:  The Chicago Blackhawks swarm goalie Nikolai Khabibulin #39 after their 7-5 win against the Vancouver Canucks during Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinal Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 11, 2009 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

I never write after the game, as I like to digest it, and at this time of the year, let the emotions chill out. 

This is now my 39th year following the Canucks and contemplating what will happen next year. It’s always next year, and the long roller coaster ride over 82 games that questions my continuing emotional involvement with this club.

When you spend as much time, energy and money as I have, it is hard to handle when your team does not make it past round two, never mind that it has only gone to the Stanley Cup finals twice. 

I’m not going to go into what the Canucks need to do for next year, as that will be another article soon to be written. 

The one thing that you learn having played and coached the game as long as I have is that you have to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat.

Sure, we enjoy the victories, as we fans live vicariously through our teams. We also feel the agony in defeat.

This one was a bitter pill to swallow, as I felt that this was one of the better teams the Canucks had put together since the '94 group that went to the Cup final with the New York Rangers. Obviously it was not good enough.

I need to acknowledge the play of the Blackhawks, who I wrote about on a number of occasions, because they were the better team.

The Canucks could not match the toughness of Ben Eager, Troy Brouwer, Andrew Ladd, Dave Bolland, and Adam Burish. 

Chicago had the better skill, superior speed and accurate snipers with Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Martin Havlat, and Jonathan Toews. 

The Hawks defense was more mobile, moved the puck quicker and attacked with the likes of Brent Seabrook, Cam Barker, Duncan Keith, Brian Campbell, and Matt Walker.

Nikolai Khabibulin, who I thought would be no match for Roberto Luongo, outplayed Louie and made the key saves in the games for his team to win.

The Canucks put up a battle and came back from a two goal deficient to tie it up in the second period, and went ahead twice in the third period. But it was Chicago that drove it home for the win.

Roberto Luongo let in four goals on nine shots in the third period, in the most important game of his career. Didn’t see that coming.

You will have heard this before many times—the playoffs define the greatness of a player. Luongo is a good player but he has yet to reach that elite status.

It is totally unfair that the Vancouver media and fans compare him to Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek, or even Mikka Kiprusoff.  All of these goalies (except Kiprusoff) have been Stanley Cup winners. All of these have been either Vezina, Hart, Conn Smythe, or William M. Jennings trophy winners. 

Luongo has won none of these.

The turning point of the series was game four, when the Canucks were 2:44 away from going up three games to one. That’s what I wrote in my notes on that day.

The Chicago Blackhawks remind a bit of the Edmonton Oilers of the 80’s before they won all those Cups. Lots of youth and skill in all areas of the team. A confident bunch.

The Hawks are going on to the next round because they were the better team in all departments. I know they and their fans will enjoy the ride.