The Chicago Blackhawks quickly and systematically put away the Vancouver Canucks in Game 5 of the Western Conference quarterfinals. Roberto Luongo, only two days removed from getting shelled for six goals, got the hook again in Game 5 after allowing four quick goals. Luongo's confidence and ability to win on hockey's biggest stages has been questioned for years.
The last two games, however, were not Luongo's fault.
After going back and rewatching Game 4 and Game 5, the Chicago Blackhawks scored predominantly using one system—screen Luongo. Get a body in front of him early and often. This is the oldest strategy in the book, and Chicago played it to perfection.
Because Vancouver allowed them to.
In Game 4, four of the seven goals scored occurred with a Hawk within one stick length of the goaltender. One came when Bickell walked around the defense, one breakaway goal after Vancouver's defense was caught pinching and one goal banged home on the doorstep on a four-on-three power play. Game 5 saw Luongo give up two goals on slapshots from the point where a Blackhawk was uncontested on the top of the crease.
Chicago bought into a simple, crash-the-net style of play. It's time for Vancouver to buy into a simple, "defense first" strategy. There hasn't been a goal scored by the Blackhawks in the last two games that didn't consist of one of the following:
- An uncontested screen on a Vancouver goaltender.
- A Blackhawk getting far too much room to shoot.
- A Blackhawk either walking around a defender or scoring on a breakaway after a failed Vancouver pinch.
For Luongo and the Canucks to win Game 6 at the United Center tomorrow night, Luongo has to have help from his defense. Canucks defenseman have to make clearing the crease the top priority. Luongo is a fantastic goaltender who will stop the shots he can see. By giving him full vision of the shots coming in, Luongo can build the confidence he so desperately needs to win in Chicago.
Furthermore, making sure the defense plays patiently and makes that first step back in transition will cut down on breakaway opportunities for Chicago. The Vancouver D men must stick to fundamental, defense-first hockey. Let that deadly first line do the work in the offensive end.