We have all had the dream.
You are being chased by something – or someone. No matter how far ahead you are, no matter how fast you run – you look back and realize you are losing ground. Fast.
This dream has been a living nightmare for the Vancouver Canucks the past two playoff years after taking a 1-0 series lead over the Chicago Blackhawks, only to look back in terror as the darkness take over.
On Friday night at Rogers Arena, it was the Canucks doing the tormenting after dispelling the Blackhawks 4-3 and taking a commanding 2-0 series lead over the reigning Cup Champions.
For two years running, the Blackhawks had found a way to win Game 2 after giving their rivals a leg up in the series. But this year is different. This year, the Canucks appear to have just the right ingredients needed to reverse a curse that has scared them straight to the top of the league.
“We’ve got a long ways to go,” said Canucks centre Ryan Kesler. “We know that we’re going into a tough building Sunday and we’ve got to be ready to come out strong like we have.”
Just like Game 1, Vancouver came out of the gates possessed – out-hitting, out-scoring, and out-working their bitter rivals. Canucks Defenseman Alex Edler set the tone with a bone-rattling hit on Patrick Kane on the first shift of the game, and Jannik Hansen opened the scoring at the 7:30 mark of the first period.
The Blackhawk played catch-up from that point on, going down 2-0, 3-1, and 4-2 before finally succumbing to a 4-3 score-line.
“We just kept giving them consistent scoring chances and let them run away with the game,” said a downtrodden Jonathan Toews. “Every time we got a goal to try to pull back and get within one we just found bad ways to give it right back to them.”
Daniel and Henrik Sedin led the charge in Game 2 after letting the cavalry do the work in Game 1.
Daniel, the Art Ross Trophy winner this season with 104 points, scored his first two goals of these playoffs and added an assist. Henrik had a two-point night with a two assist effort. Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo wasn’t at his best Friday night, but made the saves when it mattered – most notably in the dying seconds with a big blocker save to seal the deal.
“I think we came out and basically played the same way (as Game 1),” said Canucks Defenseman Kevin Bieksa. “Obviously they were a lot more physical tonight but for us, it’s not just one or two guys – you see 15-20 guys finishing hits and the energy builds on the bench and in the arena.”
The Canucks will be looking to take that same energy on the road with them to a building that is hardly bereft of its own. The ‘Madhouse on Madison’ has been a personal house of horrors for Vancouver the past two playoffs. From the always-raucous rendition of the star spangled banner to the insanity-inducing tune after every Chicago goal, the United Center can still trip up a Vancouver team that is seemingly running away with this series.
Only, it appears the Canucks are poised to tackle their demons after dominating the first two games of this series and are showing no sign of slowing down.
Like in any bad dream where you are being chased – just don’t look back.