The Vancouver Canucks finally got the better of the Stanley Cup champions on their third attempt to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
For the last three years, the Chicago Black Hawks have tormented the Canucks – but with Daniel and Henrik Sedin struggling to find points, Alex Burrows stepped up with two goals to send Vancouver into a second round match against the Nashville Predators.
It started off so well for the Canucks. The Presidents’ Trophy winners stormed to a three-game lead against the champions, with many predicting a sweep. However, Jonathan Toews and the sublime Corey Crawford didn’t give up and took Vancouver to the wire.
Two seasons ago, Chicago defeated Vancouver in the second round taking six games to do so. Last season, the Hawks again defeated the Canucks in the second round on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.
History looked set to repeat itself when with two minutes to go in game seven, a shorthanded goal from Marian Hossa tied the game. Alexandre Burrows had given Vancouver an early lead after a quick break from Ryan Kesler, but the Hawks remained in contention thanks to rookie goaltender Corey Crawford.
Burrows took a holding penalty early in overtime, but his teammates killed off the Chicago power play with little effort. Once Burrows left the penalty box, he won possession and hit a wicked shot past Crawford to fire his side into the Western Conference semi-finals.
Had Vancouver lost, Roberto Luongo was in danger of being remembered for failing against Chicago. However, the Canucks stopper helped his side out with some top confident saves, matched only by Crawford between the opposite pipes.
As great as Chicago’s comeback was, the Canucks should have wrapped up this series long ago. Vancouver now face the Nashville Predators, but this series will have taken a lot of energy out of a finely-tuned roster.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin were frustrated against the Hawks. Daniel has only managed five goals and two assists while his brother has only five assists. The twins showed glimpses of what they can do in game seven, but their form will need to be re-found if Vancouver are to make it past the Predators.
In Vancouver’s favor is two confident goaltenders. Luongo will receive an almighty boost following this result, but he and his teammates will be emotionally drained. Chicago were able to compete with Vancouver physically as well as psychologically, taking a lot out of Alain Vigneault’s team.
Vancouver’s struggles against Chicago may be a much-needed wake-up call for the President’s Trophy winners. So often does the best team in the regular season stutter in the playoffs. The Canucks will not be taking Nashville or anyone lightly, and it may give them a much-needed push.
Chicago couldn’t have given much more effort in a draining and enthralling series. Despite trailing by three games, they showed why they won the Stanley Cup last year. Jonathan Toews has proved his value as a great leader, while Joel Quenneville has someone very special in Crawford for years to come.
We have seen the best and the worst of the Canucks during their series with Chicago. Alex Burrows will be buzzing following his two goals in game seven, and he will need to take that energy with him into the second round. If the Sedin brothers can build their confidence and start scoring against Nashville, Vancouver will be confident of making it through to the Conference finals – a place they haven’t been since 1994.