What the Devils?
The Canucks' Game 4 loss to the Hawks was reminiscent of the Devils' Game 7 loss to the Hurricanes. With a one-goal lead into the third and an elite goalie manning the net, only two minutes left, they were so close to winning the series, and then disaster stroke. In the blink of an eye, the opposing team scored two unanswered goals and snatched the victory away. Martin Brodeur and the Devils were shocked. Two minutes turned their entire season upside down.
Luongo and the Canucks were two minutes away from winning the game and taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, with a chance to close the deal at home. But a couple of mistakes at the very end caused them the game and changed the whole complexion of the series. Now the Hawks have gained some momentum, and the pressure is on the Canucks to win on Saturday, otherwise they would face elimination in Chicago.
What Went Wrong?
1. The Faceoffs
In the two games the Canucks won, they have won more faceoffs. Tonight the Hawks won more faceoffs, which led to more puck possession and more scoring chances. Sundin, who used to win faceoffs, was ineffective tonight.
2. The Offense
The Canucks' top three lines didn't score a goal, and they were outshot 28-15. You don't win many games if you only score one-goal against a talented team. What happened to the offense? Throughout the entire game, there seemed to be no more than two Canucks players in the attacking zone at the same time, and nobody in front of the net. They were not creating scoring chances for themselves at all, and when they had a chance, they were either too nervous or too stone-handed to take advantage.
3. The Defensive Game
General Patton's insights into how battles are won apply amazingly well to hockey games. "When a man is lying in a shell hole, if he just stays there all day, an opponent will get to him eventually." The Canucks went into a 20-minute PK in the third period. Whenever they got the puck, they would just send it down the ice, instead of organizing an offense. They sat back and waited to be beat, and they were.
4. The Breakdowns
Kudos to the Hawks, who kept fighting no matter what. Throughout the series, they have shown more resilience than the Canucks, who seem to lack the killer instinct. The Hawks can come back from a 3-goal deficit in the third period, but the Canucks tend to collapse when they are behind or caught up late in the game. Do they have the mental toughness and physical stamina to really play 60-minute games without breakdowns?
It's a best of 3 series now, and the Canucks still have home-ice advantage. But the Hawks have proven they can win at the GM Place, so it's not much of an advantage. Vigneault already conceded that the Hawks have more speed and skill (which was a self-defeatist statement, IMO), so the Canucks can't play "chance for chance", but when they played their defensive game, the Hawks still got more scoring chances than the Canucks. What now?