I don't have a lot of new thoughts about the Canucks' current series with the Blackhawks...I think I made my case pretty clear with my previous ones...as we head into Game 6 tonight at the Garage, I just had a couple of things to throw into this already over-analyzed situation. Those are coming following the jump...
By now, we all should know that the notion of carryover momentum from game to game in this series is pretty much a myth...almost nothing in this series has been based on a series trend.
But the Canucks have surely proven, in Games 1 and 5, that if they play their game and stay focused(and COMPOSED), that they certainly have what it takes to send the Blackhawks packing in these playoffs. In fact, it remains to be proven(in this series, at least)that Chicago can play with Vancouver in a straight-up, hockey game(without all the post whistle face washes and other histrionics). It seemed that the only option for the Hawks in Game 5, when it was apparent they weren't ready to handle the sudden maturity of the Canucks on the ice, was to try to goad the Canucks into physical retaliation and penalities to try to disturb that composure. Thankfully, the Canucks turned the other cheek and concentrated on hockey.
Granted, the Hawks had less to lose by resorting to that, after all, they weren't facing elimination if they failed...the Canucks were. But still, the Canucks' style of play clearly frustrated the Blackhawks...to the point that they almost wore the same ill-fitting shoes the Canucks wore in the previous two games.
But I said I wouldn't get into too much analysis...and frankly, who needs more of THAT at this point?
One last thing...while listening to Bob McKenzie on TEAM 1040 this morning, he emphasized that we wouldn't see the same Blackhawks team that was so flat and ill-prepared in Game 5...and I agree completely.
I think the Hawks will come out storming for Game 6...after being embarrassed in their own building when they had a chance to put the Canucks away. They will no doubt draw on their success in Games 3 and 4 and try to rattle the Canucks' focus once more...and they'll be ready to play. One key no doubt for the Canucks tonight will be to absorb the Hawks' first blows, and "counterpunch" effectively....not literally, of course, but figuratively.
Kevin Bieksa is said to have commented after Game 5 that 5 minutes into that game, when he was convinced that Roberto Luongo was "in the zone", that he had a very good feeling about the game. While it's undeniably true that Luongo's play has been much magnified out-of-proportion in this series(it's not just one guy, folks, not even the goalie), it is also true that when Luongo is at his best(which he was in Games 1 and 5), there are few better in goal. The Canucks know it, their fans know it, and even the Blackhawks and their fans know it(that is one big reason why Luongo gets such a huge part of their attention).
Will there be a Game 7? If the Canucks play as they can(and of course that includes Luongo), then the odds are pretty good that there will. And you have to believe that the Hawks DON'T want this series to come down to a seventh game, winner-take-all situation...where BOTH teams are facing elimination.
If the Canucks don't keep that focus, and can't "counterpunch" effectively against a Blackhawk team determined ro atone for their Game 5 siesta, then it was still a good year, and enjoy the summer, everyone!
I, for one, am looking forward to more hockey Thursday night...I hope there will be, for the Canucks' sake.