Professional sport is all about psychology and don't the Canucks know it. Clearly loaded with ability and no physical reasons behind their inability to win against Chicago in the last three, they come into game 7 in a fragile state of mind.
The worst possible scenario for the Vancouver Canucks has played out after taking the first three games of their best-of-seven First Round series against the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks. When Ben Smith netted the game-winner 15:30 into the first OT of Game 6, the Canucks were visited by the ghosts of playoff pasts, which would reach a shockingly embarrassing all-time low if they are unable to regain their balance and win Game 7. The Canucks have lost to the Blackhawks in the Semifinals in each of the past two seasons, and have not advanced past the semis in any of their previous nine playoff appearances despite recording over 100 points in their past five seasons. However, this collapse would be absolutely devastating to a franchise and city that saw its team win its first-ever Presidents’ Trophy and are still considered by many to be the Stanley Cup favorite.
Cory Crawford has been wonderful for the Blackhawks in the past three games of this series, not allowing more than three goals in any game, and posting a shutout in Game 5. On offense, the Hawks have been led by a total resurgence. After scoring just five goals in the first three games of this series, Chicago has exploded for 16 goals in its past three contests. Since joining the series in Game 4 after missing the first three games with an injury, Dave Bolland has no doubt been a huge key to the Hawks success. He has recorded six points (2 G, 4 A) and registered a +6 rating for the series. Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa have also been spectacular for the Hawks, scoring a combined eight goals and registering a combined 16 points in their past three games.
Luongo, where are you?
What happened to Roberto Luongo? The entire city of Vancouver needs the Vezina Trophy Finalist to show up for Game 7 if the Canucks have a chance to advance. After shutting out the Hawks in Game 1, and allowing a combined five goals in Games 2 and 3, Luongo has played like a 10-year backup since. Allowing a combined 10 goals in Games 4 and 5, he was removed in each one and benched for Game 6. Cory Schneider played very well in his place in Game 6, but had to be removed after injuring himself on the game-tying penalty shot by the Hawks Michael Frolick. Luongo came on and played noticeably better, stopping his first 12 shots, but still allowed the overtime goal to force Game 7. On offense, Daniel Sedin leads all scorers with five goals and seven points in the series, but has recorded just two goals in the past three games. Meanwhile, brother Henrik and linemate Mikael Samuelsson have combined for just one assist in the past three games.
Chicgo forward Bryan Bickell will miss Game 7. The Blackhawks gave word Monday that Bickell underwent surgery to repair a lacerated tendon in his hand. He hurt himself in Game 2 and he tried to play through it, but needs the surgery now in order to make sure it was healed properly. Tomas Kopecky made the trip with the Hawks to Vancouver, and could play for the first time since Game 1. There was no update on Canucks defenseman Sami Salo, who left Game 6 midway through the first period with an undisclosed injury. Schneider left Game 6 early in the third period, but Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said he will back up Luongo.
Canuck they do it?
I picked the Canucks to win this series, believing this team was deeper and more physical than their successors of years prior. However, the third and fourth lines of this team, which were so physical and aggressive during the regular season in imposing their will on opponents, have gone into a shell since Raffi Torres knocked out Brent Seabrook in Game 3. Luongo is another story completely, as his horrid play is treasonous for a goaltender who is thought of as one of the best in the league. This is the most important game this city has ever hosted, which includes the five Stanley Cup Finals games they have hosted, as a loss in this game would cause this franchise to most likely blow up the roster after another playoff failure. I still have faith that this team is different and despite all of the signs pointing toward another choke-job, I’m taking Vancouver to come away with the win.
NHL Betting trends say:
VANCOUVER is 74-38 ATS (66.1%, +74.0 Units) against excellent power play teams- scoring on >17.5% of their chances over the last 2 seasons. The average score was VANCOUVER 3.4, OPPONENT 2.6 - (Rating = 1*).