Blackhawks lose to the Canucks 2-1 in overtime.
Canucks take the series 4 games to 3.
Well if there was ever a way to go out, the Blackhawks would go out this way. The most dramatic way possible. While yes it does suck, as does any time your team’s season ends, let us reflect on how the Blackhawks got to this point.
Throughout the regular season the Blackhawks were a team plagued by inconsistency. At times they looked like defending Stanley Cup Champions. For a majority they looked like a team that just couldn’t gel together and struggled mightly to put together 60 minute efforts. The power play was infuriating with it’s inability to convert golden opportunities, though somehow it stayed among the top units in the NHL. Then there was the penalty kill which was celebrated every time it actually did it’s job.
This less than desirable mixture left the Blackhawks on the cusp of making terrible history, by winning the Cup the previous year only to miss the playoffs. Not only that, but losing a game that would have put them in the playoffs on the last day of the season had they won. Instead they relied on the Minnesota Wild beating the Dallas Stars, which allowed the Blackhawks to sneak into the 8th and final spot in the Western Conference to face none other than the Vancouver Canucks. A team they had faced the past two years with little love lost between the two teams.
This series had enough bad blood from the prior two post-season match-ups that a third match-up was bound to be incredible. It didn’t disappoint. After three straight wins by the Canucks, it seemed like the Blackhawks were destined for a sweep, going down with little fight. A hit by Raffi Torres on Brent Seabrook and Dave Bolland returning to the lineup changed things for games 4 and 5. Two five goal wins and you had to wonder whether or not Roberto Luongo was truly mentally plagued by the Blackhawks. In an even stranger turn of events Cory Schneider started game 6 only to leave hurt and the Blackhawks forced a game 6 in overtime scoring on Luongo. The man of the hour? None other Ben Smith, who ended with more games played in the post-season than the regular season.
Game 7 was the crashingÂ crescendo of a series that looked so far tilted in the Canucks favor only for the playing field to level. Early on the Blackhawks looked like a timid team and the Canucks on a mission. The Canucks were hitting anything that moved and were like junkyard dogs on a bone on the forecheck. An early goal by the Canucks’ Alex Burrows on a slick feed from Ryan Kesler and the Blackhawks were reeling.
There was calm in the midst of the storm though, provided by absolutely stellar goaltending from Corey Crawford. On a team that has looked lost a lot of the season, Crawford has stepped up to give his team a chance to win every night. In a second period in which the Blackhawks were clearly outplayed Crawford kept his team within one. He did everything he could to keep his team in it. Though much was made of Luongo’s series, Crawford quietly went about his business being incredibly solid in net.
Crawford was the picture of consistency in times when the Blackhawks were anything but and tonight was no different. Without Crawford there was no way the Blackhawks even make it to overtime or even keep the game at a respectable score.
The man who scored the game tying goal? None other than Jonathan Toews. Who singlehandedly drove the net while on the penalty kill and absolutely refused to be denied pushing the puck past Luongo on a second chance while falling down his stomach. His one and only goal of the series was nothing short of stunning.
It wasn’t enough though as the Blackhawks much maligned power play couldn’t take advantage of a glorious chance in the extra frame with Burrows in the box. With that opportunity wasted, one could only predict that killing that penalty once again tilted the ice in the Canucks favor.
This proved to be true as Burrows buried a bad turnover by Chris Campoli to put the final nail in the coffin to the Blackhawks season. It was a redemptive end to a game of highs and lows for Burrows who scored the game’s first goal, missed on a penalty shot, was on the ice for Toews’ shorthanded goal, took a the penalty in OT and then scored the game winning goal.
From team who looked done after three games to losing overtime of game 7, the Blackhawks road ended. The Canucks finally took a series from the Blackhawks after three previous unsuccessfulÂ tries. It closed another epic chapter in one of the most intense current rivalries in the NHL.
For all intents and purposes maybe the Blackhawks didn’t deserve to be in theÂ positionÂ they were, but they pushed statistically best team in the NHL to seven games when the series could have been over in four. They played with fire and tenacity after getting down 3-0 that seemed to be missing for large stretches of the season, including the first three playoff games, after winning the Stanley Cup.
For the large part though, the Blackhawks didn’t get the production they needed out of their big players. Duncan Keith, Dave Bolland, Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane led in scoring, each with 6 points. However the names that seem to resonate from the series are Dave Bolland, who played just 4 games of the series, Michael Frolik, who scored the game 6 tying goal on a penalty shot, and Ben Smith, who scored the game 6 overtime winning goal. Jonathan Toews ended the series with just four points with a single goal and a -4 rating. Who knows though what injuries will come out now that the season is over.
There is no shame losing in this fashion despite the shortcomings. The Cup winning goal hasn’t even reached it’s one year anniversary yet. The Blackhawks in the last year have given their fans numerous memories they won’t soon forget. This game and series have left the Blackhawks with the want of something more for next season, they know this season wasn’t good enough.
With all the changes, ups and downs,Â inconsistency, the 2010-2011Â Chicago Blackhawks went out in an appropriate way, coming up just short, riding the coattails of their goaltender. They were a team that was one shot away from eliminating the number one team, but also the team that needed the Wild’s help to get into the playoffs the first place.
It was a roller coaster of a season but with the amazing play of Corey Crawford, the promise of young players and the leadership of the core there is a lot of to look forward to as a Blackhawks fan.
This game was just the last loop-de-loop in the 2010-2011 ride before the abrupt end.
02:43 VAN Alexandre Burrows (2) Slap Shot – Assists: R. Kesler (4) & M. Raymond (3)
18:04 CHI SHG – Jonathan Toews (1) Wrist Shot – Assists: M. Hossa (4) & B. Seabrook (1)
05:22 VAN Alexandre Burrows (3) Slap Shot – Assists: none
Captain Force of Nature watch: A beautiful shorthanded goal on a fantastic individual effort. Even rating. 11-22 (50%) from the faceoff dot. Can’t ask much more of your captain, he left it all out on the ice.
Duncan Keith plus/minus rating watch: -1. Like Kat says as Duncan Keith goes, typically so do the Blackhawks.
Coach Q face color watch: SolidÂ brick red. Not the best effort from his team.
Post-game quotes fromÂ @ESPNChiHawks:
Q exact quote on Crawford: “It was one of the greatest goaltending performances in a clutch situation youâ€™re going to see. The kid was great.”
Campoli: “I didnâ€™t get out. I didnâ€™t get it over him.”
“Those are the kind of turnovers you can’t have and it cost us the game.”
“I made the play, not him (Burrows).â€
Toews: “Weâ€™ve had some good series in the past but I have to say thatâ€™s been the best one.â€
Toews on Crawford: â€œHe was warrior out there. Everyone wants to talk about Luongo all the time and the superstars but for a rookie goaltender.Â I can’t say enough about him.”
Toews: â€œIâ€™m not going to be a sore loser. You have to show some respect for the team that beat you.â€ (ESPN Chicago)
Bonus quote via @ChrisKuc:
Troy Brouwer: “As far as storybook endings go, this would have been one for the ages.”
Post-game videos: Brian Campbell, Joel Quenneville, Troy Brouwer, Corey Crawford, Jonathan Toews