Don’t get me wrong. I’m still squarely on the Canucks bandwagon, and will forever be. However, given their lack of total team effort in the past two games, I cannot see the Canucks winning two in a row against the Chicago Blackhawks.
In fact, I can’t see them winning even one game. Yeah, I said it!
For the past two games, the Blackhawks have better offensively, defensively, on special teams, with their physical play, with their discipline, and in net. Yes, that’s pretty much every category. I’m not saying that the Blackhawks have been remarkably or substantially better in all those areas. But they have been better. And that’s why the Canucks are on the brink of elimination, and are trailing way behind in momentum.
What baffles me the most is how the Canucks have played in the past two games, given that Game 3 was their best game of the playoffs and was a perfect road victory. Despite that, the Canucks regressed to playing more stodgy, less offensively aggressive, and resorted to playing panicked, tentative hockey whenever the Blackhawks pressed hard. Eventually the Canucks ended up taking ill-timed and reckless penalties in both games. In Game 5, those penalties cost the Canucks the game, and any sliver of momentum they had, playing at home.
Where does the blame lay? My hero for Game 3 is now my villain for the past two – Alain Vigneault. He coached such a flawless game in Game 3, and yet has drawn up a strange and ineffective game plan that eventually broke down and has left the Canucks one loss away from exiting the playoffs. It’s a surprising and disappointing turn from such a great start to the post-season. The Canucks went from winning 8 in a row, to losing 3 of their last 4 and look bereft of the extra gear they need to take back this series.
If the Canucks want to win Game 6, they need to get back to playing better two-way hockey than Chicago. They need to play like 23 Selke candidates – strong total defense at all areas of the ice, but timely and opportunistic offense.
But little ol’ me of little faith thinks they’ve dug themselves too deep a whole emotionally to recover. And with the Blackhawks carrying all the momentum, As I see it, Monday will most likely be the final Canucks game of the season.
Let’s hope they go out swinging.