Photograph by: Ian Lindsay, PNG
Oh the agony that was so narrowly avoided by Burrows clutch OT goal.
Having blown a 3-0 series lead, this was gut-check time for the Canucks and their fans. In the lead up to game 7, the ghosts of forty years worth of spectacular playoff ineptitude were on the hunt, the vultures were circling. While Bruce Arthur was remembering the 94 riots, lesser journalists like Dan Tencer came unhinged, and piled on Vancouver, and the Canucks.(*) It was a grim scene, and the stage was set for the mother of all losses. There were plenty of bad signs: Mike Gillis had gone on the record and criticized the officiating in the series (which was only bad in game 6 in my opinion) and Roberto Luongo hadn’t done much (or anything) to inspire confidence in his previous couple of outings. I for one, was totally stressed out. Yet the Canucks – the leagues best defensive team – answered the call and responded with a solid, tight-checking performance in a game that, intermittently stopped our hearts and took our breath away for the better part of three hours.
(*) Tencer’s unqualified, policy-free cheap-shot at Vancouver’s safe-injection sites was especially unprofessional and disgraceful.
Burrows opened the scoring on a beautiful pass from Ryan Kesler, who was all over the ice the entire game. Kesler was throwing hits and skating through checks all game. His contributions on the penalty kill were especially pivotal. His second period hit on Hjalmarsson was the perfect manifestation of everything that is good about playoff hockey.
Crawford was the story though. What an unbelievable game by the Blackhawks rookie, who may or may not have been possessed by his idol, Patrick Roy in game 7. He made 5 or 6 jaw-dropping stops – including three in quick succession on Higgins, Burrows and Kesler in the third. He gave the Blackhawks a chance in a game they had little, to no business being in. When Toews finally made the Canucks pay on a shorty with less than two minutes to play in the third – every bad playoff memory from the last two decades came flooding quickly back.
But Burrows – the potential goat – came through in OT, with a clutch individual effort. He gloved down a weak Campoli clearance attempt, and smashed a knuckle-ball slapper top left corner on Crawford. And thus was a summer of misery for the Canucks and their fans avoided. We now eagerly await the Smashville Predators – a team that has never been to the second round, but has played the Canucks well this season. Though the Predators play an admirable style of hockey (they fore-check so hard you think Trotz might eat them if they let up) – I’m confident that the Canucks forward depth will prevail.
Three Big Stats
1. +12, Alex Edler’s CORSI number in last night’s game. Edler’s impact in the final two games of this series can’t be under-stated – he was dominant. Last night he was the Canucks high-minute man, he had 4 SOG and 4 hits (most of them of the crushing variety) and paired nicely with Keith Ballard in the third period. I’m curious to see how AV uses Ballard and Edler going forward – they seemed to have solid chemistry, to go along with their complimentary skill sets.
2. 5 – as in Henrik Sedin’s credited SOG. I found this to be massively surprising, my impression of his game last night was that he was rather gun-shy…
3. .969 – embattled Canucks net-minder Roberto Luongo’s save percentage. He’s now 2-0 in career game sevens – what a choke artist.
Three Big Moments
1. Alex Burrows game-winner. As the game ended I was fist pumping endlessly and yelling "SHOW IT AGAIN" at the TV. What a beauty.
2. Jonathan Toews’ wonderful short-handed tally that tied the game late. Had the Canucks lost this game, this would join Lafayette’s post-hit and this terrible moment in the pantheon of my most hated highlights of all time.
3. Kesler’s gorgeous move on Duncan Keith leading to Alex Burrows’ opening tally. Good stuff.
The next round starts Thursday – as Vancouver hosts the Smashville, a fun team with plenty of good vibes. Can. Not. Wait.