The NHL is starting to become like March Madness. Okay, it is a best-of-seven series instead of single elimination, but the Stanley Cup Playoffs are still fun to watch. What a great start to the NHL postseason. There were four game 7’s, and nine consecutive days of which one game had gone into overtime. Oh, by the way, the nine consecutive days of overtime was a new NHL record. Who knows what to expect in the second round? What we do know, is that the defending champions have been knocked out, so there will be a new team hoisting the Cup this year.
Game 7 Breakdowns:
Canucks vs. Blackhawks
How we arrived here: The Vancouver Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks met for the third straight year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The last two years, the Blackhawks eliminated the Canucks, and Vancouver hoped that the “third time’s the charm”. The Canucks seemed poised for a series sweep of the defending champs, as they won the first three games. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver’s goaltender, shut out the Hawks in game one in a 2-0 victory. In game two, Daniel Sedin scored twice for the Canucks, as they went on to win 4-3. Game three was another close game, but the Canucks prevailed yet again, after Mikael Samuelsson scored the game-winner 6:48 into the third period. Chicago was down and out. The team needed a spark. Enter Dave Bolland. The Blackhawks third-line center returned from a concussion to play in game four. It was desperate times for the Blackhawks. Little did they know, Bolland would take over game four by scoring one goal, assisting on three more, and shutting down the Canucks top line in the 7-2 slaughter. The Blackhawks had new life as they won big again in game five. Then in game six, the Blackhawks won in dramatic fashion, as rookie Ben Smith scored the game-winning goal in overtime. The Blackhawks had the Canucks doubting themselves.
There’s nothing like game 7, especially in a rivalry like the Canucks-Blackhawks. Both goalies had a ton of pressure on them. On the Canucks, you had Roberto Luongo who was looking to silence his critics. In game six, Luongo, who was the best goalie in the Winter Olympics last year, was benched for rookie Cory Schneider. Schneider ended up injuring himself in the third period, and Luongo now has a chance to redeem himself. On the other side, you had rookie Corey Crawford. He is trying to make a name for himself and trying to keep the defending champs alive. Crawford also wants to prove to everyone that he can win in the playoffs like Anti Niemi did for the Blackhawks last year.
Well, both goalies did their job. It was a defensive struggle throughout the game.
Alex Burrows gave Vancouver a fast start with an early goal, but after that Crawford settled down and found his rhythm. Luongo was playing his best game as it appeared that he would shut out the Blackhawks for the second time this series. With three minutes left, the Blackhawks were shorthanded thanks to a Duncan Keith penalty that resulted in a penalty shot for Burrows. However, Crawford rejected Burrow’s shot, and kept the Blackhawks in the game. Crawford was not ready for an early playoff exit, and neither was Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. With 1:54, Toews dug deep and scored a clutch short-handed goal to tie the game. Game seven would need overtime to determine who advanced and who went home. The Blackhawks received an early power play after an Alex Burrows holding 24 seconds into the period. The Blackhawks were not able to convert as Luongo robbed Patrick Sharp of a goal. The Canucks gained huge momentum after the penalty kill, and 5:22 in the period the Blackhawks made a crucial mistake.
Blackhawks defenseman, Chris Campoli attempted to clear the puck out of his zone. However, Burrows was right there to bat the puck down and skate toward the net. Burrows then blasted the puck past Corey Crawford.
Pandemonium filled the ice. The Canucks finally sealed the deal. Up next for the Canucks is the Nashville Predators. The road to the Stanley Cup does not get any easier.