Thank you, Vancouver, for answering the age-old question: What happens when fans wish to express their displeasure for a player they “boo” during the good times, like Roberto Luuuuuongo? You cheer him, of course, making sure the cheers come off as jeers. Nicely done.
Such is life for the Canucks who dropped their second second-round series to the Blackhawks in as many years; this time losing all three games played at their home rink.
It wasn’t quite as bad as the 5-1 score would suggest, though. The two teams traded fantastic scoring chances during a fast-paced first period, but no one was able to crack either Luongo or Antti Niemi. Luongo made notable saves on Patrick Sharp and Dustin Byfuglien, while Niemi came up big on a couple scrambles around his crease.
The second period separated the men from the boys, however, as it took the Hawks only the first two-and-a-half minutes to open up a two-goal lead. The first tally came compliments of Troy Brouwer who fled to the net on a 2-on-2 with Patrick Sharp. Sharp, going wide, tossed the puck to the middle where a streaking Brouwer redirected it up and over Luongo. Then, just 36 seconds later, after Kevin Bieksa inexcusable overskated the puck in the neutral zone, Kris Versteeg gathered it and found himself in on a 2-on-1 with Andrew Ladd. Versteeg, though, has watched enough Blackhawk hockey this year to know that when one has a 2-on-1 with Ladd, you shoot it. Versteeg cut to the middle of the ice, leaving Luongo on the short side, and stuffed it into the gaping net for a two-goal lead.
Even after holding the Canucks to one shot through half the period, the real turning point came in the last minute of the frame. With the Hawks nurturing that fragile two-goal lead, Niemi gloved and played a puck he had no business playing; Keith was forced to take a slashing penalty which left the Hawks shorthanded during a pivotal moment. But, rather than allowing the ‘Nucks to cut the lead in half going into the second intermission, Dave Bolland blocked a point shot and went in alone on Luongo the other way. Bolland beat Luongo with a wrister, and the Hawks had themselves a three-goal lead.
The ‘Nucks had plenty of fight left in them, though. They predictably came out of the gate firing, and Shane O’Brien found himself on top of the circle alone on a break. His wrister beat Niemi, and cut the lead to two.
But, the Hawks wouldn’t be upstaged on this night. Goals from Patrick Kane and Byfuglien just 15 seconds apart midway through the third separated the two teams to the extent the last ten minutes were an affront to playoff hockey.
More thoughts to come either later today or tomorrow morning. I have plenty of them.
Bring on the Sha-arks.