Blackhawks-Canucks Preview

The Chicago Blackhawks are a win away from making history. For
the Vancouver Canucks, it feels as though they’re repeating it.

If the Canucks are going to get bounced from the playoffs by the
Blackhawks for a third straight season – and enter the NHL history
books for blowing a 3-0 series lead – they’ll do it with their
general manager blasting the officiating and their franchise goalie
stopping shots.

Faced with a decisive Game 7 on Tuesday night and the
possibility of becoming just the fourth team in NHL history to lose
a series after winning the first three games, GM Mike Gillis
claimed the calls have been one-sided and coach Alain Vigneault
declared Roberto Luongo his starter one game after benching
him.

The first part may have been designed to take the focus off the
second, though Gillis claimed he was just pointing out a
discrepancy in penalties and what he believed were ”six or seven”
missed calls in Sunday’s 4-3 overtime loss in Game 6.

Gillis cited a number of different statistics, but Chicago has a
27-16 series advantage in power plays – 22-12 over the last four
games.

”You can say it’s sour grapes,” Gillis said. ”I’m not sure
how you explain that discrepancy. … I’m very confident if we play
the same way and it’s a level playing field then we will win (Game
7).”

Vancouver’s players weren’t willing to talk about Gillis’ rant,
instead taking a few positives away from Game 6 after the Canucks
were outscored 12-2 in the previous two games.

”All the pressure’s on them,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane
said. ”They’re the ones up 3-0, they’re the first seed in the
West, they were kinda predicted to win the Cup this year. We didn’t
really have any of that pressure on us. You hope you have a mental
edge, but who really knows?”

The Blackhawks appear to have an edge on the goalie they will
face, assuming Vigneault was telling the truth when he said it
would be Luongo.

The Canucks coach misled reporters before making rookie Cory
Schneider the shocking Game 6 starter ahead of Luongo, who was
named a Vezina Trophy finalist as the top NHL goalie Friday.
Luongo, pulled from Games 4 and 5 and lit up by the Blackhawks the
last three playoffs, came in after Schneider cramped up giving up
the tying goal on a penalty shot early in the third period.

By the time Ben Smith lifted a rebound over a sprawled Luongo in
overtime, Schneider was back on the bench after getting intravenous
fluids. Schneider said he was fine to play Game 7, but Vigneault
insisted the decision to start Luongo had already been made before
the game.

”You can’t worry about what happened the last three games the
same way Chicago didn’t worry about what happened the first
three,” Luongo said. ”It would be easy for us to get low right
now but I don’t think now is the time to feel sorry for ourselves.
This is the time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

The defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks are just happy to
be playing a Game 7 – something they avoided during their Cup run
last season. Chicago backed its way into the playoffs, losing its
final game and relying on help to clinch the West’s eighth and
final seed.

”There have been a couple instances this year when it seems
like we’re down and out and the season’s over, Kane said. ”It
shows a lot about this group, the pride we have.”

They will have to complete the comeback without forward Bryan
Bickell, who has two goals and two assists in five games but is out
six to eight weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a wrist
tendon that was lacerated in Game 2. At least they’ll still have
Dave Bolland, whose Game 4 return from a concussion coincided with
the disappearance of Canucks forwards Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

The twins won the last two NHL scoring titles and recorded nine
points the first three games. Since Bolland came back, however, the
Sedins have three points, a minus-13 rating, and were on the ice
for Smith’s Game 6 winner. Bolland has two goals, six points and a
plus-6 rating.

”I don’t think I have a formula like math,” Bolland said.
”They’re just two ordinary players, right?”