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?”