It's finally come to this. To this point in the series, the Canucks have shown to be every inch the President's Trophy winners they were in the regular season, and have taken an appropriate 3-0 series lead over the depleted, dysfunctional Blackhawks. For all of the grenades we've lobbed in the past two time zones west, it's only fair to give credit when it's due, and it's certainly been earned here. Everything the Canucks have been in the past, they've managed to avoid, or at least avoid paying for. As was noted in the Game 3 autopsy, the Canucks have won the "Sedins Don't Score" and "March to the Box" games already in this series, two things they haven't been able to shake in the past two years. That can be attributed both to their apparent long-overdue maturation as well as the Hawks being out of bullets in a lot of respects. Principal credit can be given to the two biggest whipping boys of the past, Alain Vigneault and Roberto Luongo. AV has kept his men from taking retaliatory penalties and giving the Hawks chances on the advantage (despite it being fucking clown shoes), and skating like a team fixated on June rather than the Hawks. In Borat's case, he's finally been able to come up with the big save in clutch situations, such as the 5-on-3 on Sunday, and avoiding the cupcake goal, Viktor Stalberg's game 2 marker notwithstanding. With Raffi Torres surprisingly receiving no further discipline for his hit on Brent Seabrook, the Canucks figure to ice the same squad as Sunday and execute the same game plan to close out the series and finally move past the Blackhawks without giving them any life whatsoever. The world will find out if the Canucks have truly gained a killer instinct along with their maturity tonight.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, the lineup will look quite different than it did on Sunday, though not different enough. Brent Seabrook has been ruled out for tonight as a result of getting his eggs scrambled by Torres, which makes things even more difficult for an already exhausted defensive corps. John Scott figures to dress in his place on the blue line, because he simply just didn't offend everyone's hockey sensibilities enough on Sunday. However, up front, Ryan Johnson, Bryan Bickell, and yes, Dave Bolland, will play tonight. It's anyone's guess how much Bolland has to give, or how healthy he really is, and one has to question the Hawks' thought process in putting him in in this situation. But on a purely superficial level, it will be good to see him on the ice once again after spending more than a month on the shelf as a result of a Pavel Kubina cheap shot. Because of all of this, we have no clue what the lines or pairings are are going to look like, and it probably ultimately doesn't matter, as they'll all be shot to shit anyway at the first sign of trouble, as we're finally to an honest-to-god situation where Q pulling the lever on the slot machine may actually be necessary.
But that's just the thing, isn't it? While no one really wants to see a sweep, the likelihood of a 3-0 series comeback is so much of a long shot even aside from the usual odds with a President's Trophy winner coughing it up to an 8 seed, it could be viewed as the biggest collapse in sports history. It's just not reasonable. And forgive the morbid imagery, but even a win tonight is akin to having your dog perk up and bound into the car for that one last ride to the vet's office. As much as no one wants to see that handshake on U.C. ice or deal with the reality of having to go 2 years without seeing a playoff victory, Blackhawks Nation would be well served to steel themselves to its appearance. In every meaningful game, in every meaningful 3rd period, all season long, the Hawks have not been able to rise to the occasion, and that's enough of a sample size to know it's not going to start now. I can't lie and say that I have a positive outlook, but Committed Indian columnist Rick Geerling can certainly offer a far more uplifting message than this. But if there's one last thing to cling to, despite all of the ineptitude and stomach acid, it's that the Hawks have managed to just barely be competent enough relative to others' ineptitude to continue to exist in this NHL season, and they've caused so much angst that to come out with a win tonight just to prolong it a little more and fuck with us would seem appropriate. And if that's we're rooting for, then so be it. Let's go Hawks.