Apparently melting down the ice at the U.C. after Tuesday would have been a bad idea. It's not entirely surprising that the Hawks have forced a game 6, but it's the manner in which they've done so. The last two games haven't been hair-on-their-balls narrow escapes, but rather complete maulings of the Canucks, reverting them back to the form we recognize oh so well, after the first three games were about as flawless as could be imagined. Once again, the Canucks have resorted to running out of position to take a hit, retaliatory penalties (and hair pulling), and suspect goaltending. While Roberto Luongo could hardly be solely blamed for Thursday, as he made numerous stops that prevented the game from being broken wide open (Sharp's breakaway), the big save was never there. Those chances were aided and abetted by the Canucks being beat to absolutely every loose puck in the last 120 minutes, and conceding their own blue line like it was an actual defensive strategy. It's precipitated a near-panic state in B.C., as stories of the radio postgame on 1040 out of Vancouver have painted the image of an entire city on the ledge. There have been calls for having Cory Schneider starting, taking runs at Hawk players, and even for trapping the Hawks, who have ran roughshod through the neutral zone the last two games. The latter might not be as crazy as it sounds, as two years ago, essentially this same Canuck team came into the U.C. and exerted a boa-constrictor grip on an on-paper more talented Hawks team, and would have escaped with a 3-1 series lead were it not for Martin Havlat. But, that strategy came with the series tied 1-1, and not after two beat-downs when having an opportunity to close. If they were going to trap, it would be a fair question to ask if they've got the patience to do so at this stage in the series. Either way, the Canucks, for all of the dramatics, are still one solid game away from sending the Hawks golfing, while the hockey world continues to wait for their killer instinct to finally emerge.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, they're certainly making the most of playing with house money. Duncan Keith has been an absolute revelation, apparently playing an enormous chip on his shoulder in honor of his fallen teammate and BFF'er Brent Seabrook, who will return to the lineup tonight. Keith has been everywhere, and his shots are finally getting through. Whether that's a result of increased focus by Keith, or merely a market correction is difficult to tell, but it serves as a reminder as to how key Keith's game is to the Hawks' success. As of the time of this writing, there's no word on who Seabrook will bump from the lineup, but Quenneville will be tempting fate once again should he choose to keep John Scott in the lineup at forward, where he's shown time and again he cannot keep up or make any sort of positive impact. To anyone that wants to tell you that the Hawks have won 2 straight games with Scott in the lineup, or any similar correlative effect, after they recover from the swift kick in the crotch you've given them, kindly point them in the direction of the game 3 stat sheet, wherein Scott took a costly and needless penalty on top of being a non factor. Perhaps the biggest factor that's getting minimal ink is that in the last two gamesPatrick Sharp has moved back to center with having Dave Bolland back in the lineup. Sharp at center with Hossa on one of his wings forces Alain Vigneault to choose who Ryan Kesler is to go out and counter-punch with between Sharp's and Toews' lines, because Dave Bolland has been seeing nothing but Sedins all the time. And because Toews has shockingly yet to find the back of the net, it feels like he's going to come out tonight with a bloodlust reserved for rare occasions such as this, hidden injury or not.
It seems illogical that the Canucks could possibly be doing this all over again, but yet we're watching it unfold right in front of us. But the fact remains they're still in the driver's seat, and only have to put together one win in order to advance. The Hawks cannot forget this, and once again the first goal will be absolutely key, as the United Center will as volatile as it's been in about 10 months. Feeding off that energy and out working this Canucks team will be key to keeping this roll going. There's no margin for error on any scale, but those who would dare to believe the impossible at least have a reason to now. Let's go Hawks.