The NHL should just take the recording of this game, this series, and hand out the DVD to any sports fans still wondering why hockey fans are so passionate about the sport. The Hawks and Canucks put on a fantastic show in a series that had more twists and turns than any in recent memory.
It had it all. It was two teams that cemented one of the best rivalries in the sport.
The game started with the electric atmosphere of a game 7 taking that rivalry to its zenith. Just a couple minutes in, burgeoning superstar Ryan Kesler made a bullish rush down the wing, beat Duncan Keith, and fed a magnificent pass to his new line mate Alexandre Burrows, who did this…
The first goal. Just what the Canucks needed. But this is the Chicago Blackhawks, so you know it was not going to be easy. A Bolland turnover gave Sharp his first of a team high eight shots, which forced an awkward save. Back and forth they went.
Early on we saw that the referees were not going to get involved either. They were letting the teams play. Johnson, then Kane, then Toews and Keith were all denied by Luongo. A fourth line shift by Johnson’s line forced the play, with a big chance for the one time Canucks saved in close.
Kesler’s line was dominant on their shifts, even going against the best the Hawks had. Crawford was their equal, denying Kesler in close, and preventing a pass to an open Raymond. You could tell it was a Game 7. An Edler shot, for instance, got up high and hit Kesler in the head in front, but while the referee’s whistled it dead as they do when these things happen, Kesler waved off the trainer and skated to the bench for equipment repairs.
Hawk pressure was denied, Sharp got away with a trip on Bieksa, and no one waved their arms or yelled. Lapierre’s line ( with Higgins and Hansen, a strong line all night long ) got out against the Toews line and forced them to be on their heels defending.
Burrows got away with a hack on Toews, yet another example that the refs were not wanting to be the story. Hjalmersson kicked out Burrow’s feet at the bench unnoticed. But when Seabrook broke his stick crosschecking Hansen in front of the officials, they had to call that.
The top power play in the NHL looked every bit the part, but great saves by Crawford on Daniel Sedin and Samuelsson, as well as solid penalty killing prevented the score changing. As the penalty wound down, Crawford made the nicest save of the kill on Edler through a screen.
The tight intense play continued back and forth. Torres belted Campoli as the fourth line kept the Sharp line in their own end. The period ended with the hawks leading in shots 12 to 8, but the Canucks dominated the hitting stat, out hitting the Hawks 13 to 3 in the opening period. They also won 65% of the draws in the opening period.
The second was a continuation of the intensity. Kesler’s line again forced Toew’s line to defend, and #17 got a good chance on a wraparound. At the other end, a Sharp rush and hard shot was handled easily by Luongo.
The anything goes thinking continued with Bolland hitting Samuelsson in the head. No complaints, just pick up your stick and go. The play led to another Daniel Sedin chance that Crawford handled once again. Next line up, and this time Higgins made a nice play in close, demanding Crawford to come up big again. The pressure continued through a line change with Torres being denied, and the canucks were clearly the aggressors and the better team in the middle stanza.
Quennville dropped Kruger in on the Kane/ Toews line, and he almost created something, but Luongo red the pass from Kane and shut it down. Patrick Sharp tried to entice a call with a fairly obvious dive on Edler, but the refs were not buying.
On some of the best second period pressure from the Hawks, Luongo made his best save to that point on a Duncan Keith bomb from the line, just covering and preventing a rebound with opposing players all around the net. Brouwer would poke it home, but it was after the whistle, and their was little argument.
Kesler’s line again changed the momentum, this time with a strong save by Crawford on a Burrows tip. Higgins was just denied by Seabrook on a strong play out of the corner.
Their might have been some trepidation in the sold out rink when Hansen tripped Sharp in his own end to give the Hawks a power play. The penalty killers did a fantastic job though, and it was Burrows and Mason Raymond shorthanded that had the better chances.
A Hossa pass through the slot as it winded down was just missed by Bolland, and then the Sedins shift after the kill put great pressure on with no results.
Back and forth. Another strong shift from the fourth line produced an Oreskovich chance, and another hit by Torres on Keith. Lapierre’s line followed with a dominant shift right through a change to the Sedins, forcing Crawford to make tough saves on Ballard twice, a Lapierre deflection, a Higgins shot, and another from Henrik Sedin.
Crawford was having one of those games though, giving his team every chance to get back in, and the teams went to the second break with the Canucks holding just a one goal lead.
Fantastic work in their own end led to another of the huge moments in the game. Burrows got a step on Keith, and forced the Norris winner to haul him down. Penalty Shot.
Burrows said afterwards that he and Crawford play against each other in Montreal during the offseason, and that he knows “my move”. It was a huge save by the rookie netminder though, having his best game at the right time.
Back and forth we went again, with only a goal separating the teams. The Canucks were the aggressors again, holding the Hawks without a shot in the first five minutes, outshooting them 5-0.
So when Henrik Sedin got a prime scoring chance and went for the pass to Burrows instead, fans groaned and held their heads. A Hjalmersson shot forced ahuge glove save as the Hawks pressed. A Campoli shot off the faceoff forced another from Luongo, just getting a piece with his glove to send it out.
The Canucks buckled down, but the Hawks were still coming, forcing a huge glove save again, this time off of Frolik on a nice Hossa set up. Then Higgins made a strong cut to the net, leading to three amazing saves from Crawford again. The first on Higgins, the second on Burrows on the rebound, and the third an amazing save on Kesler with an open net.
A big hit by Kesler that caused Kane to hit his head on the glass led to another breakout by the “Terror Twins”, this time with Burrows just missing high. Keith hooked him on the play, and with a little over three minutes left and a power play, it looked pretty good for the home team. Henrik Sedin had a great chance stopped, and then the other teams’ captain reminded everyone why he so highly regarded.
He caused a Burrows turnover at center ice and cut to the net. Hamhuis hip checked him to the ice, and he still got a pass to Hossa. Luongo got that tricky shot, but Toews would sweep home the rebound while on his stomach.
Wow. Tip your hat. It was a great play. The Canucks forced a late chance or two, but of course, in a game like this, overtime just felt right.
Overtime opened with the Kesler line pressing for an early goal, but when Keith made a good play to break up a chance, Burrows almost was the goat when he hauled him down for a penalty I have no problem with ( and yes, I would say that even if the Canucks lost! ).
The Hawks power play came on strong, and Toews almost ended it. He outwaited Bieksa sprawled out for the pass, fed Sharp a slick pass, and gave his team’s best shooter a great chance to end it.
We’ll just call that “The Save 2.0”. It was a wonderful save when the Canucks had to have it.
Of course, after a game where he had the chance to be the hero, and then the goat, it was just right that Alexandre Burrows was the man to end it. He knocked down a puck clear by Campoli, got into the slot, and slammed home a rolling puck for the series and game winning goal.
What a game. As we wait for the Nashville series to start, much will be made of this as a huge win that can change a team’s destiny. It may well be.
But it was also an example of hockey at it’s finest, with two evenly matched teams.
What’s next? Who knows. It will have a hard time topping this instant classic.