If you believe in the concept of forking reality, maybe there is some chance, that, somewhere, in some universe, there will exist a more thrilling or heart-wrenching first round series than the one taken part in by the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks.
And, somewhere, in those alternate realities, there may exist one where two million monkeys simultaneously leapt off two million backs, symbolically representing how Canuck fans must feel after finally dispatching the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Canucks took the series lead 7 minutes into Game 1 on a goal by Jannik Hansen, and the Blackhawks were playing catchup right until the conclusion of Game 6, with Ben Smith’s overtime goal. The Canucks struck early in Game 7, to re-take the series lead, with Jonathan Toews scoring his first goal of the series late to tie both. The played from behind all series, and they fought valiantly, clawing their way back from a 3-0 series deficit and from four seperate one-goal deficits in Games 6 and 7, or match points three and four.
It took a roller coaster game from Alex Burrows, a player who was not even supposed to have an NHL career just five years ago, who had scored the first goal missed two glorious chances, missed on a penalty shot, and took a penalty 200 feet from his own net in overtime of a Game 7. He also managed to corral a rolling puck that he picked out of the air on a failed clearing attempt from Chris Campoli. As a player who had lived through the pain associated with consecutive 2nd round defeats at the hand of the Blackhawks, that rolling puck that eluded Corey Crawford was more of a Godsend than a goal.
Not to be outstaged, the series may not have gotten to this point without the brilliant play of Corey Crawford throughout. He had a .927 save percentage in the series and kept the Blackhawks alive through a second period dominated by Vancouver. In the third, he came up with a hat-trick of saves, one in particular off of Ryan Kesler, who went goal-less in the series, who had the whole net open, save the small bit covered by the glove of Crawford.
Goaltending dominated the Vancouver headlines coming into the game. Cory Schneider’s surprise Game 6 start led to some head-scratching and second-guessing, but Canuck coach Alain Vigneault came back with Luongo for Game 7, and he played good, not great, with the exception on this one right-to-left save off of Patrick Sharp in overtime.
Offensively, Chicago had issues. Jonathan Toews was shut down by Ryan Kesler throughout the series, only scoring the one late shorthanded goal in Game 7. He had four goals and 12 points last time around. Patrick Kane, who had three goals in 2010 and six goals in the 2009 series against Vancouver, dried up with a single goal this time around. In the end, Ben Smith and Dave Bolland alone couldn’t keep the Canucks from advancing.
Canuck fans can sleep well tonight, with Burrows having dispatched their rival. For the first time in three years, it was a Canuck player, Alex Burrows, who delievered the dagger. As Craig MacTavish said on TSN after the game, “I cannot imagine another series that can touch this from this point forward.”
Not for a while.
The Canucks will face the Nashville Predators in the second round.