2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – First Round Series Recap
Western Conference Quarterfinals Game 3 - Vancouver 3, Chicago 2 – Canucks lead series, 3-0
The defending Stanley Cup champions, who barely snuck into the playoffs, will not stick around very long. Meanwhile, the team that dominated the NHL during the regular season looks to be on its way to exorcising a very big playoff demon. Other than those storylines, nothing is happening in this highly-discussed first-round playoff series.
Yes, the Vancouver Canucks, losers to the Chicago Blackhawks in each of the previous two NHL postseasons, are finally about to slay the nemesis from the Windy City. Though outplayed for most of the first two periods on Sunday night at the United Center in Chicago, the Canucks managed to stay in the ring, absorb a lot of punches, remain standing, and play rope-a-dope to perfection. Taking a page out of the Muhammad Ali playbook, the Canucks looked like the fresher and fitter team down the stretch, and they took advantage of their depth and resilience to score a tiebreaking third-period goal and dismiss the Hawks in Game 3 of the Western Conference quarterfinals.
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The first period did not suggest that Vancouver would gain a stranglehold on this series. The Blackhawks owned every inch of the ice for most of the first two periods, skating much harder than the Canucks and drawing stacks of power-play opportunities. In fact, the Hawks gained a 1-0 lead and then produced a 5-on-3 advantage. Much like the first period of Game 1 of the Phoenix-Detroit series, the lower-seeded team had a chance to put the higher-seeded team in a difficult spot. However, Chicago couldn’t convert with the two-man advantage. Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo came up huge in that situation and continued to prevent the Blackhawks from ever getting anything more than a one-goal lead. When Christian Ehrhoff and Daniel Sedin lit the lamp for Vancouver in the second period, the Blackhawks lost their edge despite carrying the play. Brief but crucial lapses by the eighth seed allowed Vancouver to attain a 2-2 tie after two periods. Then, when Mikael Samuelsson scored with 6:48 gone in the third period on a rebound, the life went out of the United Center, the very same building that rocked and rolled for two full months last spring. In the span of 12 months, the city of Chicago went from being a hockey mecca to the site of a first-round letdown that will be made complete if Vancouver can win just one more game.
The Canucks should finally solve the Blackhawks in the playoffs. It might be cliché, but it’s true: The third time’s the charm.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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