Tuesday 27 Sep 2016

Canucks, Blackhawks 7
Clobber Samson

If I take my play-off pool predictions to heart, I do have Vancouver winning the series in seven games. 

Given how the series has actually unfolded - with us blowing a 3-0 series lead - am I confident now that will happen?

Two thirds of the time home teams win Game 7.

Only three teams in NHL history have come back after being down three games to none and won the series.

The odds therefore would suggest that Vancouver has the upper hand.... statistically.

There is also some hope in the fact that while we lost Game 6 the Canucks played one of their better games of the series.

Alas, all that is meaningless when the puck drops Tuesday night.

Once that happens I suggest that the Sedins play the play-off game of their collective lives. 

Since Dave Bolland entered the Blackhawk line-up he's made Chicago players around him better. Bickel and Frolick are slowly becoming this year's version of Ladd and Burrish and, well, Bolland. He's made the Twins look either tentative or in a state of absolute panic. These are the same guys who dangled pucks around during the regular season like they owned them and the company who makes them. More often than not, all year they've been the energy boost line after a goal-allowed. In these play-offs, their line has been a complete liability. More often than not they've been trapped in their own zone. More often than not the puck is ending up in their net.

The Sedins know all the regular season awards in the world don't mean a thing until you prove yourself in the play-offs. Tuesday would be a good time to start to show the naysayers are wrong.

Although Daniel hasn't been bad - 5 goals in all - Henrik has been simply awful. No goals, few assists, and he has taken several undisciplined penalties. He's our Captain. Our leader. Hello Henrik - it is now or never.

If the Twins don't look like they're going well early, split'em in two.

Ryan Kesler, while neutralizing Jonathon Toews, has also neutralized himself. Now, no goals in his last 12 games against the Hawks. He simply has to score. He has to be thee difference maker. Take off the shackles. Your third line is traditionally the checking line. (Hello Bolland et al). Kesler, Centre on our, presumed, second line, needs to be set free and go mano-o-mano against whatever/whomever.

Raffi Torres has 3 goals in his last 48 games. Ben Smith for Chicago has three goals in this series having only played 6 games all year. Some fella from Chicago who called into to Team 1040 last night said "even people in Chicago don't know who Ben Smith is!". I actually picked Raffi to score the game-winner in OT. He never even left the bench. Game 7 will be his last game as a Canuck if we lose. Another reclamation project gone wrong? Alas, you have to take the risk of playing guys who play on the edge. Like Lapierre and Higgins, guys who have play-off experience in tight situations, you have to play the best guys who give you a chance to win a game seven

The Canucks scored the most goals in the league in the regular season. Everyone chipped in. Only 5 different Canucks have scored in this whole series. Secondary scoring can be counted on about as much as Stephen Harper's promises. Recently Mason Raymond couldn't score a goal if the puck was lying on the goal-line and all the Hawks were in the locker room. He is spending more time tapping Chicago guys on their helmets to see if THEY"RE awake and going to the penalty box as a result. It's now or never Mr. Raymond. A promising young player who has looked lost all year... and might be found, next year, in another city

Manitoba Moose call-up Cody Hodgson plays 7 minutes.... when he plays. Why bother? How many minutes will he/should he get on Tuesday when all the marbles are on the line? Either play him on a regular shift or bring back Tanner Glass. Cody will have lots of chances to play in the next few years while the Canucks are completely re-building, should they lose

Keith Ballard was signed for 4 million a year but apparently isn't good enough to play - a healthy scratch the last two games - even as a fifth or sixth time. Instead we risk Aaron Rome or Andrew Alberts. Sunday the C's, sit Rome and play Alberts who has been out for several weeks with a broken wrist. In a tight game, a long game, he's gonna tire.... especially when you lose a d-man, Salo, surprise surprise, in the first period. Both however have played fairly well but...well with Salo likely doubtful for Tuesday, we'll be forced to play them both. I don't advise putting Ballard back into the line-up. That option is gone... as will be Ballard, if some team wants to swallow his salary, in the off-season. Coach V will have to explain his benching of Ballard to the GM, before he gets the axe

Christian Erhoff, Alex Edler et al. Erhoff hasn't scored or hit the net since he kissed his stick after scoring a goal in Game 1. Bieksa got a nice one Sunday night but it is time for the d-men to start popping some goals on a regular basis. Erhoff is an unrestricted free agent in July. We may not be able to afford to keep him in any case due to salary cap issues... but it'd be nice to see him make a case for us handing him millions to stay

Chicago is getting key goals from Bickel, Frolick, Smith, and Bolland. The big guys have been relatively quiet. They know they've got this far cause of their role players. They may be highly motivated to win one for their kids. If Kane, Toews, Hossa, and Sharp find the net even once each on Tuesday, it's over. If Louie is in nets that is a distinct possibility. If the Blackhawks are not in his head then his brain space is vacant. 

Allegedly learning of his fate - that Schneider would play yesterday - Louie didn't take any warm-up drill in the pre-game skate. Canucks were firing pucks into an empty net. A last ditch effort to increase their confidence

Meanwhile Louie was standing by the bench leaning against the boards. This is the guy who is almost religious in his day-to-day preparation. Was this all part of Coach V's "process" and laissez les bon temps roulez' philosophy/ psychology

No matter the drama developing yesterday with Schneider going down, the game did not end with a Hollywood-scripted ending where Rocky gets off the mat and fights back in the 12th Round to knock out the Champ. There was no 'Yo.. Adrian"

This time, as time and time has shown before, 'Superman' had no cape, and let in the winning goal on a play that can only be described as an out of water big Orca flopping and wailing away on the beach. Luongo put himself completely out of position for any rebound shot.... which of course happened and went in over his rather desperately prone body. This is supposed to be our 'Man of Steel'???

If Louie plays - and it is hard to believe you'd leave a 10 million dollar franchise player on the bench - he has to be the first star, like he was in Game One.... however long ago that was! If the Canucks lose, unless it is in triple OT, 1-0, Louie will be traded to Philadelphia in the off-season.

If Chicago's goalie, Cory Crawford, keeps playing as well as he has been playing.... it won't matter how well Louie plays. A rookie who was hired as a back-up, at a ridiculously low price. How embarrassing will that be for Louie at 10 million this year. Louie was Cory's childhood hero. Now this is the part where the Hollywood script-writers come in!

The C's played Game 6 like it was Game 7 to them. They lost. They played well but they lost. The Canucks are good at losing to Chicago. As one fella said after Game 5, the Hawks are up in the series 2 games to 3. How d'ya think the Hawks feel now about their chances?

After their complete embarrassment in Game 5, losing at home 5-0, the C's went to Chicago to prepare for Game 6. They practiced Saturday with a tennis ball. They apparently had some fun, practicing a shoot-out. Getting ready for next year? 

They didn't skate Sunday morning. 

Interesting strategy. They hadn't played in three days. 

Then they switched goalies; apparently that decision was made on Saturday. Not a bad move in and of itself but wouldn't ya want to shoot a few pucks at the guy in the morning and maybe go over clearing the puck behind the net? Two of Chicago's goals were due to miscommunication between Schneider and his team mates.

Wouldn't ya want your back-up for the day taking a few shots in warm-up, just in case? Just in case the starter, who has a history of cramping-up..er.. cramps up? Apparently not.

What kind of play-off coaching is this? 

After Game 6, there's chuckles the clown, our coach, still joking with the media. What, me worry? Crisis, is there a Crisis? That shite works in the regular season or in the junior leagues. As ex-coach Harry Neale said, you lose four games in the regular season it's called a 'slump', but if you lose four games in a row in the play-offs the slump is over... and so is your season.

When will someone on this team or organization get a little mad? After falling behind 3-0 at home in Game 5, Coach V took a time-out, then had the in-between period to say his peace and motivate his troops. Did he? Chicago scored early in the second to make it 4-0 and he was forced once again to pull the 'star' goalie. Apparently not.

And someone please get fined for saying the referees were a complete joke in Game 6. 

A split -decision in the media re the penalty shot. Most thought it was a two minute tripping penalty at best. The ref calling the play couldn't wait to signal 'penalty shot' and then proudly skated to centre ice. I was waiting for him to bow to the crowds' applause. Slashing? Go to it Bolland - who obviously got a mulligan for getting penalized for being upset at the non-call on Hamhuis last game.

"Let's not call anything on Dave tonight.. he deserves a break". How'bout the creaming of Bieksa - very similar to the Torres hit on Seabrook - into the boards in OT? No penalty. Nothing. Not even a warning. I was expecting the refs to join the crowd and clap on the play.

But I do not blame the refs. You get calls some games and some games ya don't. Play on. Ya face adversity and stare it down. Ya find a way to win.

As for the lame-o player/coach interviews, close'er down. I don't need to hear any more excuses, false hope promises yadda yadda. From now till Tuesday game-time, if I'm the GM, I would say no one is available to take interviews. No one. Not even the coach. Not even me. I'd be hunkered down in some seedy downtown motel room watching Rocky movies.

Come tomorrow night, I'll have my sweater on, my towel at hand, but I'm afraid the Hawks will survive and move on. They just seem to be the better as well as, contrary to the pre-series hype, the deeper team, and a team that knows how to win, cause they have in the past. They have the Cup rings to make sure you know.

 I hope I'm wrong. I pray I'm wrong but our best game of the series wasn't enough. In order to win we'll have to play our best game ever.

If we lose on Tuesday night, there will be a new meaning to the term 'Ash Wednesday'.

This will be the most important game in franchise history. If we lose, who knows where we go from here. There will be serious repercussions for many people. 

If we win, we win. That is all. 

In seven games, just as I predicted.

That's the way I see it. 

As Bertuzzi once opined, it is what it is.

Clobber Samson is a highly opinionated sports commentator, especially when it comes to Vancouver "Canucks," of the National Hockey League. Expect no balance in his columns. This is good.

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