The Chicago Blackhawks know that as Stanley Cup champions that it is their duty to try to help out small market teams. Anyone with a passing knowledge of the city of Vancouver knows how fickle they can be in their support of sports teams. Memphis doesn't have any bears but they do have the Grizzlies because Vancouver fans gave up on their team once they didn't have instant success. In the interest of mitigating the kind of massive financial loss that will accompany a third straight embarrassing exit to the Blackhawks, Chicago decided to provide Vancouver with three home playoff games before sinking the (Chelsea) dagger into the paper champions.
After an easy run through the woeful Northwest which provided 24 games against the 17th, 21st, 29th, and 30th best clubs in the league, the Canucks are finally facing their first bit of real adversity. But they're not really known for dealing well with that:
I'm amazed that a club that immortalized Roger Neilson surrendering would attract a fan base that can't laugh at a minor hiccup.
That is the same Roger Neilson whose most famous contribution to Canucks lore was to give them the symbol that has defined their franchise: the white towel of surrender. They even put up a statue commemorating the moment! Because what else do you celebrate for your 40th anniversary when you haven't won anything? I mean, especially since you've already honoured your fickle fans. Especially since you can't have another Canucks Day until after the first round.
However, enough was enough after gifting the Canucks a 3-0 lead as Captain Serious laid the gauntlet down for his teammates:
"We know that we can be a better team than them. We just haven't shown it yet ... That's what's frustrating, that we can't show what we're capable of as a team right now."
It wasn't quite Dennis Green but it seems to have worked. It sure helped that David Bolland returned from his concussion to remind Canucks fans why they are always looking to trade the Sedin twins. A goal, three assists, a + 4 rating and just generally being the thorn that the Canucks thought was gone when Byfuglien was traded to Atlanta was just what the doctor ordered. Instead, as the score got away from the Canucks they resorted to the kind of hockey for which they are well known.
Bad enough that Raffi Torres wasn't punished for his deliberate (and sadly successful) attempt to injure Brent Seabrook but the Canucks always try to one-up themselves. There was Alex Edler jumping into his hit on Michael Frolik, Mikael Samuelsson hitting Chris Campoli late on an icing, Tanner Glass slashing John Scott and then backing down from an invitation to dance, Ryan Kesler charging 15 strides to try to hit Patrick Kane and then still trying to hit him in the head after he fell, and Dan Hamhuis punching Patrick Kane in the face. And when Viktor Stalberg dared to push back by throwing a hit, Kevin Bieksa (a guy that fights) decided to jump Stalberg (a guy that is handsome). The best part is that he had the audacity to say that he was blindsided (Torres disagress I'm sure) and that Stalberg speared Maxim Lapierre (probably because he instinctively screamed and curled into a ball when he saw the chance of contact) which he didn't. I'm sure Bieksa was just really frustrated that after making this smartass comment:
"When a guy 6-8 challenges you that can't skate? Usually you say no and you go around him and score."
he ended up being on the wrong end of this highlight of the night
Nice work chump. That's Bryan Bickell, by the way, of the 22 career NHL goals and 0 career playoff goals. Speaking of chumps, here's one of many Canucks fans complaining about the brusque treatment that their General Manager Mike Gillis faced at the hands of nearby Chicago fans. In the spirit of the team's reaction to Raffi Torres' hit, Gillis shouldn't have put himself in such a vulnerable position.
So the series shifts back to Vancouver for at least one more game. The first three games were frustrating because, as Toews said, the Hawks are at least as good as Vancouver and should never have been down 3-0. Whether they needed David Bolland to remind them or whether they just had to bide their time until LOLuongo made a reappearance but the same issues that plagued the Canucks for two years were on display. It's up to the Hawks to exploit them so that we can get another rendition of this exit interview.