Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Who you gonna call!

The demons have left the buidling! Or in this case the Blackhawks.

In a fascinating game seven, the Vancouver Canucks finally exorcised many of the playoff demons that have haunted the franchise in the last three years and maybe beyond.

Such was the angst in Vancouver in the last week that perhaps some thought should have been given to using the theme from The Exorcist as their pump up music in place of the traditional anthemic noise of U2's Where the streets have no name.

Still as the Canucks took to the ice in what some have described as one of the most important games of their history, there were no nerves present, no sense that the overwhelming pressure of the week past had left them quivering in their dressing rooms.

With Roberto Luongo showcasing the form that propelled the Canucks to the top of the NHL this season, Vancouver finally found the resolve to banish the Hawks from their perch as Stanley Cup champions.

Though as befitting a champion, the Hawks would not be allowed to go quietly, not by their captain Jonathon Toews who scored a clutch late third period penalty kill goal to send the game into Overtime, nor by their sensational young goaltender Corey Crawford, who much like he did during the course of the seven games, provided save after save to keep the Hawks hopes alive.

Still, when the crunch came, the Canucks rose to the challenge, a heart stopping game seven performance that showcased heart and determination in the form of more than a few, but of particular note from Ryan Kesler and Alexandre Burrows, both who played with a mission on Tuesday, as though all the percolating gossip of a pivotal game for the franchise were theirs to bear.

Kesler played as complete a game as a player could, he was constant on the forecheck, swirling around the Hawk end time after time, sending the Hawks back to regroup with attack after attack denied.

He set up Burrows with the first and pivotal early goal, a marker that set the tone for an anxious fifty seven minutes of regular time and the added bonus of OT to come.

Kesler's hits and hockey sense showcased the determination that his team had in a game seven that offered an extraordinary amount of tension for Vancouver, British Columbia and Canada for that matter.

His partner Burrows, as well played with a sense of purpose that highlighted to tension and passion that came out of the Canucks dressing room as game seven began.

Burrows went from hero, to potential goat back to hero over the course of the 65 minutes of drama at the Rogers Arena, his opening period goal the marker of record until Toews tied the game late in the third. With Burrows taking a penalty in the OT frame, he could but watch helplessly as his team battled the Hawks power play suddenly alive with a sense of potential destiny, Luongo making perhaps one of the biggest saves in Canucks history to deny Patrick Kane a goal that would have resonated in Chicago with relish.

Freed from incarceration, Burrows then played the pivotal role in the closing moments of the seven game drama, knocking down a clearing attempt from the Hawks Chris Campoli, he rifled a bouncing puck over Crawford's shoulder, securing victory for the Canucks and providing relief for a city that had been living on the edge of a breakdown over the last week.

It was a cruel fate for Crawford, a goaltender who showcased such calm and skill that was well beyond his brief months in an NHL lineup, yet in a series such as this, it's that kind of break that goes one way or another and on this night, to the reilef of the legion of Canuck fans the break went their way.

For the Canucks, Game seven was redemption day, the sins of games four and five, forgotten for now, the euphoria over the smiting of their largest rival a welcome arrival.

Thoughts of the Predators, their next opponent can wait for a day, the Canucks shortcomings of the first round will be reviewed, refinements made. But at least, they have the Stanley Cup still in their sights.

To win a championship, the best measuring stick is how you play against the defending champs.

The Canucks, as has been well documented, allowed the Hawks to come back from a 3-0 deficit to set up the dramatic game seven. But in reality, the Canucks played a solid game six and continued that play into game seven, providing for for any number of chances that could have removed the doubts if not for the stellar play of the Hawks goaltender.

While this years Hawks aren't the same team as that which won the Cup a year ago, they still offered up the kind of play that could very well have sidelined the Canucks quest for Stanley.

By finally putting the Hawks behind them and onto the sidelines, the Canucks can now move forward, lessons learned from a worthy opponent.

With more challenges ahead, you can't help but get the feeling that these last seven games (and in particular the final two) have provided Vancouver with the knowledge and now the confidence that could very well carry them deep into these Stanley Cup playoffs!

You can review the series from game one to game seven, through our Stanley Cup review section, click here for the view from both cities.

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