Blackhawks fans went to the United Center on Tuesday, hoping with all their might that the fate of their team would be different that the previous three games. Hoping that some spark would be lit under the Men of Four Feathers. Hoping that whatever magic the Blackhawks had conjured from time to time during the regular season would waft through the rafters at the U.C. again.
And sweet barking cheese, did they get what they came for.
Bryan Bickell began the fun less than two minutes into the game, and the Blackhawks’ faithful were treated to six more blasts of Chelsea Dagger before the night was over. It was nearly everything they could have asked for, and everything Canucks’s fans were dreading: a monumental and embarrassing collapse that thwarted their team’s progression to the second round.
So the question now becomes, what were the ingredients of this victory, and how can they do it again in the hostile confines of GM Place tonight?
The lineup was starkly different from what we are used to seeing. Brent Seabrook, Jake Dowell and Tomas Kopecky were out; Bickell, Fernando Pisani and (most notably) Dave Bolland were back. John Scott moved from wing to defense, and Coach Joel Quenneville went off the beaten path with the lines. The best results of that experiment came from the Bolland line with Bickell and Michael Frolik: 3 goals, 5 assists, and a combined +12. They lit up the ice on the forecheck and backcheck, and that combination will be key to the Blackhawks’ success going forward.
We had goals from both Brian Campbell and Duncan Keith in game 4, but we need to be careful when giving the blueliners the green light. That was something that teams like Dallas have exploited in the past yielding odd-man rushes, and the Canucks will have reviewed the tape and thinking to do the same. As long as the weak-side D-man is hanging back, our blue line cannons can pinch all night long.
Use the same chip-and-chase forecheck and our speedy forwards can blow right by the Vancouver defensemen. The boys need to keep their heads up, hustle, and know where their teammates are on the ice. The Bickell and Keith goals were perfect examples of how this works. Speed, alertness, quick and accurate passing, and the pucks will go in.
And it appears we have figured out Roberto Luongo: he’s committing too early, and his high glove side is weak. Keep exploiting that, and we have a chance. During the playoffs, Luongo has let in 5 or more goals 6 times in the last 3 years. Each time, it was the Blackhawks who inflicted that damage. Every. Single. Time. Luongo appeared to be stiff or possibly injured during Tuesday night’s game, and was absent from practice on Wednesday. Let’s see if the big wussy decides to chicken out tonight or not. Get all the news on Luongo’s condition and status for tonight by following us on Twitter.
Administrative nonsense: for the Canucks, Alexander Edler, Henrik Tampon, and the afore-mentioned LuLu Belle all missed practice, but will apparently be in the lineup this evening. On the ‘Hawks side, Seabrook is still out, and word is that Kopecky is still out as well. With such success the last game you can bank on Dowell being the healthy scratch again this evening. So it looks like we’ll be seeing the same Blackhawks team that took the ice on Tuesday suiting up tonight.
West coast game, so 9:00pm start tonight Chicago time. TV is the standard playoff configuration: CBC and RDS up north, Versus and Comcast SportsNet in the U.S. Broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers should look for the game on channel 205.
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