First thing’s first: We’ve already won. Win or lose tonight, the Blackhawks have scored a victory. After falling behind 3 games to none, they have fought their way back in a manner worthy of the defending Stanley Cup Champions. They have played hard, they have given their fans a thrill second only to the Cup victory last year, and they have overcome significant adversity in doing so.
The Chicago Blackhawks, and their fans, can accept the outcome of tonight’s game with our heads held high. It’s been a fantastic series, and it will be coming to an end tonight.
That having been said, let’s go out there tonight and demolish those whiny, overrated choke-weasels.
The Vancouver Canucks have done anything and everything to distract their fans from the fact that their goalie sucks and their star players aren’t delivering. Yesterday the Canucks GM Mike Gillis gathered as many microphones as he could find and let fly with a prepared statement about how bad the referees have been in this series. This was a calculated move, sending the GM out to add voice to the coach’s whiny complaints, and the latest in a string of ooh-look-something-shiny diversions intended to get the rabid Vancouver hockey press to talk about ANYTHING but the goalie controversy tearing their team to ribbons.
Canucks Coach Alain Vigneault continues to be a recalcitrant mope, barking cliches and truisms at a persistent press corps who has turned on him. Canucks players themselves are trying to put a brave face on their predicament, with Henrik Tampon coming out with the foolish proclamation that if they win tonight, “Everyone will forget that we blew a 3-game lead.” Fat chance, Tweedle-Dee.
And at the core of it all is the goaltender situation, made worse on Sunday night by the surprise start from Cory Schneider, who suffered a third-period injury and yielded the net to the disgraced and ineffective Roberto Luongo, who then let in the game-winning goal in overtime. So Vigneault’s choices for starter tonight are a highly-paid head-case who has let in 11 goals with a save percentage below .800 in just under 5 periods of play over the last 3 games (all losses); and a rookie with half a playoff game’s experience who is likely only at 75% due to injury. If I were a Canucks player, I wouldn’t have an ounce of confidence in either netminder.
Add to that a press corps who have spent the last two days writing, “If the Canucks lose this series then fire or trade everyone” stories. Add to THAT a tentative at best (and downright pessimistic at worst) crowd taking their seats at Rogers Arena. With all of these factors piled on top of their heads, the pressure that will be bearing down on the Vancouver bench tonight will be enough to turn a lump of coal into a diamond.
On the other bench, there is positively no pressure on the Chicago Blackhawks whatsoever. They have proven that they can beat the Canucks, they have proven that they can fight their way back from a 3-0 series deficit, and they have proven that nobody is going to get past them without a hell of a fight. They are playing on the road, which means no pressure from the hometown crowd. They suffered another key loss in the form of Bryan Bickell for this game 7 tilt, adding to the list of wounded that have missed one or more games this series. And nobody in the press — yours truly included — expects them to win.
All of this means the boys can lace ‘em up, smiles on their faces, and just play their best — no expectations, no regrets, and no pressure. It’s a big game, sure. But the Blackhawks have absolutely nothing to lose. They’ve reached a goal few they thought they could achieve: anything else they get is just gravy.
So settle in for a good one tonight. Buy the good stuff: bottles, not cans, and frost ‘em up nicely. I’m thinking cheeseburgers, but if you’re a nachos or pizza person, go for it. Give the kids a little Nyquil so they’ll sleep through the yelling. This one we should watch and cheer and enjoy, because regardless of the outcome, we’ve already won.
9:00pm puck drop tonight Chicago time. CBC, RDS, Versus and Comcast SportsNet have the TV coverage; broadcast radio is WIND AM-560; and XM subscribers will find the game on channel 207.
Bartl on HOCKEENIGHT PUCKCAST
Last night, Bartl talked with Forklift and CT of HOCKEENIGHT.com about a whole bunch of shit including:
– Game 7
– Bad books Fork has yet to review
– CT’s daughter whining like Mike Gillis
And a bunch more. Listen to the cast here for some pregame entertainment
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