There is a very small percentage of those associated with the Chicago Blackhawks that are walking around with “I Told You So’s” after Sunday night’s thrilling overtime win over the Vancouver Canucks.
After the Hawks went down 3-0 in the series against the hated Canucks, things looked over for the Blackhawks. Fans were discussing who could stay and go next year, with some even going as far as saying how much less painful it would be with the Hawks getting bounced quickly, even if it was at the hands of the ‘Nucks.
But now here we are. After Ben Smith lifted that rebound over Roberto Luongo with less than five minutes to go in Sunday’s first overtime at the United Center, he set up a decisive Game 7 against the Canucks in Vancouver on Tuesday.
They said it couldn’t be done, at least not with this Hawks team, but it has. A team that lacked the necessary depth to keep up with Vancouver, and needed a lucky break to even make the postseason, now stands just 60 minutes away from knocking off the President’s Trophy winners, and heavy title favorites.
Yet, the pressure doesn’t sit with the Blackhawks, for that very reason. The Hawks weren’t expected by many, with the exception of a few die-hards and, of course, those within the Blackhawks locker room to even be in this position. Even if the Blackhawks don’t emerge victorious on Tuesday, the fact that they’re even in this position against a strong squad like Vancouver will leave fans impressed with the effort put forth by these Blackhawks.
But the team with a whole lot to lose is the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks have been owned by the Blackhawks the past few years, particularly in the postseason. That 3-0 lead looked like the monkey with four feathers was finally going to be dropped from the back of the Vancouver Canucks.
Not only that, but this is a Hawks team without Dustin Byfuglien, as ‘Nuck fans often pointed out before the season began. There’s no way the Hawks could have competed without last year’s playoff hero right? Wrong.
Since going down 3-0, the Hawks have gone back to taking ownership of the Western Conference’s top seed. Even with their stars taking a while to get going, youngsters and role players, like Smith and Bryan Bickell, the Hawks have given the Canucks a run for their money like no one expected after the way the series started out.
So now what looked to be a quick series, in the mold of this year’s meeting between Detroit and Phoenix, has turned into a thriller for all involved, unless you’re on the side of Vancouver.
All of the pressure in this series is now on the Canucks. Blowing a 3-0 series lead is inexcusable, but it’s especially terrifying for your fans when it’s the same team that has haunted them for the past few seasons.
But nobody on the ice on Tuesday will be feeling the pressure more than embattled goaltender Roberto Luongo. His struggles against Chicago are well-documented, which culminated in Cory Schneider being handed the start prior to Sunday night’s game. Luongo came in and allowed only the one goal, which just happened to be the goal in overtime to win it for Chicago.
However, Luongo didn’t look top notch when he was in after Schneider left. He gave up juicy rebounds, which the Hawks weren’t able to capitalize on until Smith’s winner, but his rebounds and tendency to ‘flail’ around like he did on Sunday could mean trouble for him and Vancouver on Tuesday.
At the end of the day on Tuesday, will there be a degree of disappointment on the side of the Hawks if they don’t win? Obviously. But after coming back from this deficit, Blackhawk fans can take pride in their team being able to battle back like they have.
None of that compares to the aftermath of a potential loss for the Canucks on Tuesday. If the Blackhawks can pull off the unthinkable and win four in a row against the league’s best in the regular season, fans might just riot. The blowback towards both Luongo and Alain Vigneault would be unbelievable in that case.
And Blackhawk fans would love every minute of it.