We did it again! Two wins in a row now...
Canucks dominate Blackhawks 7-3
By Jason Botchford, The ProvinceFebruary 7, 2009 11:01 PM
No, that wasn't a team of 15-year-olds the Canucks beat Saturday.
It just looked that way.
It was a game no reasonable person thought the Canucks could win, let alone dominate. The Chicago Blackhawks rolled into Vancouver as the NHL's latest it-boys. They were like teen idols who had it all except for the Tiger Beat cover story. Swimming in wins for three months, the youthful Hawks were deemed too fast, too deep and too good for the Canucks.
But that's before Vancouver took the ice and revealed a metamorphosis as sudden and as unlikely as what we saw from the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL playoffs. It was like Michael Phelps' reputation going up in smoke, but in reverse.
For anyone who follows the Canucks, their 7-3 win against one of the hottest teams in hockey was something odd to watch and that's exactly what the Blackhawks did for most of two periods. They played like they were rubber-necking their own car accident.
Coming off a cathartic win Tuesday, the Canucks started the game like they had sluiced the pent-up feelings of self-doubt and incompetence which plagued them for six weeks. It wasn't just a win Tuesday, that was an exorcism.
"[Tuesday's win] was really important, it was weighing on everybody," Roberto Luongo said. "The losing and the home losing streak as well. It was getting tough to play. But at a certain point you have to go out there and do the job. It was really big for us to get that win out of the way and move on. We were playing a hockey game [Saturday] without thinking about coming out of a slump.
"It's not as easy coming to the rink when you're losing. Guys are happy [now], they're enjoying themselves. When you're more relaxed, you tend to play better on the ice."
The Canucks looked emotionally cleansed from the start when the Sedin twins whirled the puck around the Hawks playmakers before Henrik tipped in a 45-foot shot from his brother just 53 seconds in.
After the Sedins scored off the rush, Mats Sundin emerged as a force around the net and Ryan Kesler continued to show that yes, he does have peripheral vision. The pair combined for two power play goals and the Canucks had a 3-0 lead after the first period.
Everyone was expecting the Hawks to wake up but by the time they did it was the third period and they were down 6-1 and they were way too late for work. By the end, the Canucks had seven goals and only two came from the Sedin twins. Not only that, they had three power play goals and only gave up one.
"Guys were looser than they've been in a long time," Alex Burrows said. "We have been so close for so long. We always felt we weren't that far and everyone here has had good intentions. We put it all together and did it against a very good team."
Alex Edler, such a non-factor throughout so much of the past two months, piled up four points and Steve Bernier scored, meaning the Canucks had three lines, not one, that scored.
If that's a sign of things to come, the Canucks could have a lot to look forward to during the final two months of the season.
Head coach Alain Vigneault talked of slaying the beast, which is that prolonged slump that finally ended in dramatic fashion Tuesday.
Now, the Canucks will get exactly what they have wanted for about a month — a road game.
"All of a sudden we've won two in a row," Luongo said. "It was big . . . now the boys are excited to get out on the road and spend some time together as a team."
In the end, Luongo made 36 saves. He was great when he had to be, especially in the final 10 minutes of the first period when the Hawks made a valiant effort to get back into the game. He still isn't happy with where his game is at.
Luongo's passion doesn't translate well in his TV interviews and you can drink away a night debating his value, his skill and whether he's overrated or not. But you should never question his resolve, or his single-minded desire to improve in an effort to make himself and his team better.
Feeling the immediacy of February in his mind and the rust of October in his legs, Luongo has spent much of the past two weeks showing up 45 minutes early to practice, tirelessly trying to get his game back.