"We've proven an ability to rally, but the percentages aren't in our favor (to win the series) if we continue (having to do) that. I'm not sure if it's so much bad passes, or guys aren't picking them up, but what we're doing isn't working and we need to change it up."
-- Brian Campbell
Against all odds, Vancouver won the clash of playing styles Tuesday night, taking Game 3 of its Western Conference semifinal series in a 3-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center. But the game wasn't really as close as the score indicated.
The puzzle now presented for Chicago to solve is not only how to even the series at two games before flying back west, but how to wrest control of the way in which Game 4 plays out on the ice Thursday night (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).
The young Blackhawks had fairly blazed through the postseason before Tuesday's tumble, winning five of eight in brazen, come-from-behind fashion. A piper by the name of Roberto Luongo came to be paid in Tuesday night's Game 3, however, and the Canucks collected in full.
"Tonight we played very dangerously -- we weren't crisp with the puck at all," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We kept looking for a better play that didn't exist."
Indeed, the Blackhawks' all-in approach on ice is a dramatic contrast to Vancouver's penny-ante play. But to the surprise of many, Chicago's series of net rushes, crease crowdings, and fly-pattern passes devolved into what Quenneville called "the first time all postseason that I can honestly say we weren't up to par."
The Blackhawks once again did things the hard way on Tuesday night, getting behind early and putting all their chips in the pot for another stirring, miraculous, unstoppable comeback. There was just one problem … the comeback never came.
"We've proven an ability to rally, but the percentages aren't in our favor (to win the series) if we continue (having to do) that," Hawks defenseman Brian Campbell said. "I'm not sure if it's so much bad passes, or guys aren't picking them up, but what we're doing isn't working and we need to change it up."
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault continued his kill-'em-with-kindness approach to the Hawks with his postgame treatise Tuesday night.
"We shut down one of the best transition teams I've ever seen," Vigneault said. "I simply don't want to play chance-for-chance with Chicago. They have so much skill and power. We have to play this way to win."
Vigneault cited a number of Canucks, from Taylor Pyatt to Ossi Vaananen to Luongo, with spearheading Vancouver's series-transforming effort Tuesday. Between the lines, Vigneault was well pleased his team not only had wrested away home ice and took a series lead, but had instilled its will on this feisty, athletic Blackhawks team.
An apt Thursday game plan comes from the clipboard of Canucks defenseman Willie Mitchell: "You have to be patient. The National Anthem really gets everyone going. But we didn't turn over pucks and create momentum for them. We have to control their energy. [Tonight] we got that big goal early and went from there."
Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith all but signed off on Mitchell's postmortem, saying, "Once we get our first goal, we get a little more fire. We just have to find a way to get our first one faster."
Thus this series appears it will turn for good on who can first make the net go poof in Game 4. Chicago converts, and a rabid UC crowd will go all Manchester United on an undermanned Canucks club. Vancouver taps in first, Chicago spirits sink, and champagne may be iced for Game 5.
By the punch-drunk expressions in the Blackhawks dressing room late Tuesday night, Chicago is surprised to find itself on the ropes as early as Game 3. No doubt, its awe-inspiring firepower will be on full display from first drop Thursday. After all, said Campbell, "confidence is very high on this team."
But as Game 3 indicated, loosening Vancouver's viselike grip on the ice action won't be as simple as back pats and heads held high.