VANCOUVER -- Do the Vancouver Canucks have reason to be optimistic heading into Chicago for Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinal against the Blackhawks?
Yes and no.
The glass is half full for the Canucks, who now trail the series 3-2 following Saturday’s 4-2 loss, because they’ve proven they can win at the United Center.
Road confidence did wonders for the Blackhawks in Game 5 as they opened the scoring for the first time all series and won, again, via the comeback.
Also working in Vancouver’s favor is the fact that similar to Chicago, its best players have yet to be just that this series.
Daniel Sedin hasn’t scored against the Blackhawks and has only a pair of goals all playoffs. "Mr. Clutch" Alex Burrows hasn’t found the back of the net since Game 4 of the opening round and he only has one assist all series, and Roberto Luongo, has now allowed three goals or more goals in three of his last five games.
Luongo has been spectacular at times against Chicago, but the same cannot be said for Sedin, Burrows and a handful of other Vancouver forwards.
"You need your top players to play accordingly and I’ve got quite a few guys in my mind that can play better than what they’ve shown," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said.
If you believe Vancouver’s chatter, there’s also confidence to be had in that the Canucks still haven’t played their best game of the series. That’s been the one dependable quote after every game from the Canucks, regardless of the outcome.
It’s time to put up or shut up with their season on the line in Game 6 (Monday, 9 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).
"We need to go out and win one game on the road," Mats Sundin said matter-of-factly. "We’re still in this series and that’s all we’ve got to worry about."
Added Shane O’Brien, "We’ve got to go in and win one road game and obviously there’s not a very good feeling in here right now, but we’ve come through a lot of adversity all year so why not now?"
That’s an easy question to answer.
There’s an argument to be made that the glass is half empty for Vancouver because the top two lines have underachieved for long enough that struggling may have merged into droughts.
Gone is Vancouver’s prowess with the puck in the Chicago zone, replaced with widespread uncertainty.
The Canucks may have been ridiculously close to picking up two wins in Chicago, instead settling for one, but many feel it’s a stretch that Vancouver will be able to play the same defensive style they did earlier in the Windy City and come away victorious.
With this series being compared to a chess match, the Blackhawks will have surely made the necessary adjustments for Game 6 and will be ready for what the Canucks throw at them.
Like the team did back in February when the playoffs seemed like a long shot, Vancouver needs to simply get the job done. No more excuses.
"Obviously our backs are up against the wall right now," Vigneault said.
"We’ve got to find a way to play better, there’s no doubt about that, and there’s no doubt in my mind that I think we can play better. There’s a lot of room for improvement in our case from a lot of our players."
Like defenseman Willie Mitchell told reporters and has surely pointed out to teammates, the Blackhawks haven’t won four games yet and until they do, there’s hockey to be played.
"I’ve come back from 3-1 twice and it’s a tight series so we’re not done yet."
Vancouver’s season depends on that being true.