If you were an air traffic controller who had been asleep for a week or so, you would have been quite amazed about which team was going in what direction Tuesday night.
The Vancouver Canucks, visiting the United Center, were 60 minutes away from winning the Western Conference Quarterfinal in straight sets. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, found themselves hanging by a thread, defending Stanley Cup champions on the ropes, trailing badly on all scorecards, beaten and bruised.
So, what unfolds? In a sudden and succinct example of reversed roles, the Blackhawks romped, 7-2. In Game 4, unlike the previous three, it was the Blackhawks who dictated the pace of play, passed the puck like it was rubber instead of a grenade, and pressured the Canucks with bodies and souls. Mind you, we still might have seen the last home game of the season, despite all the histrionics. Then again, if the Blackhawks happen to prevail Thursday night in a rink where they swept the Canucks last season, then the tenor of this series will have changed markedly, if it hasn’t already.
Did the Blackhawks give the Canucks something to think about?
“I hope so,” said Duncan Keith
, whose rocket through Roberto Luongo came only 17 seconds after Brian Campbell’s arrow early in the middle period. The Blackhawks had their first two-goal advantage of the tournament, and they built on it so confidently, so convincingly, that it was difficult to rectify the facts: they’re the team facing nothing but must-win situations.
The sights were so pleasing, John Scott didn’t want to leave. As a defensive substitute for ailing Brent Seabrook
, Scott was assessed a misconduct late for a two-way hissing match with Raffi Torres. Scott thought he could observe the last few minutes from the bench.
“I didn’t realize I was gone, because we were just talking,” said Scott. “I had to go to the locker room.”Dave Bolland
did finish the contest, his first since March 9, and it was one worth remembering now that he can remember again. He collected a goal, three assists and was plus-4. Also, as often happens, Bolland showed his face, and the Sedins, Daniel and Henrik, became Swedish meat balls. Even though Daniel registered a consolation tally after a run of six in a row by the Blackhawks, the brothers were minus-7.
“I was a little nervous, but it’s great to be back,” said Bolland, who went through all the travails of post-concussion syndrome. There was a time he thought he was done for the year, a period when he didn’t want to socialize and felt depressed, then the glorious occasion when he was cleared to suit up.
But would he make a difference? He always seems to, and on Tuesday night, Bolland symbolized the tumultuous merriment prevalent among the Blackhawks and their exuberant fans.
The mood, like local weather, was stormy in Game 4. The Blackhawks and Canucks are enemies, and temperatures are rising. This is such a holy week, too, what with Passover and Easter. But anger is in the air, as will be the Blackhawks for British Columbia Wednesday, just when you thought they might be grounded.