VANCOUVER—What a business trip that was. In fact, the Blackhawks were so efficient, they might not have to return here anytime soon.
You know how it goes, if you’re a road warrior. Allow for two trips on your itinerary, and if you’re good or lucky enough to accomplish so much on your first trip, you can cancel the second. Saves money, plus wear and tear on the body.
Friday night, the Blackhawks were both good and lucky in pounding the Canucks, 7-4, at General Motors Place to earn every bit of a 3-1 lead in a series that could end Sunday night at the United Center. As for the good, nobody was better than "Captain Serious" Jonathan Toews, who became the first player in franchise history to record three power play goals in a playoff game. Despite fighting a cold, Toews also contributed two assists but, as is his style, studiously avoided commenting on curious behavior by the vanquished.
“You guys can be the judge of that,” said Toews in a monotone befitting a young leader who will not treat this tournament as over until it’s over. “But nothing they do will take away from what we’re trying to do.”
Toews brought the Blackhawks a lead they would not surrender at 3-2 only 27 seconds into the middle period when Duncan Keith pounded the puck around the boards in Vancouver’s end. Ryan Kesler attempted to intervene, but the disobedient disk took a room service turn toward Toews, who beat a rather beatable Roberto Luongo. Toews gave due credit to the fortunate bounce, but luck on this night also involved cooperation by the Canucks. Toews insists all he cares about is how the Blackhawks perform, and his theory works. However, it never hurts when the opposition doesn’t share your emphasis on poise and discipline.
Simply put, this was not the smartest game ever played by a desperate team attempting to square a playoff series on home ice. Oddly enough, the Canucks, who felt Dustin Byfuglien took indecent liberties with Luongo in Game 3, announced their intentions to fight fire with fire in Game 4. It is difficult to imagine such careless proclamations occurring during the Chicago coaching regime of Joel Quenneville.
Then, after telegraphing their master plan to run at Blackhawks’ goalie Antti Niemi, the Canucks went equal-opportunity and collected multiple misdemeanors against a variety of visitors. Daniel Sedin did deposit Brent Seabrook into Niemi’s retreating frame for an interference call that begat Patrick Sharp’s power play tally to make it 4-2, but otherwise the Canucks elected to spread their fouls around, as they say in basketball.
“We lost our composure,” admitted Luongo, who allowed Seabrook’s drive through the five hole 18 seconds into the game. Luongo appeared solid during a Game 1 victory in Chicago, but since then the better masked man has been Niemi. Friday night, the cast in front of him was estimable. It appeared that every white jersey on the ice touched the puck at least once on Sharp’s score, and Dave Bolland was the picture of patience in feeding Toews for a 5-2 bulge.
The Hawks stayed quite calm, except perhaps for the moment when Adam Burish leaned over toward the Vancouver bench and chirped at Shane O’Brien. Burish pointed to his head. I don’t think he was praising O’Brien as the wisest man in the building, but I could be wrong.