Do you believe? After falling down 0-3 in their opening round series against the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks, the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks have made things interesting in a big way after thumping Vancouver in Games 4 and 5 of of their first round Western Conference playoff series.
After winning Game 4, 7-2, Chicago retained the momentum with a 5-0 shutout in Vancouver on Thursday night. Canucks goalie Robert Luongo appeared to be in complete control through the first three contests, but heading into Game 6, that must seem like a distant memory for Canucks fans. On Thursday night in front of a packed house in Vancouver eager to celebrate a playoff series win, Luongo again looked as lost as he did in last year’s playoff defeat to the ‘Hawks. Pulled in the third quarter of Game 4, Luongo was chased again in Game 5 after Marian Hossa’s first two goals of the series helped put the Blackhakws up by a comfortable 4-0 margin before the first 40 minutes had been played. Duncan Keith added his third and fourth goals of the series, the second of which capped the scoring at 5-0 late in the second period.
Corey Crawford made sure things never got interesting with his 36-save performance, a seemingly inconsequential fact, but one that might play big dividends in Game 6. The way I see it, Vancouver is squarely on its heels now, with nothing whatsoever to point to from the past two games as they try to get their heads straight and close out the series. The 5-0 shutout increased Chicago’s scoring margin over Vancouver the past two games to an impressive ten goals (12-2).
Make no mistake about it — Vancouver has proven to be the better team over the course of the long 2010-2011 season. And they certainly confirmed that superiority over Chicago in the first three games of the series. But it’s not a race to three; it’s a race to four, and all of a sudden, Vancouver looks like they may actually be in trouble after getting dismantled in Games 4 and 5. Psychology matters in sports. When you’re on, you’re on and nothing can get in your way. Conversely, when you’ve lost it, often times it’s impossible to regain control before things go spiraling out of control.
There have been 162 series in which one team has taken a commanding 3-0 lead. Over 64 percent of those series have concluded with a four game sweep, with another 27 percent or so concluding after five games. On eight occasions, the team facing a 3-0 deficit has forced a game 6; thee teams have resiliently fought back to force a Game 7 only to fall short in the series finale; and on three other historic occasions, a team has overcome the massive deficit and won the series in seven hard-fought games.
Can the Blackhawks make it four teams to do the unthinkable? We’ll find out if they take another big step forward towards accomplishing the seemingly impossible feat when the series resumes on Sunday evening in Chicago.
While you wait for Game 6, be sure to check out Second City Hockey for more analysis, commentary, and fan discussion.