Chicago Blackhawks 1, Vancouver Canucks 4
Blackhawks lead series 3-2
The Vancouver Canucks did a lot of talking leading up to Game 5, and some wondered if this was a team on the brink of falling apart. Their goaltender wasn’t focused, Shane O’Brien was the most outspoken player on the team and the coach routinely shot down anything the players had to say publicly.
You have to hand it to them though; they pulled it together to play one heck of a complete game to secure a big 4-1 victory to hold off elimination for at least one more game. While the Canucks will certainly need more from the Sedins if they hope to pull off a comeback in this series, there’s no overlooking the tremendous job that Christian Erhoff and Kevin Bieksa did tonight in leading their team to a win.
The Canucks entered the series already shorthanded on defense, and towards the end of the first period lost Sami Salo when he was hit with a puck. Erhoff and Bieksa instantly became the most important players on the ice for the Cancucks, and the two combined for three goals and four points. Bieksa led his team in ice time and had two goals and an assist himself, a great sign for the Canucks as it looks like Salo might be out for a significant amount of time.
Aside from the solid play of the defense, the key to the win was the newfound discipline of the Canucks. Looking like a completely different team than what we saw in games 3 and 4, the Canucks were in control emotionally for most of the game and never gave the Blackhawks a chance to get their agitating act going. Roberto Luongo did have a bit of a loose-lipped moment at the end of the 2nd period, but for the first time all series finally looked comfortable in net.
This was helped by a Chicago Blackhawks team that seemed ill prepared for taking on a good hockey team that had it’s back against the wall. Gone were the aggressive and confident Blackhawks that rattled off three straight wins; this was a team that just sleepwalked through the first 53 minutes of the game. If it weren’t for some timely Antti Niemi saves we’d have had another Game 1 debacle on our hands.
As for Salo, we’re still waiting on word as to the severity of his injury. At first, it seemed as though he was hit in the wrist or the abdomen. After watching the video replay, it could be much worse; it seems he could have been hit in the…ahem.. groin area with the puck. We’ll update when we know more.
This has been a tough postseason for Phil Kessel haters.
The supposed “choker” is on a team that’s in the Eastern Conference Final, but Kessel obviously isn’t just in for the ride with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He scored his 18th point in 17 postseason games by scoring the 1-0 goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6.
(Watch that goal in the video above.)
It was a dramatic first period, with a Jonathan Drouin goal getting disallowed and Andrei Vasilevskiy making some huge saves on tough chances.
Can Pittsburgh protect this slim lead with 1-0 down one period? We’ll see, but either way, what a great postseason for Kessel.
To start the seemingly pivotal stretch, Andrei Vasilevskiy made an outstanding save on Evgeni Malkin on what sure looked like a scary chance.
The play swiftly shifted from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s end to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ side of the ice, and it seemed like Jonathan Drouin scored a big 1-0 goal in Game 6.
As it turns out, the goal was disallowed thanks to an offside goal review.
Here are a few viewpoints on that moment in GIF form … you can get a fuller view via the video above.
The general feeling among those who don’t have a horse in the race is that it was the right call. (Lightning fans were, uh, not happy.)
At some point, it will probably be kind of boring to hear members of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization praise Jonathan Drouin.
At least if Drouin re-signs with the Bolts after quite the affirming postseason and his ascension amid injuries.
These days? It’s still sort of entertaining.
In the latest case, Jon Cooper was asked to compare the development paths for Nikita Kucherov vs. Drouin. After empathizing with the pressure Drouin carries as a high-end pick (vs. Kucherov’s ability to come in under the radar), Cooper had some very positive things to say about No. 27.
” … So many people think, well, you’re just going to step in the league at 18 and be dominant,” Cooper said. “I truly believe Jonathan is going to be dominant in this league, but it’s hard to do at 18. He had to work through it, and that’s it.”
Drouin, now at 21, has 12 points in 15 playoff games.
In other Lightning news, it sounds like the team will roll with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, an alignment that has been working well lately and also came through at times during the 2015 postseason.
The Penguins, meanwhile, replace Beau Bennett with Conor Sheary.
Tonight could be the final game of the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. You can catch Game 6 via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.
Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay (8:00 p.m. ET)
The television broadcast of Game 6 is on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Bolts lead the series 3-2.
Here’s some relevant reading material to get you ready for tonight’s game:
—Malkin guaranteed a Penguins win in Game 6
—Lightning coach doesn’t seem flustered by Malkin’s guarantee
—Kucherov continues to be clutch for the Bolts this postseason
—Marc-Andre Fleury: ‘I should have been better’ in Game 5