Vancouver Canucks v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Six

Chicago wins a drama-filled Game 6 in overtime to force a Game 7 against Vancouver

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In a game that started off oozing with drama as Canucks coach Alain Vigneault would start Cory Schneider in goal over regular starter Roberto Luongo, it would only end up making sense that it would somehow still boil down to Luongo. While the Canucks may have wanted to have Luongo avoid dealing with the insane atmosphere in Chicago and go with the guy that’s not mentally rattled, it would be Luongo who gave up the game-winner in overtime as the Blackhawks won it 4-3 to force a Game 7 on Tuesday.

Schneider played well in goal despite a pair of his own miscues that led to goals from Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland, but in the third period with Vancouver holding a 3-2 lead, Michal Frolik would be taken down on a breakaway giving him a penalty shot and a chance to tie it. Frolik would attack and score on Schneider as Schneider kicked his leg out to try and make the stop and in the process injured himself. In came Luongo and the Canucks stepped up their pressure as Luongo only had to face one shot in the third period while the Canucks peppered the Chicago net trying to end the game. They wouldn’t have it though and the game moved to overtime.

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In overtime, the Blackhawks were able to blitz the Vancouver zone and with 4:30 left in the overtime period, rookie Ben Smith would put home a rebound off a sprawling Luongo and into the net to send the United Center crowd into a frenzy as the Hawks stormed back from being down 3-0 in the series to force a Game 7.

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For Chicago, they’re playing flat out better than Vancouver right now and the Canucks look rattled. Badly. Chicago is getting sustained pressure from all of their lines and with Dave Bolland back in the lineup and producing in a big way, they’ve been able to roll over all of the Canucks lines. Even with Jonathan Toews struggling points-wise, the Blackhawks aren’t missing a beat and they’re playing motivated and often spiteful hockey. We’ve said it before that they’re dangerous and now the Canucks look scared.

Vancouver looks terrified to do anything. The physicality isn’t equaling up to what Chicago is doing, the passing is off, the skill is gone as Chicago is forcing Vancouver to be uncomfortable, and most of all Vancouver is playing as if they don’t want to lose. Someone in that Canucks locker room has to hold the other players accountable and whether it’s captain Henrik Sedin or assistants like Ryan Kesler, the fear of whatever higher being they believe in must be put into them. The Canucks have to play desperate and angry. After all, if you kept getting made to look like a fool by the same “bully” year in and year out, some day you snap out of it and lash out and get back at them.

Right now Vancouver is playing the part of the kid on the playground that’s content with getting wedgies every day and having their lunch money stolen. The scared attitude, the lack of support for one another, the lack of sensible fire they have to want to win is startling. If the Canucks don’t want to become the ultimate joke in playoff history, they’ll take each of the last three losses personally and play like they mean it regardless of who is in goal and play the way the top seeded team in the playoffs should play.

Otherwise, Chicago rolls on and seals a date in the second round and becomes one of the most terrifying teams to play in the Western Conference playoffs. With Detroit and Nashville already booked for dates in the second round, that’s the scariest part of all this. After all, no one wants a piece of an angry and motivated team that knows how to get things done. Perhaps that’s why Chicago has absolutely no fear going against Vancouver.

Here are all the highlights from tonight’s Game 6.

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PHT Morning Skate: Jim Craig doesn’t regret selling ‘Miracle on Ice’ memorabilia

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

–These parents named their baby girl after Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov. (ABC News)

–The  hockey card that helped inspire a Tragically Hip song. (Puck Junk)

–The fan who promised to get a tattoo of Gary Bettman if LA and Chicago were eliminated in the first round kept his word. (Bardown)

–Watch the highlights from last night’s game between the Sharks and Blues. (Top)

–Jim Craig doesn’t regret auctioning off most of his “Miracle on Ice” memorabilia. (Yahoo)

–A Q & A with former Quebec Nordiques forward Peter Stastny. (ESPN)

–Former Flyers coach Craig Berube breaks down Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. (NHL)

Hitch: ‘I see the devastation in our locker room’

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Despite a late comeback attempt, the 2015-16 season came to an end for the St. Louis Blues, as they lost the Western Conference Final in six games to the San Jose Sharks.

And with Wednesday’s loss, the off-season will settle upon the Blues. It will be an intriguing one in St. Louis, starting with their head coach Ken Hitchcock. He’s on a one-year deal and he has already outlined that he’s fine with taking short-term contracts. But is an appearance in the conference final enough to solidify his place behind the St. Louis bench for next year?

The Blues have, according to General Fanager, five pending unrestricted free agent forwards, including Scottie Upshall, Kyle Brodziak, Steve Ott, and most notably Troy Brouwer and David Backes.

Backes, 32, is the team’s captain and coming off a 21-goal, 45-point regular season, which is a decline from the numbers — 26 goals and 58 points — he posted the year before. Brouwer, 30, enjoyed the best post-season of his career, with eight goals and 13 points in 20 games, and he could potentially cash in on that this summer.

However, while there are questions ahead for the Blues, the emotional toll this loss took was clear.

“I see the devastation in our locker room right now. Guys aren’t even able to speak. I’m more worried about our guys right now, to be honest with you. We got some guys that are pretty shook up right now,” said Hitchcock to reporters.

“I’m not going to talk to them for a day or two. They need their space with each other. They’ve bonded together here better than any team I’ve coached in the last 10 years. They need their time together. They don’t need me interrupting them right now. We’ll talk at an appropriate time. But right now they need to be with each other.”

 

Video: So, Joe Thornton is pretty stoked about playing in the Stanley Cup Final

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‘Jumbo’ Joe Thornton is off to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in his career. The San Jose Sharks are off to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.

And yeah, the 36-year-old Thornton, a veteran of 1,367 regular season games with 1,341 career regular season points, is pretty excited for both himself and his team when it comes to this feat.

It hasn’t been easy in San Jose. It hasn’t been easy for the franchise, for the fans, for the players, for Thornton or for Patrick Marleau, who is also 36 years old and has played his entire career (1,411 regular season games) in San Jose.

There have been playoff failures and a regular season disappointment last year. There has been a coaching change and harsh words exchanged between Thornton and management — more specifically, GM Doug Wilson — and an organizational decision to remove the captaincy from Thornton.

After all that, however, the Sharks are four wins away from hoisting the Stanley Cup.

Did we mention Joe Thornton is excited about the final?

Franchise history: The Sharks are off to the Stanley Cup Final

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For the first time in franchise history, the San Jose Sharks are off to the Stanley Cup Final.

This, after a monumental and historical collapse in the first round to the L.A. Kings two years ago. This, after they failed to make the playoffs a year ago, resulting in a coaching change. There have been other post-season disappointments along the way before that, too.

Those difficult times may never be forgotten. But the Sharks have rebounded, and it culminated with a 5-2 victory over the visiting St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final on Wednesday. Fans at SAP Center could feel it, too, especially after Joel Ward scored his second goal of the night, giving San Jose a three-goal lead early in the third period.

The Blues attempted a furious comeback but couldn’t quite complete it.

The Sharks this year have eliminated the Kings, Nashville Predators and now the Blues in that order. They await the winner of the Eastern Conference Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins.

 

The Sharks got off to the perfect start in the series clincher versus St. Louis. Joe Pavelski recorded his 13th goal, which leads all players in this post-season, and the Sharks continued to roll from there.

Ward increased the lead in the second period and again in the third. His second of the night proved to be the winner. Joonas Donskoi‘s goal, making it 4-0 San Jose before the midway point of the third period, proved critical as the Blues tried to spark a desperation comeback.

The Blues’ leading scorer Vladimir Tarasenko (40 goals, 74 points in the regular season) was held off the score sheet through the first five games of this series, before finally striking for both St. Louis goals in Game 6.