Sami Salo of the Vancouver Canucks checks Viktor Stalberg along the side boards.
While a large swath of Blackhawks fans and a fair percentage of the media would like to believe that Game 4 was a turning point in the series, let's be realistic here.
While the Hawks certainly played their best game, the Canucks took a lot of that game off. Sure, they came out trying to end this as quickly as possible, but once it got away from them at 3-1, they looked like a team that figured it was flying home anyway so playing an extra hockey game isn't that large of a burden.
However if there's a win tonight, things very well may change. Then you get a home game. Then the Canucks honestly start thinking about blowing all this. After all, if that's the case you're just a bad penalty or bounce away from being even, with the pressure of an entire region, the President's Trophy, and all the expectations weighing down on you as you stand above the biggest choke job in the sport's history.
So it would behoove the Canucks to end proceedings tonight.
And they easily can. This whole series has been about what the Canucks do. The Hawks could have played their four best games of the entire year and at best probably be only 2-2. It's always been about whether the Canucks will play the game to their potential and essentially take the Hawks out of the equation or dip their game just enough to let a tired and beat up Hawks squad through. It's the same question tonight.
If the Canucks come out with the focus of the first two games, this probably all ends tonight amongst a flurry of white towels and trash on the ice. They lost it in Game 3 with a series of penalties, but the Hawks couldn't make it count. They lost it in Game 4 with a lack of determination, and the Hawks did prevail. If Vancouver is as physical as they were when this series was last in B.C., if they are as tight in their own zone, if they stay out of the box, there's little the Hawks can do.
But if they once again assume they'll close this out when they feel like it, if they once again don't put that little extra into battles along the boards that they should be winning, if they once again get careless with the puck, if they once again aren't as driven to get to the front of the net, then the Hawks will be officially off the mat.
As for what the Hawks can do, it's the simple game again. Consistently get the puck deep into the corners, no goofiness at the blue lines. Short passes out of their own zone that keep possession and don't hand it to the Canucks. Clearing the rebounds that were there. And being ruthless when the opportunities present themselves. Get an early lead again, a two-goal one or more. And if the gremlins don't come out then, they'll at least be getting their morning coffee ready.
Sam Fels is the proprietor of The Committed Indian, an unofficial program for the Blackhawks. You may have seen him hocking the magazine outside the United Center at Gate 3. The program is also available for purchase online. Fels is a lifelong 'Hawks fan and he also writes for Second City Hockey .