Jonathan Toews is pulled down by Alexandre Burrows of the Vancouver Canucks in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on April 24. The Blackhawks defeated the Canucks 4-3 in sudden death overtime.
There's a saying in hockey that when you play a tight defensive game, especially in the playoffs, you'll sometimes lose a coin flip. It means that when there aren't many goals and chances being splayed about, sometimes it's a bounce or a post or one mistake or one penalty and you're on the short end. And that may happen even if you were the better team for most of the night.
That's where the Vancouver Canucks found themselves Sunday after losing Game 6, because this may have been their best game of the series.
Sure, the Canucks only managed 13 shots in the first two periods. But they didn't come here to re-enact some Old West shootout. Their plan was to keep the Hawks from a Visigoth charging through the neutral zone and into theirs, and they did it perfectly.
The Hawks must have felt like they were encased in a plastic bag between the blue lines. Gaining the Canucks' blue line was like trying to break into Alcatraz. It forced the Hawks to dump the puck in where the Vancouver D retrieved and broke out with a seeming smirk. They didn't take any dumb penalties, their penalty kill was forgiving when it was called upon, and as the game wore on, the Nucks' superior depth and determination wore the Hawks down. But they're still going home tied in the series.
The Hawks weren't perfect, but they were far from bad. Trailing three times, the Hawks found a way back each time. Yes, it was mostly due to Canucks' mistakes, but in a game this tight you can't miss when showed the doorway, and the Hawks didn't. Except for that whole 5-on-3 thing.
The reason this thing is headed back to Vancouver with the real possibility of the city sinking into the ocean, is that despite their bossing this game for at least the last 35 minutes, the Canucks' big names couldn't come up with a moment of magic there was no answer for. The Hawks' players did.
And it was Marian Hossa, who might as well have been in white camouflage all night such was his anonymity, fought off three Canucks before setting up Niklas Hjalmarsson, whose point-shot was tipped just enough by Ben Smith to create a rebound that Smith poured in to send the UC into absolute bedlam. The symbolism of Hossa stripping Daniel Sedin to start it all shouldn't be lost.
The Canucks just threw the best punch they had, and the Hawks survived. Can they do it again? History suggests they can't. This whole season suggests they can. There's enough evidence in this series alone to support both arguments.
Tuesday can't get here soon enough.
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 .