The defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks’ chances of continuing the comeback in Game 5 in Vancouver on Thursday night, and going on to become just the fourth team in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit might depend on whether they got back inside the Canucks’ heads as well.
Vancouver players were downplaying that pressure. They said all the right things about still being up 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, a lead they would have happily taken going into the Western Conference series.
Against any other team it would have sounded more convincing. But the Blackhawks eliminated Vancouver in the last two playoffs. And even with key roster subtractions since, there were a lot of similarities between those series and Chicago’s one-sided victory Tuesday.
It started with the return of Dave Bolland(notes) after missing the first three games—17 overall—because of a concussion, and the disappearance of Vancouver forwards Daniel and Henrik Sedin(notes). The twins, who won the last two NHL scoring titles, were minus-7 combined while Bolland had four points.
It felt like last season, when Bolland got under the skin of Daniel while registering six points to the twins’ 10 combined. With Bolland, Chicago is 9-4 against the Canucks the last three playoffs.
Asked if Bolland was poison to them, Daniel said, “Last game he was.”
“We need to realize he is a really good offensive player,” Daniel said. “We need to play him like we play (Jonathan) Toews or Kane and all those guys. Our line didn’t play up to standard. That’s the beautiful thing about playoffs. You have a new chance tomorrow.”
In addition to shutting down the Sedins, who had nine points in the first three games, Bolland brings better balance to the Blackhawks’ lines.
“As a coach, you’ve got so many more weapons with him in the lineup,” Joel Quenneville said. “There’s not too many guys in the league who are defensive-oriented centers, but Bollie’s got upside offensively. He certainly likes the challenge when he gets a strict matchup assignment.”
The flashbacks didn’t end with Bolland.
Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo(notes) was pulled after giving up six goals, the sixth time he’s surrendered five or more in the playoffs against Chicago, including all three games in Vancouver last season.
Luongo, who left the ice gingerly after an awkward save late in the first period Tuesday, did not practice Wednesday. But like Henrik Sedin and defenseman Alex Edler, who also were absent from practice, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said Luongo would play Thursday.
Whether he finishes may depend on improved defensive support. Vancouver allowed Chicago players too much time to walk into the slot and pick corners Tuesday.
“He is a warrior,” Alex Burrows said. “He will bounce back and have a solid game. Those were good shots, good clean looks they had. We have to make sure we play better in front of him.”
The Blackhawks might also get some defensive help as workhorse Brent Seabrook(notes) was on the flight to Vancouver after missing Game 4 with an upper body injury believed to be the result of Raffi Torres(notes) head hit in Game 3. Quenneville said there was a “possibility” Seabrook could play after Chicago rallied around his absence in Game 4, and the fact Torres wasn’t suspended for it.
“We’re definitely going to gather behind that,” Kane said.
Vancouver will rally around the league’s best home record during a Presidents’ Trophy-winning season, and a an ability to bounce back, including a 7-1 loss to Chicago in November.
“Sometimes its good to go through things like this,” said Torres, who declined to talk about his high hit on Seabrook. “It humbles us, puts us back in our place.”
That place includes a lot of postseason letdowns against Chicago. They know the howling from ghosts of playoffs past will only get louder with another loss.