April 24, 2011
The first shot from the point stunned Roberto Luongo(notes), bouncing off his blocker to the slot and sending him belly-first to the ice. The rebound shot came from the previously anonymous Ben Smith(notes) of the Chicago Blackhawks, who previously beat Luongo twice in Game 2.
The Vancouver Canucks goalie, his stomach still frozen to the ice, dropped his stick and raised his arm a few inches into the air, the puck already having flown past him. Like in his previous failures in this Stanley Cup quarterfinal series, the overtime game-winning goal was a combination of Roberto's struggle with control and his defense letting him down, as Smith beat a Daniel Sedin(notes) "check" for the winner.
Unlike his previous failures, and to paraphrase the film "Clerks" -- he wasn't even supposed to be in Game 6.
Besides pushing this series to seven games with their 4-3 overtime win, and inching within one victory of becoming the fourth team in NHL history to rally from a 3-0 deficit, the Chicago Blackhawks dished out new and inventive punishment to their postseason punching bag between the Vancouver pipes: Knocking Luongo out of Game 6 before Game 6, picking him up, and then slugging him again in overtime.
Coach Alain Vigneault started Cory Schneider(notes) in this game because the Blackhawks had proven they've set up a base camp in Luongo's cerebral cortex, chasing him in Games 4 and 5. When Schneider was injured on Michael Frolik's(notes) penalty shot, in came Luongo, everyone in the building knowing that his coach had lost faith that he can actually pull this out.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ice, there's nothing but faith for the Blackhawks, as the defending champions have recaptured their focus and their swagger.
If Game 5 was about the stars, Game 6 was about the grunts.
Dave Bolland(notes), who sort of exists between the two cliques, scored a goal, had an assist and continued to limit the Sedins when Joel Quenneville could get the matchup (although Daniel had a goal, from Henrik).
Bryan Bickell(notes) scored again. Frolik, who had a goal and two helpers in Game 4, tied the game on a penalty shot. And Smith, who had one goal in six regular-season games, now has three in six playoff games.
But the Blackhawks have been a much, much different team since Bolland returned from his concussion, having outscored the Canucks 16-5 and winning three games.
They look dangerous. They look like the defending champs. And they look like a team that legitimately doesn't believe the Vancouver Canucks, or Roberto Luongo, can beat them in a seven-game series.
After giving up the game-winner, Luongo pulled himself off the ice, skated to the bench and left with his teammates while the stands were in a state of bedlam. The speakers blared the "da-da-das" of "Chelsea Dagger" by The Fratellis, the Blackhawks' goal tune and psychological warfare.
That song. That same damn song for Luongo and the Canucks.