As expected, both teams came out flying early. Vancouver had a lot of jump and more speed than the Hawks, who were on their heels by the end of the opening period.
Alex Burrows put Vancouver on the board first, for the only goal of the period. Ryan Kesler got a pass from Mason Raymond at the Chicago blue line and drove tight and hard wide around Duncan Keith, who went for the bump and stopped moving his feet. Kesler held to the goal line selling the stuff attempt before backhanding a pass into the low slot to the oncoming Burrows. Corey Crawford had no chance. Nick Leddy was in front but unable to stop the pass. Burrows did a good job a leaving himself proper separation space as Leddy was where he needed to be.
Vancouver reverted back to the pace they set in games 1-3 of the series. The Canucks were credited with 13 hits, to the Blackhawks’ 3. Keep in mind these are Vancouver’s hometown official scorers. The United Center is home to some pretty liberal stat keepers itself, but the Canucks were the decidedly more physical team in the opening twenty.
Joel Quenneville’s lines started out:
Viktor Stalberg – Jonathan Toews – Patrick Kane
Ben Smith – Patrick Sharp – Marian Hossa
Troy Brouwer – Dave Bolland – Michael Frolik
Marcus Kruger – Ryan Johnson – Fernando Pisani
Niklas Hjalmarsson – Brian Campbell
Duncan Keith – Nick Leddy
Chris Campoli – Brent Seabrook
By the midway point of the period, Smith had moved up to the Toews line and Stalberg to the Sharp-Hossa line. The fourth line had a really nice shift, pinning the Canucks deep for a good 30 seconds cycling and winning the battles along the walls. Pisani was brings up the rear as far as ice time so far (2:11, 3 shifts) which is already 2x the amount of ice time the guy he’s replacing, John Scott, had in a 75 minute game 6. Seabrook and Keith are together at times too. Keith, and the tandem of Hjalmarsson and Campbell are the ice time leaders. Probably Campbell’s best period of the series. Hawks have been poised under intense pressure.
Vancouver is killing the Hawks in the face off circle. 65% to 35%. Toews is 0-3 vs Henrik Sedin and 1-3 vs Ryan Kesler. Sharp is 3-4 vs Sedin. Bolland is 2 for 7 overall.
Hawks held the shot advantage 12 to 8. Luongo has been sharp early. The Rogers Arena let out one big collective sigh of relief when Luongo stopped his first shot early, a long wrister from Frolik.
The officials are letting a lot go, but Brent Seabrook managed to get called for cross-checking at 16:21 to give the Canucks the only power play so far. Vancouver picked up 3 shots during the man advantage and several other close attempts as they were all over the Hawks in those two minutes.
Despite the Vancouver goal the Blackhawks hold a 14-10 goal advantage at 5 on 5 play in this series. Granted, the differential was created in two Chicago blowouts, but that’s something to be encouraged by if the referees keep the whistles in their pockets as you’d expect in a game 7.