The Chicago Blackhawks performed the greatest miracle in Easter history on Sunday night, defeating the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 in overtime to send a series they once trailed three games to none to a winner-take-all game north of the border on Tuesday night.
Er, maybe we better call in the second-greatest miracle in Easter history. Unless you’re Jewish.
At any rate, the Hawks are on the verge of becoming just the fourth team in NHL history — and the fifth in the history of North American pro sports — to erase a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series.
How have they done it?
1. Dave Bolland: It’s very little coincidence that the Hawks have not lost since Bolland returned to the team for Game 4, his first action in six weeks after suffering a concussion.
It may seem strange to the uninitiated that he would have such a massive effect on the team. This guy is no All-Star like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp or Marian Hossa. But he is what NHL people like to call “a grinder.” Bolland is a solid defensive center who has been on the ice nearly every time Vancouver’s Sedin twins have, and for the most part he’s held the Swedish Gingers completely in check.
Bolland has also shown his offensive touch, scoring six points (he had 37 in 61 regular season games) and finishing with a +6 rating in the three Hawks victories.
2. Angry Duncan Keith: Hawks defenseman Brent Seabrook was knocked out of Game 3 with a concussion after taking a cheap hit from Vancouver’s Raffi Torres. (Torres was in his first game back from a suspension for doing the very same thing to Oilers forward Jordan Eberle at the end of the season).
Seabrook had to sit out Games 4 and 5, which seemed to ignite a fire under linemate Duncan Keith, who had five points in his absence.
3. Fragile-Minded Roberto Luongo: In the first three games of the series, Luongo bore resemblance to the guy who won a Gold Medal for Canada in the 2010 Olympics. Now, he looks like the same weenie the Blackhawks have owned in the past two postseasons, something I was not sure they’d be able to do without the presence of Dustin Byfuglien clogging up the front of the net.
The Canucks showed just how desperate they are by starting rookie Cory Schneider in net over their $10 Million Man for Game 6. I actually thought it was the right call — it was the first thing I suggested to my friends the moment Game 5 ended. They didn’t think there was any way Canucks coach Alain Vigneault would do it, but they also were hoping he wouldn’t. Hawks fans know that this team owns LuLu.
Schneider did OK, but he probably won’t be an option for the Canucks in Game 7 after apparently suffering a ripped sac as he did the splits on Michael Frolik’s penalty shot that tied the game at 3. (I’m not a doctor, so don’t quote me on “ripped sac” being a medical term. But I figured it was a strong possible side effect of a failed splits attempt).
It was Luongo who was back in net for the finish, which included surrendering the game-winner to rookie Ben Smith on a rebound he could have corraled.
Now, Luongo and the Canucks must go back home to play in front of a crowd that will be sitting on pins and needles. Just one early cheap goal might be all it takes to crush their spirits for good — and complete one of history’s most miraculous comebacks.