Blackhawks dominate Canucks at home to clinch series

Roberto Luongo has to have the Chicago Blackhawks on the top of his “please-don’t-let-me-play-them” list. For the 3rd straight game at GM Place, the Blackhawks dominated the Canadian netminder, and rolled to a series clinching 5-1 victory and a berth in the Western Conference Finals against San Jose.

Jonathan Toews has been great for the Hawks so far, but the Canucks were finally able to keep the young captain off the scoreboard. Unfortunately, Chicago’s 2nd and 3rd lines came up with 3 goals, and Toews’ linemates both scored 25 seconds apart in the 3rd period, giving Vancouver a firsthand demonstration of just how offensively deep this club is. Antti Niemi was great early, stopping 13 shots in the first period and finishing with 29 saves on the night. Shane O’Brien’s goal early in the 3rd was the only shot that got by him, but by then, Chicago already had the game firmly in hand.

Luongo was solid as well in the first, but fell apart in the 2nd, as Troy Brouwer and Kris Versteeg both scored 36 seconds apart early in the period. Brouwer, inserted in the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past couple nights, drove to the net and redirected a centering pass from Patrick Sharp over Luongo. Kris Versteeg was quick to follow, toe dragging a puck around in front of a Canuck defender and letting loose a laser of a wrist shot that also beat Luey up high.The backbreaker came in the last 45 seconds of the period, as Dave Bolland stripped Pavol Demitra at the Chicago blueline and hustled his way down the ice, where he caught Luongo deep in his crease and chipped a fluttering shot that somehow squeaked through Luongo’s midsection. What made it even worse? Chicago was shorthanded at the time. Dustin Byfuglien>

O’Brien’s goal early in the 3rd gave the team and the building a shot of life, but Patrick Kane’s nifty move on a breakaway just past the 8 minute mark of the 3rd ended that little surge, and big Dustin Byfuglien’s sweet top corner goal 25 seconds later ended any hope of a comeback.

For Luongo, who still has 12 years remaining on his contract in Vancouver, it’s another in a growing list of playoff failures that will certainly be called into question over the offseason. Like the San Jose Sharks of the past few seasons, Luongo has been absolutely unbeatable at times in the regular season, but has yet to string together a consistent streak of success in the postseason, when it matters most.Winning a gold medal in Vancouver at the Olympics should help him silence some of his critics, but his collapse at home in this series will be foremost in Vancouver fans’ minds. For him and the Canucks, there’s nothing to do but wait patiently until next fall. For Chicago, a matchup with the top team in the West awaits, with a chance to play for the Cup on the line.

Len robinson
Sports Pundit member

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