VANCOUVER -- It had been 203 days since the Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks were in Rogers Arena in Vancouver at the same time. Tuesday was the first day both teams were in the building since a dramatic Game 7 Vancouver victory in round 1 of last year’s playoffs.
Both sides had memories of the 2-1 overtime classic.
“I’m sure we have different recollections than they do,” Jonathan Toews said after Hawks practice in preparation of Wednesday's matchup.
The end of the game is what is remembered most. Toews scored a hard-to-believe shorthanded goal with less than two minutes remaining to tie the contest at 1-1 and force overtime.
“Tight game like that you remember,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “What are the chances of tying it up late like that. Kind of reminded of Nashville the year before but it wasn’t to be.”
The Hawks beat the Predators in overtime in 2010, when Marian Hossa scored after he came out of the penalty box. It was preceded by a Patrick Kane shorthanded goal at the end of regulation. In eerily similar circumstances, Alexander Burrows of Vancouver came out of the box in overtime to win the game for the Canucks after the home team killed off the penalty.
“As soon as I got the turnover I knew I had some room there,” Burrows said after Canucks practice earlier Tuesday. “I was hoping for the best and the rolling puck that night was on our side.”
Former Hawk Chris Campoli’s blue-line turnover is well documented for contributing to the Hawks' not repeating as champions. Just as documented was the Hawks’ power play, which preceded the winning goal. From the penalty box, Burrows had a good look at Patrick Sharp’s infamous point-blank chance.
“We had played seven games against them and we knew their tendencies on the power play and that was one of the plays we’ve seen a few times,” Burrows explained. “Toews walks in and uses Sharp for the back door. You could tell Lu [Roberto Luongo] read the play all the way but there was still room for him to go upstairs there I think. If he gets it up there maybe it’s a different story but he made the save and gave us a chance to win.”
Sharp has retold the same story many times: Luongo knew it was coming.
“That save Lou [Luongo] made on Sharp is one of those plays we had studied on our penalty killing quite a bit,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “I think it was a read Lou was able to make…We had a 1-0 lead with a minute and something left and we had a power play and we gave up a goal. We made it interesting for everybody.”
That they did. And after the Hawks tied the game and were preparing for overtime in their locker room they were feeling like the historic comeback from down three games was going to happen.
“We found a way once again to squeeze out of that corner that we’re backed into,” Toews said. “It seemed to be a trend that followed our team for the last couple of years.”
But it wasn’t to be. If Sharp’s shot goes in, many lives are changed.
“You know if we win that one we probably would have been in good shape to move on in the position they were in,” Patrick Kane said. “Obviously they’re the ones that moved on to the finals. Pretty good series. Great rivalry. What more can you say about it?”
But Vancouver’s fate would have been much different. It’s not a stretch to assume Vigneault would have been replaced along with much of the roster. Three years of playoff futility against the Hawks combined with an historic series collapse would have spelled doom for the Canucks franchise.
“I still remember Lou's save off Sharp on the backdoor play,” Burrows said. “If he gets it up maybe 10 inches higher, it might be a totally different story and I'm not here today talking to you about it.”
It’s unclear if Burrows meant because there would be no reason to talk about his game-winner because it never would have happened or if he meant he would have been off the team along with many others. We’ll never know the other team’s destiny if Sharp scores but we know it added another chapter to a great rivalry.
“Best rivalry in the NHL, I think,” Kane said.