Monday, April 25, 2011
Canucks need short memory to beat Hawks
By Pierre LeBrun
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Just what exactly, one wonders, are the inner thoughts of the Vancouver Canucks on the eve of Game 7, having seen their 3-0 series lead over the Chicago Blackhawks disappear and letting it all come down to one final game?
Dennis Wideman and Matt Hunwick certainly remember the feeling. The two former Bruins defensemen sat in the exact same spot in the second round a year ago, heading into a seventh game with the Philadelphia Flyers after wasting a 3-0 series lead.
And you might be surprised to learn that it wasn't all doom and gloom, according to Wideman.
Canucks goalie Cory Schneider was hurt in Game 6 when the Hawks' Michael Frolik scored on a penalty shot.
"I felt like it was the normal routine," Wideman, now with the Washington Capitals, told ESPN.com over the phone Monday. "I was excited about Game 7. Sure I thought, 'Geez, I can't believe this went seven games.' But still, going into Game 7, I wasn't nervous, I wasn't worried about anything. I thought we were going to win Game 7. It didn't end up working out that way. Obviously after we lost it was pretty depressing and pretty upsetting. But I remembering approaching Game 7 like any Game 7: a little nervous, a little excited."
Hunwick concurred with his former teammate.
"I remember being at the practice rink the day before and everyone was pretty upbeat," Hunwick, now with the Colorado Avalanche, told ESPN.com. "We were still confident. We felt pretty good about ourselves."
The Game 7 loss, however, stung both players deeply. Hunwick said he'll feel bad if the Canucks also lose Game 7.
"You don't want any team to go through that," said Hunwick. "That was pretty devastating for us. It still makes me cringe. People still bring it up what happened to us last year. It's something you don't want to be part of. But it happens and you have to move on."
Hunwick said once the series was over, he looked back and recognized a few turning points. One was the return of Simon Gagne for the Flyers from injury.
"Gagne came back and scores in overtime in Game 4," said Hunwick. "That gave them some momentum. It's kind of like [Dave] Bolland coming back in this series, it seems to have sparked Chicago."
But never, Wideman said, did he have that sinking feeling the Flyers would make it four in a row. Not even after losing Game 6 like the Canucks did on Sunday night.
"At no point did I think we were going to lose," said Wideman. "We were going into Game 7 and the way I approached it at the time was that going into the series against Philly I personally felt we would probably go seven games because that's how good that team was. We beat them three in a row, which I didn't expect. They came back and beat us three in a row. So what's the difference going into Game 7 whether you had won one, lost one, won one, lost one? ... It still comes down to one game."
Sounded like that was Wideman's advice to the Canucks. It wasn't supposed to be a four-game sweep if the Canucks were truly honest with themselves.
"That's the only way to approach it," said Hunwick. "If you're feeling down about yourself that you just lost three games in a row then you're probably not going to have a real strong game. Maybe not Vancouver because they're the No. 1 seed, but most teams would be happy to have one shot to advance to the next round."
"I think probably going into the series if you're Vancouver, you didn't think you were going to dispose of Chicago easily," said Wideman. "They're the defending champions, that's a great hockey team. Looking at that series before it started, you would have thought six to seven games and that's what it's going. So I think you have to have a short memory, not think about the last few games and just concentrate on what you got to do in Game 7."
Easy for Wideman to say from three time zones away. He wasn't here in Vancouver on Monday, when Canucks supporters were truly losing it on the eve of the big game.
"That's the fans, the players will be fine," said Wideman.
Notes: Wideman missed the first round of the playoffs with that scary leg injury that needed hospital time but he's been skating for a while now and should be ready at some point in the second round for the Caps.
"Oh yeah," said Wideman. "I'm doing really well, getting better every day. So I think I'm getting close."