Random News of the Day: Sealing the deal

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Random News of the Day: Sealing the deal

Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Posted: 8:26 a.m.

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

I took it all for granted. But how was I to know that youd be letting go. Now it cuts like a knife. But it feels so right This wouldnt be the first time things have gone astray. Now youve thrown it all away. Now it cuts like a knife. Bryan Adams, Cuts Like A Knife (1983)

Leave it to one of Vancouvers finest rock stars to put it all into perspective.

Picture this. It's a night out at the bars. You and a few other guys decide to check out this hangout called "Stanley Cup Playoffs. Hey, its the place to hang out this time of year. So you go in, hoist a few, and start people watching. Right away, you notice this amazing girl who is getting chatted up by some dude. Hes a smooth talker, too. He's saying all the right things, she's laughing, they start dancingit seems like a match made in heaven.

This goes on for quite a while. Soon, closing time rolls around. However, this guy who was hitting it big with the hot girl starts having issues. He starts mumbling. He tells a bad joke. Then he spills a drink on her. He goes to ask for her number...and then realizes that he lost his cell phone. You try to feel bad for the guy but also feel like saying, "Hey, nice moves but you have to know how to close the deal."

That guy is the Vancouver Canucks.

READ: Sky-high again, Blackhawks eyeing 7th heaven

The Chicago Blackhawks could complete one of the most epic comebacks in professional sports history Tuesday night-- and contribute to a colossal collapse at the same time. Game 7 between the Hawks and Canucks can be seen on Comcast SportsNet at 9pm. But this will be more than just any old quarterfinal playoff game. One three teams in NHL history have come back from 3-0 deficits to win a playoff series: the 42 Maple Leafs bounced back against the Red Wings to win the Stanley Cup, the 75 Islanders stunned the Penguins in the second round and the Philadelphia Flyers shocked the Bruins last year in the Eastern Conference semis.

For Blackhawks fans, its all gravy this year. The Stanley Cup is already on the mantle. Why not see how much further the house money will go? But for Canucks fans, its something Pepto Bismol couldnt cure. During the last three games, the Blackhawks are resembling that guy that swoops in at the end of the night and gets the hot girls phone number. And theyve done this for two straight seasons nowpossibly going on three. Call it what you want, but dont blame the Blackhawks for exploiting a shaky situation. While the comeback story is intriguing for Chicago, the Vancouver story is nothing short of fascinating. When it comes to professional sports in British Columbia, its the Canucksand a lot of tumbleweeds after that. All eyes are on the guys in blue and green. Right now, the Canucks are the helpless insects. The Blackhawks -- not to mention the Vancouver fans and media -- are the little kid holding the magnifying glass directly over them on a hot, sunny day. And the heat is only going to intensify tonight.

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41 years of failurehave started to weigh on the heads of fans, the media and I think some of the players, Vancouver Sun hockey writer Ian Walker said on Mondays edition of Chicago Tribune Live. There is concern here in Vancouver.

And some of that pressure surfaced Monday in the Canucks locker room. During the scheduled media availability, goalie Roberto Luongo -- the donkey to the thousands of fans holding the tails and pins -- had to excuse himself from the cameras. A reporter asked if he was going to start in net Tuesday night. He called a time out to talk to the public relations guy on what he should say. After a moment, Luongo came back with, "I'm getting ready as if I'm playing. We're not worried where the series is. It's Game 7 and pretty exciting stuff and we've got to take a minute here to realize we're in a situation where we've got to work hard but also enjoy the experience."

Does that sound like a guy, an team, an organization thats ready to seal the deal?

READ: CSN sets new all-time Blackhawks TV ratings record

Things are so micromanaged, Walker added. Players dont know if theyre coming or going. In terms of where Luongos mind is, it seems to be anywhere but on the game right now. Theyre afraid of what to say to the media.

For the record, Luongo will start Tuesday night. But will it matter? I dont think it will. You might think the pressure to win is intense in New York, Chicago or Philadelphia -- but its a different beast in Vancouver. As the Canucks go, so do the fortunes of Vancouver sports fans. Its all or nothing. And the Canucks have proven that the pressure to win is just too much to overcome.

(cue QueenDavid Bowies Under Pressure)

To the Blackhawks: put Vancouver out of its misery. Get the girls phone number. Show Luongo and company how its done.

Its time to seal the deal.

Or something like that.

Johnny Oduya feeling better, more up to speed with Blackhawks

Johnny Oduya feeling better, more up to speed with Blackhawks

Perhaps the best thing about the Johnny Oduya trade back to the Blackhawks, for both parties involved, was that Oduya wasn't needed immediately.

It's not that the Blackhawks didn't want the veteran defenseman, who helped them win Cups in 2013 and 2015, back in the lineup as soon as possible. Oduya was coming off an ankle injury, one he re-aggravated and missed about a month when he was with the Dallas Stars. He needed time to fully heal and with the Blackhawks in good shape in the standings and with solid depth at defense, he could.

Now with the playoffs right around the corner, Oduya is feeling more like himself.

Outside of missing two games that were the second halves of back-to-backs, Oduya has been playing steadily since March 9. Oduya's minutes have ranged from around 16 to 21 in games. He said he's now 100 percent healthy from his injury and he's feeling the difference on the ice.

"It makes a big difference," Oduya said on Thursday, prior to facing the Stars for the first time since his trade back to Chicago. "I mean, obviously sometimes you get more or less lucky, depending on what you get and the style of play and what you do or not. Skating is a part of my game I try to use as much as possible to get in good position and try to take away time from the opposition as much as possible.

"Even with battling and things like that, of course it's nice to feel more confident," Oduya added. "In any situation, you're in you want to feel confident on the ice."

The Blackhawks have seen that confidence in previous postseason runs and are looking to see it again in Oduya. Coach Joel Quenneville considers Oduya, "Mr. Reliability."

"You look back at what he delivered for us, not just the regular season, but he's been solid and reliable in the playoffs. He's assumed some important matchups and important minutes," Quenneville said. "Last year, we didn't have him on the back end and watching him this year, it was the perfect fit him coming back."

[Buy Blackhawks tickets right here]

The Blackhawks' defensive group hasn't changed much since Oduya's first stint here. The system probably hasn't been altered much, either. Still, Oduya's not taking anything for granted and is trying to get back on the same page quickly.

"Same as the last time I came into a great hockey team and I really just want to get up to speed and up to date as quickly as possible," Oduya said. "Little things that may have changed. I want to fit in as well as I can. That's the idea anyone has coming in late in the year. The guys here make it pretty easy; the coaching staff is familiar with the way I play and helps speed up things a little more."

The Blackhawks are trying to be their best heading into the postseason. So is Oduya. He needed a little extra time to get back to health and he may still need a little time to get back to speed, but he's just about there. 

"I feel pretty good. Of course it's a lot easier when you have guys around you you've seen before, a coaching staff," Oduya said. "It's a work in progress, anyway. I want to be better, I want to evolve with the team and want us to be better, too. It's a work in progress."

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Stars: Another slow start but better finish

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Stars: Another slow start but better finish

It wasn't pretty, but the Blackhawks found a way to pick up another two points and improved to 6-0-1 over their last seven games, and 18-3-1 over their last 22.

With Minnesota's loss to Philadelphia, the Blackhawks have taken an eight-point lead for first in the Central Division and are only two points away from the Washington Capitals for home-ice advantage throughout the entire Stanley Cup playoffs.

Let's take a look at Quick Hits from the 3-2 shootout victory over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night:

What Worked: The finish and shootout. While the Blackhawks scored the game's first goal, it was another slow start by a team that has had a few of those over the last several outings and has preached working on turning in more of a complete effort. They recorded only 14 shots on goal in the first two periods, and it took more than six minutes after Patrick Kane's goal to record their next one.

But they finished on a positive note yet again, and went 2-for-3 in the shootout thanks to Kane and Artemi Panarin, who potted the game winner. Kane said after the game that he tried his move on Scott Darling during morning skate and it worked. So he went with it tonight in an effort to snap a mini shootout drought and he did.

What Didn't Work: Controlling the puck. The Blackhawks seemingly have the puck more than their opponent does almost every game, but it doesn't reflect in the shot department because they often look for the perfect pass or shot and fail to record one at all. They had 50 shot attempts with 26 of them on goal compared to the Stars' 64 attempts with 44 on goal. They know they must get better at that.

Star of the game: Corey Crawford. After allowing four goals on only 10 shots in Tuesday's overtime loss to Vancouver, the Blackhawks netminder bounced back in a huge way. He matched a season-high with 42 saves, and recorded his 30th win of the season.

He Said It: "He played amazing tonight. Reason we won the game. Hats off to him, he's done that a lot this year. For a goalie it's probably tough to show up every night, even the goals he let in last game you can't put all the blame on him, but he was outstanding tonight." — Kane on Crawford's performance

By the Numbers:

167 — Niklas Hjalmarsson blocked one shot in the win, and it was enough to set a new career high in that department, previously established during the 2010-11 campaign (166).

15 — Trevor van Riemsyk assisted on Marian Hossa's goal in the third period, giving him a career-high 15 points on the season in 50 games. He had 14 points in 82 games last year. He also extended his point streak to three games.

6 — With the victory, Crawford has earned at least 30 wins in six of his seven NHL seasons as a full-time starter. The only time he didn't reach that mark was during the lockout-shortened year in 2012-13 when he went 19-5-5.