2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – Semifinals Game 6 Recap
Western Conference Semifinal Game 6 - Vancouver 2, Nashville 1 – Canucks win series, 4-2
The Vancouver Canucks had already imbibed the fear-inducing brew of blowing a 3-1 series lead and having to play a Game 7 with the weight of the world on their shoulders. One round after allowing the Chicago Blackhawks to make a huge comeback against them, the Canucks didn’t quite throttle the Nashville Predators, but they did hold them off at the pass.
Vancouver, which lost Game 5 when leading the series by two games, was at least able to prevent a Game 7 this time around. Behind four first-period penalty kills and the clutch goaltending of an increasingly confident Roberto Luongo, the Canucks – finally delivering on their promise and shaking off the shadows that have followed them throughout their playoff history – reached the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1994. In a year when the Boston Bruins made it to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1992, it’s fitting that another long-starving NHL franchise has been able to return to the final four and pour fresh hope into a city’s veins.
Vancouver might have had to go on the road to Bridgestone Arena and make one more flight to the Bible Belt of the United States, but the trip was entirely worth it for the President’s Trophy winners and head coach Alain Vigneault. The top-seeded Canucks went 1-2 at home in this series, but they won all three games in the state of Tennessee, continuing the road-ice advantage both teams enjoyed in this West semifinal slugfest. After a wide-open Game 5 on Saturday in the province of British Columbia, Vancouver won this Game 6 and closed out the Preds by defending with verve and gusto.
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The Canucks killed off four Nashville power plays in the first 20 minutes, and even as the Preds – according to coach Barry Trotz – gained 11 scoring chances to just two for Vancouver in the first period, it was the visiting team that owned a 2-0 lead on goals by Mason Raymond and – on a power play – Daniel Sedin. Vancouver gained that lead because Luongo, no longer bedeviled by his personal nemesis known as the Chicago Blackhawks, looked supremely comfortable between the pipes. Luongo is an elite goaltender who hasn’t regularly come good in the postseason, but in this Game 6 crucible, the man who wears the number one on his jersey proved to be exactly that. He stoned the Predators from all angles and held off the fifth seed precisely when it was trying to get a fast start and win its first home game of the series. Yes, Nashville dented the scoreboard when David Legwand scored 3:31 into the second period, but Luongo shut down Nashville the rest of the way, and when the final horn sounded, you could feel another massive anvil of playoff pressure fall off the goaltender’s shoulders. Vancouver has finally won two rounds in the same playoff campaign for the first time in 17 years. Home ice awaits in the West finals, and if the Canucks can learn how to defend their own rink, they’ll reach the Stanley Cup Finals for just the third time in franchise history.
Many demons have been slain, but more are still waiting to be conquered for the West Coast’s most anguished hockey club. This win over Nashville is immensely satisfying; yet, it’s only just the beginning for the Vancouver Canucks.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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