05/09/2010 8:18 AM - From chicagoblackhawks.com: (link)
CHICAGO -- Shane O'Brien, the guilty party in two cross-checking penalties early in Game 4, believes the Vancouver Canucks have spent so much time worrying about the Chicago Blackhawks that they have forgotten one very important fact.
"Hey, we're a pretty good team and we got here for a reason," O'Brien said Sunday morning inside the visitor's dressing room at United Center. "All series long it's been about them and them and them, and we lost focus that we're a pretty good team, too."
Not in the last two games.
The Canucks clearly played second fiddle to the Blackhawks in the two games at Vancouver's GM Place. They were outscored 12-6 and half of the Hawks' goals came on the power play. They had an unbelievable 14 chances as Vancouver unraveled after a very good start to the series.
This is why the Canucks face a win-or-else game Sunday night (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS) at the Madhouse on Madison, and the only way the or-else doesn't happen is if they play with some intelligence.
"That's a fact -- we have to play a little smarter," Canucks winger Mikael Samuelsson told NHL.com. "Everybody knows it and it's just a matter of doing it now. All I can say is it's not acceptable what we're doing because we're killing ourselves."
O'Brien killed the Canucks with his cross-checking penalties, both within the first 10 minutes of Game 4. The Blackhawks scored eight seconds into the second one.
Sami Salo had a holding penalty with just 23 seconds left in the first period, and 27 seconds into the second period Jonathan Toews scored the second of his three goals.
The usually docile Daniel Sedin picked up back-to-back penalties separated by just 2:20 later in the second. And, yes, the Hawks converted on both power plays with Patrick Sharp and Toews getting the goals.
"Right now every penalty we take there is a lot of focus on it because they are scoring on their power plays," Henrik Sedin told NHL.com. "I think we can turn a lot of the momentum around if we can kill off the penalties and get a few back, too. It's just a matter of going out there and trust in doing our jobs."
But is that trust wavering? Center Ryan Kesler insists that is not the case.
"It's still there, bud," Kesler said in response to a question about the foundation of trust. "It's still there."
Henrik Sedin said the same thing, but he also admitted he has heard some muttering on the bench after a guy takes an unnecessary penalty.
"Yeah, but you gotta believe that the guy that does it feels bad and he's not going to come back and do the same thing," Sedin said.
"We can't have any selfish guys tonight," Kesler said.
The worst part about all these penalties is the Canucks' penalty kill has obviously been way off, too. They are dead last in the Stanley Cup Playoffs at 64.6 percent because they've allowed an almost unheard of 17 power play goals on 48 times shorthanded.
The Canucks were 81.9 percent on the PK during the regular season. That's not great, but they'll take it right now.
"If our penalty kill was clipping around here at 90 percent we would not be talking about penalties, but obviously our penalty kill is not where it needs to be and it doesn't help when you take eight in one game," O'Brien said. "We kill our momentum and that's why we are where we are right now."
Even coach Alain Vigneault sounds like his faith is wavering.
"I can stand up here and say that I really believe in this group, that I really think they're ready for this moment, that we're more mature and more experienced, dady-dady-dady-da," he said. "At the end of the day we have to go out on the ice and prove that we can do it. Obviously in the last two games we did not do that. If we want to keep playing hockey we don't have a choice, so we'll see what happens tonight."