VANCOUVER – The sooner the Chicago Blackhawks are finished, the better it will be for the Vancouver Canucks.
Vancouver has pushed the Blackhawks to the brink of elimination by taking a 3-1 lead in their NHL Western Conference quarter-final series.
The Canucks want to give the Hawks that final shove Thursday night (CBC, 7 p.m. ET) to extinguish any flickering hopes the defending Stanley Cup champions have of climbing back into the best-of-seven series.
“You need to have that mentality that you have to finish them off,” Canuck forward Daniel Sedin said Wednesday after Vancouver practised at Rogers Arena. “You can’t sit and wait.
“If there’s a Game 6 or a Game 7, it’s a different series. You are happy being up 3-1. We have home ice and this is a rink we love to play in. We will be ready.”
The Canucks blew a chance to sweep the Hawks out of the playoffs when Chicago pounded them 7-2 in Tuesday night’s Game 4. It was the first time in the series the Hawks showed flashes of the team that has eliminated Vancouver from the playoffs the last two seasons.
“They looked hungry,” said forward Raffi Torres. “Sometimes it’s good to go through things like this.
“It humbles us, puts us back in our place.”
Defenceman Kevin Bieksa said the lopsided loss will only be a problem if the Canucks dwell on it.
“It’s essential we put it behind us and move forward,” said Bieksa. “There is no momentum carry over to the next game unless we allow it.
“If we come out with a different mindset and play the way we did in the first three games, we should be fine.”
The Canucks, who won the Presidents’ Trophy for the best record in the NHL, lost four games in a row only once this season between Nov. 15 and Nov. 21.
“This group has responded every time that they’ve been faced with a different challenge or advisory,” said coach Alain Vigneault.
“They are going to respond really well tomorrow.”
Goaltender Roberto Luongo, centre Henrik Sedin and defenceman Alex Edler did not practise Wednesday.
Luongo was chased from Tuesday’s loss in the third period after allowing six goals on 28 shots. He appeared to hurt his back making a first-period save, but Vigneault said his goalie will be ready to start Game 5.
Vigneault smiled when asked why Henrik Sedin was given the day off and not Daniel.
“Because I like Hank better,” he said.
If needed, Game 6 in the best-of-seven series will be played Sunday in Chicago (CBC, 7:30 p.m. ET).
The task facing the Blackhawks is difficult, but not impossible.
Just last year the Stanley Cup finalist Philadelphia Flyers trailed the Boston Bruins 3-0 before battling back to win their series.
“We’ve got some momentum on our side,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said before his team boarded a flight to Vancouver. “It took a while to get it.
“We’ve dug a big hole, but we’ve got to find a way to start out of it. It was a good start last night. There were a lot of good things we did. If we keep getting better every game, we’ll be in a great spot.”
One of the differences Tuesday was the return of Chicago centre Dave Bolland, who missed 17 games with a concussion. Bolland scored one goal and had three assists. He also was a constant irritant for the Sedins.
Daniel Sedin shrugged when asked if Bolland is like poison to the Swedish Twins.
“The last game he was,” Sedin said. “He had a really good game.
“We need to realize he is a really good offensive player. That’s his main strength. As a team, we need to be sharp in all areas.”
Vigneault tried to deflect any blame from the Sedins, who were a combined -7 in the game.
“On three of those goals we got caught up on bad (line) changes,” said Vigneault. “I don’t blame Hank’s line for the other line changing wrong.
“They (Chicago) did make a couple of plays. We didn’t make enough. Tomorrow is a another night.”
Chicago’s Patrick Sharp said Bolland’s return was like a jolt of energy.
“It changes the dynamic of our team,” said Sharp. “With him back it gives us an extra centre to balance our lineup.”
Vancouver won the opening game of the series 2-0, but the next two were decided by one goal.
The bad blood that exists between the teams boiled to the surface in the Vancouver loss. Bieksa pounded Chicago’s Viktor Stalberg in a fight. Torres and Chicago’s John Scott were given misconducts to prevent any chances of them dropping the gloves.
“We wanted to finish the game physical and we did,” said Bieksa. “So did they.
“They were up 7-1 and still were finishing their hits and hitting late and slashing and spearing.”
Chicago’s Patrick Kane said the pressure will be on Vancouver to win at home.
“We felt we probably could have stolen a couple of their the games and maybe be in the position they’re in right now,” said Kane.
“You know (when) you’ve got a win under your belt, you start feeling good about where the team is at. Hopefully this gives us some confidence moving forward.”
Vancouver won the first three games of the series by being physical, playing strong defensively, and getting key saves from Luongo.
The Canucks must return to that formula if they hope to avoid a trip back to Chicago.
“We’re up 3-1,” said Daniel Sedin.
“We certainly didn’t expect to beat them 4-0. For us, it’s a new game tomorrow. We know if we put our A-game on the ice we should be fine.”