Canucks putting brave face forward

Vancouver Canucks' Roberto Luongo takes off his mask after being pulled against the Chicago...

Vancouver Canucks' Roberto Luongo takes off his mask after being pulled against the Chicago Blackhawks. (REUTERS/Andy Clark)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:07 PM ET

CHICAGO -- There is a big difference between a champion and a front runner, and the Vancouver Canucks are running out of time to figure out what it is.

After 7-2 and 5-0 losses to a Chicago team that's growing stronger by the shift, the formality of closing out this series is somehow spiraling into one of their all too familiar springtime nightmares.

"I think its good that we have a few days to regroup," said Roberto Luongo, who was at a loss to explain how or why a President's Trophy-winning Cup favourite that had a 3-0 stranglehold on this series is now teetering on the brink of an epic choke job.

"We know what we've got in this locker room, we've done it all year long. We did it for the first three games of this series. You just don't lose something like that."

Maybe not but they lost something in the last 72 hours -- something more than just two games. They held a team meeting after Game 5 to find it, but it's tough to organize a search when you don't know what you're looking for.

"We've got to to believe in ourselves," said Raffi Torres. "Those last two games, we've just got to forget about them and play the right way. The main thing is we've got to compete. They're outworking up and beating us one-on-one. You're not going to beat a team like that if you don't compete."

Heading back to Chicago for a Game 6 that everyone fully expects them to lose, things look bleak for the Canucks.

"We're a good road team, we've shown that before," said Henrik Sedin. "We have to believe in ourselves. We have a great team in here and we have to show that."

All they've shown so far is that when things are running smoothly, as they were for much of the regular season and the first three games of this series, they are a dominant force.

But drag them into the deep water, as boxers like to say, and it's like they don't know what to do or where to turn for help.

The Blackhawks, well aware of Vancouver's history when a fight goes into the late rounds, are starting to like their chances.

"Were focused and we believe," said Duncan Keith, who's been leading the Chicago charge. "I don't think we played our best in the first three games and we felt we were still in every game. But we've played the way we can the last two games and were back in it now."

They shouldn't be.

While Vancouver was loading up on talent, the Hawks had to strip down in the off-season. They backed into the final playoff spot, lost Brent Seabrook and Tomas Kopecky to injuries and started the series without Dave Bolland.

But when trouble hit, they hit back.

"I think we were fooling ourselves in some instances in the first three games," said Brian Campbell. "We thought we were working hard, thought we were doing our job ... fooling ourselves and not putting the work in."

While the Canucks don't seem to like these circumstances very much, the Hawks are at home.

"Playoffs are fun, there's nothing better than winning in the playoffs," said Campbell. "Camaraderie with the guys and how hard you work. A lot of battles you have to win. We've taken a little bit too long in some instances to do that in this series."

The Canucks, meanwhile, are left to convince their hand-wringing fans, and maybe even themselves, that they are still up 3-2 and despite the little scare everything is going to be all right.

Of course, talk is cheap.

"It's up to us to go out there and not say it," said head coach Alain Vigneault. "But do it."


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