CHICAGO ≠-- Now they've gone and done it.
Now the Vancouver Canucks don't just have to beat the Blackhawks. Now they have to beat Chicago.
Sooner or later the time had to come where we find out if the Canucks have what it takes. It's come sooner.
Thanks to blowing a 2-0 lead, giving up five consecutive goals, and losing 6-3 at home to Chicago in Game 2, the Canucks come here where the Blackhawks are unbeaten in the playoffs and where the environment is expected to be like it hasn't been for a hockey game in Chicago since the Blackhawks used to play across the road in the now-leveled Chicago Stadium.
"All the way home it's all everybody was talking about," said Hawks' Adam Burish of the charter flight from Vancouver.
"It's going to be a louder than ever. From the way it's been building and the way it was for Game 5 against Calgary, it's going to be the same kind of atmosphere as everybody says it used to be around here when it was the loudest rink in the NHL," he said of Chicago Stadium, where the little hairs on the back of your neck stood at attention during the national anthem.
"It's getting better and better," said Jonathan Toews. "It's pretty incredible." When reporters arrived here for practice yesterday there was a line-up of about 100 fans to purchase the final few tickets being made available for tonight's Game 3.
"I can't remember the last time I saw that for hockey," said veteran Chicago scribe Tim Sassone.
At the front of the line was Ryan O'Leary, a fan who had camped out since 10 p.m. the night before for tickets he purchased 12 hours later. "We're delirious. If they'd gone down 2-0 in the series, we're not down here," he said.
With the Chicago Bulls having been eliminated from the NBA playoffs on the weekend, the focus is now on Hawks, a team which hasn't been to the second round since back in 1996, the year Michael Jordan and the Bulls won their fourth championship.
This team hasn't owned this town for a long, long time.
Inside the United Centre, for the Blackhawks practice yesterday, there were three times the media than most could remember.
"The excitement is really pumped up now," said Cam Barker. "Three years ago we'd have about 6,000 in here on a Wednesday night." Brian Campbell remembers coming in here and feeling like they were playing in private.
"It was quiet. Now we've got 20,514 in here and there are 3,500 on the waiting list for season tickets. We only had 3,500 season ticket holders last year," he said.
The team matches the scene.
"The enthusiasm is real," said coach Joel Quenneville of his young team which hopes to use the crowd to push them into starting the game in the Canucks end instead of in the penalty box.
The Canucks have gone and fed the monster that is growing here. The young Hawks are a different team to deal with than any other team out there.
"We are too stupid to know that when we're down 3-0 we shouldn't be able to come back in a Stanley Cup playoff game," said Burish.
"It's a product of our youth and inexperience. And there's not a lot of smart guys in here, anyway. There's no panic.
From Joel Quenneville on down to the rest of us, there's just calm. We're too naive." The theory is that that Hawks, because they came back from 3-0 and 2-0 leads and scored eight goals on Roberto Luongo, three more than he gave up in the entire series against St. Louis, has all the momentum now.
"Momentum? It's only game three," said Canucks' Alex Burrows. "We beat them in this building the last time we played here.
"We've faced adversity more than anyone all year. In January we couldn't win a game. We're right in it. I don't know why all the negativity." Goaltender captain Roberto Luongo said whoa, as well.
"It was our first loss in the playoffs. We weren't going to sweep every series. It just makes us refocus and brings us back to what we have to do. We have to play our system and not give them 20 chances a game." Talk to the Canucks and they say they're pumped about playing in this scene as much of the Hawks.
"I'm looking forward to it," said Willie Mitchell.
"It's been a long time for them here. I can't wait for the national anthem. I got chills in the regular season. It's going to be fun to be a part of it."