The marquee at the United Center reads "Game 6," but the Vancouver Canucks are treating it as Game 7.
After wasting two opportunities to eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champions from the NHL playoffs, the Canucks enter Sunday's game against the Chicago Blackhawks as a desperate team trying to reverse momentum and close out their Western Conference quarter-final.
"If we go in with mentality that we have another shot at it on Tuesday [in Game 7] it's the wrong way to do it," defenceman Christian Ehrhoff said.
The Canucks won the first three games of the series, but have dropped two straight by lopsided scores of 7-2 and 5-0. The games looked awfully similar to the last two postseasons, when the Blackhawks twice vanquished the Canucks, winning the deciding contests with an onslaught of offence.
"That's the way we see this game: It's a must-win for us," captain Henrik Sedin said. "That's been, maybe, our problem over the last two games. We thought we would get a new chance, and that it would be a little easier than it has [been] Tonight, you are going to see a new team."
The Canucks did not skate Sunday, and while head coach Alain Vigneault has some lineup and strategic changes in mind, he wasn't revealing them. Nor did it sound like he has thought more about his choice of starting goaltender Roberto Luongo.
When asked if there were reasons for starting Luongo beyond faith, Vigneault responded flatly: "Roberto is our goaltender. It's that simple."
Luongo, the former Canucks captain, has been pulled in each of the last two games, and has surrendered 10 goals to his arch-nemesis. The Blackhawks have been exposing holes in his game, namely getting the puck to the middle of the ice in the offensive zone and picking the top corners.
Sedin said Chicago is attacking Vancouver one-on-one with their skill players, and seems less interested in making it a five-on-five game. Defenceman Sami Salo added that the Canucks haven't been committed or urgent enough in the last two games, thus have lost too many individual battles.
Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa and other top Hawks have stepped up their production in the last two games, while Vancouver's best players have fallen silent. Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows are still without a goal in the series, while the Sedin twins have looked very ordinary in three of the five games to date.
When asked if his best players could raise their levels like Chicago's stars, Vigneault said: "The simple answer, and the truthful answer, is 'yes' I think they can. But until we go out and prove it, there will always be those questions."