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If the Canucks weren’t spooked before, Game 6 likely did trick

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Keep whistling in the graveyard, Canucks.

Keep telling yourselves that the No. 1 seed, not history, is what matters.

Keep pretending that seeing the profile of the Indian head in your sleep is nothing more than coincidence.

Ignore the clammy hands, the butterflies.

Then come back to reality before Tuesday, when you now have a
Game 7 staring you in the face with your playoff lives on the line.

No, there is no measuring the heart of a champion. But it’s easy to tell when a team doesn’t have it, and you don’t, Canucks.

Then there’s the other side of the ice. Down 3-0 in the best-of-seven series, the reigning Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks were on life support. A 7-2 victory in Game 4 showed they could breathe on their own. After a 5-0 victory in Game 5, they could walk without aid. Now it’s on, thanks to a 4-3 overtime victory Sunday in Game 6.

Think the Canucks aren’t spooked? Tell that to Vezina Trophy finalist Roberto Luongo. What did a gold medal and the label of ‘‘Canadian hero’’ earn him before Game 6? A seat on the bench, as Canucks coach Alain Vigneault made the decision to go with backup Cory Schneider in net.

What, there wasn’t an exorcist from the Vatican available?

‘‘Gut feeling,’’ Vigneault said. ‘‘On the way down on Friday, we talked — the coaches, management — and made the decision.’’

Missed chances

Now the Canucks have the next couple of days to second-guess that decision and think about what might have been.

It was all there for the Canucks’ taking early on. Almost before the red carpet Jim Cornelison sang the anthems on had been rolled up, Daniel Sedin beat Hawks goalie Corey Crawford for a 1-0 lead.

The response from the Hawks was initially more like a whimper, with Patrick Kane missing on a breakaway that would have tied the score.

But these are the Canucks we’re talking about. Even missed opportunities by the Hawks seem to spook them.

Almost three minutes after Kane shot the puck right at Schneider, Bryan Bickell tied the score, thanks to Dave Bolland picking up a turnover by the Canucks’ Dan Hamhuis.

The second period was more wash, rinse, repeat, with the Canucks scoring first and kicking themselves for not scoring more.

With all the time they spent in the Hawks’ zone in the first two periods, the Canucks should have paid rent — or at least the cable bill. But all they had to show for it was a 2-2 tie going into the third.

Ghosts and curses

Then it happened.

With the Hawks trailing by a goal, Michael Frolik not only scored on a penalty shot with 17:29 left in regulation, but he took a souvenir with him. Specifically, an injured Schneider. That meant Luongo had to come into the game.

Luongo withstood the Hawks’ shots with as much ease as handled the ‘‘Luon-GO’’ chants — until overtime, that is.

That’s when Ben Smith became the latest who-was-that to make a name for himself in the playoffs, throwing more salt in Luongo’s wounds with the game-ender.

‘‘That was our best game,’’ Vigneault said. ‘‘Unfortunately, we lost. I thought we played harder and had a better tempo.’’

Not hard enough.

‘‘We hung in there,’’ Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘Finding a way to win was important. Not many people thought we would be heading back there.’’

Specifically, those who have supported the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and arguably the best team in the league during the regular season.

As for whom the Canucks plan to go with in goal for Game 7, Vigneault would be more likely to admit that his team is spooked by the Hawks than to give up that information. He wasn’t budging on either front.

‘‘I can’t tell you that,’’ he said when asked about his goalie of choice. ‘‘If I were to tell you that, would you believe me?’’

At this point, there isn’t much left to believe in this series. Unless the Canucks are starting to believe in curses and ghosts.

It’s still not too late to make that call to the Vatican.

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