To a large degree, success in the Stanley Cup playoffs is determined less by what you're willing to do and more by what you're willing to take.
In that light, the Vancouver Canucks may finally have grown up last night. Then again, we'll see. The Canucks ability in Game 5 last night to put away all the nonsense and stop trying to get even in their individual battles with various members of the Chicago Blackhawks may have been just a one-game thing. To advance, they've got to do it twice more against the Hawks, then start the process all over again against the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference final.
One game does not a new attitude make.
But the Canucks, teetering on the verge of what would have been a very embarrassing second round playoff exit, looked smart and resourceful in a solid 4-1 win over the Hawks in the Windy City. Instead of Shane O'Brien and Alex Burrows beating their chests and skating a constant path to the penalty box, it was Dustin Byfuglien taking bad penalties that cost his team.
The Hawks, understand, are hockey's mouthiest team, which only works particularly well if a) they get a lead and b) if you let them get to you. Once they fell behind 2-0 in the first period all the chirping in the world from Adam Burish and Dave Bolland and Kris Versteeg couldn't help them, and specifically couldn't help them beat Roberto Luongo.
Luongo actually seemed to fill the captain's role last night, improving his game and thus leading by example in a tough game in a tough building. It was a little like the Olympics in which Luongo was staked to at least a 2-0 lead in every game he played. Give the man two goals to work with and it seems to stiffen his resolve. Put him in a hole and sometimes it seems he begins to unravel before any of his teammates.
The Canucks joined the Sharks in showing a new level of maturity on the weekend, with San Jose discarding all the doubts and the playoff demons to push past the Detroit Red Wings and through to the conference final. After Joe Thornton and linemates Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley were collectively held to a goal in the first round against Colorado, it was Thornton and Marleau who led the way in Game 5 against the Wings and put the Sharks over the top.
Don't forget Evgeny Nabokov, hammered in the previous game, but very solid in the clincher.
The Sharks used home ice to prove they were playoff ready. The Canucks used the road, and now have to prove they can be that team again back at GM Place.