April 19 2011 10:39AM
Don't be scared, red-coat lady. If the Canucks can help it, it will ALL be over soon
(Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
Game Day Recon: Western Conference Quarterfinal Game 4 - Canucks @ Blackhawks
The Vancouver Canucks look to close out their first round series against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight with an unexpected 4-game sweep. While many predicted the Canucks to win this series, I don't think anyone (except for the overzealous Canucks fans wearing blue/green coloured glasses) predicted a potential sweep of the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
Could the Canucks slay their playoff dragon tonight?
Game Time: 5:00 PM PT
***BREAKING NEWS*** - Brent Seabrook has been ruled out of tonight's game, while Dave Bolland appears to be back in the lineup for the Chicago Blackhawks.
I'm sure that this is not a position in which the Canucks expected to find themselves. Sure they were confident going into this series. Sure, they are a much better and deeper team than in the last two years. Sure, Chicago lost some key players to salary cap management issues. But the Blackhawks still almost hit 100 points this year and they still have Toews, Kane, Sharp, Hossa, Keith, Seabrook, and Campbell and others.
But the most important players for the Chicago Blackhawks look tired. They look spent. They looked spent before the playoffs start. They backed into the playoffs thanks to an absolute collapse from the Dallas Stars. Plus... for Toews, Keith, Seabrook (arguably their three most important players) ... what do they have left to play for? Last year, in a span that was less than 4 months, they won Olympic gold on home soil for Canada in a truly monumental and unforgettable run, then went on to win the Stanley Cup for their city for the first time since 1961. It was the year of all years for a professional hockey player. Where is their motivation this year? It's not hard to forgive these players for not finding the same level of fire in their bellies as they had last year.
And it looks like that fire is on its last flickering flame.
If Vancouver is looking for any additional motivation to put its nemesis out of its misery, look no further than the Blackhawks' captain, Joathan Toews. Captain Serious was clearly frustrated after their third straight playoff loss to the Canucks, and turned the focus away from his own team and on to the opposition. From the National Post --- “Everybody wants to look at the stats all year and talk about what they do well and how good of a team they are,” Toews said after Game 3. “That’s what’s frustrating because we’re not exposing them for what they really are. And I think a lot of people outside of this locker-room are giving them too much credit and maybe we are as well.”
Ok Jon. We get it. You gotta stand up for yer boys. But Tazer, you're usually smarter than this. This is bulletin board material, son! I know you're knot going to go up there and say, "Yep, they're whoopin' us good. We're just gonna fold up like a card table now and let them have game 4 so we can get the hell outta here. We're tired and we don't wanna play anymore." He was NEVER gonna say that. But why give your opposition any extra motivation when they have you on the brink of elimination?
Besides that, it seems like the Blackhawks are overly concerned with Raffi Torres and his hit on Seabrook. They continue to talk about it, to complain that Torres was not suspended, despite the fact the NHL released a statement that (FOR ONCE!) explained their ruling. The Canucks have to hope that this is still a huge distraction for the Blackhawks as gametime nears. If Chicago goes out and tries to run Torres, they're going to end up taking penalties and not focus on stopping the Canucks core players. Besides, Torres can clearly take the heat and positively salivates when confronted physically.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Stay focused and disciplined. The Canucks went off the rails a bit in the first period on Sunday and it nearly cost them. Luongo held them in the game, then they calmed down (a bit) and took over the game at even-strength. They MUST do the same thing tonight. As the players are fond of saying, "The fourth game is the hardest to win." If that's the case, they need to stay on track tonight.
2. Start the game like you started Games 1 and 2. The Canucks came out fast, hard and bruising in their games at home, especially in Game 1. The Canucks have to show the Blackhawks that they are fully prepared to end this series right now. Especially since the Blackhawks are clearly banged up. Brent Seabrook is now out for tonight's game, Sharp is hurt, Toews looks hurt, Brouwer is hurt, and Dave Bolland might figure in tonight, who yesterday was cleared for only light contact, so he's not close to 100% either. The Canucks have to come out hitting, but hitting SMART.
3. Forecheck, forecheck, forecheck. With Seabrook out, the Blackhawks are left with a pretty thin defense.This is where the Canucks need to step on the Blackhawks throats. Chicago is going to have a real struggle to make up Seabrook's 24+ minutes per game, let alone his shut-down ability. This is a huge window of opportunity for Canucks. They must seize it.
Here are your top 5 links for today's game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Canucks @ Blackhawks (Canucks.com)
2. Hansen steps up and takes a shot at Blackhawks: ‘We’ve played better’ (The Province)
3. Blackhawks out of answers? Canucks are just better (Vancouver Sun)
4. Canucks/Blackhawks Preview (Yahoo! Sports)
5. Into the Abyss - Hawks Hold Onto Hope - Game 4 Preview (Blackhawks Down Low) << SEE WHAT THE ENEMY HAS TO SAY