January 31 2012 09:54AM
I know the Canucks didn't win the Cup. I get it.
But this will never get old. EVER.
(Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
Game Day Recon: Game #50 - Blackhawks @ Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks have, for the most part, had an entire week off from live game action. Sure, the Sedins and Alex Edler played in Sunday's NHL All-Star Game, but let's be honest - that's not a real game. Effectively, the Canucks have not seen proper game action last Tuesday's win over the Oilers. Couple that with a very light January schedule and the team should be well rested to close out the month.
Well, they better be ready to play tonight, as they face their fiercest rival; a team that now has a very familiar face.
Game Time: 7:00 PM PT
If you're going to get back at it, why not get at it with gusto? And boy, do the Canucks ever have to bring the gusto tonight, as they host the Chicago Blackhawks. The Canucks come into tonight's game well rested, having been idle for the All-Star Break. In addition to that, tonight's game is only their 3rd game in 14 days, and only their 11th game in January. After playing the most games in the NHL through mid-January, the Canucks have had a good amount of time to recuperate and recover and rest. Luckily for them, they have a sizable lead in the Northwest and therefore a firm grip on a top 3 spot in the West. But the Canucks go from 0 to 100 MPH tonight as they host the Hawks, their most bitter rival over the past 4 years. What better way to return to action and to get back mentally into playing elite level hockey than to play your biggest rival, who just happens to be one of the top 5 teams in the league as well.
And who will we see wearing #17 for the Hawks but none other than long-time Canuck and Pitt Meadows-native Brendan Morrison. Morrison was acquired from the Flames over the weekend to help with the Blackhawks lack of depth at center. From all reports, it appears that Morrison will get to play some serious minutes with proper linemates, as he'll center the second line with Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. That's quite the upgrade for Morrison after playing on a Flames team that was struggling for a playoff spot and that couldn't fit him in to lineup in a consistent spot. Morrison will always be loved in Vancouver, given that he is from the Lower Mainland and that he played on one of the Canucks most electrifying line in the team's history. But man, playing for the Blackhawks will sure make it hard for Canucks fans to look back at the good times with BMo wearing the Orca.
Meanwhile for the Canucks, the newspapers, bloggers, TV and radio were given another "controversy" to discuss yesterday as the Canucks announced that Cory Schneider would start tonight. Whenever Schneider starts against a big-name club, it is now frustratingly deemed a "controversy". It's ludicrous. The Canucks are NOT sheltering Luongo. Lu has already proven that he can beat the Blackhawks, and has done so in many, many games. Schneider gets the start tonight because Luongo traveled to Florida during the All-Star break and could use an extra off day to get back to top form. Schneider did not leave Vancouver, so there is no travel considerations there. Oh, and Schneider hasn't played in exactly three weeks. Sounds like a good time to get him some game action to me. Schneider needs to play and Luongo needs an extra day. End of story. If you don't think both Schneider and Luongo knew before the All-Star break that Schneider would start tonight, you're a fool. The coaching staff sure knew and I'm sure they prepped their goalies well in advance. And in case you've forgotten, the SAME scenario occurred last year. Luongo returned to Florida for the All-Star Break and Schneider played the first game back, against the Stars in Dallas. Schneider and the Canucks won 4-1. Yeah. I think the Canucks know what they're doing.
As mentioned, Schneider starts for the Canucks. Other than long-term injuries to fringe players, the Canucks sport a very healthy roster. At the other end, Corey Crawford mans the net for the Blackhawks. Jonathan Toews returns to ice after suffering a hand injury, while Patrick Sharp is likely to return as well.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
- This is going to be Boston part 2, in that the Canucks HAVE to be playing at 100% from the moment the puck drops until the final whistle. No passengers tonight. Everyone has to be on board playing with full intensity.
- Target Toews' hand. Yeah, it's cheap. I know. But he has a weakness right now. Exploit it. Toews is one of the league's best centers, playing for one of the league's best teams. You have to exploit any weakness you can find. You can expect Toews to take a litany of slashes and hacks and chops at his hands tonight. Because let's face it; if Henrik Sedin had an injured hand, Dave Bolland would be chopping his hand like the world's ugliest lumberjack.
- No screwing around in the defensive zone. The Blackhawks are ruthless with the puck in the offensive zone, creating turnovers and chaos whenever they possibly can. The Canucks D-zone play as to be air-tight tonight. One to two passes and it needs to be at center ice. And for god's sake, do NOT bother with the silly blind backpasses at the blue line. The Hawks will murder them if they try those.
Here are your top 5 links for today's game:
- Tale of the Tape (Vancouver Canucks)
- Gameday: Canucks vs. Blackhawks (The Province)
- In his own words: Brendan Morrison talks... (The Province)
- Intensity level rises for Canucks with Blackhawks on tap (Vancouver Sun)
- Canucks seek upper hand on Blackhawks (CBC Sports)