"HEEEEEY! Danny! We gotta score some goals. Time for our impressing of a washing machine."
"Yeah, I know. Cycle, cycle, cycle."
(Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
Game Day Recon: Western Conference Quarterfinal Game 2 – Blackhawks @ Canucks
Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks played a nearly perfect game on Wednesday to come away with the victory and the early series lead. But they did that both times the Canucks and Blackhawks previously met in the playoffs. So the question for Game 2 is:
Can the Vancouver Canucks take a 2-0 series lead for the first time in three tries against the Chicago Blackhawks?
Game Time: 7:00 PM PT
(before the intel)
*** Congrats to the folks at Blackhawks Down Low for winning the Blogging for Charity auction. They won the services of some truly fantastic bloggers to write for them for the duration of the Blackhawks’ playoff run. Our boys Thom and Mike were OH SO CLOSE to a winning bid, but the folks at BHDL outbid us at the last second. Good on them though, since all the money is going to charity. We’ve linked to them in our Links section below.
(ok, let’s move on to the intel)
The Canucks’ performance in Game 1 was perfectly indicative of how I outlined the comparison between the two teams. Sure the Blackhawks are good. And they were good in Game 1. But the Canucks are better, and they were better in Game 1. For the Canucks, it started with Roberto Luongo and his stellar play for his second career playoff shutout. But the Canucks also set the tone physically from very early on, and kept it up for the full sixty minutes. Sure, the Canucks had a lull in the second period… but don’t they always? Yes. Yes, they always do. They clearly don’t like skating the extra 30 feet to get to the bench.
The Blackhawks lack of physical play was quite evident throughout the game. Not only are the Blackhawks missing a couple of players because of injury, but they were sure missing the gritty players that were so key in beating the Canucks the last two post-seasons. While Troy Brouwer came back, still nursing a sore shoulder, he was mostly ineffective and didn’t register a hit. Dave Bolland is still out and won’t be back for game 2. Now the Blackhawks will be without Tomas Kopecky for Game 2 as well. It’s expected that Fernando Pisani will draw in to the lineup for Kopecky. Pisani is a decent sub for Kopecky, as Pisano averages over 1 hit per game, had 2G 1A in 3 games against VAN, and is 51.5% in the faceoff circle – all better numbers than Kopecky. But Pisani only played 60 games this season, missing 15 of 22 games because of injury and was scratched for the other 7.
As for the Canucks, they were solid top to bottom. Not one player had a bad night and some players had terrific efforts. Luongo, Kesler, Hansen, Edler, and Hamhuis all had superb games. The Sedins were good but not their usual dominant self. If the Canucks want to finally win game 2 in a series against the Blackhawks, they need to duplicate if not surpass their physical play from Game 1. They must know full well that Chicago will come out hitting and crashing the net, two things they didn’t do nearly enough in Game 1. The Sedins need to play more, especially if the Blackhawks don’t come out hitting everything that moves. Their lack of ice time was likely due to a lack of powerplay opportunities, but Vigneault can’t use that as a reason to "balance" the ice time. The Sedins can shift the pace of the game and can lock up key minutes in the offensive zones. That was one area where the Blackhawks started to cause some real pressure in the 2nd and 3rd periods. The Blackhawks had noticeably more time in the offensive zone than the Canucks did. I have to think that if the Sedins were out more often and got their patented cycle working, they could have wrapped up that game a lot earlier.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Keep up the physical play on Patrick Kane. He was bullied all night, mostly by Hamhuis and it kept Kane out of the game for the most part. Given that Kane’s initial linemates (Smith and Frolik) aren’t exactly huge offensive threats, isolating Kane and eliminating him for offensive opportunities will be key. It turns the Blackhawks into a one-line team, from the standpoint of being a true offensive threat. It also forced Quenneville to start moving his lines around, moving Kane with Toews and Sharp and bumping Hossa down. Keep up the isolation on Kane and force Quenneville to go into line juggling mode.
2. Quit line matching. The Canucks have the horses and the deep defense to play against the Blackhawks in any scenario at all positions. The Canucks need to be the ones setting the tone and force Quenneville to get the matchups HE wants. Quenneville is a matchup guru, but the Canucks are deeper and have more scoring balance through their 4 lines.
3. Work both creases. The Canucks need to keep up their aggressive play in the Blackhawks crease area, and continue to keep the Blackhawks from going big-ass-Byfuglien in front of Luongo. The Canucks were pretty good at both during game 1 but could be better. And if they want to finally go up 2-0 on the Blackhawks, they need to be even more prickish than they were in Game 1.
Here are your top 5 links for today’s game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Blackhawks @ Canucks (Canucks.com)
2. Just shut up and play the game — it’s working for Max Lapierre (The Province)
3. Blackhawks aim to flip the switch … but can they? (Vancouver Sun)
4. Canucks expect Chicago’s best in Game 2 (CBC Sports)
5. Roberto Luongo Is, Like, Seriously Good (Blackhawks Down Low) << SEE WHAT THE ENEMY HAS TO SAY! ***