Last night, the Canucks held down home-ice advantage with a strong showing against their Blackhawk nemesis. The teams head back to Chicago for game three, with the Canucks holding a 2-0 series lead.
In game three on Sunday, the Canucks will have to deal with the return of the Blackhawks MVP – Chelsea Dagger – which, barring some Luongo magic, will make its obnoxious, lyrically nonsensical return. It’s too bad Kesler can’t be matched-up against something intangible – like a goal song – because he’d shut-it-down like he’s shut-down Captain Serious through two games this series. Toews has been shut-down so hard, that I can’t help but be reminded of the countless tall young women, who have shut-down a drunken Patrick Kane, because height is the “one thing” they’re shallow about.
The Onion is reporting that the Blackhawks may be without Patrick Kane whose family is moving to Boise, so that’s more positive news for Vancouver. Also, positive for the Canucks – the emergence of Jannik Hansen: playoff sniper. Further positive news for Vancouver, they’ve played most of the two games this series with a two goal lead, and to quote Copper and Blue’s Scott Reynolds “the Canucks are +2 in EV chances and +15 in EV Corsi through two games” which serves as, “a testament to Vancouver’s dominance.”
Yes, there’s plenty to feel good about for Canucks fans. Patrick Kane has been consistently roughed up by the Canucks D – something that I can’t remember happening a single time in the previous two Blackhawks-Canucks series, and Dan Hamhuis’ play continues to live up to James Mirtle’s analysis – which, awarded Hamhuis the Rod Langway award for the NHLs best defensive defenceman.
It was hard not to notice Cody Hodgson’s contributions on the ice last night. His play has exceeded my expectations. In the first he demonstrated some sand-paper, and veteran savvy, when he punished Troy Brouwer’s power-move by dumping the big winger into the Canucks goal post, after the whistle. In the second, he had a great shift late in the period where he finished two solid hits on the forecheck. Then in the closing seconds of the period, he made a great play behind the net – smartly protecting the puck from Norris incumbent Duncan Keith – then dished it to Alex Edler for a flukey goal that restored the teams two goal lead.
The Sedins – who had caught some preposterous flack for “no-showing” in game one, had a dominant game, combining for four points, a + 3 in EV chances, impressive Corsi numbers and Daniel’s GWG. Ryan Kesler started 7 even-strength shifts in the defensive zone (the same number as the Bieksa-Hamhuis shut-down pairing) and still finished with a +8 Corsi rating and and a positive chance differential.
The only negatives to take from this game are worries about a flu-bug and Luongo’s play. Lu was beaten on a screened snipe by Viktor “not Versteeg” Stalberg early in the third period, and demonstrated some “Pez Dispenser rebound control” on Ben Smith’s second of the game. Though his numbers through two games are awesome (1.50 GAA, 1 SO, 948 sv%), those soft goals are of a type that we’ve rarely seen from Luongo this year. Hopefully we don’t see more of them in Chicago!
Three Big Stats
1. +2 Chance differential while short-handed. The PK was maybe the most impressive part of the Canucks game last night. The Blackhawks were held without a scoring chance in two opportunities, and the Canucks – for their part – were able to generate two chances short-handed. There’s a reason Coach Q called out his top-players special teams performance in his post-game presser, a -2 chance differential on the PP is enough to make even Coach Q’s epic moustache shed.
2. 15 Canucks takeaways. The Canucks aggressive style of play, superior speed and fore-checking prowess was decisive last night. The Blackhawks are struggling to play their usual puck-control game, and they’re having a lot of trouble moving the puck up ice against the Canucks forwards. If Chicago’s quarterbacks can’t figure out a way to neutralize the Canucks blitz – the Blackhawks may not get back into this series.
3. 2:58 – that’s the difference between Duncan Keith’s ice-time (Chicago’s minutes leader) and Dan Hamhuis’ ice-time (Vancouver’s minutes leader). Part of the reason for this discrepancy is that Coach Q didn’t play the Campoli-Leddy pairing for a single defensive zone start! In contrast – AV has a reliable, veteran pairing in Salo-Ballard to throw into the defensive-zone against lesser competition, or when Hamhuis-Bieksa require a rest. As the series goes along – the fatigue factor, as it applies to Chicago, will be something to keep an eye on.
Bonus stat: Aaron Rome’s boxscore: 8 shifts, 1 shot, 5 hits, 5:19 TOI. Very strange.
Three Big Moments
3 decisive moments from last nights game:
1. Daniel Sedin’s beauty snipe on the the game-winning goal.
2. The Canucks win well over 90% of the time when they open the scoring, so Jannik Hansen’s opening goal was a big deal.
3. Cody Hodgson’s first playoff point is something I think I’ll remember for a long-time. Ben Smith should’ve listened to one of Don Cherry’s many "If you’re not going to block the puck, get out of the way!!!" rants.
Game three goes Sunday at the Madhouse at 5 PM PST.