"Seriously guys. All of you. Get in here. Get in on this group hug."
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(Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
Game Day Recon: Western Conference Quarterfinal Game 3 – Canucks @ Blackhawks
The Vancouver Canucks did something Friday night that they hadn’t done in their two previous series against the Chicago Blackhawks. They won Game 2.
Now they move to Chicago and try to do something else they haven’t done in the last years. They’ll try to win a third game against the Blackhawks in the playoffs.
Game Time: 5:00 PM PT
It’s been a year of firsts and bests for the Vancouver Canucks. So far, in their latest series against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Canucks have been the best team and it gave them another couple of firsts – their first 2-0 series lead against the Blackhawks and their first Game 2 victory. We can’t underestimate the value of those two firsts and the Canucks are looking to slay the biggest demon in this series – the mental struggle to beat the Blackhawks.
Now you’re not going to have me tell you that the Canucks breezed through those first two wins. That’s ludicrous. But the Canucks have been the better team on both nights. Their biggest key to victory is that they have limited Chicago’s top 4 forwards (Toews, Kane, Hossa, and Sharp) to 1 assist in two games combined. While Vancouver should expect a huge surge from Chicago in Game 3, given that the Blackhawks are returning home, and United Center is a loud, raucous building, the Canucks need to simply stay the course. Their game plan is working, their players have all bought in, and they’re finding the success for which they were so desperately searching against the Blackhawks.
For the Blackhawks, the injury bug may have hit the team. With Dave Bolland still out, the Blackhawks will likely also be without Tomas Kopecky for Game 3, while Brian Bickell is also has an concern, although he’s likely to play. This is all in addition to the fact that Troy Brouwer came back early and it’s rumoured that Patrick Sharp is still not 100% recuperated from injury as well.
Meanwhile Vancouver is seeing bodies return. Raffi Torres has served his four-game suspension for elbowing Jordan Eberle and will be eager to show why he came to Vancouver in the first place – to be a physical, intimidating force in the playoffs. His timing to return couldn’t be better against the Blackhawks, who are looking to turn up their physical play more in front of their hometown crowd. Mikael Samuelsson is questionable at this point, but the Canucks haven’t yet taken their game day skate.
For all the grief that the Canucks get for losing two straight years to the Blackhawks in the playoffs, it has NOT been because of their play in Chicago. In fact, they’ve played great there for the past three seasons. Their last game there was a 3-0 Canucks shutout, and Vancouver is now on a 4-game winning streak this year against the Blackhawks, winning twice at home and twice on the road. The Canucks and Luongo have slaid any supposed demons of playing at UC, and frankly I think they relish this. It’s a great building, with great atmosphere and a huge spotlight. This is what the playoffs is all about.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Be physical without being stupid. The Canucks have been excellent in their first two games at laying the body on the Blackhawks, especially on
stupid-haired-little-puke talented forward Patrick Kane. The Canucks must keep that up, without taking stupid penalties. I’m looking at you, Raffi Torres. And the Sedins HAVE to stop taking hooking penalties 200 ft from their own net.
2. No more than TWO passes out of their own zone. I expect that the Blackhawks will try to amp up their forecheck on the Canucks in Game 3, since it’s been pretty absent in the first two games. The Canucks have to be smart with the puck in their own zone. One to two passes to get the puck out. North-South passes ONLY. Nothing in front of their own net.
3. Stick to the curent game plan. It’s working. And it’s working REALLY well. There’s no need to change things. Alain Vigneault will have to deal with Joel Quenneville matching lines against him, but AV has to remember that his strategies have paid off so far. DON’T DEVIATE FROM THE PLAN.
Here are your top 5 links for today’s game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Blackhawks @ Canucks (Canucks.com)
3. Canucks now road warriors in playoff battle versus Hawks (Vancouver Sun)
4. Canucks in charge against Hawks (CBC Sports)
5. Two-nothing, Two-Shmothing (Blackhawks Down Low) *** << SEE WHAT THE ENEMY HAS TO SAY
*** guest article from Bloggeur Extraordinaire Ryan Lambert (aka @twolinepass)