Time to renew acquaintances. With all the ink that’s been spilt, all the verbal battling, the hits, the goals, the drama, you’d think there’s nothing left.
But we know there’s always more to come. Tonight is the first time the Canucks and Blackhawks have seen each other since That Elbow (The Elbow, being a whole other incident 19 years ago, of course); lots of energy from people off the ice about what the narrative should be, but will it be about retribution? We’ll see.
This is a game that features a red-hot team that’s been riding the percentages, who will at some point come back to Earth. The other team has been slowlly-but-painfully warming itself into game shape. This could be epic.
Read on past the jump.
Puck Drop: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Team 1040
Old habits die hard. (Is that the new Bruce Willis action fest? I forget.) It’s been four years since the madness truly began and are any of you tired of it? Nah, not possible. The rhetoric gets heated, the players get heated, the fanst get heated, the games get heated.
This. Is. The. Rivalry.
And did you hear about who’s starting in net? Shocking, it’s Roberto. SCANDAL!
This game has got everything.
But really, why bother writing something when we can defer to Roberto Luongo and Daniel Sedin (per The Province’s Steve Ewen):
As for the Chicago Blackhawks, the Vancouver Canucks goaltender said: “They’ve got a ton of talent up front. They’ve got guys who can shoot the puck on the back end. The good thing is that we know them very well. We know what type of team they are and what they can generate.”
As for his take on the Daniel Sedin-Duncan Keith situation, Luongo said: “That stuff will sort itself out when the time is right. We’re here to get the win tonight. I don’t think we’ll put ourselves in any type of jeopardy by taking penalties.”
So Roberto says he knows what they can do, which is defencemen shooting lots (of course, you read yesterday about how getting the puck on net isn’t much of a skill) and good forwards. Thanks Roberto. Daniel says they’ll play hockey first? Quelle surprise!
So, building off these two
milquetoast fire-ya-up quotes, I’ll bet you didn’t know this:
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 31, 2013
The building’s gonna shake tonight. Or for as long as that recorded-yelling-guy, so loved of the Canucks in-game production folks, bellows ‘make some noiseeeee
Remember last spring? Of course you’ve forgotten…
Hawks DuncanKeith on DanSedin incident: "I think, for the mostpart, I’m a pretty honest player. Obviously I got suspended and was punished."
— Elliott Pap (@ElliottPap) February 1, 2013
Jason Botchford weighs in on Keith’s attitude:
— Jason Botchford (@botchford) February 1, 2013
Badd-ass. (yes, two d’s.)
So really, what should we be watching for tonight? I guess we assume there will be plenty of bash-and-crash. But I suspect the truth is far different.
Both these teams know how to score and they’ve got quality up-and-down the lineup.
In comparison to the Canucks’ meandery opening to the season, this is a Chicago team that hast come out of the gates smokin’ hot. They’d reeled off six straight wins before dropping a 3-2 shootout decision on Wednesday to the always-terrifying Minnesota ‘Mild’ Wild.
I mocked Lu a little bit above for his analysis, but he’s pretty spot on. The Hawks have been scoring well; Marian Hossa has 5 goals in 7 games, Jonny Toews has 4 in 7. Every regular other than rookie – and Drance favourite – Brandon Saad has recorded a point.
But underneath this lies trouble. All of Chicago’s top forwards is in insane double-digit territory for on-ice shooting percentage – Pat Kane is leading the way with an 18.6 on-ice percentage. His team is firing uranium-tipped, armour-piercing high-velocity rounds so far. Those only so many of those bullets to go around. So crazy is that shooting percentage is that it’s overcoming Kane’s woeful, team-worst -30.9 relative corsi. The Hawks are bleeding shots while Doctor Dime is on the ice. It would be a situation ripe for Ryan Kesler, were he healthy.
But he’s not. At 5 on 5, the Canucks have had real trouble this season. They’ve built much of their success so far off of their solid powerplay (18.9 per cent). The penalty killing unit has been murdered so far (73.3 per cent). Overall, Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis have had a struggling start to the season; they’ve been playing mostly second-pairing matchups and have struggled. If they improve, the team’s overall performance will improve.
The last two games, Garrison has spent a lot of time with Bieksa while Alex Edler – still playing on the right – has been paired with Dan Hamhuis. Spreading the heavy lifting around?
At the other end of the ice, Chicago’s results aren’t just because of some amazing bounces at evens; they are also running a very impressive 25 per cent power play and an outrageous 96 per cent penalty kill. That’s another number that’s bound to fall.
A last fancy-stats word on the Hawks: insane PDOs…Toews (1096), Oduya (1091), Kane (1084), Bickell (1075), Hossa (1068), Hjalmarsson (1065) and Roszival (1042) are all in for a big drop.
This remains a massively tough matchup for the Canucks: the Hawks are flying high. The Green and Blue, not so much, they are still finding their game. They’ve ok, and the results will come, but it has been a painful start. But it is at home and the Canucks will have match-up advantage, or at least as much as a one-line team can get from those matchups.
Watch for the Higgins-Burrows-Hansen trio to see the toughest Chicago minutes, likely something involving Toews and Hossa. The trio of Kane-Bolland-Sharp have struggled mightily at even strength; will they face the Sedins? The fourth line will continue to see the softest minutes but Vigneault and the coaching staff are still spreading the zone starts around more than in the past; the Sedins, for instance, are in the low-70s while Manny Malhotra is spot on 40 per cent.
GAME DAY LINKS:
- The Canucks are adding a special ‘V’ patch to their jersey tonight.
- Harrison Mooney at Pass it to Bulis says Roberto Luongo is a ‘point thief.’
- Some guys named Jordan and Wyatt made a podcast breaking down Alex Burrows’ ‘move’ in the shootout.
- Cam Tucker at Metro figures that Alain Vigneault uses flip a coin in picking goaltenders (kidding!)