I figured using my twitter icon as a main picture would be relevant to a write up of the upcoming Chicago Blackhawks vs Vancouver Canucks series so I went ahead and did that. ( please no disrespect to Bobby Lou)
First off let’s give the Hawks a healthy pat on the back fighting through an intense tough series against Nashville who truly gave us a scare. The series had to be one of the most intense, controversial, back and forth series I have seen in a long time and anyone who did not watch the series because they “assumed” it was boring really missed out.
Secondly, big kudos to the Predators as they played a fantastic series and in all honesty 13 seconds could have changed this series completely around looking back to game #5. Not rubbing salt in the wounds but it’s the honest truth and Predator and Hawk fans know that.
Chicago Blackhawks vs Vancouver Canucks
Let me start off by making a few notes on a couple “tweets” that I saw last night all in 100 % favor of the Canucks especially by one Canuck writer that I thought was completely off the wall and have never seen “homerism” at it’s peak with his statements.
” I think the Canucks will win in 5 games as they are a much deeper team then Chicago”
With all due respect to this person’s first statement as he is always entitled to his opinion there are no teams in this year’s playoffs MUCH deeper then anyone.
” The Hawks are more susceptible to mental failures this year”
Hmmm, with the additions of experienced players like Marian Hossa, John Madden Tomas Kopecky, improved play by Brent Sopel and all of the young guns with another year and past playoff experience under their belt I ask this guy “hey did you really think that out before you mentioned it”?
” Antti Niemi has not been good so Vancouver has a huge edge”
I guess 2 shutouts, a series win and some remarkable saves in pressure moments is not so good especially for a rookie goaltender? Sure he let in a bad goal or two but what goaltender has not thus far in the playoffs?
OK enough of the ranting of Mr. Know-it-all Canuck writer let’s break down the up coming series.
While many think this is where the Canucks have a huge advantage I personally don’t think it is that far of a gap between the two. Yes Luongo is highly regarded as a world class goalie and I wont disagree with that but we have seen in the past he is capable of letting in just as bad as goals as any goaltender along with suspect past playoff performances. In the Canucks/Kings series he made some monstrous saves when needed and that’s what elite puck stoppers do but on the other hand he let in some very questionable goals leaving Vancouver fans pulling out their hair. Roberto told Patick Kane “we will see you in the playoffs” after the Olympic games and some can take that as cockiness or confidence but I am sure Kane welcomes the challenge as he would surely like to light up Luongo like he did last year while Luongo would surely love to blank baby Kane and get some revenge.
Antti Niemi has been good and very good in saying the least. He let in one backhanded flutter ball in the Nashville series and really after that has been very solid overall making some timely saves in pressure packed circumstances. The media continues to rip Chicago’s goaltending situation and will do so until these playoffs are over and all I have to say about that is..whatever.. the media needs something to create controversy and so-called analysis. Another note is Niemi leads Luongo in GAA, Save Percentage, and shutouts in the same number of games thus far in this years playoffs. The one knock I have on Niemi is when he is screened he makes himself smallish like Tattoo from the old sitcom fantasy island , not a good habit to get into at all.
One last note i did see one person mention this ” anyone else think we need to rest Niemi and let Huet start game #1” with all due respect that makes no sense at all, if the series starts Friday I would think 3 full days of rest prior to the game is ample amount of time. It did work for Montreal in sitting Halak in favor of Price but the Habs lost that game and have had to fight back to tie the series.
Advantage slight edge to the Canucks
Bieksa/Erhoff/Edler/Salo/Alberts/O’Brien vs Keith/Seabrook/Campbell/Hjalmarsson/Byfulgien/Sopel
With the injured veteran Willie Mitchell out and Aaron Rome on the mend it most definitely hurts the Canucks D-corps and while the additions of Erhoff and Alberts this year made the Canucks defense a bit more solidified as Erhoff has been a stellar player this year and arguably the Canucks best defenseman while Alberts adds even more toughness and size to an already big and physical Canucks back end. Bieksa still takes his retaliatory penalties all the time and Salo is a skating china doll but still has a fantastic shot and is solid on the Powerplay.
Chicago has 2 of the best puck moving defense-man in the league in Keith and Campbell and Hammer and Seabrook have played extremely well in all situations. Byfuglien has as hard a shot as anyone and Sopel is so far the unsung hero of the hawks so far in the playoffs blocking shot after shot and if I was a betting man I would bet his body was and is black/blue and yellow and whatever other color bruises inflicts. It remains to be seen if Byfuglien can once again get in Luongo’s head and bang up the opposition especially playing on defense but we shall see.
Is there a better line then the Sedin line? No there is not and it does not matter who the winger is on that line because it simply does not matter as the Sedin line is a force to reckon with and I don’t know of any team that can stop them. Mikael Samuelsson is on fire and is a known Hawk killer plus he already has 7 goals in this years playoffs, Ryan Kesler is arguably the best 2 way center-man in the league and throw in Bernier, Burrows, Demitra, and Raymond that solidifies an extremely solid core of forwards. Vancouver can also throw in a couple rough house type players with the likes of super fighter Rick Rypien or Tanner Glass in which both guys can play the game effectively. This Canucks team forward depth in my opinion is extremely deep and will be tough to stabilize.
The Chicago forward depth is also deep with the likes of Kane, Hossa, Toews, Sharp, Versteeg and Madden to name a few and can create scoring throughout the 4 lines as good as anyone. However, with the downgraded play of last years hero Dave Bolland and a seemingly invisible Troy Brouwer plus having to move Dustin Byfuglien back to defense because of the injured Kim Johnsson it remains to be seen if the Hawks can roll with an opposition’s forwards as deep as the Canucks. If Bolland, Brouwer and Burish can up their level of play and Kopecky keeps playing with the heart and desire he has been playing with then I like the Hawks chances but that still remains to be seen.
Both teams had 6 players during the regular season with 20 goals or more so that really shows the offensive depth for both clubs that makes this series into a marquee match-up.
Chicago’s penalty killing has been remarkable but in all fairness it was against a low scoring Nashville team but over the regular season the Hawks had the 4th best penalty killing unit in the league and has been a strength from the get go. It does not hurt when every player besides maybe Kane can kill penalties and having Hossa who is perhaps (and arguably) the best shorthanded player in the game and add in veteran John Madden and face off specialist Toews this makes this PK unit as solid as any. If Sopel, Hammer and Seabrook keep blocking shots and sacrificing the body this team will be tough to score on in shorthanded situations.
Vancouver’s penalty killing has been horrific to say the least running at about at 62% pace which is by far the worst out of all playoff teams. The Kings torched the Canucks while on the powerplay scoring the majority of the goals during that time, this is something the Canucks need to work on as they are a team that does take a lot of penalties.
Vancouver’s powerplay however has been very good and they are scoring almost once out of every 4 opportunities where as the Hawks are sitting at approximately 17% thus far playing against a defensive minded Nashville Predator club. People can argue that the teams the Hawks and Canucks played against in the playoffs have a lot to do with the statistical implications and they are correct it really does so make your own assumption who leads in the intangible situations like the PK, PP and face-offs.
So that pretty much wraps up my thoughts taking a look at the upcoming rematch between Chicago and Vancouver in which should be the most heated intense playoff series anyone has seen for a very long time. The Canucks hatred going back to last years exit via the Blackhawks is clearly still implanted in the heads of Nuck players and fans and the improved Chicago team wants to prove yet again it was no fluke last year and they are the better team. Will Ryan Kesler and Andrew Ladd have a nightly slap fest at center ice and continue the hatred they have for each other or will they have a nice dinner prior to each game, I would bet on the slap fest myself. Will both clubs continue the domination they had playing at home during the regular season with both having incredible home records? I would think so which makes me think this series is going the distance and home ice in this series could very well have a deep impact unlike it did in the Nashville series. If one of these teams drops 2 games or even 3 games behind I would never ever assume the series is over as both of these squads are very capable of coming back, they are both that talented even if the odds were against a comeback of that nature.
My pick for this series
Someone in 7 games (which means I really don’t know it’s that close)
Thanks as always for reading and get ready for an incredible intense series
About the Author
Written by Trent Kondo
An all around sports fan and has been a Chicago BlackHawks supporter longer then he can remember. Currently writes for Prosportsblogging.com on the Blackhawks and NHLHotstove.com on the Edmonton Oilers. (If you would like to email feel free to contact Trent at TKONHOCKEY@gmail.com )