The second season started tonight as the NHL playoffs began with five games on tap including the Vancouver Canucks who hosted the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. Vancouver who won the President’s Trophy for most points in the regular season has high expectations and anything else but getting to the cup finals would be considered a lost season.
Vancouver and Chicago are very familiar with each other with Chicago having enjoyed recent success against the Canucks. Chicago has been responsible for ending Vancouver’s season the last two years as they eliminated Vancouver in the Western Conference semifinals both years. Chicago who didn’t secure a playoff position until the last day of the regular season thanks to a Dallas loss to the Minnesota Wild are a completely different team after trading away some of their top players from last year’s team due to salary cap issues.
Vancouver scored two goals in the first period and held on to shutout Chicago 2 – 0 to take a 1 – 0 lead in the opening game of the series. In the first period Vancouver came out strong and dominated the first period out shooting the Blackhawks 13 – 7. The Canucks got the scoring going at 7:03 0f the first period when Chris Higgins deflected a shot from Kevin Bieksa that eluded Chicago goalie Corey Crawford. Vancouver made it 2-0 about 3 minutes later when Mikael Samuelsson sent Jannik Hansen in alone on Crawford and beat the Chicago goalie on a breakaway. Roberto Luongo who recorded his second playoff shutout kept Chicago off the score board with a big save off Brian Campbell late in the first period.
Chicago started to find their game in the second period and outshot the Canucks 25 – 20 over the final two periods. Luongo who made 32 saves in earning the victory made several good saves in the second and third periods when Chicago was circling the Vancouver net trying to get back in the game. Luongo’s best friend also played a big role in Vancouver’s victory; Chicago hit the goal post on four different occasions.
Game 2 will be Friday night before moving to Chicago for Games 3 and 4.
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Written by Kevin Kelly