Zero hour approaches once again. Though there is still plenty of time to take your whole paycheck and waste it on booze and send your kids/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/mistress/escort/midget out of town for the evening and prepare for a Saturday of NHL playoff lunacy.
A familiar enemy stands in the way of the conference finals, a feat Vancouver hasn't accomplished in (sigh) 16 years. Can they make the leap? We embrace our inner Nostradamus and take a crack at the crystal ball after the jump.
Throughout history there are classic tales of revenge: Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo. Or perhaps William Shakespeare's Othello? Or the inspiring tale of good triumphing over evil that was Revenge Of The Nerds? The need for revenge when one feels as though they were wronged is a fairly common human emotion. Already some have called the Canucks cocky for suggesting they wanted another shot at the Hawks, but that must be another one of those things that are only acceptable unless the Canucks do it. It will be interesting to see who writes the first article: Derek Zona, Damian Cox or Tony Gallagher. Of course they want another shot at them. We all would. And if they were in our shoes, they would too.
Sometimes, like with the aforementioned Mr. Dantes you must wait for what seems like an eternity for your chance at revenge. We get it now. It's interesting, both teams stumbled a bit, but in different ways. The Canucks had an early series meltdown on the PK, but managed to fix the issues and dominated Los Angeles 5 on 5. Chicago? Well it was a pretty even series until game 5 when Nashville pretty much gave up in the last minute of a game they were winning. Another bounce in overtime to a guy who should have been kicked out of the game and the series is tied. Did anyone think after that mental boot to the head Nashville could come back and force a game 7? Anyways, despite what some will tell you, these are two fairly evenly matched teams, the Canucks are scoring a lot more right now, and managed to get by again on banged up defense.
Can Roberto Luongo bounce back from the heartbreak of last year? Absolutely. At the start of this series I came out and said the way the team was playing I had doubts they could go all the way. With their recovery in the LA series, they showed me that the fight is still in them, and revenge is on their minds. This is going to be a battle for the ages. Hmm, sorry for the hyperbole. It will definitely be a hell of a series, and when the smoke clears at the end of game 7, the Vancouver Canucks shall be standing victorious.
Nucks & Pucks
Okay, if you read my Round 1 predictions you know the deal. Ill give you five predictions, each of which is ranked on a scale of 1-10 Rick Tocchets based on its likelihood of transpiring. Think of this as an alternative to the Vegas lines and oddsone Rick Tocchet means it would be a Buster Douglas-esque long shot, 10 Tocchets means you can bet your life-savings on it.* Okay, here we go!
The Sedins Twins outscore Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews
Rating: 8 Tocchets out of 10
I like the Twinkies over the Mullet and the Pig. I am expecting big things from Hank and Dank this series.
Two words: LINE BRAWL!
Rating: 2 Tocchets out of 10.
Sadly, as I noted in my Round 1 predictions, fisticuffs are rare in the playoffs. Thank goodness that didn't stop Rich Clune from poking the bear and Rick Rypien from obliging him. However, a repeat of last season's Slapshot moment is unlikely.
A Canucks player rips out Patrick Kanes mouthguard and throws it to the ice
Rating: 4 Tocchets out of 10
Heres hoping Kevin Bieksa, Rypien, or some other ornery Canuck channels their inner Johan Franzen. Seriously, this would make my day.
The Canucks use at least eight defensemen in the series
Rating: 7 Tocchets out of 10
Aaron Rome and Nolan Baumgartner both drew into the top-6 against the Kings. Rome is likely good to go, though whether he will replace the (slightly) improved Andew Alberts remains to be seen. My bet is that we see Rome, Alberts and one of Baumgartner or Lawrence Nycholat against the Hawks. Fingers crossed (and wood knocked, rabbit-foot rubbed, 4-leaf clover picked, etc.) that none of them starts in place of Sami Salo. Seriously, I'm not jinxing this. And now I'm off to throw horseshoes at leprechauns.
Roberto Luongo cries after the series
Rating: 5 Rick Tocchets out of 10
Canucks lose, Luongo cries. Canucks win, he doesn't. The series is a coin flip as far as I'm concerned. Thus, 5 Tocchets.
*I do not take any responsibility for bets made based on these predictions. Seriously, don't do it.
Well, well, well, what do we have here? A rematch against the Hawks? Oh, how lovely! These two teams are still well-pitted against each other. Just look at our regular season series: 3-2 Canucks, 1-0 Hawks, 5-1 Canucks, and 6-3 Hawks. After all the stuff that has happened in the last year, it is ridiculous to say this won't be another amazing series. What will be key to the Canucks is avoiding the penalty box. Yes, there is obviously bad blood between the two teams, but ill-timed penalties can easily screw us over. As we saw in the LA series, our penalty kill is a weakness right now, and although we've started making improvements, the Hawks have heard the rumours, and will attempt to exploit it to no end. Our injury-plagued defense could be an issue as well, and the healthy ones will have to step up their game. Our forwards will ALL need to contribute. We need to have all 4 lines putting pressure on the young Hawks, and we won't get anywhere when only 1 or 2 of 4 lines are contributing. Finally, as we cannot say enough, Luongo needs to shine. He knows this, he is still fighting the memories of last year. But just because he is thinking about it doesn't mean he's producing. If our entire team shows up to play the best games of their lives, we can win this. Chicago will fight hard, but in the end, provided all our players show up to play, the Canucks will win in 6 and give the Hawks a taste of their own medicine.
Predictions. Why do we do this to ourselves? Putting our necks out, only to have out heads cut off (figuratively) if we're wrong. Why? Cuz it's fun. I'ts almost like poking the hockey gods with a pointy stick, especially if you predict a win for your team. Tempt fate. C'mon, you know you want to. The rest of the regulars have.
Canucks in 7. There, it's out, gone into the great ethereal beyond, to be summoned up by whomever, to show to his/her friends and say, 'Can you believe this idiot?' Ha. Go ahead. No thought of future embarrassment shall dissuade me. OK, maybe a little, but I'm not changing my mind. The Canucks, our Canucks, will be moving on. No numbers to back it up, no charts, no graphs, no new century wizardry to produce, just a gut feeling. It's a different feeling I crave, though. The feeling that took over this city in 1982 and 1994. The feeling that maybe our boys CAN go all the way.
There are roadblocks on this drive, of course. The Hawks are a formidable team. Kane, Toews, Keith, Sharp, Byfuglien's ass, et cetera, et cetera. The sense that they, indeed, are this season's chosen ones, risen from the ashes to once again assert themselves as one of the best teams in hockey. Well, forget it. The 'Nucks have put their time in as well. 40 years, friends, 40 years with only 2 SCF appearances to show for it. It's time to shatter that ceiling that holds them down, time to push through and become one of the best teams in hockey. Hank and Dank. Keslord and Burr. FU Sweden and Welly. BALLS! and The Hoff. This team can do it. This team will do it.
The drink will flow, the blood will spill, and if the boys wanna fight, you better let 'em. -Phil Lynott
The Hawks need to win this series because they will undergo some potentially serious changes to their lineup this summer due to cap restrictions, even though their core will remain intact. The Canucks need to at least get past round 2 in order for this season to remotely be considered a success, as do the Hawks obviously. It seems that there is more pressure on the Hawks to win it all for the reasons mentioned above.
Hawks are a great team. So are we. Yeah, our D is a little banged up but they can still get the job done. Luongo and the Canucks look to make amends for the loss in round 2 last season. How hungry are they to do so? Lou is going to have to be a rock. The Hawks will pepper him more than the Kings did.
Season series 2-2. Great forwards against great forwards. A potential bloody war. It's the best series in round 2 and it's a coin toss in my opinion. I picked the Hawks to win in missy's pool so I won't change that. I say Hawks in 7. This series is all about discipline, depth and damned home ice advantage, IMO. If the Canucks can continue their improved play on the road in these playoffs then I will gladly look like a monkey's anus and take the stoning.
That's just my gut opinion. I am cheering and hoping above all else that my guts are just sick and twisted and that I am completely wrong.
I'm going to share my answer to the same question that I sent over to SCH for their Committed Indian publication (that way I look doubly awesome if I'm right):
The Hawks have been predestined to go the whole way since September it seems. Of all the teams to meet Chicago was dead last in my list (including Detroit, fuck those guys). As such, my gut reaction is Vancouver won't win, but maybe I am dwelling on last year too much: seeing over and over again Vancouver have no answer to the Hawks at either end of the ice. This year is a lot different and while the Canucks may appear "weaker" on paper, they've found their stride so many times I’ve lost count. All this talk about revenge is the media jacking off; Vancouver should be smarter and more composed because they know better than anyone they can’t beat Chicago by aimlessly sending messages.
If the Canucks can stay disciplined and keep their emotions in check, they'll keep the games close. If they can emulate some of Nashville's work ethic, they can play comfortably with the lead or without. If Luongo wants to put some demons to rest, they'll win games. If the top six keep scoring and we continue to get timely markers from Bernier and Demitra, they'll take it in seven.
If they can't bring their best by this point of the season against the opponent that ended their last one, they deserve the tee times.