14 years ago the Canucks and Blackhawks met in the second round. As you probably know by now, Vancouver had to beat St. Louis to even get there. Ain't history interesting?
I remember that series mainly because I was in my first full year of being a hockey fan. In the end, Chicago (a much stronger team with a mildly sober Belfour and generally sane Roenick) would sweep the Canucks out the playoffs and help usher in a few seasons of futility before Vancouver could hold their heads up high.
So here we are again. An original six team with all the youth in the world against Vancouver and their first round sweepy momentum. On paper this is as close as it comes. But someone has to win four here. Can Vancouver outlast another group of kids or can Chicago force Luongo and company to lose four times (to that end, Luongo hasn't lost four times in a month since October).
No one will be watching this series anyway because of the pending Crosby/Ovechkin lovefest, right? Fuck it, your Nucks Misconduct generals will give you their take anyway.
Yankee, I can remember that Canucks-Hawks series. Chris Chelios scored the game winners in overtime in games 3 & 4. Both goals were nearly identical. Chelios was the late man coming in and no Canuck covered him. One goal was a slapper and the other a deke. Damn, the Canucks' defence used to suck!
Anyway, on to this series..
Players from both teams were throwing out the cliches, saying that they have "short memories" in regards to the violence in the March 29 game. Bullshit. No one wants to give the other team any ammunition. This series will be a war. It won't take long for the rough stuff to start.
What the Blues failed to do consistently in Round 1 the Hawks won't: Get traffic in front of Roberto Luongo. Luongo basically scoffed at the notion that the Hawks are going to bump him a bit, saying that kind of behavior only motivates him to play better. Let's hope that is the case.
Keys to the series:
1. Defencemen contributing. The Hawks' defencemen scored 5 goals and 18 points in a 6 game series against the Flames. The Canucks defencemen scored 2 goals and 11 points in 4 games against the Blues. That's 3.0 and 2.75 points per game respectively from the d-men. Nearly a deadlock.
2. Discipline. I think we'll see a lack of it from both teams with a lot of penalties called. I'd say the Hawks are young and more prone to taking penalties, but they are in Round 2 now. They've already shed that "too young" image. The lack of discipline will make this series come down to special teams.
3. Luongo vs Khabibulin. I'll take Luongo any day of the week there. Piss on Khabibulin's Stanley Cup ring. It means nothing right now.
4. Depth up front. The Sedins and Burrows combined for 12 points against the Blues. That accounts for 63% of the points scored by Canucks forwards. The "big 3" in Chicago, Havlat-Toews-Kane scored 16 points, which only accounted for 39% of the Hawks overall points by forwards. They are getting scoring from everywhere. Kris Versteeg led the team with 7 points.
It's one thing for the Canucks to contain and trap the Hawks, but they need more scoring from the RPM Line or they are not going to move on. Those guys only had 4 points combined in Round 1.
5. Coaching. It looks as though Joel Quenneville rolls all 4 of his forward lines a lot more than Alain Vigneault does/would. It's the opposite when it comes to the defencemen. Coach Q plays the hell out of Brent Seabrook (26.29 minutes per game) and Duncan Keith (25:26 min/game). So the Canucks need to rough those guys up any chance they get.
I have the Canucks taking it in 7. I don't get cocky when it comes to rooting for these guys. This is a close matchup.
Mike's (Yankee Canuck) Take
We learned a few things in the first round: the Sedins aren't as frail and hopeless as their critics claim they are. Johnson, Bernier and Wellwood - once laughable earlier this year - can play key roles. Burrows and Kesler weren't just regular season flukes. The specials teams - long left for dead - got the Ryan Walter "be happy!" treatment. And Luongo reminded everyone that he'll drag this club anywhere he damn well pleases to go.
We also learned that the Vancouver defense is (gasp!) incredible. Aggressive on the rush, smart in their end and unbelievable on the PK (St. Louis had the 8th best PP, yet went 1-24 against in four straight and got nothing on multiple 5-on-3s).
The key to round two is that same blueline needs to deliver again. As they showed against Calgary, Chicago has tremendous speed and several lines that can score. They also have what St. Louis didn't: offensive defensemen who will help on the rush and be dangerous on the power play. A lot more will be coming at the defense this time around and they need to show they can stand the heat, otherwise they don't belong with the elites of the league.
While Chicago isn't St. Louis (and Vancouver isn't Calgary) the plan for Vancouver is the same: in essence, "they need just one". That's how Vancouver wins. The closer these games are, the better it is (our anxiety, however, goes through hell). Timely offense is the next piece. Maybe it's easier to just pretend the Sedins don't score at all; someone else needs to solve Khabby. Make it ugly, no one will care.
In theory, this series should go six or seven. But if the Canucks can't control their emotions and Chicago's speed overwhelms them, it won't. Chicago will run away with it in quick order.
But if Vancouver's defense and Luongo are in locked step, they'll force Chicago to be perfect to beat them and I don't care how many variables are out there that pundits can point at (Stanley Cup rings? Please, why don't we just throw in who has the hottest wife?) I'll take the elite goalie on a hot streak every time.
Chicago's time can (and probably will) come later. But this is Vancouver's moment. Smart, disciplined hockey will get them there. I think they'll do it.
Enough talk. This is your moment if you want it gentlemen. Go.