Written by: Larry “The Nucks IceMan” Johnson
Even though the series between the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks looks all but over, it has been closer than you think. There is only four goals separating the three games to-date and with a few breaks here and there, it could easily be 2-1 for the Hawks.
To prove my point, let’s take a look at each game.
Game one the Canucks won 2-0 but the Hawks hit four goal posts and any number of those could have resulted in goals and turned that game around.
That could have planted the seed of doubt into the Canucks with the thought of “here we go again”. After the first period in which the Canucks were up 2-0, the Hawks had outshot the Canucks 25-20.
There was four difference makers. First, Roberto Luongo who had the Hawks top line shaking their heads more than once after robbing them in close. Second, the physical play of the Canucks and in particular the line of Maxim Lapierre, Victor Oreskovich and Tanner Glass. Third, the Canucks penalty kill who blanked the Hawks number four rated regular season power play, on four occasions. Fourth, Ryan Kesler who shut down Jonathan Toews.
Granted the Canucks have not lost too many games after scoring the first goal.
Game two saw Luongo have a sub-par game in which he gave up three goals for the first time in 13 previous games, as was reflected by his .885 save percentage. Once again the Hawks failed to capitalize on Luongo’s poor play and came back twice from two goal deficits to pull within one.
The Hawks could have easily tied the game up and forced overtime and then who knows what would have happened, as it’s a crap shoot in extra time. The separation in total shots on goal between the two teams – was one.
Game three was the first time that the Hawks scored the first goal and that usually doesn’t bode well for the Canucks coming back to win. This was the most undisciplined game the Canucks played, in which they took four minor penalties in the first 18 minutes of the first period.
Sure the Hawks were applying pressure in the Canucks zone but the Canucks were a step behind all period. That usually results in penalties against the slower team, which came to fruition.
Without Luongo playing his best game of the series and helping to kill a five on three man advantage in the first period, the Canucks could have been down 2-0. Instead they were able to escape the first period only down by one goal although being outshot 16-10.
The second period seemed to turnaround on the Hawks’ John Scott penalty, as it resulted in a Canuck power play goal which tied the game. It took only 54 seconds after that for the Canucks to go ahead on a Daniel Sedin goal which made it 2-1.
A little over a minute after Sedin’s goal, the game could have easily been changed again with the interference penalty to Raffi Torres on Brent Seabrook. When I originally saw the play I thought that Seabrook had touched the puck and I was questioning the call. But after viewing the play in slo-mo, I realized that Seabrook had not touched the puck and had his head down searching for it.
Torres Seabrook’s head and with the recent suspension to Torres on Jordan Eberle, and the NHL’s drive to eliminate the hit to the head, I thought for sure Torres would get a five minute major and a game misconduct. Raffi Torres hit on Brent Seabrook
With the Hawks having already scored two power play goals in the game, it’s not too far-fetched to think that they might not have scored another two on a five minute power play. As it was, the Hawks did score a power play goal which tied the game at two all.
Once again the Canucks escaped a turning point with only a two minute penalty called on Torres.
It was surprising to listening to Jonathan Toews after the game in which he said that Torres intent was to deliberately injure Seabrook. Wasn’t it only the last playoffs, in which Dustin Byfuglien intent was to mow down Alex Edler behind the net but missed and instead fell on his leg, causing a break to Edler’s ankle?
How about the series the previous year in which Ryan Kesler got blindsided by Dave Bolland or was it Troy Brouwer, in which that hit pretty well eliminated Kesler from the playoffs. Hey, hockey is a physical game, things happen at lightning speed.
The intent in hockey seems to be to punish the opposition with a legal body check, which in turn wears the hit-tee over the course of a series. That’s what Chicago did to the Canucks the past two playoffs, and now Toews is whining because the shoe is on the other foot? But I digress, back to the closeness of the series.
It sure is interesting to look at this series, in which the roles of the teams are reversed from the past two playoffs. Now its Chicago that looks look like it does not have the depth to withstand the Canucks.
Whether it ends in game four, five or six, it has been a close series but the better team should prevail.
To a man the Canucks will tell you that they would like to finish the Hawks off on Tuesday but I’m sure Chicago will have something to say about that. This time though - it’s the Canucks turn to move on.
Footnote: Did you notice in the last four minutes that Coach Vigneault moved centre Maxim Lapierre up to the third line between Jannik Hansen and Mason Raymond. I don’t see any rhyme or reason for Raymond to be playing out of position at centre, when the Canucks have already played Cody Hodgson there for two games. This is the play-offs for heavens sake, come on Vigneault - play the natural centre on the third line.
The Manitoba Moose edged the Lake Erie Monster 3-2 in over-time, with former Canucks Rick Rypien notching the winning goal. That series is now tied at 1 all.
Photo Credits – AP, Getty Images, Goggle Images and Yahoo Sports!
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Filed under: Vancouver Canucks