Canucks and Beyond
by Alanah McGinley on 05/05/09 at 01:02 PM ET
Reasons Chicago Will Win
- Dustin Byfuglien is an incredibly useful s.o.b.
- The Blackhawks never heard of Roberto Luongo. Or if they have, they recently decided he has no particular mojo they need to be concerned with. (Luongo Schmongo. Someone just get out there and smash the guy with the stupid helmet.)
- Playing in their home town, the ‘Hawks are undefeated this playoffs. Further, their crowd is likely to be intimidating and loud.
- The Blackhawks know how to respond to adversity (games 1-2), but Vancouver has no idea. The Canucks were given a ‘free pass’ to get this far. They can’t handle the competition.
- Canucks have lost important defense - like Sami Salo. Plus, no one else seems to be playing much defense, either.
- Canucks have no answer to the breakout stretch pass.
Sounds depressing when summarized like that. But a quick check of the Canucks crystal ball provides an alternate way of looking at things…
How Vancouver Can Win
Addressing the points above and a few others.
1. Dustin Byfuglien’s special gift in this series is his total lack of respect for the Canucks in general, and for Roberto Luongo in particular. He gets in the danger spots and creates havoc.
The Canucks would do well to NOT chase Buffy around looking for payback and instead focus on playing tighter in their own end. Quit giving Buffy the Goalie Slayer free rein in the Canucks’ crease in the first place.
The Blackhawks general lack of respect for Roberto Luongo is to be admired. Aside from the fact that he’s a talented goaltender, one of the most potent attributes of Luongo is the way other teams allow themselves to be intimidated by his stats. They’ll play for the perfect shot, thinking always of that Big White Elephant in the net, rather than just firing the puck.
In short, Luongo is a key psychological weapon for the Canucks and yet the Blackhawks are unaffected.
In response, the Canucks need to return to playing a strong defensive game. The Blackhawks may not be intimidated by Luongo, but they’ve certainly struggled at times in the regular season against our defense in general. The problem is, the Canucks’ defense isn’t all that intimidating at the moment. If they want to win this series, they’d better fix that.
Luongo himself is going to play the way he usually does, given half a chance: allow him to see the shot and he can usually stop it. Keep guys from wrestling him to the ground every other shift, our wayward goalie will be much more successful.
2. Blackhawks fans are going to be loud and proud tonight, and the ‘Hawks themselves have reasons to be confident about their success at home.
All the noise about how the Blackhawks are undefeated at home is just blah blah. Nice to have a streak, but streaks end. Just ask Vancouver.
Furthermore, the Canucks had long streaks this year where they couldn’t buy a win at home and played their best hockey on the road. After a loss like in game 2, a road game might be just what the doctor ordered.
3. The Blackhawks know what it takes to win. Vancouver hasn’t been tested.
Just because I keep reading/hearing about this everywhere, doesn’t make it true. Both teams faced different types of adversity in game 1, with Vancouver prevailing by the skin of their teeth. And game 2 was simply a matter of one team outplaying the hell out of the other. When Vancouver dropped down to 5 defensemen, they failed the class.
But only the world’s stupidest hockey writers and fans would not have anticipated these 3 things about this series:
a. Chicago is a better team than St. Louis
b. Vancouver’s long layoff between series was likely to make their opening games a bit iffy.
c. Vancouver was eventually going to lose a freakin’ hockey game. This is the Stanley Cup Playoffs, not a Hollywood competition for So, You Think You Can Dance
4. Sami Salo has a rocket of a shot. Vancouver is gonna miss it.
Vancouver is going to miss Salo for a multitude of reasons, and encouraging quotes from the rest of the team like “we’ve played without Salo in the lineup before during the year, we can do it again” aren’t all that calming when you remember how badly their win-loss record drops off when he takes one of his regular sojourns to the infirmary.
Still, Vancouver has been playing very well for a long time now and Salo is just one part of that. Vancouver gets another healthy d-man in the lineup tonight, they can at least face these challenges as a group of six, rather than five. Their job is to clear the crease, let Luongo see the shots coming at him, and (god help us) help prevent stupid breakouts and turnovers at the blue line.
Of course, defense is about more than d-men. As Mats Sundin noted yesterday:
“We’ve got to play better defensively as a group, starting with our forwards helping out. Once we do that, the offence is going to take care of itself.”
Now, will the offense take care of itself without Pavol Demitra chipping in? That remains to be seen, but adding Taylor Pyatt to the lineup (assuming that’s the direction they go; Demitra might indeed still play) can’t be a bad thing. It’s time Vancouver starts doing to Nikolai Khabibulin what Chicago’s been doing to Luongo: get in his face. Pyatt might be stellar at that.
Game 3 is not the definition of a must-win game, though it’s pretty important. But my guess about what is going to happen in Chicago is similar to what happened in Vancouver—Chicago may win game 3 by a squeaker, then, if Vancouver finds their groove the way I think they will, the Canucks will command their own blowout for Game 4.
Tying up this series heading back to GM Place is realistically what the Canucks can do with these two games. If they do better than that, great. But if they lose tonight, I don’t see any reason to panic unless they get blown out themselves.
This is Chicago they’re playing, after all. There was never any doubt this was going to be a war.
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About Canucks and Beyond
Alanah McGinley has been blogging hockey since 2003 (with a notable gap in time through 2010, kicking it with new baby Lucy while living knee-deep in chaos while reading "parenting for complete idiots" during every spare minute) sharing opinions, rants and not-so-deep thoughts with anyone who will listen.
In addition to writing Canucks & Beyond and helping manage Kukla's Korner, Alanah was one of the founders and co-hosts of The Crazy Canucks Podcast. She has contributed pieces to FoxSports.com and the New York Times Slapshot blog, as well as other stray destinations in cyberspace.
So that's me. Who the hell are you?
Alanah's Twitter: [@alanah1]