Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
They brought in the legendary Hall Of Famer Bobby Hull for the ceremonial opening faceoff. They filled the United Center with 22,659 screaming fans, brought to their feet by Jim Cornelison’s stirring rendition of the national anthems. They came ready to celebrate the Chicago Blackhawks’ next step down the NHL playoff path.
Then ... nothing.
The Vancouver Canucks spoiled the party with a methodical and defensively sound performance last night, grinding out a 3-1 win over the Blackhawks and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final, with Game 4 set for tomorrow night.
Two teams will be up 2-1 in the series after the game tonight.
Which two is the question.
from Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun,
Thanks to blowing a 2-0 lead, giving up five consecutive goals, and losing 6-3 at home to Chicago in Game 2, the Canucks come here where the Blackhawks are unbeaten in the playoffs and where the environment is expected to be like it hasn’t been for a hockey game in Chicago since the Blackhawks used to play across the road in the now-levelled Chicago Stadium.
“All the way home it’s all everybody was talking about,” said Hawks’ Adam Burish of the charter flight from Vancouver.
“It’s going to be louder than ever. From the way it’s been building and the way it was for Game 5 against Calgary, it’s going to be the same kind of atmosphere as everybody says it used to be around here when it was the loudest rink in the NHL,” he said of Chicago Stadium, where the little hairs on the back of your neck stood at attention during the national anthem.
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
He casts a wide-bodied presence — a lunar eclipse on skates when he gets set up in front of the net — for a team that understands the best way to make Luongo look mortal is to block his view at every turn. And if a guy occasionally loses an edge and accidentally-on-purpose goes crashing into the goalie, well, that’s good for business — Blackhawks business, that is.
“I’m there, I’m there,” said Byfuglien, when asked if he’s in the heads of Vancouver players. “But it’s been good. It’s been fun. I’m just doing my job and playing the way I can.”
“He’s a big body,” ventured Bieksa, following Canucks practice yesterday at the United Center. “He’s played well for them, obviously. Last game, he played well. He gets in on the fore-check, he finishes his hit. He’s a big body in front of Louie.
“But it’s more about us worrying about ourselves right now than us worrying about them.”
from Craig Custance of the Sporting News,
Why can’t Vancouver hold a lead? Can the Canucks handle Chicago’s speed? And maybe the most gutsy question of the afternoon to goalie Roberto Luongo: What are your thoughts on being shellacked?
He stared for a good three seconds before answering that one.
“Is that a serious question?” he responded.
So there might be a little panic surrounding the Vancouver Canucks, but they promise it hasn’t seeped into their room.
It’s going to take more than one loss to shake the confidence of a team that opened the playoffs with five consecutive wins.
“I would like to sincerely thank Glen Sather and the New York Rangers for giving me the opportunity this past season in New York. I would also like to thank the Vancouver Canucks and all of their fans for their support over the 11-plus seasons I was a part of their organization, as well as to the Pittsburgh Penguins where I began my NHL career.”
-Markus Naslund in his official retirement announcement. More at NewYorkRangers.com.
from Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province,
The Canucks have more than a few issues to deal with as their second-round series lands in the Windy City. But job No. 1 is defending those killer stretch passes that have exposed their blueline.
David Bolland’s shorthanded goal Saturday night was simply the most glaring example of that play, but the Blackhawks have used the long bomb to ignite their attack throughout the first two games.
It’s confusing the Canucks’ coverage. It’s putting Roberto Luongo under considerable duress. And it’s completely negating the Canucks’ forecheck.
Here’s the result. Aside from a 30-minute span from the 10-minute mark of the first period to the end of the second period in Game 1, the Hawks have dominated this series to an alarming degree. The Canucks now have to prove they can play at their speed or slow them down to their own. Either way, the challenge is formidable.
from Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune,
Ever since their three-goal explosion in the third period of Game 1 Thursday night, the Hawks have been the faster, stronger and more physical of the teams, and they have seized home-ice advantage in the series with three of the possible five remaining games scheduled at the UC.
After winning all three home games in front of roaring crowds during their first-round series with Calgary, the Hawks are pleased to be setting up shop once again on West Madison Street.
“It’s all about coming out hard and flying and using that energy in our own building,” captain Jonathan Toews said. “We have an opportunity here, so we have to go out there and take advantage of it.”
The most shocking aspect of the two games in Vancouver was the Hawks’ ability to put pucks past Canucks star goaltender Roberto Luongo. The veteran netminder has yielded eight goals during the first two games after giving up just five in Vancouver’s four-game sweep of St. Louis in the first round.
from Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe,
If Vancouver’s Sedin brothers, Henrik and Daniel, hit the free agent market in July with their names on the Cup as conquering Canucks, imagine the score they’ll make at the pay window.
Los Angeles and Toronto will be just two of the clubs with enough cap room and interest to woo the talented Swedish forwards. Montreal, with the league’s most available cash, also could be enticed. Ah, two Sedins and one Celine, how lyrical.
Their deal in Vancouver paid each of the Sedins $3.75 million this season. They easily will average upward of $6 million each on their next contract, and given that they won’t turn 29 until September, they might persuade someone to cough up, say, $90 million over six years, averaging out to $7.5 million per Sedin.
continued and other hockey topics too…
from Stephen Brunt of the Globe and Mail,
They made Roberto Luongo, by and large, look ordinary in the Vancouver net, and at even strength controlled the tempo. Their defencemen fearlessly ventured deep into Canucks territory or fired long stretch passes through the neutral zone. Their forwards won all of the small races for the puck, and made Vancouver seem a bit tentative, a bit slow, back on their heels, reacting.
The really striking part, though, was the Blackhawks’ poise.
Young teams, with the bulk of their roster dipping a toe for the first time into the postseason, are supposed to be at least a little bit intimidated, and franchises that make great leaps forward during the regular season often fall back in the playoffs.
But as the folks in Calgary already know all too well, this is a special group of Hawks, apparently not the least bit shaken by the situation or by unfriendly surroundings.
from Tim Sassone of Between The Circles at the Chicago Daily-Herald,
The more you see the Vancouver defense, the more ordinary it looks. And now the Canucks might be without defenseman Samu Salo, who apparently hurt his back scoring his power-play goal two minutes into the first period. Salo left the game and never returned.
Kevin Bieksa acts all tough, but Dustin Byfuglien blew by him much of the night like he was one of those orange practice cones.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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