On Saturday evening in front of a large TV audience and over 22,000 in attendance the Blackhawks came up empty against the Canucks. It was proof once again displaying confidence is much different than talking about it.
The Hawks were completely defeated and now will search for reasons and try to bounce back in Game 2. The Canucks are one of the NHL’s elite and the Blackhawks made them look unbeatable.
If Chicago’s performance doesn’t make a 180 degree turn Vancouver could be on their way to series sweep. When interviewed Blackhawk players constantly mention they are a confident group.
If there was ever a time there self assuredness could be in question it would be now.
There is a big difference between the Vancouver Canucks and the Nashville Predators.
The Predators compete and win because of guile and determination more so than having an abundance of talent. Vancouver is a much more skilful group which when focused is a legitimate threat to win the Stanley Cup.
The Blackhawks are somewhat of enigma these days.
Chicago has talent and in many ways puts on one of the best shows in the NHL. They don’t score as many highlight reel goals as other clubs but the Hawks have had more than their share of dramatic comebacks. Seldom do they stay down for long but these days there aren’t many second chances.
That is where the confusion lies.
At times the Hawks have shown the willingness to accept adversity and battle back. But often in this year’s post season they don’t consistently exhibit the necessary push back when trouble arises.
One thing has proven true over the last few years, it is best not to sell this group short. They have accomplished a lot in a short period of time but now they face a huge challenge.
There is no need to get all inside hockey about why the Blackhawks were trounced on home ice by the Canucks. In essence the Hawks didn’t have the appropriate response to the Vancouver challenge. To say there were some bright spots in the Hawks performance is an overstatement.
Roberto Luongo was very good and Antti Niemi wasn’t, but don’t boil down the 5-1 loss into which goal keeper was better.
In the closing seconds of the opening frame Niemi played a harmless off target shot by Ryan Kesler into a juicy rebound. The result was a Mason Raymond goal and 2-0 Vancouver lead.
Niemi looked shaky afterward and probably should have been pulled at the start of the second period when the Canucks tallied to make it a 3-0 contest. The young Finn would have had to pitch a shutout for the Hawks to have a chance to win over the weekend. Realistically that is too much to ask.
Luongo had a strong performance but the Blackhawks had 13 missed shots and many squandered opportunities. A combination of poor passing, missing the net and probably squeezing their sticks too tight contributed to the Hawks dismal offensive performance.
Defensively Chicago was no better.
The blueliners turned the puck over far too often as did the forwards. The Hawks were outworked along the boards.
If you are looking for positives the Hawks won 55 % of the faceoffs and that will take care of the bright spots for Chicago.
The Hawks did outshoot the Canucks, probably because they were trailing for almost the entire game. Vancouver only fired three shots at Cristobal Huet in the third period.
Those who want to put a lot of emphases on hits being a proxy for toughness, think again.
The team without the puck does most of the hitting. A puck possession club like the Hawks will often get outhit because they are controlling the play.
A better measurement of toughness is the team which wins the puck battles and in Game 1 it was the Canucks.
On Saturday the Blackhawks chased the fleet Canuck forwards for much of the game. Chicago outhit Vancouver 37-27 mainly because the Canucks were the team with the puck. This was apparent in all three zones, and certainly now the Hawk defenders realize the speed and skill of every Canuck line.
Chicago and Vancouver are different teams than last year.
The Canucks have made some nice additions and are a better club than when they last faced the Hawks in the playoffs.
The changes in Chicago are striking.
Compared to last spring the Blackhawks used four completely different lines in Game 1. Also every defensive pairing except one has changed, as well as the goal keeper.
Joel Quenneville will have to find the best combinations but maybe he has too many choices….
Alain Vigneault is keeping his game plan simple.
The Canucks bench boss couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.
He received big contributions from his bottom six forwards as they outplayed their Chicago counterparts. In my view the play of the third and fourth lines should have been a Blackhawk advantage. But the opposite was true in the series opener.
Vigneault is very comfortable in matching his top two lines against Chicago’s best. If Game 1 results were any indication he should feel very confident.
Most likely if the Hawks don’t turn things around in a big way on Monday it will be a short series. Although with a win they can climb back into their playoff battle and hope for Chicago fans will be alive.
If Vancouver goes up 0-2, the Blackhawk Stanley Cup Express might be knocked off the track.
Maybe it was going too fast anyway.
Here is a brief individual series opener performance review….
Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook…
Both have not played as consistently well as they did in the first half of the season. Seabrook in particular had an off night in Game 1. Maybe the strain of a long season and many hard minutes are surfacing.
The best thing about the Chicago loss might have been Keith and Seabrook played less than 23 minutes…maybe that will pay dividends in Game 2.
Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Sopel…
Sopel had his worse game of the playoffs by far. Hammer wasn’t himself either but his partner certainly didn’t help matters.
Brian Campbell and Jordan Hendry…
Campbell may have rushed back and is avoiding contact more than usual. He is playing like one big hit could knock him out of action.
Hendry looked like a rusty player.
Niemi shouldn’t worry about trying to outplay Luongo but he can’t give goals away.
His rebound control wasn’t good and he made his job more difficult.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Marian Hossa had three hits but no shots.
Dave Bolland in the offensive zone isn’t close to the same player he was last season at this time.
John Madden had two wins and seven losses at the faceoff dot.
Patrick Kane is trying to do too much…the blue line turnovers will have to stop.
Kane on the power play…
He has become too predictable and will have switch things up. Kane should take some shots while moving away from the half boards.
I know in Juniors, a long time ago Bryan Bickell scored goals.
A long time ago I had a 30 inch waist….
I’m not sure why Troy Brouwer fell out of favor but it’s time to get him up to the first line.
If Quenneville isn’t going to put a proven goal scorer with Kane and Jonathan Toews, maybe Dustin Byfuglien should be the next choice.
Will Adam Burish get to dress for Game 2?
Maybe…But who will sit?
Byfuglien had six hits but played less than 11 minutes. He was also credited with only one shot.
Maybe Buff goes back on defense and plays power play minutes up front…And Hendry sits out???
The Canadiens somehow came back to win Game 2 on the road against the Cup champs to avoid going down 0-2.
The Hawks had a team meeting on Sunday to sort things out.
If they want to have a good chance at winning this series they will have to find a way to win tonight.
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