30
Apr
09

Battle of Political Sensitivity; Blackhawks vs. Canucks

 

Prior to the post, I want to thank these sites for helping me with the research:

 

SecondCityHockey.com

NucksMisconduct.com

TheFifthFeather.com

NHLNumbers.com

 

 

The Chicago Blackhawks open their first Stanley Cup Playoff second round for the first time since 1996, the year the Avalanche won the Cup. Although the series will open in Vancouver, the Canucks a 3-seed and the ‘Hawks a 4-seed, I have no doubt in my mind the Blackhawks will open the series with a win. Here’s why: I was walking by the boardroom to find out there are left over chocolate chip cookies and brownies! How does this correlate to the Blackhawks winning tonight? It doesn’t, but it’s my post and when I just walked back over for a second helping, I realized someone had dropped off some more. The first though that came to mind was if Chicago is any bit as good as the brownie I just had, it’s going to be a 4-game sweep. Let me dig a little deeper though, Chicago is coming off a tough 6-game battle with Calgary. Vancouver dismantled St. Louis in 4 games. The difference? Chicago is already playing at the tempo Vancouver can produce, Vancouver will probably need to go through the gear box before getting up to Chicago’s speed and skill. Overall, I cannot wait until 9pm tonight and most likely a rematch of what we saw at the end of the season. You have Chicago’s potent, and awakening, offense going against Vancouver’s stiffling defense and goaltending. Not to mention the teams were only seperated by 4 p oints during the regular season. Vancouver getting the better seed for winning the Northwest Division.

 

 

Lets take a look at the Chicago offense first. Nuckmisconduct.com has a solid breakdown of the Chicago’s front-line notables:

 

 

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

SOG

PCT

2008 – Jonathan Toews

82

34

35

69

12

51

12

0

7

1

195

17.4

 

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

SOG

PCT

2008 – Patrick Kane

80

25

45

70

-2

42

13

0

4

1

254

9.8

 

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

SOG

PCT

2008 – Martin Havlat

81

29

48

77

29

30

5

0

5

1

249

11.6

 

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

SOG

PCT

2008 – Kris Versteeg

78

22

31

53

15

55

6

4

3

0

139

15.8

 

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

SOG

PCT

2008 – Andrew Ladd

82

15

34

49

26

28

0

0

2

0

195

7.7

 

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

SOG

PCT

2008 – Dave Bolland

81

19

28

47

19

52

2

2

4

0

111

17.1

 

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

SOG

PCT

2008 – Patrick Sharp

61

26

18

44

6

41

9

0

4

1

184

14.1

 

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

SOG

PCT

2008 – Samuel Pahlsson

65

7

11

18

-17

34

1

0

2

0

88

8.0

 

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

SOG

PCT

2008 – Ben Eager

75

11

4

15

1

161

0

0

0

0

80

13.8

 

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

SOG

PCT

2008 – Dustin Byfuglien

77

15

16

31

7

81

3

0

4

0

202

7.4

 

Looking at this breakdown you  have the league’s top rookie, Versteeg, along with 3 players putting up 70 points this season. Throw in the power forward Byfuglien and Burish, you’ve got yourself some talent on the front. Not to mention that Kane seemed to find his groove in the second half of the Calgary series, while Havlat is putting together a pretty solid argument for the Blackhawks to offer a contract extension. Now that Havlat has turned a corner with his injuries, he seems like a player, at 28 years old, can push to the front of the line with Toews and Kane to be the face of the franchise. Speaking of Toews, happy 21st birthday, buddy! How does it feel you make as much money tying your skates as I will in a year?

 

Taser Boozin'

Thanks to Second City Hockey for the image

 

OK, the Blackhawks blue-liners, who have surprised the kid quite a bit so far this season. While I think Brian “soupy” Campbell could step it up a little bit. I’ve been impressed with the confidence Seabrook, Barker, and Keith have played with. I would also give a shout out to Matt Walker and showing a lot of grit after demolishing his finger. Walker only missed a period to drink a glass of milk and get some calcium in his finger after blocking a shot.

 

More on the Blackhawks backmen from nucksmisconduct.com

 

 

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

SOG

PCT

2008 – Brian Campbell

82

7

45

52

5

22

4

0

1

0

108

6.5

 

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

SOG

PCT

2008 – Brent Seabrook

82

8

18

26

23

62

3

1

1

0

132

6.1

 

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

SOG

PCT

2008 – Cam Barker

68

6

34

40

-6

65

5

0

1

0

101

5.9

 

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

SOG

PCT

2008 – Matt Walker

65

1

13

14

7

79

0

0

0

0

83

1.2

 

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

SOG

PCT

2008 – Duncan Keith

77

8

36

44

33

60

2

1

1

0

173

4.6

 

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

SOG

PCT

2008 – Brent Sopel

23

1

1

2

-4

8

0

0

1

0

15

6.7

 

As for the Blackhawk’s goaltending, you have a real matchup here with Khabibulin facing off against the league’s best (one of them) Roberto Luongo. Luongo is going to be the biggest oppositoin for the Blackhawks this series, so lets look at these two together.

 

 

GP

MIN

W

L

T

EGA

GA

GAA

SA

SV

SV%

SO

2008 – Roberto Luongo

54

3181

33

13

7

5

124

2.34

1542

1418

.920

9

 

GP

MIN

W

L

T

EGA

GA

GAA

SA

SV

SV%

SO

2008 – Nikolai Khabibulin

42

2467

25

8

7

1

96

2.33

1192

1096

.919

3

 

Stacked on top of each other you can see that both goalies have almost identical stats, excluding shutouts. Yet, Luongo still scared me because he plays like a man possessed when he needs to.

 

On to Vancouver. I’m not as familiar with the Canucks as I am with the Blackhawks, plus I don’t have the patience right now, so I’m going to let SecondCityHockey.com take on this job. From Second City:

 


 

 

Daniel Sedin

#22 / Left Wing / Vancouver Canucks

Height: 6-1

Weight: 185

Born: Sep 26, 1980



 

 

Henrik Sedin

#33 / Center / Vancouver Canucks

Height: 6-2

Weight: 190

Born: Sep 26, 1980



 

 

Alexandre Burrows

#14 / Left Wing / Vancouver Canucks

Height: 6-1

Weight: 190

Born: Apr 11, 1981


 

 

This is the top line, and it is far more imposing than the one the Hawks just got done with.  There are a couple things Hawks fans should not focus on when it comes to this triumvirate.  The first is that the Sedins are not playoff performers.  While their history is not glittering, these two combined for 9 points in four games against the Blues.  Now, St. Louis is hardly a juggernaut, and don’t possess the checkers the Hawks do.  But the creepy twins have a taste for it now, and to expect them to just disappear is probably a wish. 

The second thing Hawks fans should not get too wrapped up in is making Burrows pay for his hilarious and sorority girl antics against Keith last time the Canucks were here.  Burrows offers so much more than being a douche.  He had three goals in the first round, to go with 28 in the season, and does all the dirty work for the Sedins, allowing them to concentrate on what they do best, i.e. being really weird.  You’ll hate this guy within minutes, if not already, but he’s a real danger. 


 

 

Ryan Kesler

#17 / Center / Vancouver Canucks

Height: 6-2

Weight: 205

Born: Aug 31, 1984



 

 

Mats Sundin

#13 / Center / Vancouver Canucks

Height: 6-5

Weight: 231

Born: Feb 13, 1971



 

 

Pavol Demitra

#38 / Center / Vancouver Canucks

Height: 6-0

Weight: 200

Born: Nov 29, 1974


 

This is the Canucks second line, assuming Mats can be removed from the casino or the OBGYN.  Mats missed the last two games of the Blues series, and the general feeling I got from reading the Canucks boards is that Canucks fans weren’t all that sure it was an injury that warranted that.  Sundin has been a passenger for most of his time out West, and as long as the Hawks don’t totally ignore him, I don’t see any reason that would change. 

However, that’s negated by the player who scares me most in this series, and that’s Ryan Kesler.  The next captain Canuck wasn’t all that much of a factor against St. Louis, with only one point, and even on +/-, Corsi, and Behind The Net.  But that’s probably an aberration.  This guy will either be assigned to making Captain Marvel’s life hell, or provide secondary scoring, each of which he can do, and well.  The series may come down to if Toews can outplay Kesler, and it’s no easy task.

Demitra is old, and that’s about all there is to say about that.


 

 

Kyle Wellwood

#42 / Center / Vancouver Canucks

Height: 5-10

Weight: 180

Born: May 16, 1983



 

 

Mason Raymond

#21 / Left Wing / Vancouver Canucks

Height: 6-0

Weight: 182

Born: Sep 17, 1985



 

 

Steve Bernier

#18 / Right Wing / Vancouver Canucks

Height: 6-2

Weight: 225

Born: Mar 31, 1985


 

 

This is another solid unit, though they only managed 3 points in the first round.  They’re not the checking line per se, as Kesler draws a lot of those duties, but they will be asked to do their fair share of it.  Bernier has never quite lived up to the hype his size caused, yet he’s only 24 and has shown flashes this season.  Wellwood, according to the Leafs, ate himself out of Toronto, and was sent down briefly earlier in the year by Vancouver.  He eventually popped up with 18 goals, and has been effective.  This is where the Hawks forward depth really starts to show, as the Hawks 3rd unit looks to be a bit better than this. 

From there, the Canucks will roll out nutcase Rick Rypien, who will hit everything in sight, and Jannik Hansen and/or Darcy Hordichuk.

So, upon looking at this, and knowing full well that I’ll infuriate a Canucklehead reading this, I’d say the Hawks have the edge at forward.  Yes, Vancouver’s top line is scary, but that’s what Pahlse is for.  Looking at the 2nd lines, D. Ladd Soul is a better line than Kesler, Statler and Waldorf, and the Pahlsson-Buff-VERSTEEG! combo was probably the Hawks best line against Calgary.  If Pahlse can reenact 2007 vs. the Sedins, the Canucks look short on scoring, and we’ll have every chance.  Easier said than done, I’m ‘fraid.

Next up, the blueliners.  And looking at the stats, something odd stands out.  Of the 8 guys on their roster that are defencemen, only two aren’t 6’3″… they’re like the damn rockettes.  The Hawks only have 3 defencemen that tall by the way. 

Now, looking at a Nucks shift charts, you’ll see that Vigneault doesn’t stick with defensive pairings with the same strictness that Q does.  These are the closest I think we’ll get to the actual pairings.


 

 

Mattias Ohlund

#2 / Defenseman / Vancouver Canucks

Height: 6-3

Weight: 220

Born: Sep 09, 1976



 

 

Alexander Edler

#23 / Defenseman / Vancouver Canucks

Height: 6-3

Weight: 220

Born: Apr 21, 1986


 

Combined for 211 hits, 245 blocked shots, 62 points

Not quite the shut down pairing, not a great offensive duo but not a liability either.  These two are quiet and get the job done but aren’t making any highlight reels.  Ohlund has been around for a while and is still logging bit minutes (21:34/g) but has never had a stand out year (36 points and +16 in ’01-’02?).  Edler is second on the Nucks blue line with 37 points and he’s third with a +/- of 11.. but there’s really nothing else to say about him.

They’re a quality pairing but nothing spectacular.  This could be a pairing the Hawks could exploit if they can get a good line out there against them.  They’re not going to be overly physical and aren’t a big threat to score. .  Ohlund has been taking more penalties than usual this year and if the Hawks power play stays on fire they should test him.

 


 

 

Willie Mitchell

#8 / Defenseman / Vancouver Canucks

Height: 6-3

Weight: 210

Born: Apr 23, 1977



 

 

Sami Salo

#6 / Defenseman / Vancouver Canucks

Height: 6-3

Weight: 215

Born: Sep 02, 1974


 

 

Combined for 128 hits, 191 blocked shots, 48 points

Willie Mitchell is the closest thing the Canucks have to a real shutdown guy.  He’s got the highest +/- of the defencemen at 29, he logs big minutes – including on the PK.  He’ll be paired up with guys like Havlat and Toews trying to make their lives miserable.  I just don’t know how much help he’ll get.  If Mitchell is supposed to be the Nucks Keith, then Salo’s got a long way to go to be Seabrook.  There’s really no one to compliment Mitchell and give him any help.  If the Hawks can work around him that’d be wise or just try to take advantage of his partner.

Salo did step up his game against the Blues, 4 points in 3 games before missing the last one.  He’s said to be back for the Second Round but I don’t think we should worry too much about his point production.  4 points matches his highest post-season production and he averaged just .42 points per game in the regular season.  For a guy who is 6’3″ and 215lbs he doesn’t play a very physical game.


 

 

Shane O’Brien

#55 / Defenseman / Vancouver Canucks

Height: 6-3

Weight: 224

Born: Aug 09, 1983



 

 

Kevin Bieksa

#3 / Defenseman / Vancouver Canucks

Height: 6-0

Weight: 205

Born: Jun 16, 1981


 

Combined for 200 hits, 111 blocked shots, 53 points.. not sure what happened to O’Brien’s picture…

Now this is where it gets fun, Bieksa, from my understanding, is quite popular in Vancouver.  He’s a high scoring blue liner with 43 points in the regular season.  Of those 43 points though, 23 came on the power play.  So he’s not a huge threat at even strength.  The Hawks showed pretty good discipline in not taking too many penalties in the first round so they’ll need to keep that up.  Bieksa brings a physical presence though, leading the defense in hits.  Bieksa is also the guy Eager dropped then power slammed into the ice in the line brawl.

O’Brien though is the big fighter for the Nucks defense.  O’Brien dropped the gloves 9 times this year and according to Hockey Fights, he only lost once.  Other than that though there’s nothing spectacular about him though.  He’s got 10 points, some hits… whatever.  He’ll play the least amount of time of the D. 

The Hawks should keep their heads up when these two are on the ice though as they’ll bring the strongest physical game for the Nucks.

Once again, I hate to say it but the Hawks have the edge here.  The Nucks don’t have a pairing that’s even close to Keith/Biscuit and Campbell has actually been playing decently in his own end while flying all over the ice.  I don’t think I’ve personally seen a faster or smoother skater than Campbell in Game 5.  The Nucks might have a slight edge on the 5th and 6th D-men, but they shouldn’t be a deciding factor and even Walker has stepped up his game lately.

Plus, a closer look at the goaltending matchup:

 

Quick – name the Canucks back up
Ok.. It’s Jason LaBarbera.. and guess what else?  Both he and Luongo are listed as 6’3″.. what the hell guys? 

That’s not what we’re going to talk about here though.

The biggest match up is the battle between the pipes – Khabby vs. Luongo.  We’ve seen the teams are close with the forwards and the D-Men.  And honestly they’re not that far apart in either department.

The Canucks biggest strength is Luongo – he’s a monster in the net. 


 

 

Roberto Luongo

#1 / Goalie / Vancouver Canucks

Height: 6-3

Weight: 205

Born: Apr 04, 1979
How he wasn’t nominated for the Vezina Trophy I don’t really get… Backstrom is overrated…

I shouldn’t have to tell you that Luongo is pretty capable of winning this series on his own.  He can steal just about any game he wants if he’s on.  If the Hawks want to win they’ll have to find a way to beat this man.  Not an easy task.. You can try to rattle him but he doesn’t wilt under pressure.  And he doesn’t like it when pesky reporters ask him silly questions either..

In the series against the Blues Lou put up insane numbers.  A .962 SV% and 1.15 GAA with 1 shut out.  And it’s not like he’s a stranger to great post-season play either.   In ’06-’07 he had a 1.77 GAA and a .941 SV%.. still.. even with those numbers.. the Nucks lost.

The Sedins scare because they’re insane – Luongo scares me because he’s insanely good.

Lucky for us, Khabby is showing he’s no slouch:


 

 

Nikolai Khabibulin

#39 / Goalie / Chicago Blackhawks

Height: 6-1

Weight: 209

Born: Jan 13, 1973

Khabby’s numbers aren’t nearly as impressive this postseason – .914 and 2.52 – but there’s still reason to hope.  When Khabby was good in the first round, he was very good, when he was bad he was pretty bad, when he was great he was unbeatable.

Just check out these SV%’s

Game 1 .920
Game 2 .938
Game 3 .857
Game 4 .808
Game 5 .950
Game 6 .977

 

The first two road games were rough – but there were rough on all the Hawks, not just Khabby.  If Khabby can step up and play like he did in the last two games though, it could be the best goalie match up in the playoffs so far.

Here’s something else to be concerned about though – as good as Khabby has been career wise against the Flames, he’s been that bad against the Canucks.

WARNING: Don’t read this if you don’t want me to bum out your high… but career wise – he’s 6-16 with 1 tie and 2 OTLs against the Canucks with a 3.39 GAA and a .887 SV%… yikes.  They’re one team that just seems to have his number. 

So that really needs to change. Or we might see Huet get in a few games.

And just for fun – Huet is 2-2 with one tie against the Nucks with a 2.55GAA and .911SV%. 

These two teams are incredibly close on paper but this is the key match up.  The Hawks need Khabby to step up his game and keep the Hawks in this because you simply can’t hope for Luongo to play poorly.

 

 

 

 

Overall, I’m thinking the Hawks are going to be in for the long-haul.  These are two evenly matched teams with a lot of quiet-talent. Therefore, Chicago in 7 with a lot of fights. Don’t doubt Vancouver forgot about this incident at the end of the season:

 

 

 

Players to Watch:

 

Henrick Sedin

Daniel Sedin

Roberto Luongo

Jonathan Toews

Patrick Kane

Martin Havlat

 

 

 

#3 vs. #4
NETWORK
Thursday, April 30 at Vancouver, 8:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
Saturday, May 2 at Vancouver, 8:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
Tuesday, May 5 at Chicago, 7:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
Thursday, May 7 at Chicago, 7:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
*Saturday, May 9 at Vancouver, 9:30 p.m CBC, VERSUS
*Monday, May 11 at Chicago, 8:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS (JIP)
*Thursday, May 14 at Vancouver, TBD CBC, VERSUS


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