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Buckle Up, Chicago: Blackhawks vs. Canucks, Round 3

For two straight years the Chicago Blackhawks have knocked the Vancouver Canucks out of the playoffs. The in the 2008-09 season, the loss rested squarely on goaltender/captain Roberto Luongo’s shoulders, as his post-season collapse was the main reason the ‘Nucks polished up their Taylor Made’s early that year. In 2009-10 the defeat was particularly insulting, as Vancouver had re-tooled the team specifically for the purpose of getting past the ‘Hawks and into the Stanley Cup Finals. But Chicago bested them again.

This season, the Canucks have dominated the league almost from the get-go. They sat first in the league at the end of the regular season, the only injury of consequence is Manny Malhotra, and both the team and the fans are primed and ready for a Cup-winning run to avenge the losses the past two years.

Vancouver had better get used to disappointment. Chicago is going to put them down, yet again.

We know pretty much everything there is to know about this team. The Tampon Twins plus Ryan Kesler are their offensive punch. The defense has been engineered to protect their beloved Bobby Lu between the pipes. They are physical, they are fast, they take advantage of their opponents’ mistakes and convert those opportunities into goals. They have a substantial power play, they are also not too shabby on the penalty kill.

So where’s the weakness? Where it’s always been. Where it was two years ago. Where it was last year. In goal.

Roberto Luongo is a head case. Get 3 goals behind him, he’s done for the night. After that third goal, a switch is flipped inside of him, and he can’t stop a beach ball. He’s useless. He’s more useful as a bench-warmer. That’s the Canucks’ weakness. And it is up to the Blackhawks to exploit it.

Crash the net. Run the goalie early, and often. Screen, screen, screen. Shoot low from the outside, slam home the rebounds. All paths lead to Luongo’s boldly protruding schnozz. Get to him, and you finish the Canucks. This series is going to be a shooting gallery, and Luongo better bring his Kevlar — he’s the one wearing the bulls-eye.

Administrative nonsense: Vancouver forward Malhotra is gone for the rest of the year, and defensemen Andrew Alberts and Lee Sweatt are out tonight; Chicago center Dave Bolland will not be in the lineup, but expect winger Troy Brouwer to officially be a “game-time” decision just to fake out the Canucks — he’ll likely play. Luongo in the crease for Vancouver, Corey Crawford starts in goal for the Blackhawks.

Everybody’s getting their predictions in, so here is mine: Blackhawks in 5. Suck on that. The only subject up for debate in my opinion is what cheese-eating surrender monkey Coach Alain Vigneault goes whining to the press about when we wipe our ASS with his team.

9:00pm puck drop with the west coast start tonight. TV is all over the friggin’ place: CBC in Canada plus RDS (en francais) in Quebec; Versus nationally in the ‘States plus Comcast SportsNet here in Chicagoland. Broadcast radio is a change from the usual: the Blackhawks get kicked off the flagship station because of the fool-idiot radio contract with the Flubs, and thus end up on AM-560, WIND. XM subscribers should look for the game on channel 204.

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