Little did I know when I wrote the post-game wrap-up after Game 1 that my analysis would cause such a kerfuffle! It appears that I managed to offend the delicate sensibilities of the Vancouver faithful by blaspheming their beloved super-stars with a pithy nickname. Well, my countrymen, you all have a lot thinner skins than I thought you did. Heat, kitchen, you figure out the rest. This is hockey, not badminton. If my choice of words was a little below the belt (*groan*), that’s nothing: you should see how I refer to Sidney Crosby.
So as a new day dawns and a new game approaches, verily I say unto thee, fear not. Regardless of the snit our worthy opponents to the north have themselves in because of my “unprofessional” (is somebody paying me and I don’t know it?) references to feminine hygiene products, I’m going to keep telling it like it is, colorful language and all.
And in keeping with that, I will re-iterate what I said in my post-game wrap-up. The Blackhawks didn’t play a perfect game on Wednesday, in fact far from it; but the game was not a complete loss, not by a long shot. Our goaltending was solid. We endured the short-lived and ultimately ineffective physical barrage from the Canucks. We shut down their top scorers. We isolated their scoring chances to largely odd-man breaks, which is something that can be remedied. And we held the edge in play for the last 40 minutes of the game. These are all encouraging signs.
Now the fun begins. Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville is in the hot seat up until game time. He’s got to devise a way to limit the Canucks’ scoring chances, and open things up in their end to generate more (and better) shot opportunities for the Blackhawks. We need better breakouts and clearing attempts, and we need to push the puck deep and use our forwards’ speed to out-run the Vancouver defense to press the forecheck. But having a plan is only half the battle: the team has to execute.
We need a strong night from Jonathan Toews. We need Patrick Kane to open up some space with his round-the-horn-and-take-a-defenseman-with-you goose chases. We need Patrick Sharp parked at the far post. We need to see more effort from the forwards on the back-check. In the first five minutes of the game, we need Brent Seabrook, Troy Brouwer, and Bryan Bickell to check a couple of guys so hard that their mothers get the wind knocked out of them. We need Chris Campoli and Nick Leddy to jump in front of a few more shots — and remember that the forwards can’t do their jobs when you’re on safari below the hash marks in the attacking zone. We need all of our defensemen looking behind them when they’re on the weak side, to neutralize the Canucks’ cherry-pickers.
Just like last year, we need to see Marian Hossa do what Marian Hossa is capable of doing. He didn’t show up last year, and we need him to this year. At this point in the season there are no excuses. Our $5+ million dollar men have to get on the scoresheet, because it’s now or next season. So, umm, Hoss? If you’re looking for the right time, stop looking: it’s here. We would like to see you earn your kibble tonight. Otherwise we’ll have Mike Gapski put a scorpion in your Underoos to bite your ass when you start slacking off.
And finally, we must — MUST — get traffic in front of Roberto Luongo and make his life miserable. The guy got handed a shutout on a silver platter largely by the hard work of his defensemen, and we can’t have that. He is being praised up one side and down the other in Vancouver for his “superlative” performance, which is mostly just Vancouver fans and press trying to convince themselves that their Dodge Caravan is really a Jaguar. In reality Luongo is a beatable goaltender, and as we all know, a complete seive once he lets 3 goals go past him. We have to get into his head, shake his confidence, and bring out the old LuLu Belle we all know and love. The sooner the better.
Now, I have seen in the press that the strategy may be to try to out-pound the Canucks early. If that’s the plan we’re going with, this series is already over. Our strength is speed and passing, we need to play to our strengths and make the Canucks adapt to us. If we let them dictate the terms of the battle, we’ll lose this war. I hope somebody in the dressing room is listening.
Who’s in and who’s out: we suffered a setback in the last game: Tomas Kopecky was injured when Keith Ballard tried to use him like monkey bars. Thus, TomoKop will not be in the lineup tonight, look for Fernando Pisani to slide into that spot. Ryan Johnson seemed to have some difficulty late in the game after a collision near the boards, but is likely to suit up for this tilt. We’ll have more news and the list of healthy scratches as game time nears. Our Twitter link is where you can find out the latest.
The Blackhawks’ center Dave Bolland is still out with a concussion, and again, I think people need to adjust their expectations about seeing him at all this season. From the sounds of things, Bolland should not skate again until fall. Not that he won’t, he just shouldn’t. From the reports I’m hearing, and from his quotes to the press, his career may be in danger if he does. I have a little first-hand experience in this area, and I’m telling you: that would be a dumb move. Let’s hope the team’s (and Bolland’s) zeal gives proper consideration to the man, not just the game.
News on the Canucks’ side is mostly the same, with the only change being Mikael Samuelsson being a question mark. There is also one strange footnote: winger Raffi Torres did not skate this morning due to food poisoning! Let that be a lesson to you, young man: no sushi during the playoffs. Torres did not play in game 1 and is ineligible for tonight’s game as well due to a 4-game suspension for a hit to the head of Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle. Makes you wonder why Vancouver bothered to mention this at all, personally I don’t care to know about a guy honkin’ smurfs if I don’t have to.
As far as goaltenders go, it would be a shock to see anyone but Luongo and Corey Crawford in net for this series. So since there’s no mystery in that anymore, unless something “shocking” happens, I’m going to assume you have the starting netminders figured out and stop mentioning it.
Tonight we learn the ending of this tale, Blackhawks fans. It comes down to this: can the Blackhawks conceive and execute a strategy that will stymie the Canucks’ offense and put pucks behind their much-praised but ultimately overestimated goaltender? Or is this out of their reach this season? Will the third time be the charm for Vancouver? Or will the Canucks organ-eye-zation have to put Bobby Lu on suicide watch after falling from grace a third year in a row?
9:00pm puck drop Chicago time again tonight. Media is the same as last game: CBC, RDS, Versus, and Comcast SportsNet on television; broadcast radio is WIND AM-560; and XM channel 204.
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