I’m seeing a lot of mainstream press comments about the Blackhawks not being ready to play, and putting in a poor effort, and what-not. Sorry, guys, you missed the point. The end result of this game means zilch: the game within the game is what matters here, and all signs point to a Blackhawks series victory.
Anybody could have told you two days before the game how the Canucks were going to start: fast, hard, mean, chippy, trying to give the fans what they came for. They managed to sustain that for about 12 minutes, and scored two goals. The rest of the night, zippo. The last two periods the Hawks shut down the Canucks offense and out-shot them 25-20. The Tampon Twins did not appear on the scoresheet (except for getting a penalty), and Ryan Kesler only managed one assist. Those three accounted for 40% of the Canucks’ goals during the regular season; tonight, zero.
The Canucks were hitting hard all night, but the Blackhawks took no retaliation penalties, and were winning the battles for the puck — meaning the Canucks’ physical play strategy didn’t work. The Canucks’ scoring chances were largely odd-man rushes off of steals shallow in their own zone. We can remedy that problem, and then what are they going to do? The Blackhawks spent more time deep in the Vancouver zone than the Canucks did in Chicago’s zone — also a very good sign.
And finally, the difference in goal was stark. Corey Crawford was composed, pounced on rebounds when it was safe, appeared confident with his poke-checks and puck-handling overall, and had a solid night in net. Conversely, Roberto Luongo, in his typical fashion, looked like a deer in the headlights. When a puck went past him to the side of the net, his head started whipping around like a weather vane in a tornado. He had *no* clue where it went, or where it was coming out. He had a lot of help from his defensemen, as well as the post in several instances, and overall had a middling performance. Half an inch difference on the three bell-ringing shots, and the Blackhawks win 3-2. If that’s the game he’s going to bring to this series, the Canucks are already in trouble.
Things for the Blackhawks to work on: turnovers near their blue line, and turnovers near our blue line; shot selection; opening up passing lanes in front of their net, and setting up the tic-tac-toe plays that Luongo can’t handle; and getting the first goal — the Blackhawks play much better when protecting a lead.
And we absolutely have to get into Luongo’s grill a lot more. The only thing I want him to remember from this series is the view of Troy Brouwer’s butt in his face. Shoot for the mask. Wrestle defensemen into the crease. “Lose your balance” and crash into his pads. Anything and everything, early and often. It’s worked beautifully before, it will work again.
In each of the last two years, the Blackhawks have knocked the Canucks out of the playoffs. In each of the last two years, the Canucks have won the first game. So sit back, relax, and watch the magic happen. We’ve seen the Canucks’ game plan, and they are going to try to execute it for the rest of the series. That won’t work.
You can bet that Coach Joel Quenneville is, as I write this, reviewing game tape and working on the Blackhawks’ game plan for Friday. The Canucks have shown us every card in their hand. QStache will know how to counter the Canucks’ game, and if the team is able to execute his strategy, this is the only game when Canucks fans will go away happy.
Check back on Friday for the game 2 preview, and we’ll do it all again — except this time with more beer, since we don’t have to work the next day. Apologies for no ‘Boxing’ today, technical difficulties are preventing Mr. Bartl from performing his post-game duties. And by ‘technical difficulties’ I mean spending quality time with his nether regions.
Just kidding, Jeff…
Visit the NEW Blackhawk Up Store with new designs!
Follow BlackhawkUp.com @blackhawksup and on Facebook
Download Blackhawk Up’s FREE iPhone and Droid apps
Visit FanSided’s NHL page, Too Many Men on the Site