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.
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.
Blackhawks-Canucks III may seem like a more sexy title given the renewed rivalry and Chicago’s dominance over the past two postseasons. But there was a time when the Canucks got the best of the Blackhawks, and they kept Denis Savard, Norris Trophy winner Doug Wilson and the ’Hawks from moving onto the Stanley Cup finals.
It was the same series the Vancouver Canucks and coach Roger Neilson provided the hockey world with a memorable moment.
This seems fitting, doesn’t it? Granted Daniel and Henrik Sedin look much more alike than Schwarzenegger and DeVito, but this seems a pretty good movie to help with the breakdown.
The Blackhawks and Canucks split four regular-season meetings with each winning once each at home and on the road. Here’s a quick snipit of team statistics from each contest.
The most glaring aspect — which Brad Ziemer of the Vancouver Sun pointed out yesterday in our Behind Enemy Lines interview — is the Blackhawks were just 1 for 20 on the power play through the four games. The Canucks went 5 for 16. Ziemer said this series could come down to special teams, and he may be right.
Much like I did during last season’s playoffs against San Jose, I’ll breakdown each regular-season game relating to a quote. This edition, we’ll rely on Twins to provide us the memorable banter. And if you were lucky enough to get Boxing after one of these games, you’ll be able to take another gander at that as well.
And ….. go.
Blackhawks-Canucks III begins Wednesday, with the hated rivals set to do battle once again. To gain a bit more insight into the opponent, I traded emails with Vancouver Sun beat writer, Brad Ziemer, who has done a fantastic job of covering the Canucks.
Ziemer gives us his thoughts on the the differences between previous Vancouver teams, the resurgence of Roberto Luongo, the keys to the series and his prediction.
You may not enjoy his answers.
Bartl: Everyone knows the playoff history between the Blackhawks and Canucks. They don’t like each other. However, Vancouver enters this series as the favorite while the Blackhawks are backing in with a bit of luck. What are some noticeable differences from this year’s Canucks team and the two previous teams which lost to Chicago?
Ziemer: This is a much more confident and mature Canuck team. Guys like Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows, who used to waste much of their energy trash-talking and getting involved in scrums, have for the most part stuck to hockey this season. The team is also much deeper on defence. They enter the playoffs with their top six defencemen all healthy for the first time all season.
Pure disgust to utter elation in a matter of four hours.
And now, back to reality.
Sunday was a microcosm of a Blackhawks season which had people jumping off cliffs, then scaling the mountain again in hopes of reaching the top. The Red Wings came into the United Center and farted all over the Blackhawks’ playoff hopes with a 4-3 heartbreaker.
Then, the Minnesota Wild brought the Febreeze with a 5-3 win against Dallas, sending the Blackhawks to the playoffs for the third straight season.
It’s pretty much pointless to discuss the Red Wings game in detail. That was in the prior season, the regular season which doesn’t matter anymore. To piss ourselves off about the fact the ‘Hawks came into the game with everything to play for and the Wings entering the game with nothing …. wait, I just said I wasn’t going to do this.
Our dear friends – the Vancouver Canucks – await in Round 1. Dustin Byfuglien’s fat ass won’t be around to wave in Roberto Luongo’s face again this year. And if you’re happy to see the Canucks simply based off the fact the ‘Hawks have won two straight playoff series against them, dig deeper. These are two very different teams. Let’s just hope Luongo is still the same postseason goaltender.
Wednesday at 9 p.m. CST, it’s on. Hopefully the Sedin Sisters just keep spooning each other and miss puck drop because they got caught up watching Junior while attempting to make the plot come to real life.
You can check the schedule here for the first-round series, and we’ll be back each day with a more detailed breakdown of the series.
Until then, here’s a very special edition of Boxing detailing the only thing that matters… More >
Here we go. It’s Dallas vs. Minnesota to save an erratic and inconsistent regular season. Dallas wins in regulation, the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks will be watching the playoffs from their couches.
4-3, Detroit. Goddamnit.
In roughly three hours from the time of writing this, the Blackhawks will know whether or not they’ll have a chance to defend their Stanley Cup. It’s absolutely unbelievable, if you ask me, that it’s come down to this.
And since I’m a nobody, how about we ask Jonathan Toews.
“It’s so frustrating it has come down to this. I’m pretty much speechless. When it’s the culmination of an 82-game season and you’re sitting here in this situation, after working so hard for such a long season, and with the group that we have, it’s unreal to be here. The fact that we’re completely at another team’s mercy right now. … I can’t believe it.”
I’ll leave you with my column from The Committed Indian, which was sold outside by Second City Hockey’s Sam Fels before the loss to the Red Wings.
What a difference a year makes, eh?
Sam gave me this space for the last regular season game of 2009-10, though the situations are much different. Last year, I wrote about the Blackhawks overcoming injuries and adversity to have a shot at the No. 1 seed.
I also wrote the ‘Hawks looked like a Stanley Cup contender for years to come. While dynasties are rare and down seasons will happen, this Blackhawks team taking the ice in front of you today has made sure Game 82 means everything – and not for the better.
No matter your thoughts on the moves this past offseason – though they were completely necessary – I don’t believe any of us thought the Blackhawks could miss the playoffs this season. Yet a loss in regulation today against hated Detroit and a Dallas victory of any kind later tonight against Minnesota means the ‘Hawks will be watching the postseason from their couches.
How bad do those two home losses to Edmonton look? Or the loss to New Jersey on Nov. 3 when the Devils entered the game 2-9-1? Losing seven of the first 11 at the United Center? The wet fart that has been the penalty kill?
The aforementioned deficiencies in performance have contributed to making Game 82 matter for a much different reason than last season. We’ve all tossed around the term “must-win” since February, and we’re unfortunately still saying it in April – before the postseason.
Today is the ultimate “must-win” – or at least “must-not-lose-in-regulation” – game. Have we all decided to drop our standards and justification for excitement because the situations have changed since last season? I’m having a hard time deciding whether I’ll be happy the ‘Hawks made the playoffs or be upset they barely qualified.
However, celebrating last season’s Stanley Cup victory was one of the greatest moments of my life. The only way I’ll have a chance of that repeating come June is if the Blackhawks get into the postseason. Philadelphia – and the rest of the Eastern Conference, for that matter – proved in 2010 that getting in is all that matters. Anyone can win it all by getting hot at the right time.
I hope the Blackhawks fit that bill.
Jonathan Toews has almost single-handedly brought the ‘Hawks to the brink of the postseason. Without him, this column would be more of a eulogy. With the Captain on our side, you have to believe the Blackhawks can beat anyone in a seven-game series, simply based off the fact Toews won’t let this team fold up.
Corey Crawford has been a pleasant surprise this season, and has been a huge reason for a good chunk of victories.
It’s the shell of Duncan Keith that worries me. It’s the stupid penalties that get me flustered. And it’s the lack of urgency which resonated for most of the latter part of the season that makes me wonder if the ‘Hawks can compete with a much better Vancouver team than they beat the past two postseasons.
It’s unfortunate Game 82 has become so important. But if the Blackhawks can survive to see Game 83, anything can happen.
This was what we were all dreading. Scrambling for a playoff spot against the hated Detroit (*spitting noise*) Red Wings in the last two games of the season. Shame on the Blackhawks for letting it go this far. Shame on the players, the coaches, management, and everybody else for putting themselves, and their fans, in this position. That game you all took the night off back in November? It matters now. That night in January when you couldn’t hit the net with a grenade launcher and 10 minutes to aim? It matters now. That third-period breakdown in March? It matters now.
I’m saying this so maybe you’ll remember in November of this coming season, in January of 2012, in March next year when you think back on how big of a pinch you put yourselves in back in 2011. Because two points is two points no matter when you earn them, and now you REALLY have to earn them. If you don’t, you’ll be the laughing stock of the league — winning the Stanley Cup one year and playing golf in April the next, justifying every sore-loser idiot whiner who accused the club of “buying” the championship last summer.
So gentlemen, suit the fuck up, and by God if I see one smile on that bench I’m going to wipe it off your face permanently. It’s time to go to work. Tonight. Sunday. Detroit. Four points — and by God, we will need every one of them. Get your shit together, and make it happen.
Sorry to tease you a bit here, but there’s a bit of an issue loading up the Boxing images. That should be corrected by about lunch time, so I just wanted to get this up to let you know to check in around then.
I’ll be updating this post with the images. I don’t know what the damn problem is, but I’m getting it sorted out.
See ya back here soon, and sorry for the delay.
Okay, here’s the problem. I said a long while ago that we had better have ourselves a nice cushion before these last three games, because it would take a miracle to get points out of any of them. Remember that?
Start praying for a miracle.