Vancouver Canucks

Dim the Lights: Down 0-3 Boxing with Blackhawks/Canucks

Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

I know what you optimists are thinking, and you can stop right now. The Blackhawks are not the 2010 Flyers, and these Canucks are not the Boston Bruins. It ain’t gonna happen.

Even when the ‘Hawks were at their best in this series, it wasn’t enough. Vancouver took advantage of the few opportunities they were given to beat the Blackhawks 3-2 and pull within one victory of ending their rivals’ season.

This series may not end Tuesday, but it likely will be the last time you see the Blackhawks play at the United Center this season. Pardon the utter lack of faith, though I cannot fathom how you could disagree. The Canucks didn’t play their best game, and they still beat the Blackhawks when they played, well, a lot better than they had. It’s tough to argue with that.

A few thoughts before Boxing …

I’d first like to throw out a shit sandwich to anyone who believed dressing John Scott was a good idea. A dipshit penalty, one horrendous decision by Coach Q to put him out for nearly an entire power play, and 5:20 of ice time later, Scott sat the bench for the rest of the game. That should be the last time we see Scott in an Indian-head sweater.

Although the Blackhawks didn’t convert on 1:17 of 5-on-3, I wouldn’t say they pissed that time away. Roberto Luongo made two terrific saves on Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane at the doorstep to snuff out the Blackhawks’ attack. Though it would have been nice to go up two goals at that point and create some sort of cushion, it’s probably the best the power play looked in the series aside from …

Duncan Keith scoring off the draw five seconds into the first power play of the night. It marked the Blackhawks’ first lead of the series and last of the night, which makes me want to cause physical harm to myself.

Even though both ‘Hawks goals came on the power play, they finished 2 for 7 and couldn’t take advantage of Vancouver consistently taking penalties.

We all wondered where the Blackhawks’ “stars” were the previous two games. Keith scored, Toews had two assists and Kane added another. Marian Hossa? Well…

Here’s your Boxing:

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Slipping Away: Game 2 Boxing with Blackhawks/Canucks

Credit: Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

The Blackhawks are doing just enough to piss off everyone. There’s hope, then it’s ripped away. And with the glimmer flickering its last gasps, it’s all over.

Vancouver 2, Blackhawks 0. The way things have gone, I implore you to find a reason it will change on home ice.

The obvious fact: The Canucks are flat out better than the Blackhawks. That wasn’t a state secret coming into this series. The not-so-obvious fact? Vancouver has put together a fantastic gameplan to slow down the Blackhawks and take away their speed. The Canucks have controlled the neutral zone, taking away the ‘Hawks’ ability to skate into the zone with much threat for most of the series.

Vancouver’s aggressive forecheck has done the ‘Hawks in on numerous occasions, forcing the Blackhawks into turnovers and rushing the decision-making while keeping the ‘Hawks’ speed at bay. On top of that, notice how the Canucks clear the puck from their zone. It’s flipped into the air into the center of the ice, avoiding icing and making the Blackhawks chase. More often than not, the puck is not rung around or banged off the side boards to simply clear the line.

The puck floats, bounces harmlessly into the Blackhawks’ zone waiting for a defenseman to finally get his stick on it. This time is allowing the Canucks forwards and defensemen slip into the neutral zone and set up. This might as well be 1989, because the Blackhawks haven’t been able to complete a two-line pass with any sort of efficiency. The ‘Hawks are being shut down and taken out of their game.

And that’s the reason the fourth line came up with all three goals Friday night. The ‘Hawks skilled players are being neutralized by Vancouver, and that’s the reason you’re not seeing Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, etc., do anything of substance in this series. If the Canucks are allowing goals to only the fourth line – which sees limited minutes  – against their bottom six, Vancouver seems to feel its in good shape. And its the correct gamplan, seeing as the Canucks hold a 2-0 advantage heading to Chicago.

Not to take anything away from Ben Smith, who played an outstanding game. The same goes for Viktor Stalberg, who not only scored but after 84 games decided it was time to be a bit physical. Kane looks scared shitless, and only for the last six minutes of the game decided to fight through checks. Toews? Hossa? Sharp? Coach Q needs to watch some tape and figure out how to get these guys in position to score against Vancouver’s aggressive – yet very skilled – play.

Enough can’t be said about Corey Crawford. He is facing the Dustin Byfuglien treatment the Blackhawks laid on Roberto Luongo the last two postseasons. The Canucks are parking people in front of the net and disrupting Crawford’s line of site through the first two games. But he stoned the Sedins on a 2 on 0 and faced enough odd-man rushes to make my farts seem pleasant, yet stood tall and kept the ‘Hawks in the game the best he could.

The rushes came from the ‘Hawks using their defenseman to pinch more frequently and carry the puck into the zone as often as possible in order to put some sort of pressure on Luongo. Problem was, it didn’t work. Vancouver broke free for numerous scoring chances, and luckily they took 400 offsides penalties or this game might have ended 10-3.

Friday’s game was lost in the second period. Sharp’s retaliation trip led to Vancouver’s power-play goal in the first minute, then a deflection goal with 13 seconds remaining took away the momentum after Smith pulled Chicago to within one.

There’s a whole ton of shit that needs to be figured out in two days, and it’s going to be a chore to actually do it. My feeling is the Blackhawks are going to need more than just the motivation of the home crowd, because the Canucks seem confident enough not to give a rat’s ass what color the jerseys are.

With all of that said, this series is far from over as much as it may seem like it. There’s still a decent amount of positives to take from these two games. If the top six show up, there’s a lot that can be done.

Onto Boxing, if you can stomach it.

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Have Patience, And Endure: Hawks vs. Canucks, Game 2

Photo: AP

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.

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Victory Within Defeat: ‘Nucks Top ‘Hawks, Show One-Dimensional Game

Photo: Getty Images

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.

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

Photo: sportressofblogitude.com

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.

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Flashback: 1982 Campbell Conference Finals, Vancouver vs. Chicago

 

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.

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Recap (and Boxing) of ‘Hawks/Canucks Regular Season Series: Twins style

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.

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Behind Enemy Lines: Q&A with Vancouver Sun beat writer Brad Ziemer

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.

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Effort ain’t enough: Boxing with Blackhawks/Canucks

QStache said it. I’ve heard and read others say it….

If the Blackhawks play this way the rest of the season, the playoffs will be a lock and they’ll make some noise on top of it.

Me? I’m not buying that for a second.

The problem with that statement is that we’ve said it way too often. There’s a consistent thought among us fans that we need to take the positives out of a season like this, especially knowing how embarrassing it will be for the ‘Hawks to miss the playoffs after winning the Stanley Cup just last season.

Click the jump for Boxing with ‘Hawks/Canucks, 2/4/11

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What, YOU again? Hawks visit Canuckleheads

"I'm telling you, it's KEH-sha! Not KEEE-sha! And she's (*OOOF!*) HOT!

Canada is known for its pacifism, however if you wear a Blackhawks jersey in downtown Vancouver you’re likely to get the snot beaten out of you. Mention the Canucks in Chicago, and the response will likely be, “Yeah, we’ve had their number for years.” Mention the ‘Hawks in Vancouver, and you’re likely to get spit on. They HAAAAYYYYTTTEEE us up there. And with good reason.

We bounced them out of the playoffs the last two years in a row, when they were convinced that they were going all the way.

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Okay, so that happened: Canucks 3, Blackhawks 0

Photo: AP

Last night there were several Blackhawks lying awake in bed, staring at the ceiling, wishing they had a second chance at the opportunities they missed against the Canucks. Were it not for those missed opportunities — and admittedly white-hot goaltender in the form of Roberto Luongo — the scoreboard would have looked much different when the final horn sounded.

The Hawks threw pretty much everything they could at Luongo, but Bobby Lu was on his game, turning away all 32 shots for his second shutout of the season. Those saves included a breakaway by Patrick Sharp and a point-blank, doorstep chance by Tomas Kopecky the he flipped gently into Luongo’s glove.

The Hawks didn’t play badly, nor did Marty Turco, who turned away 15 of 18 shots. Most of the lines were hustling, we saw signs of the old Duncan Keith re-emerging, and newcomer Jeremy Morin had another solid outing. It was just one of those nights with a hot goalie on the other end of the rink and the bounces not going the way the Blackhawks needed them to. Hard to say more than that.

Next up is Calgary on Sunday, a team we need to get even with following the beat-down we suffered at their hands two weeks back. We’ll preview that matchup tomorrow, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for any team info you need between now and game time.

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Too Many Men on the Site

Back For More, Eh? Blackhawks Host Vancouver

Photo: AP

We tend to scoff at the Canucks in general, because we have Roberto Luongo’s number and we tend to knock them around like a piñata pretty much every time we see them, especially at the United Center. But we had better take the game more seriously this time: the Canucks come in fresh off a 7 – 2 win over Calgary. That game included a noteworthy hat-trick from Mason Raymond — one tally on the power play, one at even strength, and one shorty. Not often you see that.

So you can bet the Canucks will be feeling their oats and itching for a scrap when they hit Chicago tonight, especially after the bitch-slapping we gave them in GM Place the week before last. We showered the Vancouver net with 41 shots, chased Bobby Lu before the end of the 2nd, and walked out of there with a 7-1 victory. They will be looking for some payback. Expect Vancouver’s Tanner pain-in-the-Glass to be the latest fool to challenge — and get bludgeoned by — John Scott early on.

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Westward, Ho! Blackhawks Visit Vancouver

Okay, well that was torture.

The Blackhawks followed up a dominant performance against the worst team in the Western Conference (a 5 – 0 win over Edmonton) with a middling effort against the second-worst team in the Western Conference (last night’s 7 – 2 loss to Calgary). The ‘Hawks are now back to .500, for the Circus trip, and for the season.

Tonight it’s the Vancouver Canucks, the team Chicago has bounced from the playoffs the last two years straight — turning Vancouver fans against their starting goaltender and team captain in the process. Now Roberto “WWWWWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” Luongo is just a plain old goalie, the captain’s ‘C’ now residing on the jersey of Henrietta Sedin.

But the change hasn’t improved Luongo’s play any, as the Canucks fell to the Hawks 2 – 1 earlier this year at the United Center, each of the Blackhawks deking Luongo out of his panty liners in the shootout to seal the win. Luongo’s 2.69 GAA, .913 save percentage and 7-5-2 record suggest that this year is bound to disappoint Canucks fans once again.

Offensively, the Sedin twins have been the Canucks bread and butter this season, and sure enough they are tied for the team lead with 24 points each. Mikael Samuelson and Ryan Kessler are the next most prolific forwards at 12 points apiece, so you have a frame of reference for exactly how much the Canucks are relying on the Sedins’ output this year. Suffice to say, stop the Sedins and you stop the Canucks.

But the Blackhawks have been having a hard time stopping anyone this year, as the loss to Calgary illustrated rather embarrassingly. Brian Campbell was the only blueliner that ended the night in positive territory, but the carnage was spread pretty evenly among the remaining defensive corps. Marty Turco’s barely-above-.800 save percentage from the tilt is the worst performance since the Edmonton shellacking on October 29th, and the most goals-allowed by him this season.

Marty, this is NOT the time to turn into Marc Lamothe. Coach Joel Quenneville has decided not to take that chance, and is starting Corey Crawford between the pipes tonight.

The Blackhawks’ offensive stars were kept off the score sheet completely in the Calgary game, another bad sign. The fact that we are wondering which of our million-dollar men are going to earn their keep on any given night is an indication that this team is not firing on all cylinders, and in fact has a long way to go.

And so, we cross our fingers, and hope for the best.

9:00pm CST game time this evening. Comcast SportsNet for TV here in Chicago, and Canadian viewers will see this game as the second part of a Hockey Night In Canada double-header on CBC. Broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers will hear the game on channel 204.

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Too Many Men on the Site

Boxing with Hawks/Canucks, 10/20/10

Sorry for getting this up so late, but I had some car issues I had to work with yesterday and there was a bunch of other shit going on that you don’t care about. So, here’s your latest edition of “Boxing” from the Blackhawks’ shootout win Wednesday against the Vancouver Canucks.

There are two separate images — one for the Summary and one for the Box. Click on the images to enlarge them.

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Thank You Sir May I Have Another: Blackhawks vs. Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks are not off to the best start in 2010-11. Their most promising game came Sunday in a 5-1 win over Carolina, and with all the this-is-our-year talk among Canucks fans this fall, you could almost hear them breathe a sigh of relief after that outing. But they followed it up with a 6-2 beat-down at the hands of the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. Suckers…

Speaking of the Minnesota game, I’m not going to waste anyone’s time with another re-hashing of the fan-shoving incident. Rick Rypien is about to become the poster child for You Don’t Fuck With Colin Campbell, so we have one less idiot with an orca on his sweater to worry about this evening.

For those of you who need a refresher on the Canucks, they’re the team that gives us fits every year until we figure out that their goaltender is a headcase who falls apart after he lets in the third goal. Once that happens, the game turns into a shooting gallery.

I actually read an article that claimed Roberto Luongo was the Blackhawks’ “nemesis.” Holy crap: do you WATCH hockey? We made that pansy bitch cry. I got your nemesis right here, chump.

Mr. Luongo and his 3.38 GAA/.888 SVG arrive at the United Center for the first of four shellackings before we bounce them out of the playoffs for the third straight year. He has had the captain’s ‘C’ ripped publicly from his chest, and he brings with him Danielle and Henrietta Sedin, who between them have 18 points so far this year. The rest of the team combined has 24. Explains their 2-3-1 record, doesn’t it?

Some faces have departed since we last saw the Canucks in the playoffs: forwards Pavol Demitra, Kyle Wellwood, and Ryan Johnson; blueliners Willie Mitchell and Brad Lukowich; and backup goaltender Andrew Raycroft are all out the door. Forward Raffi Torres and Manny Malhotra, as well as defensemen Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard are new to the lineup. All represent significant upgrades over their departed colleagues.

But the combination hasn’t really gelled so far. The fact that the Sedins are so far ahead of their teammates in scoring indicates that there is much tinkering left to be done. The Canucks’ rear guard has been riddled with injuries early in the season, so we can expect to see guys doing stupid stuff that allows Hawks forwards to squeeze out odd-man rushes and breakaways. Plays right into our hands.

Speaking of the Blackhawks, few changes in the lineup tonight since we’re on such a roll: Jordan Hendry is the likely scratch, Viktor Stalberg is back in, and John Scott shifts back to D. Marty Turco is starting in net, which makes sense: expect Corey Crawford to start one of our back-to-back games on Friday & Saturday.

Despite the outcome against St. Louis on Monday, few would argue that the Hawks didn’t play like crap. Additionally with 13 of the team’s 23 goals thus far coming from Patrick Sharp or Marian Hossa, the rest of the lineup had better kick it into gear. Last-minute heroics and between-the-legs acrobatics works against lousy teams; good teams will kick us around like nerf footballs.

The Blackhawks’ defense is still a shambles, as evidenced by the fact that they have let in more goals than all but two teams in the league so far this season. That can’t continue, and we can’t continue to allow nearly 34 shots against per game either. Those two things go hand-in-hand, fellas. In case you’d forgotten.

The good news is, there’s plenty of room for improvement, and we’re leading our division already. This should be a fun one tonight, hard-fought and fast. Let’s hope we come out on the right end of it when the bullhorn sounds.

Odd start time of 8pm tonight, one has to assume that’s to accommodate the Canadian broadcasters. Locally it will be seen on Comcast SportsNet, catch it on broadcast radio WGN AM-720, and XM channel 206.

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