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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The Daily Phil Esposito – Playoffs Edition (4/14/11)

HE'S BACK!

Photo: nhlsnipers.com

There were six former Blackhawks who took place in day one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. All were skaters and they were able to produce two goals as the only two points of the night.

As for the ‘Hawks game. I agree with Tim, I thought that at times the Blackhawks looked like a much more experienced and better team during the game, and towards the end of the first and the other two periods the Canucks were on their heels. The Hawks could very well win this series and I predicted they were going to win it in 6. So lets see, and LETS GO HAWKS!

Here are your three stars from the night

1st Star – Steve Sullivan – game winning goal
2nd Star – Radim Vrbata – one goal
3rd Star – Craig Adams – plus one, 60% on face-offs

Click the jump for updates from the m/d/11 games

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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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The Daily Phil Esposito (4/11/11)

"Ha I just farted, but seriously, I hope to see the Blackhawks in the finals against me and the Flyers so I can show them why it was wrong that they traded me!"

Photo: flickr.com

Hey Guys! Hope you had a great weekend and didn’t have heart failure over the Blackhawks… Friday saw three goals and five assists for eight points scored by the nineteen former featherhead skaters. The one goalie who took the net lost.

Saturday there were eighteen former ‘Hawks to take the ice. The sixteen skaters scored four assists as their only points while the two goalies picked up big wins for their teams.

On Sunday there were ten former Blackhawks on the ice, with three of them fighting to knock the Blackhawks out of the playoffs. One was a drunk goalie who, yup you guessed it, lost, and the nine skaters were able to score two goals and notch on an assist. Ladd had one of the goals while Danny Cleary helped his Wings beat the hawks with the other two points…

Somehow the ‘Hawks snuck in due to the Wild actually showing up to play… Wow.

Here are the Three Stars of the Weekend

1st Star – Kris Versteeg – One goal and two assists
2nd Star – Andrew Ladd – One goal and one assist
3rd Star – Tuomo Ruutu – One goal and two assists

In the next couple of days I will have an Espo out with the final numbers for every former Blackhawk and how their season went, as well as any games that former Blackhawks play in the playoffs and how they do as well.

Enjoy!

Click the jump for updates from the weekend’s games

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Wild Finish Aligns the Stars: Boxing with Playoff-Bound ‘Hawks

"And you'll still be looking up to me when this show's over." (Blackhawk Up image)

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 >