Apr 132011
 

[As we count down the hours until puck drops on the first round playoff series between the Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks, we put together a panel of your favorite Canucks bloggers to answer some key questions.]

Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: faceoff.com

Q: What do you think will be the one, key determining factor in the Canucks/Blackhawks series?

J.J. Guerrero, Canucks Hockey Blog: Don’t let the Blackhawks get into their heads.

Chris Golden, Canucks Hockey Blog: I think the key factor in this series will be mental toughness. On paper, the Canucks are the superior squad in all facets of the game. (If you can reasonably tell me otherwise, I’d be happy to lend an ear.) Yet, the Canucks haven’t been able to throw Vince Vaughn off their back and have seen two second round exits when they were already perceived to be a favourite or toss up pick. Knowing this, the Blackhawks will do everything in their power to get into the head of the team.

Sean Zandberg, Nucks Misconduct: Composure in all areas. Too many mental breakdowns against the Hawks in the past. The rebound control was bad. The defensive breakdowns in front of Luongo were atrocious. Even Luongo was not composed or sharp enough. Don’t open it up against the Hawks. I don’t want to see Hossa, Kane and company coming in on a bunch of odd-man rushes.

Cam Davie, Canucks Army: Lineup depth. The Canucks are deeper at each position. While the Blackhawks have some of the league’s best players through two forward lines and top 3 defensemen, the Canucks have a much deeper set of forwards, and have arguably the best collection of 6 defensemen in the league. Then there’s goaltending where the Canucks have a reinvented Luongo and likely the best backup in the NHL.

Alanah McGinley, Canucks and Beyond: I’d say the big factor in beating the Blackhawks — the magic potion to winning the first round… the perfect guarantee of success against the Blackhawks (and anyone else) — is the awesome game-changing talents of the Canucks third line with Manny Malhotra, Raffi Torres and Jannik Hansen!

Oh wait. #$%!@!

Oy. Okay, maybe another way of putting this is that a great shut-down line — particularly, awesome penalty killing — would be my key to the series.

Knock on wood.

Brian Wawryshyn, Canucks Corner: Goaltending. A hot rookie versus a veteran star trying to exorcise playoff disappointments of the past.

Mike Pinzutti, Nucks Misconduct: Discipline. The past two playoff series have been a blooper reel of scrums, after the whistle message-sending and mind-numbingly boneheaded penalties. A good deal of their regular season success was their self-restraint; if that can continue that trend they won’t piss away scoring chances and hand the Hawks powerplays. Every little bit counts.

Thom Drance, Canucks Army: I’m with Brad Zeimer who told Blackhawk Up that “Vancouver’s first-unit power play with the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler up front has been virtually unstoppable all season. It could be the difference in this series.” That’s exactly right as far as I’m concerned. Chicago was the 5th-worst penalty-killing team in the league (only Phoenix, Toronto, Edmonton and Colorado were worse) this season – so it’s a major liability for them heading into this series. Consider the style Chicago has used to defeat Vancouver the last two seasons – crash the net, play chippy hockey to frustrate the Canucks, etc. It’s difficult to play that sort of smash-mouth hockey and avoid taking penalties. In last year’s six-game series, Chicago took 26 minor penalties, but held the Canucks to a conversion rate below 20%. They also scored two clutch short handed goals (they led the league in SHG last season with 13, but only have 6 this season). I really believe that if Chicago can find a way to be effective 5-on-5 without taking penalties, they’ll have a good chance at pulling off the upset. If they can’t – I have a lot of confidence in the Canucks loaded first unit to make the Blackhawks pay.

  • http://twitter.com/teamrice2 Rob Rice

    The talk of the Hawks and Canucks series seems to be focussed on a previous battle between Byfuglien and Loungo. I agree that this was one battle but there were many more that were just as important or if not more important.

    Last year the Hawks team was skilled and tough.

    I have not heard much talk of the absence of Andrew Ladd (skilled and gritty). Was there a battle of Ladd and Kesler, last year?

    Ben Eager may not put the points up but he was a decent skater with a big body who was physical. Even Burish was a fourth liner who played his role well “crash and bang”.

    Think how last years Vancouver defensemen played knowing that Byfuglien, Ladd, Eager and Burish were coming on a forecheck – would they play the body –guarantee! Ask Elder what it felt like to get hit by Byfuglien, I am sure Elder was injured after that hit. Do you think the Canucks defensemen felt the pressure? Maybe move the puck sooner due to the Hawks forecheck? Maybe it is why the Canucks defensemen took “dumb” penalties?

    This year the Canucks defensemen have improved, but also the Chicago team has changed. This year Chicago will have to beat Vancouver with skill rather than having the skill and grit they had last year. The Vancouver defensemen will only have to focus on one thing – stop the Chicago skill. This is a battle that could make the difference on who wins the series.

  • http://twitter.com/SJKel Kel

    Last year, Vancouver started against Chicago with a defense of Edler, Bieksa, Salo, Ehrhoff, O’Brien, and Alberts. And we all know what happened to Salo during that series. And then Edler went down with an injury during the last game.

    This year, Vancouver started against Chicago with a defense of Edler, Ehrhoff, Bieksa, Hamhuis, Salo, and Ballard.

  • http://twitter.com/teamrice2 Rob Rice

    I would say that Vancouver has best 6 “d” in the NHL.

  • http://twitter.com/canuckshockey Canucks Hockey Blog

    D-depth is huge. The Canucks will basically have a top-4 defenseman out on the ice every shift.

    And Kel – Remember too that AHL-berts was brutal last year. By game 6, they were basically down to Bieksa, Ehrhoff and Salo’s left nut on D.

  • 20yearswait

    Did any one else question the officiating last eve? Mostly an amazing game…. and yeah I understand that Sedin took the dive in the crease at the end of the second, and he was mugged repeatedly with no calls against the Hawks. Having played and reffed, I really understand this. However, the delay of game (remember puck over the glass) that went in Hawks favor, a couple of fairly quick whistles and lo, the puck in the net, twice….. and most alarming to me was the cleaning of the ice at that point in time when the Hawks iced the puck, which of course allowed their boys to rest……. just saying ,,, or am I full of sour grapes……..looking forward to #7.

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