[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.]
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.