The Vancouver Canucks had a huge win 6-2 last night against the Columbus Blue Jackets – their first win in 5 games (1-2-2) – and inched back to within 4 points back of a playoff position in the tough Western Conference.
The Canucks, who are 2-3-3 in their last 8 games, are hoping that last night’s game was a bit of a turning point, but a win tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks won’t come easy. The Blackhawks, who beat the Winnipeg Jets in Winnipeg by a 6-3 score on Thursday, have lost just 3 of their last 12 games, though 2 of those losses came on the road.
This is the first of three meetings this season between the two teams. Nothing like a Saturday night Hockey Night in Canada showdown to ignite their longtime rivalry. Tonight’s game should be intense, and it should be interesting to see the impact coach John Tortorella will have on these often-heated games.
The Canucks are looking to maintain some momentum after last night’s offensive outburst against the Blue Jackets. They 6 goals they scored matched their total from their previous 5 games combined. The Sedins played particularly well, especially after Torts reunited them after a brief period apart, and they combined for 5 points. Without Dave Bolland to pester them all game, they should see some time against Chicago’s top line.
For the Blackhawks, this is game 3 of their 7 game-road trip. They’ve broke even so far with a loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday before their win in Winnipeg on Thursday.
Forward Patrick Kane leads the team with 24 points, 13 of which have come in his last 9 games. Marian Hossa returned to the Blackhawks lineup Thursday after nursing a lower body injury for 3 games, and promptly scored a goal and added an assist.
Jordan Schroeder remains out with an ankle injury. And also, speculation continues to surround David Booth as he was again a healthy scratch last night.
Chicago’s Bryan Bickell and Nikolai Khabibulin are both out with lower body injuries, and Michal Handzus is on injured reserve with an upper body injury.
In quite a comical scene from Friday night’s game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Vancouver Canucks, Roberto Luongo and Patrick Kane shared a few words as they were sprawled on the ice together seconds after Luongo foiled Kane’s shootout attempt (see video below). Two rounds later, rookie Jordan Schroeder beat the Hawks’ Corey Crawford before Luongo stopped Nick Leddy to seal the 2-1 win.
Reports surfaced later that Luongo said to Kane “Not this time” as the two players untangled themselves. Even so, the two rivals were within earshot of each other for a full five seconds after Kane’s failed attempt. Thus, Luongo likely said more than those three words.
Here are 10 things that Roberto Luongo may have said to Patrick Kane:
10. Just so you know – I let you score on me earlier in the game just to make it more exciting.
9. You should clean your jersey.
8. What’s it like being the Undertaker’s brother?
7. Thanks for boosting my trade value.
6. What do you think of my new single-leg take down maneuver?
5. Got room for one more in the limo?
4. Nice try…hopefully you’ll be able to score at the Roxy.
3. Those moves might work on Schneider but certainly not on me.
2. Tell your GM and coach I’d be an upgrade over your current goalie. In fact, he’ll probably let a rookie score on him later on in this shootout.
1. Let me know if you need exact change for the taxi later.
[Every week, Caylie King reviews the Canucks week that was and previews the Canucks week ahead. You can follow Caylie on Twitter (@CayKing).]
The Canucks went into the All-Star break with a 3-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers on home ice. While Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Alex Edler and Cody Hodgson were enjoying All-Star weekend in Ottawa, the rest of the Canucks got some time off to recharge their batteries and get ready for the home stretch of the regular season.
49 GP, 30-15-4, 64 points (1st in Northwest Division, 2nd in Western Conference)
Tuesday, January 31, 2012 vs. Chicago Blackhawks (7:00 PM start, home)
After a week off, what better way for the Canucks to get started on their post-All-Star Break schedule than to play the rival Chicago Blackhawks.
After losing both games of a home-and-home series against the Nashville Predators, the Hawks currently sit in 6th place in the Western Conference, 3 points back of the Western Conference-leading Detroit Red Wings.
The Canucks and Blackhawks have split their two previous games so far this season. In the season series, Marian Hossa leads the Hawks with 3 assists and Captain Henrik Sedin leads the Canucks with 5 points (1G-4A).
Hossa is also on a 9-game point streak (3G-9A-12P) and leads the Hawks in assists (33), points (53) and plus-minus (+24) for the season.
Thursday, February 2, 2012 vs. Detroit Red Wings (7:00 PM start, home)
The Red Wings head into Rogers Arena on top of the Western Conference with 67 points. Before being pounded in their last game prior to the All-Star break against the Montreal Canadiens, the Red Wings were on a 7-game win streak.
The Red Wings and Canucks have split the first 2 games in the season series so far with Alex Burrows and Justin Abdelkader scoring the game-winning goals for their respective teams.
Ex-Canuck Todd Bertuzzi has 1 goal and 1 assist against the Canucks this season. WIth 25 points (10G-15A) in 43 games, Big Bert is on pace to have one of his best seasons, point-wise, since the 2005/2006 season. More impressively, he is a +22 so far; he has not has not been a plus player since 2007/2008 when he was playing for the Anahiem Ducks.
Saturday February 4, 2012 vs. Colorado Avalanche (12:00PM start, away)
The Avalanche have lost 3 of their last 5 games, but are still very much in the battle for 8th place in the Western Conference. The Canucks have dominated the Avalanche this season, outscoring them 9-0 in two games. Both Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo have a shutout. Daniel Sedin has 3 goals and is a +4 in the two games in the season series.
In just his 3rd season in the NHL, Ryan O’Reilly is leading the Avalanche in goals (14), assists (22) and points (36). O’Reilly has also scored in 5 of his last 7 games.
Best Personalities at the All-Star Game: Superskills Competition edition
The All-Star weekend was the talk of the NHL world this past weekend. It is an event put on for the fans, but it’s hard not to notice what a great time the players have.
One of the best parts about this weekend’s festivities was Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens being all mic’d up. He had some great, funny commentary as he took part in the breakaway challenge, and showed some real personality while trying to stop the shooter while Tebowing and trying to stop a breakaway shot using the reflection of the glass behind him.
Another stand out personality was Patrick Kane. Even as a Canucks fan, you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t find his breakaway move entertaining. With some help from his teammate, Marian Hossa, Kane put on a pair of geeky Clark Kent glasses and donned a Superman cape. He finished his move on his stomach passing the puck from his hand to his stick as he put the puck in the back of the net. This was the standout move and he was voted by the fans as the winner of the breakaway challenge.
Honourable mention goes to Corey Perry. He brought many of us back to our childhood days as he pulled out a mini-hockey stick and proceeded to stick handle and deke out the goalie.
In the middle of the battles during a long 82-game season schedule, it was a treat to see the players’ personalities come out and and watch them interact with one another. The weekend – or the game – might not mean much when it comes to standings, but as a fan, it’s quite enjoyable to watch.
The clock’s ticking down to game one on the 2010 battle between the Blackhawks and Canucks and while Canucks nation seems a little collectively quiet, this year it’s more anxiety than nervousness present in the air. Everyone knows things are different, it’s just a matter of proving it on the ice. If the result is the same as last year, one could argue that while the Canucks had a record year, they’ve made no progress. With that in mind there are five keys to the Canucks coming out of this series on top.
Luongo vs. Kane
The big story within this series is no doubt the Luongo vs. Kane battle. Kane victimized Luongo last year in that crucial game six for three goals and Luongo faltered in the biggest game of his career. Then came the Olympics and Luongo prevailed. Luongo 1, Kane 1. This is the rubber match. There’s no doubt that Kane is in Luongo’s head. After the Olympics though, there’s no doubt that Luongo is in Kane’s head. However, if you look at the single impact either player can have on the outcome of a game, Luongo is the one with the uphill battle. If Luongo can play like he did in the last two games of the first round, the Canucks will have nothing to worry about with their last line of defense.
Keeping Emotions in Check
It’s simple. The team that can take a punch and walk away is the one that’s going to win this series. The tensions between Kesler and Ladd are no secret. The Canucks haven’t been on particularly friendly terms with Dustin Byfuglien in a while, and Bieksa and Eager haven’t had any sleep overs since their big dance. Bottom line is, these two teams don’t like each other and while we know both teams are going to have no problem getting under each others’ skin, it’s going to be the team that can “be the bigger man” that’s going to walk away the winner, and likely with the man advantage.
Clearing the crease of Byfuglien and that guy named Alberts
Speaking of Byfuglien, it’s no surprise that his name is being brought up. He was a big reason the Blackhawks got to Luongo early and often last year and while he only had one goal against him, his presence in front of the net was his biggest asset to the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks moved Byfuglien up to forward not even a week ago so it’s no surprise that they plan to use that tactic again and if the Canucks have learned anything the four years they’ve had Luongo, it’s that if you clear his crease, he’ll do the rest. Cue Alberts. He was in the doghouse the first two games, rode pine for the next few, but since returning has got his discipline in check. Alberts is a big guy. He’s built like a train and he needs to use that. The Canucks don’t have a Willie Mitchell to patrol the crease and Alberts has to use his size in a disciplined manner to clear the ‘Hawks out of the paint. If he’s going to take a penalty doing it though, he might as well sit on the bench.
Alex Burrows and the X Factors
Burrows was the Canucks leading goal scorer during the regular season with 35 goals and he lead all Canucks in regular season series between the Blackhawks and Canucks with one goal and four assists for five points. He only had one goal in the first round (an empty netter) and he’s going to be a huge part of the Canucks getting through the Blackhawks. The Canucks received surprise help from playoff attendees Demitra and Bernier and if they can continue to contribute key goals to the offense, with the addition of Burrows this team’s depth will finally pay off.
It’s cliche, but special teams wins series. The Canucks would know, it almost lost them the first round. The Blackhawks have a potent offense and their special teams aren’t half bad either. With the return of Campbell to the Blackhawks blue line the Canucks can’t give Chicago’s power play as much time as they did LA’s and they certainly can’t respect the blue line in a similar fashion to last round. The Canucks power play looks to be okay so as long as they can maintain that they should be fine. The biggest loss to the Canucks PK in the first round was Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler. Two of the Canucks best regular season penalty killers were seemingly absent when down a man and they’re going to have to get back to form and shot blocking soon if they want to see this penalty kill remain successful and continue it’s improvement since game four of the first round.