Blackhawks out to extend dominance of Canucks
Tuesday, 04.12.2011 / 9:09 AM CT / News
By Dan Rosen - NHL.com senior writer
All you need to know about the Chicago Blackhawks' dominance over the Vancouver Canucks in the past two postseasons are three straight, hard, true and undeniable facts:
1. Kevin Bieksa had the same amount of points (9) as Daniel Sedin.
2. Roberto Luongo had an .888 save percentage, including an .816 save percentage in the two clinching games.
3. The Blackhawks outscored the Canucks 24-8 in third periods.
Each series went six games, but in the end they were considered routs, with Chicago winning four of the last five games both years.
This year's opening-round series, which begins Wednesday at Rogers Centre (10 p.m. ET, CBC, VERSUS) figures to be different, what with the Canucks getting in as the Presidents' Trophy winners with 117 points and the Hawks backing in thanks to a favorable result in Game No. 1,230 of the regular season.
But history suggests the Canucks better not start printing those tickets for Round 2 just yet.
"The history of having a series against familiar foes creates a whole different level of intensity," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on a conference call late Sunday. "The rivalry becomes part of the culture. … They'll be excited to knock us off after the last two years."
As well they should, but the Blackhawks know what they're up against and familiarity in this case should breed confidence.
For instance, Chicago is 5-1 at Rogers Arena in the past two postseasons. They won there once this season -- by a 7-1 margin.
Going into that building will not be unnerving.
"It's a new slate now, a clean slate," Hawks forward Patrick Kane said. "I'm sure they're kind of thinking the same thing. Hopefully we can get in their heads a little bit and maybe steal one or two in Vancouver."
The Blackhawks have shown their resiliency in each series against the Canucks, coming back from 1-0 deficits both times to win in six games. In both years they came back to win Game 2, including a 6-3 triumph in '09 and a 4-2 victory in '10.
Chicago also knows that Vancouver doesn't usually go quietly the first time. The Canucks are 1-2 in potential elimination games, soundly winning Game 5 at United Center last season by a 4-1 score to force Game 6 back in the Pacific Northwest.
However, the Hawks have proven they can emphatically put away the Canucks, too. They've scored a combined 12 goals in their two clinching games, including four on only nine shots in the third period of Game 6 in 2009.
Luongo was famously near tears in the Canucks' dressing room following that game.
"We had some chances early and I made some saves, but the rest of the way I didn't help my teammates out," he said that night. "When you let in seven goals, I don't think that's a very good performance."
The same story reared its ugly head again exactly 365 days later. Luongo gave up five goals on 23 shots over the final 40 minutes and the Hawks ran away with the series in a 5-1 victory in Game 6 in Vancouver.
"We are pretty comfortable here," Hawks forward Dave Bolland would say in the victorious dressing room. "All the guys love playing here. I don't know what it is, but it's fun."
The Canucks plan to make it a nightmare for the Blackhawks this time around. All signs point to it being the year they do.
Vancouver was the best team in the NHL this season from start to finish, while Chicago was consistently inconsistent save for an eight-game winning streak bridging February into March.
The Canucks' top three forwards -- Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler -- finished first, fourth and 15th overall in the Art Ross Trophy race. Luongo led the League in wins with 38 and finished second in goals-against average (2.11) and fourth in save percentage (.928). Vancouver never skipped a beat despite losing nearly all of its defensemen to injuries at one point in the season.
"We're prepared," Henrik Sedin said. "They won last year, so they are the team to beat as far as I see it."
In head-to-head battles, the Canucks picked up five out of a possible eight points against the Blackhawks, but they won the final two meetings, including 3-0 at Chicago on Dec. 3 and 4-3 at Rogers Arena on Feb. 4.
However, while the Canucks cruised into the playoffs this season the Blackhawks were handed this chance by the Wild. They talked Monday about being excited for their unexpected opportunity, one that wasn't earned on the final day of the season but instead was through 82 games.
Do not discount how much a second chance could mean for the Blackhawks, or how much pressure is on the Canucks to finally slay their playoff demons.
"I can't express my jubilation and enthusiasm and excitement," Quenneville said. "It's at a different level, and I would expect our team to be at the same plane. The excitement level should take it to a new high."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Senior Writer