Tale of the Tape: Canucks vs. Blackhawks
Conf. Seeding: 3rd
Season Series: 2-2-0
Last Meeting: 4-0 W (MAR.29.09)
Conf. Seeding: 4th
Season Series: 2-2-0
Last Meeting: 0-4 L (MAR.29.09)
|For the Canucks…
For the second time in his National Hockey League career Roberto Luongo has helped his team advance to the second round of the playoffs only this time, he’s hoping there will be a better result when it is all said and done. The last time the 6’3”, 205 lbs. netminder made it the Western Conference Semi-Final, he was his usual brilliant self stopping 174 out of 187 shots over five games but unfortunately, his team was ousted by the eventual Stanley Cup Champions Anaheim Ducks. The 30-year old will be looking to continue his torrid play from the first round against the Blues. He posted a perfect 4-0 record in Round One with a scintillating 1.15 GAA and a .962 save percentage. He also netted his first career playoff shutout in Game 2.
The Montreal, Quebec native appeared in three games against the Blackhawks during the regular season posting a 2-1-0 record with a 2.36 GAA and a .923 save percentage to go along with one shutout. In 16 career playoff games, Luongo has posted a 9-7 record with a 1.63 GAA and a .946 save percentage along with one shutout.
|For the Blackhawks...
For the third time in his NHL career and with his second team, Nikolai Khabibulin has advanced to the second round of the NHL playoffs and he’s definitely hoping it’s been worth the long wait. The last time the 6’1”, 209 lbs. netminder made it past the opening round, he ended up leading the Tampa Bay Lightning all the way to the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals where he won hockey’s ultimate prize for the first and only time to date in his career. Coincidentally, that also happened to be the last time he participated in the Stanley Cup Playoffs prior to this season with the ‘Hawks. The 36-year old put up some solid, albeit ordinary, numbers during the opening round with a 4-2 record with a 2.29 GAA and a .921 save percentage. He did, however, end Round One stopping 62 of 64 shots in his final two games.
The Sverdlovsk, Russia native appeared in two games versus Vancouver in the regular season going 0-2-0 with a 4.87 GAA and a .800 save percentage. He has not recorded a win against the Canucks since January 26, 1998 while as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes. In 63 career playoff games, Khabibulin has posted a 35-27 record with a 2.29 GAA and a .921 save percentage along with six shutouts.
C Mats Sundin (lower body), D Sami Salo (lower body), and LW Taylor Pyatt (personal) all missed the final game of the first round. D Willie Mitchell also took several days off during the extended break with what is believed to be a lower body injury. Salo, Mitchell, and Sundin are all expected to be ready for the start of Round Two. Pyatt re-joined the team during the extended break following bereavement leave and could be made available sometime during Round Two.
D Brent Sopel (elbow) remains on the injury reserve list to begin Round Two. The Blackhawks have reported no other major injuries at the conclusion of the opening round.
‘Tough and determined’ meet ‘speed and skill’ in this Western Conference Semi-Final series when the third-seeded Vancouver Canucks do battle with the fourth-seeded Chicago Blackhawks to vie for a spot in the NHL’s final four.
If the regular season series between these two teams were any indication, then one can look forward to a tight series filled with plenty of bad blood. Players on both sides undoubtedly remember the last time these two teams hooked up back on March 29th in Chicago when the Canucks handed the Blackhawks a 4-0 loss at the United Center in a game that featured 98 penalty minutes and had its fair share of big hits, brawls, and even some alleged hair-pulling.
In terms of the results, the two teams split the season series with two wins each but it was the Canucks who were the more dominant team in the latter half of the series winning the last two straight and out-scoring Chicago 11-3 in those two contests. The Canucks have not had game action since their 3-2 overtime win over the Blues in Game 4 of Round One back on April 21st. The Blackhawks needed six games to finish off the Calgary Flames in Round One, clinching the series with a 4-1 win on April 27th.
The Canucks weren’t exactly offensive dynamos during Round One posting 11 goals over four games (one of which was an empty netter in Game 2) but a more telling story may be who got the points for the Canucks. The talk heading into the post-season was whether Daniel and Henrik Sedin would be able to step up and translate their regular season success into playoff points and they certainly stepped up in the opening round. The top line of the twins and Alex Burrows combined for six goals and 12 points while the Canucks also got some timely contributions from their blueliners as well as third-liners Steve Bernier and Kyle Wellwood. The Canucks will definitely want some more production from their second line trio however. The line of Mats Sundin, Pavol Demitra, and Selke Trophy candidate Ryan Kesler (and we’ll include Jannik Hansen in that mix as he stepped as Sundin’s injury replacement during Games 3 and 4) combined for just one goal and four points during Round One.
The Blackhawks had the second-most goals out of any Western Conference team heading into the playoffs (264 during the regular season) and that definitely carried over into their series with the Flames. The ‘Hawks scored 21 goals in six games versus Calgary and failed to score three-or-more goals in just one of those six contests. More impressively, all of their big guns from the regular season managed to continue their point-producing ways in Round One. Chicago had ten players who recorded three-or-more points in the first round, with rookie-of-the-year candidate Kris Versteeg leading the way with seven points (2-5-7).
The Canucks edged the Blackhawks in total goals during the regular season series by a 14-10 count, although half of Vancouver’s 14 goals came in one game – a 7-3 win on home ice back on February 7th. Daniel (4-2-6) and Henrik Sedin (2-4-6) shared the team lead in scoring versus Chicago with six points each while rookie Kris Versteeg had five points (1-4-5) against the Canucks leading all Blackhawks players. Vancouver may have the edge despite Chicago being considered the more offensively gifted squad. The Canucks already have experienced knocking off a previously red-hot goaltender in Chris Mason during Round One and while the Blackhawks definitely made Flames’ netminder Miikka Kiprusoff look ordinary in their series, they also had the benefit of running into a battered-and-bruised Flames defence. Barring the unforeseen, the Canucks should have all of their top-six defenceman ready to go in Round Two.
Roberto Luongo definitely was the key to the Canucks’ success in the opening round but he had a lot of help from his D-men in front of him as well. The Canucks did not allow more than two goals against in any game during Round One and, for the most part, they limited the amount of rubber Luongo had to face. They allowed 131 shots over the four games in Round One (49 of those came in Game 4) while the team as a whole blocked 55 shots during the first round. Vancouver’s defence also played a key role in generating some offence as well. The Canucks got goals from Mattias Ohlund and Sami Salo while every single Canuck blueliner, with the exception of Ossi Vaananen, recorded at least one point against the Blues in the opening round.
The Blackhawks’ defence probably didn’t get as much credit as they deserved during Round One but they did a very good job holding the Flames in check. Outside of the 10 goals they surrendered in Games 3 and 4 combined, both of which were losses, they surrendered just six goals in their four victories during the opening round and did not give up more than two goals in any of their wins. They also surrendered fewer than 30 shots in four of the six contests versus Calgary while blocking 71 shots as a team during the series. The blueliners even got into the offensive act accounting for five of the team’s 21 goals in Round One. Leading the way was Cam Barker with three goals, followed by Brian Campbell and Brent Seabrook with one each.
Alex Edler was particularly effective against the ‘Hawks during the regular season, notching four points (1-3-4) and averaging 20:49 of ice-time. Cam Barker was Chicago’s best rearguard against Vancouver, netting three assists and averaging 15:52 of ice-time.
Middle of the pack during the regular season, Vancouver’s special teams were indeed very special in the opening round against the Blues. The Canucks scored on four of their 18 man-advantage opportunities (22.2 percent) in the series which included a 3-for-5 performance in Game 3. But it was their penalty kill that perhaps made the difference in the series. The Canucks allowed just one power play goal against in 24 short-handed scenarios (95.8 percent kill) in the opening round and none since Game One. The PK was not only efficient, but very timely. They killed off a 5-on-3 man-advantage with a 1-0 lead during Game 1, two separate 5-on-3’s during Game 3, and was a perfect 7-for-7 in Game 4 which included killing a four-minute double-minor during overtime.
Like the Canucks, the Blackhawks also had a big special teams advantage during their opening round series. The ‘Hawks scored on seven of 24 man-advantage opportunities in Round One (29.2 percent) while limited the Flames to just two power play goals on 18 short-handed scenarios (88.9 percent kill). The Blackhawks also scored at least one power play goal in each of their last five games to close out the Flames.
Head-to-head during the regular season, the Canucks had a slight edge going 5-for-25 on the power play (20.0 percent) while holding the Blackhawks to three goals on 17 power play opportunities (82.4 percent kill).
Facing adversity is something that neither the Canucks nor the Blackhawks had to do much of during the opening round but undoubtedly at some point, one or both of these teams will come face-to-face with it in Round Two. The Canucks swept their opening round series against the Blues and trailed only for a total time of 24:46. The Blackhawks, although they had a bit of a tougher road to go against the Flames, never found themselves behind in the series at any time as they built up a 2-0 series lead, allowed the Flames to tie it at 2-2, before winning the final two contests.
The ‘Hawks also had the benefit of a boisterous crowd to help them to three home-ice victories in Round One, including the first two opening games of the series. In this series however, the proverbial “7th man” won’t factor in for them until Game 3 and they’ll have to try and overcome what should be a very hostile crowd to them at GM Place in Games 1 and 2. Also, in the previous two playoff series meetings between the Canucks and Blackhawks, the winner of Game 1 has gone on to capture the series.
WHERE TO FIND THE BOYS
Each game in this Western Conference Semi-Final series is available coast-to-coast in Canada on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada. Please check local listings for updates to the Canucks’ Round Two schedule on RDS and VERSUS.
The Canucks and Blackhawks have met twice in the Stanley Cup Playoffs prior to this meeting. The Canucks disposed of the Blackhawks in five games during the 1982 Campbell Conference Championship to advance to their first ever Stanley Cup Final. Most recently, the Hawks’ swept the Canucks 4-0 in the 1995 Western Conference Semi-Final to advance to the Western Conference Final before being knocked out by the Detroit Red Wings. That happened to be the last time that Chicago managed to reach the Western Conference Final – something they’ll hope to do again this year by repeating their 1995 feat against the Canucks.
Including previous first-round byes in team history, this year marks the ninth time in team history that the Canucks have advanced to the second round of the playoffs. However, only twice in team history have the Canucks managed to come out of the second round – in 1982 against the Los Angeles Kings and in 1994 against the Dallas Stars. Both of those years, the Canucks went on to compete in the Stanley Cup Finals. All-time in second round games, Vancouver’s record is just 17-26. Most recently, the Canucks met the Anaheim Ducks in the second round in 2007 and were knocked out by the eventual Cup champions in five games.
3 - Stanley Cups won by the Blackhawks franchise: 1934 (vs. Detroit), 1938 (vs. Toronto), and 1961 (vs. Detroit).
5 - Canucks players who recorded their first career playoff point during Round 1 against the Blues: Kyle Wellwood (also recorded his first career playoff goal), Alexander Edler, Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Kesler, and Shane O’Brien.
9 - All-time games played between the Canucks and Blackhawks in the playoffs prior to this series. The Blackhawks hold a slim 5-4 edge against the Canucks in post-season action.
10 - Wins for the Canucks during the regular season against teams from the Central Division (10-9-1).
12 - Wins for the Blackhawks during the regular season against teams from the Northwest Division (12-7-1).
12 - Blackhawks players who made their playoff debut during Round One against the Flames: Cam Barker, Dave Bolland, Troy Brouwer, Adam Burish, Dustin Byfuglien, Colin Fraser, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Jonathan Toews, and Kris Versteeg.
24:46 - Total time the Canucks trailed at any one point during the first round. The Canucks were down in goals just once in the series against the Blues in Game 3. They did not trail in any other game in the series.
33 - All-time playoff series the Canucks have been involved in. Vancouver has a 12-21 series record all-time.
91 - All-time playoff series the Blackhawks have been involved in. Chicago has a 41-50 series record all-time.
Game Notes on Canucks.com are compiled by Daniel Fung. Fung has been involved with Canucks.com since 2007 and is also a featured writer for Canucks Magazine.