Canucks Report: Game Two vs. Blackhawks
Michael Grabner may find himself on the third line as the Canucks head into game two looking to lead the series 2-0.
Heading into game two against the Chicago Blackhawks, it is possible that forward Michael Grabner could find himself moving up to the third line with Kyle Wellwood and Steve Bernier while Pavol Demitra would move down to the fourth line with Rick Rypien and Jannik Hansen.
The 22 year old reached two milestones against the Blackhawks scoring his first NHL goal against them at the beginning of the 2009-10 season on October 21 and netting his first NHL playoff goal against Chicago in game one on Saturday.
All other lines from game one will likely remain the same for game two tonight. If so, healthy scratches are Darcy Hordichuk, Tanner Glass, Matt Pettinger, and Lawrence Nycholat.
The Chicago Blackhawks outshot the Canucks 37-28 in game one, outhit them 37-27, and won five more face-offs, but Vancouver came out on top thanks to their captain between the pipes.
Roberto Luongo made 36 saves Saturday night in the 5-1 win over Chicago while Blackhawks goaltender Antti Niemi allowed five goals, the most he’s let in all post-season.
Luongo’s GAA against Chicago last season was 3.83 after six games. This time around, he’s been able to be there for his team making some impressive and game-changing saves in both series so far, even with the net-front presence of Chicago forward Dustin Byfuglien, who crashed the net on numerous occasions in round two last season.
"We had plenty of shots on him last game, but we know we have to get traffic in front, and better quality shots," said Byfuglien.
To win game two, Luongo should expect a bigger net-front presence from all Chicago players, even if it means getting on his nerves.
"I think he was kind of in a zone," Adam Burish said to NHL’s Dave Lozo. "He made a couple early saves and he got in that groove. But that's the kind of guy he is. He gets in these grooves and he gets feeling good and he's awfully tough to beat. Sometimes you have to find a way to get to him. You have to find a way to rattle him ... You got to try to find a way to get him out of that rhythm."
All NHL players know that crashing into the goaltender tends to end up with an interference call. The Blackhawks may look into other tactics to get under Luongo’s skin.
"Maybe it's running him sometimes," Burish told Lozo. "Maybe it's spraying snow in his face."
With similar experiences behind them, the Canucks hope to withstand any net-front tactics from the Hawks as they did in game one,
"They tried to get there in game one, they were there at times, and we did a good job of prolonging them getting there," said Kevin Bieksa. "We'll continue to do that."
GAME DAY NOTES
Though the Canucks started strong last Saturday in the United Center early in the first, and dominated in the second, they know to expect a better opposition tonight.
"You have to get better as the playoffs go along," said Kevin Bieksa. "We felt like we had a good start in game one, but we expect a lot better from them obviously. We're ready for that challenge."
Last year the Canucks faced a similar situation defeating the Blackhawks 5-3 in game one. The Canucks dropped a 6-3 decision to Chicago in game two and went on to lose the series after six games. Yet this time around the Canucks are a different team, certainly different than Chicago’s round one opponent, the Nashville Predators.
"We got a totally different team than what we got against Nashville," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said after the game Saturday. "This team has got a lot of speed, a lot of skill, a lot of attack -- and defending is the area that we have to make sure that we can't give them anything."
The Canucks netted two goals on 13 shots in the opening frame but allowed 17 shots by the Hawks. Without Luu’s impressive performance, the first period results could have been reversed. Balancing offence and defence may be a key factor in maintaining some breathing room in front of Luongo.
"They had too many chances where they could've been up one or two nothing so we need to improve on that," said Henrik Sedin.
Though the Canucks still remain last in the league with a 65.6 PK%, they seem to be bouncing back from the first series against the Los Angeles Kings and killed off five of six Chicago power-plays, only letting in one during a five-on-three.
Vancouver is number one in the league when it comes to five-on-five. So far in this post-season the Canucks have scored the most even-strength goals (23), and have allowed the least (8). Whether the calls are tight or loose in tonight’s tilt, the Canucks can rely on their offensive skills with or without having the man advantage.
The Canucks should be on the watch for Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, despite only registering one assist last game. He was the leading scorer against Vancouver in the regular season recording four points (1-3-4), and currently leads Chicago in scoring so far in the playoffs with 9 points (2-7-9). The 22 year old netted four points (2-2-4) against Vancouver in last year’s round two including two goals and one assist in the all important game six that ended the series.
"It's the playoffs," said Henrik. "They're going to treat it like a seventh game. That's the way it is, and we have to match it. If we can do that, we'll be fine."