With each passing day in the playoffs, Jonathan Toews starts to resemble Wolverine more and more. Today, Toews showed his claws by proving to anyone who would listen he can, in fact, lift his arms above his head.
Following Monday’s morning skate at United Center, Toews denied those rumors by raising both arms and stating, “I feel fine.”
Whether or not this is simply a big act the Blackhawks and Toews are putting on for everyone remains to be seen. Chances are, no one will know until the season reaches its conclusion. Of course, if it does turn out to be poppycock, it will mark the first time ever in NHL history the Toronto media took an unsubstantiated rumor and ran away with it.
The other big news of the day was Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo being ruled out for Game 3. This is great news for the Hawks and if you believe this guy, the Canucks may as well not show up to Chicago.
Salo’s injury seemed to come from thin air, because he had just unleashed a rocket that beat Nik Khabibulin’s glove for a 1-0 Vancouver lead, been congratulated by his teammates, and skated to the bench where, normally, he would take a seat. But he just kept on going, down the hall. And just that quickly, the Canucks’ playoff prognosis was downgraded from probable to doubtful.
While this can only be considered great news, I would hardly count Vancouver out for the remainder of this series because Salo is out. After all, the great equalizer in the NHL playoffs is goaltending and no goalie remaining in the tournament is more capable of stealing three more wins than Roberto Luongo. So let’s not pop open those champagne bottles just yet.
Also, registered Hawk killer Pavol Demitra appears to be out for Game 3. The Vancouver Sun reported Demitra wasn’t at the United Center for practice today. There was also this little throw away line at the bottom:
Some of the Canucks (and some of the reporters covering the team) are heading to Wrigley Field tonight to watch the Cubs play.
I’d say the chances are strong to quite strong that not one of the players going will be recognized. Unless of course, the Sedins show up and Cub fans confuse them with the Olsen twins.
–Joel Quenneville made the coaching adjustment of the series thus far when he moved a checker to every line in the second period of Game 2. With the absence of Salo and the Hawks checkers all over the Vancouver defense, the Hawks were able to swing the play in their favor with 5 unanswered goals. Now the move is to Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. Its not difficult to see what he’s got up his sleeve by looking at some of his post-game comments from Saturday night:
“Their defence tonight did a great job of finding their players up the ice. Part of that was our inability to make them turn and go back for pucks. They were facing the play all night long and were able to hit their forwards with a lot of speed.”
From the sounds of it, any line that doesn’t have the Sedins on it and doesn’t have an odd man rush will have specific instructions to chip the puck deep and tee off on the Hawks defensemen.
Vigneault is hoping that Vancouver’s forwards physicality will have a three pronged effect:
- The Hawks defensemen will be looking over their shoulder fearing a punishing check is imminent.
- It will slow down their breakouts. If Brian Campbell is getting abused down low, he can’t be the one-man breakout he has been during this series.
- The Hawks will start to cough up the puck deep in their zone leading to prime scoring chances for the Canucks.
The success of all of this depends on Vancouver’s forwards being motivated and determined enough to go hard on the forecheck and the Hawks defense being unable to handle the pressure of the forecheck. With the series tied 1-1 and still up for grabs, Vancouver should have no problems getting up for the task. So, it turns to the Hawks defensemen.
Can they handle the likes of Mason Raymond, Ryan Kesler, and Taylor Pyatt breathing fire on them for 60 minutes? I guess we’ll all find out soon enough.