Too fast, too strong, too quick, too good.
Stacey King could have also been describing the first period the Vancouver Canucks put together in Game 1 against the Blackhawks. The Canucks put it to the Hawks like we haven’t seen in a few years. They were angry, confident, and looking to make a statement on the defending champs.
Message received loud and clear. The Canucks scored twice in the opening frame, once on a deflected point shot and the other on a Yannick Hanson breakaway. And that was all Roberto Luongo needed. The first period resembled more of a sacrificial killing moreso than a hockey game. The Canucks were all over the Hawks from one end of the ice to the other. It was a suffocating style not seen in these parts since the Hawks were regulars in the NHL Lottery.
By the halfway point of the opening frame, Joel Quenneville had to shuffle the lines otherwise he’d risk the game being over by the time his team re-grouped in the locker room.
A post and a couple big saves from Corey Crawford kept the score at 2-0.
The second and third periods saw the Hawks generate some decent pressure on the Canucks. Luongo was there every time and when he wasn’t, the post was. The Hawks hit three posts to Mikael Samuelsson’s two and that was probably the only area where the Hawks were better than Vancouver.
–It’s probably a good time to now mention that tonight marked the third straight Game 1 that Vancouver has taken from the Hawks. Leading up to the series, you would have thought the Hawks swept the Canucks in two straight series, Dustin Byfuglien averaged 8 goals a game, Luongo never stopped more than 10 shots a game, and no game was ever close.
Just last year in Game 1, the Canucks won easily 5-1. (Another little known fact, the Hawks actually played poorly at times in the playoffs last year. They didn’t go 16-0 as some now believe.)
Of course, now would also be a good time to mention the first period was a bit different than anything we’d ever seen. The Canucks have never played that confidently and aggressively against the Hawks. The Hawks were pretty much powerless as the Canucks dictated whatever they wanted to do. Sure, there was a decent push back from the Hawks’ top line in the second. In the third, Vancouver was more interested in keeping the puck away from Luongo than pushing the play so it’s hard to really to take too much from that.
–Game 2 will be a match of minds between Joel Quenneville and Alain Vigneault. Now that Quenneville has already gone to his Sharp-Toews-Kane card, it will be on Vigneault to try and figure how to neutralize them because they’re going to start scoring soon. Unfortunately, it will also be Quenneville’s task to try and get anything resembling consistent pressure from his other two lines. The encouraging thing is it’s going to be very difficult for Vancouver to duplicate the emotionally-charged first period that they did tonight (One can only hope).
Any time someone wants to let Marian Hossa know the playoffs have started, that would also be appreciated.
–I’m pretty sure Tomas Kopecky was concussed when Keith Ballard bailed on a check and mounted him from behind late in the first. Also, Ryan Johnson didn’t have a shift after banging his leg with Tanner Glass late in the third. It was apparently poetic justice to the Vancouver fans since Johnson made the disgusting comment that the Canucks were disappointed there was a flight leaving from Chicago on Monday. So they cheered as he hobbled off the ice. That’s pretty much par for the course.
–I like Ben Smith but when my team’s playoff hopes rest on the shoulders of a 5’9″ 22 year-old with 6 games of NHL experience, sorry for not being overly optimistic. Smith was overwhelmed in the first period swarming of the Canucks as he coughed up the puck anytime he touched it. He played a little better as the game worn on but he’s not someone that can be counted on to contribute positively on a consistent basis.
–Whatever comes out of this playoff series, one can only hope Stan Bowman is using this as a golden opportunity to evaluate who belongs here and who he needs to replace as he tries to build another true Cup contender. A couple of guys already showed they have no business being on a team with Stanley Cup aspirations and a couple others made positive early impressions. As the series wears along, it should be crystal clear who belongs and who doesn’t.
–For all the flak Roberto Luongo has taken for his performance the last two years, statistically, he was nearly identical with both Hawk goalies.
–Tonight was not Brian Campbell’s finest hour. His ill-advised drop pass at the blue line led to Vancouver’s second goal. He took several big hits in the early going too. Watching how he how responds to that throughout the series will be something to watch, for sure.
And for those who still think Niklas Hjalmarsson has any kind of future with the Hawks, he saw a whooping 13 minutes tonight. Or in other words, a whole minute more than Nick Leddy. The injury excuse doesn’t really work either because Campbell is playing on one foot and Joel Quenneville has no problem playing him 25 minutes a game.