4.13.2011

Playoff Game of the Night (Pt. II)


2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Game 1: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Vancouver Canucks @ Rogers Arena
0-2 Final; Vancouver leads the series 1-0

The match-up you either feared, wanted, or all-of-the-above for. The Vancouver Canucks open the playoffs with their evil foes, the Chicago Blackhawks. "Experts" have been saying that whoever wins game one immensely carries the momentum into game two. Who will be the ones to carry this "key to the game"?

Right off the bat, you know what's going on between these two teams. The energy from the fans was contagious, but the energy and intensity from the two teams on the ice was blinding! Keeping the game that put them at the top of the NHL, the Canucks displayed to the hockey world their intense hockey play. Just like any coach will tell you, the more shots you get, the more likely you are to get a goal. Canucks got to that early. Just three minutes in, the Canucks' shot-count was up five shots to Chicago's one shot.

Living off the energy, Ryan Kesler won the face-off and fed Alex Edler. Like the cool and calm Swede that he is, Edler calmly feeds Kesler the puck down behind the net who brings it back up to Kevin Bieksa at the blue-line. Making one heck of a slap-shot, his shot got tipped by Chris Higgins at the face-off dot and zipped to beat Corey Crawford in the Chicago net.

And then it continued to rain like Vancouver weather. Three minutes after Kesler's goal, Jannik Hansen beats a Blackhawk in a foot race and gets a partial break-away. What speed the Dane has! Hansen's quick Danish feet zipped him right to where he made the shot that put the Canucks up 2-0 half-way through the first period.

In the second period, Chicago got settled into the game. The Blackhawks found their game and looked more comfortable than they did in the beginning. And if it seemed like Vancouver laid off the gas pedal in the 20-40 minute time frame, you are wrong. Vancouver had so many chances, but Corey Crawford was equal to the task, the defence stepped in, or Vancouver got the post. Just because you're up by two goals doesn't mean you lay off the pressure. If you do, you don't know what will come back and bite you.

Remember when I said this series would go down to goalies in my predictions post? Well, I was right. Roberto Luongo made the big save and was everywhere he needed to be for the entire game. Luongo was just as brilliant tonight as his best season.

For the entire game bodies were flying everywhere and colliding everywhere! And then one team was hit with an injury. Vancouver, you can let out that breath; it ain't you for once. Chicago was hit with an injury through one of the hits. Tomas Kopecky had to stay away from the game and the third period with an upper-body injury.

It wasn't for a lack of effort that Chicago lost. They had tonnes of effort! Head coach Joel Quenneville juggled defensive pairings and his forward lines in efforts to find some magic amongst the names in front of him. And if you were alert enough in between whistles, one would catch Chicago captain Jonathan Toews directing and yelling all over the ice to his teammates. And after being grossly outshot in the first period (13-7 for Canucks), Chicago pulled even or more in shots in the final 40 minutes. I guess Vancouver's #1 was just too much for the 2010 Stanley Cup champs.

Quenneville rolled his top players a lot and they saw the ice a lot. Too many tired bodies, I say. But... Roberto Luongo with the shutout 2-0 win!! Way to kick things off, eh?

3 stars:
(1) Roberto Luongo
(2) Jannik Hansen
(3) Patrick Sharp



















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