Even after a disappointing 4-2 loss in game two against the Chicago Blackhawks Monday, there is no ignoring the emergence of Canucks speedster Mason Raymond, who is playing his best hockey of the post-season.
The 24 year old netted just one goal against the Los Angeles Kings in the six-game series. Since going head-to-head against Chicago, he’s scored a goal a game, both in the first period. He scored with 11 seconds remaining in the opening frame of game one and kept the momentum with the Canucks heading into the second. In game two on Monday, he got one past Antti Niemi at just 1:22 into the first.
His four points (3-1-4) this post-season beats his last with the Canucks, where he registered just three points (2-1-3) in 10 playoff appearances. Raymond set new career highs in the regular season in points (53), goals (25), and assists (28), and recorded his first NHL hat trick on December 27 against the Calgary Flames.
His speed, along with his line-mates Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows is what took the Hawks by surprise in game one. The trio combined for six points (two goals, four assists) in the series so far, two more than the Canucks top line of the Sedin twins and Mikael Samuelsson who have four points combined (two goals, two assists).
"We have a lot of guys that can skate well, and we need to use that to our advantage," said Raymond. "Our line's been together now for four or five games, and we're getting better and better each time."
The Canucks will need a full team effort to avoid a repeat of last year’s round two. Heading back to Vancouver with a 2-0 series lead would’ve been hard for the Hawks to swallow. Now that things are evened up, the Canucks will have to come out strong in game three at home.
"We all know they have a good team, a lot of character," said Steve Bernier. "They're never going to stop playing. Now we have to play our game."
In game one, Luongo made an impressive 36 saves behind four strong lines that netted one goal each. He proved to be strong in game two stopping 30 of 34 shots, but the team in front of him wasn’t as productive.
The Canucks were one for five on the power-play recording just seven shots putting Chicago in second place in the league with a 91.9 PK%. They were outshot 34-26 and outhit 38-31.
"We know our power-play has to be a lot better," said Henrik Sedin. "It could have won us the game last night, so it needs to get better. We were too spread out. It's fine if two or three guys are on the outside setting up plays, but we need one or two guys in front. If you have that against Chicago you're going to be successful. We didn't have that last night so it's something we need to look into."
Home-ice advantage in game three on Wednesday means being able to make last second line match-ups with loyal fans behind them, and may give the Canucks the boost they need. The last time the Hawks visited Vancouver resulted in a 5-1 Canuck victory.
"Game two is in the past now, there’s nothing we can do about it, you can’t dwell on it," said Kesler. We're back home where we feel comfortable and we need a good effort tomorrow night to come out on top."