Three Olympic Gold medalists. An Olympic Silver medalist. A former Calder Trophy winner. A current Norris Trophy candidate. A team who last year lost three overtime games in a series that, if they won, would have put them in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Say what you want about how good the Hawks are…and you can say plenty but make no mistake: this is the team the Canucks want to face in round two.
Fresh off six entertaining games against the Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver players, coaches, management, and fans will have revenge on their minds when the series opens Friday at the ‘Madhouse on Madison’.
The memory of a 7-5 loss in Game 6 in the Windy City last May is still very fresh for most in Canuck Nation. If you don’t have a recollection of what took place, just get ready to see the continuous re-runs on your local television sportscasts over the next few days.
Of course, much has happened with both teams since that night in Chicago. And when you look at the two teams closely, it’s remarkable how closely these two teams have been before facing each other a year later in the post-season.
Comparing regular season stats between teams can be fun at times. Some of the comparisons this time around, though, are a bit spooky.
The Canucks were the highest scoring team in the Western Conference (272 goals) with Chicago a close second at 271. Vancouver had the best home ice record in the conference (30-8-3). The Hawks were right behind them, going 29-8-4 at the United Center. Vancouver was second overall in the NHL in short-handed goals, scoring nine, while Chicago led the league in that department with 13. And, when you look up and down each roster, both teams had 25 players score goals for their respective squads. Only Washington, Colorado, and Phoenix had more players find the back of the net.
One stat that does seem a bit alarming for the Hawks, especially when you look at their team on paper, is their power play percentage. Vancouver’s power play was solid, finishing 6th overall at 20.9%. Chicago finished the season with just 52 power play goals this season, good enough for a success rate of 17.7% (16th overall). In four games against the Canucks, the Hawks were a disappointing 1-for-16 when they had the extra skater.
So far in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Canucks have the definite edge on the man advantage. Vancouver scored power play goals in five of their six games against the Kings. As for Chicago’s six-game success over Nashville, they didn’t really light up the Predators, going just 4-for-23 (17.4%).
Whether this series is full of powerplays or not, it should be full of offensive chances. The big guns for both teams are just starting to find their stride into round two. Vancouver’s top line of Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, and Mikael Samuelsson combined for six goals and 12 assists in the last three games against L.A. On the flip side, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa teamed up for five goals and 12 helpers in the last three games against the Preds.
Much will be made about Vancouver having the edge in goaltending. That’s valid, considering Roberto Luongo was excellent in the majority of the series against the Kings. Plus he has 28 playoff games under his belt, with a career post-season record of 15-13. However, don’t think Antti Niemi should be taken lightly. Despite making his NHL playoff debut this spring, Niemi already has more career playoff shut-outs than the Canucks captain posting two in the first round against the Preds, and he put up a goals against average of 2.15 against Nashville.
There’s one more thing to keep in mind for all you history buffs. The Canucks just knocked off the Kings in their fourth ever playoff meeting. It was the second time Vancouver had beaten L.A. in a playoff series, and the first since 1982. This upcoming series with Chicago will be the fourth time the Canucks and Hawks do battle in the post-season. Vancouver is 1-2 lifetime against Chicago. Any guess what the year was when the Canucks were victorious? And any guess as to what also happened that year for Vancouver hockey fans?
The answers to both questions aren't hard to figure out.