In a possible first round playoff preview, the Vancouver Canucks waltzed into Chicago and humiliated the Blackhawks to the tune of 4-0 Sunday night.
If this game was a test, the Canucks aced it – that scoresheet belongs on the fridge.
The once road weary Canucks looked as comfortable as ever away from GM Place on this night and in a contest where Vancouver needed its best players to be at their best, they certainly were – and then some.
Vancouver’s top line was in on the first three Canucks goals and finished with nine points in total; the Blackhawks had no answer for the scorching play of Daniel and Henrik Sedin
and Alex Burrows.
Daniel opened the scoring early in the first period with his 29th goal of the season, Burrows followed that up with his 26th marker on the year midway through the second before Daniel put the nail in the coffin and hit the 30-goal plateau for the first time since 2006-07 near the beginning of the third.
Vancouver’s other three lines were there, they just weren’t really needed as the Sedin show was once again spectacular, more so than usual with Burrows hitting full stride as well.
Alain Vigneault is adamant that anyone who skates alongside the Sedins will get points, but not like this. Burrows isn’t standing around waiting for the twins to make things happen, he’s in the trenches digging for pucks and that’s exactly what led to Vancouver’s opening goal.
When the Blackhawks tried to clear the zone with a simple pass up the boards, Burrows was there to steal the puck from Brent Seabrook and rocket it behind the Chicago net.
From Wayne Gretzky’s office Henrik jolted a pass to Daniel, who was patiently waiting to scoop it past Nikolai Khabibulin from in front.
“That’s the kind of forecheck we wanted to get in,” said Burrows. “One guy pressures and that d-man is going to feel that pressure and he’s going to throw it around the boards and if we can close those boards and we’ll get puck possession.
“Hank and Danny are those kinds of guys that are going to make plays from behind the net, so it was a big goal for us.”
From conception to completion, everything went according to plan on that play for Vancouver and the same can be said for this game as a whole.
The Canucks came out looking to set the tempo and they did. Next up was scoring first, check. Adding to the lead? You bet. Maintaining solid play throughout? Most definitely.
How about proving to everyone that they’re not to be taken lightly and that this team is nothing like the one that buckled down the stretch last season?
Simply put: oh heck yes.
“We came in and we wanted the two points and we got the two points, that’s the most important thing,” said Daniel, who had two goals and an assist.
“We have a chance to beat Chicago now and catch Calgary, so it was a big game for us. It’s a possible match up so we wanted to come in and show ourselves that we can win in this building.”
There is still plenty of hockey to be played between now and April 15, the official start of the NHL playoffs, but if Vancouver and Chicago end up renewing acquaintances then, the Canucks certainly set the tone for what the Blackhawks can expect.
“We just wanted to show them that we could come in here and win a game,” said Roberto Luongo
, who quietly put together a 26-save shutout, his seventh of the season.
“We played a solid sixty minutes tonight, probably one of our best of the year and we came here with a goal in mind and that was to get the win and we did a great job of that.”
The Canucks also did a good job of showing their true colours when push came to shove in this affair. Things got interesting when Dustin Byfuglien decided to get physical with Luongo early in the final frame.
From a scrum in the crease to an all-out line brawl, every player on the ice seemed to be paired off with someone, except the goalies who stood their ground at both ends of the rink.
The highlight of it all was a seriously heated brouhaha between Kevin Bieksa
and Ben Eager – they were up, they were down, they were together, they were separated. They were intense.
Shane O’Brien was also a major player in the altercation, one that had 88 penalty minutes divvied between the teams - Vancouver took 32 of them - and sticks, gloves and helmets scattered over the ice like an equipment yard sale.
“Hockey is a physical and emotional sport, sometimes boys will be boys,” laughed coach Vigneault, who didn’t make a big deal of the ruckus, instead focusing on the critical games ahead.
“We’ve been playing good hockey for quite some time so this was an important game for both teams. There’s a playoff spot that you’ve got to assure yourself and then there might be home ice advantage that’s right there so again we’re going to continue to go on a game-to-game basis, and we’ve got a big one coming up here in Minnesota.”
The Canucks visit the Wild on Tuesday and if the standings remain the same until then, Vancouver can leapfrog both Chicago and Calgary for third in the West with a win.