You want to know what happened in the Canucks game and you want to know now. We get it. Here’s the bare bones recap of Vancouver’s 5-1 win over Chicago in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semi-Final.
…Kyle Wellwood tapped the puck over the goal line on the power play midway through the second period to put the Canucks up 4-0 in a 5-1 shellacking of the Blackhawks in Game 1.
Quieting the madhouse was goal number one for Vancouver and Christian Ehrhoff provided the score to silence the Chicago faithful with 6:09 remaining in the first period. Mason Raymond set up the goal with some hard work along the boards and a Raymond bullet with 11 seconds left in the frame put Vancouver up 2-0.
The Canucks took Alain Vigneault’s intermission pep talk about not taking their foot off the gas to heart as 32 ticks into the second Henrik Sedin beat Antti Niemi after a masterful shift from the top line. Wellwood’s first of the playoffs bumped Vancouver's lead to 4-0 and Michael Grabner’s first career playoff goal had the Canucks on cruise control.
In the third the only question was whether or not Canucks fans would have their ears carved to the tune of Chelsea Dagger. Patrick Kane beat Roberto Luongo on the power play 2:09 in, but nor the goal or its horrid song deterred Vancouver as it beat Chicago in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semi-Final for the second straight season.
If you’re wondering where the animosity was in this contest, you’re not alone. There were no fights to speak of and only two minor get-togethers after the whistle late in the third. Don’t expect that trend to continue as this series heats up.
That’s one way to silence the critics.
Roberto Luongo played as complete a game he has this post-season in stopping 35 of 36 shots and allowing a single goal for the first time in the playoffs.
Luongo, more than anyone, came into this series with something to prove after how Chicago took down Vancouver the last time these teams met in the playoffs, and a more stable, confident Luongo stepped forward in his 16th career post-season win.
With the start to this game so key, Luongo gets credit for big saves on Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane to keep the Blackhawks off the board early.
The candidates for this are a plenty, but no one did more with less than Mason Raymond.
The insanely speedy winger set up the opening Canucks goal by simply working harder and wanting the puck more than the Blackhawks; he was then rewarded for just putting the puck on goal after a Ryan Kesler shot was stopped and the rebound spurted his direction.
Skating with Alex Burrows and Kesler, Raymond logged 15:14 of ice time, the lowest of any top six forward, yet was one of only three players with two points.
Raymond has two goals and an assist through seven games and eight points in 18 career playoff games overall.
If Chicago’s game plan focused on shutting down the Sedins to knock Vancouver out at the knees, the Blackhawks had best have a solid backup plan.
The Sedins did their part with a goal and an assist, hardly a poor outing, but that’s all the team needed as it received a healthy dose of offence from every line for the first time this post-season.
Raymond and Kesler had two points each on the second trio, Wellwood, Bernier and Demitra combined for two points and Grabner, Hansen and Rypien had three points on the fourth line.
Since allowing nine power play goals on 14 chances to the Los Angeles Kings in the first four games of the playoffs, the Canucks have battened down the hatches on the penalty kill and it has paid off.
In games five and six in that series, the Kings were 1-for-10 and the Blackhawks could fair no better on this night. The Canucks held the Hawks to a 1-for-6 outing with 13 shots.
Vancouver still owns the lowest penalty kill percentage in the playoffs at 65.6 per cent with 11 goals against on 32 attempts, but the team is clearly making headway.
Roberto Luongo, the second star of the night, on the win, the importance of some key saves early and aiming for wins, not pretty stats:
”We definitely wanted to come in here and win the first one, like I said the whole week, we’re excited to play these guys, we were excited to start the series, it’s a great building to play in so we couldn’t have asked for a better start.
”They’ve got a lot of talent and they never quit, they’ve come back in games before, so we knew that even though we were ahead after the first one, they still had the talent and the ability to come back. We wanted to keep the pressure on and we came out in the second and scored some big goals and had a comfortable lead.
”That’s what it’s all about, getting the wins no matter how they get done. That being said, like I said after the first series, even though the numbers weren’t there, I felt great pretty much the whole series. As long as that feeling is there, that’s all that matters for me.”
Game 2 goes down Monday night in Chicago with Vancouver able to take a big step toward advancing to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 1994 with a victory.
Although anything can happen over a seven game series, fleecing a team of two games on their ice before returning home for three of the next five would bode well for the Canucks.