The second-seeded Blackhawks defeated the Nashville Predators in six games in their Western Conference Quarterfinal series. Rallying from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits in the series, the 'Hawks rode two Antti Niemi shutouts to get even through four games. They took their first lead in the series with a wild Game 5 victory in which they needed a Patrick Kane shorthanded goal with 14 seconds left in regulation to get to overtime, where Marian Hossa scored upon emerging from the penalty box. Chicago settled down to salt away the series upon emerging from a dizzying first period of Game 6 with a 4-3 lead.
The third-seeded Canucks defeated the Los Angeles Kings in six games in their opening series. Vancouver also rallied from 1-0 and 2-1 series deficits, sweeping the final three games while winning twice in Los Angeles. The Canucks' four-goal third period in Game 4 was pivotal. A 7-2 rout in Game 5 set up Vancouver to clinch the series with another big third period -- three goals in the final 20 minutes of a tense Game 6, including Daniel Sedin's tiebreaker with 2:03 left in regulation.
Blackhawks vs. Canucks (Jeff Vinnick/NHLI)
Season series -- The teams split their four head-to-head matchups during the 2009-10 season, with each winning a close game on the road and romping at home. Niemi shut out the Canucks on Nov. 22 but was pulled after allowing 3 goals on 12 shots in a Jan. 23 loss. Roberto Luongo made 43 saves to win that Jan. 23 game but was driven from the net by five Blackhawks goals in the first period of the Feb. 5 season series finale.
Same Time, Same Teams -- Chicago and Vancouver met in the 2009 Western Conference Semifinals, with the young Blackhawks prevailing in six games. The series turned on Game 4, in which Martin Havlat's late goal forced overtime, where Andrew Ladd scored to lift Chicago to the first of three-straight victories. That enabled Chicago to advance to the Conference Finals for the first time since 1995, which also happened to be the previous time the clubs met in the playoffs. Overall, the teams have met three times in the playoffs, with Canucks winning in the 1982 Campbell Conference Final and the Blackhawks prevailing in '95 and '09.
Kane Able vs. Luongo -- Patrick Kane torched Luongo for a hat trick in the 'Hawks' 7-5 series-clinching victory a year ago. Kane, playing for Team USA, also scored against Luongo, playing for Canada, in the 2010 Olympic gold medal game. Overall, Luongo has had some forgettable moments against the 'Hawks -- allowing 5-straight goals in a Game 2 loss last spring, all 7 goals in that series' Game 6 and 5 first-period goals in the teams' last of four meetings in the 2009-10 regular season on Feb. 5. Luongo told Kane in the Olympics handshake line: “I'll see you in the playoffs.”
Just Add Frozen Water -- Though they are in different divisions and hadn't met in the playoffs in 14 years, the Canucks and Blackhawks have become instant rivals the last two seasons. Luongo was in tears after being strafed by the Blackhawks last spring.
The teams brawled in the United Center last season during which Hawk Duncan Keith claimed that Canuck Alex Burrows pulled his hair. Chicago's Andrew Ladd broke the nose of Vancouver's Ryan Kesler with a hit in last spring's playoffs and the two fought this season -- after which Kesler called Ladd a coward. And in their first meeting this season, Canucks defenseman Willie Mitchell clobbered Jonathan Toews with an open-ice hit that sidelined the Blackhawks' captain for six games.
Red-light District -- The Canucks (3.27 goals/game, second overall in the NHL) and the Blackhawks (3.20 gpg, third) were the two highest-scoring teams in the Western Conference this season. They possess three of the League's top 12 scorers this season (Henrik Sedin -- 112 points, 1st; Patrick Kane -- 88 points, 9th; Daniel Sedin -- 85 points, 12th) and the second highest-scoring defenseman in the NHL (Duncan Keith -- 69 points). Chicago scored 10 goals in its last two games in the first round. Vancouver scored 17 in its last three games.
Finnishing Touch -- Antti Niemi had never appeared in a Stanley Cup Playoffs game nor won a men's playoff series of any kind until this postseason. His 33-save shutout in Game 4 turned the Conference Quarterfinal vs. Nashville in Chicago's favor. Niemi had his hiccups thereafter -- he was unable to hold a 3-1 lead in the third period of the Game 5 OT victory and allowed 3 goals on the Predators' first nine shots in Game 6 -- but he stiffened to stop the final 19 shots he faced in the series clincher.
High-Wire Act -- The Blackhawks required a shorthanded Patrick Kane goal with 14 seconds left in regulation to send Game 5 vs. Nashville into OT. They got a Jonathan Toews goal with 31 seconds left in the wild first period of Game 6 to take the 4-3 lead they nursed until John Madden's empty-netter in the final seconds of the series.
Killing Them Softly -- Chicago's penalty killing was superb in the first round. The Hawks killed 26 of 27 Nashville power plays for a Western Conference-best success rate of 96.3 percent. Factoring in Kane's SHG in Game 5, the 'Hawks scored as many goals as they allowed while shorthanded in the entire series.
Samuelsson sparks Sedins -- When scalding Mikael Samuelsson (Playoffs-leading 7 goals) assigned to their wing midway through the second period of Game 4, Henrik and Daniel Sedin erupted. Daniel had 3 assists and Henrik scored the game-winner late in that pivotal contest. The trio combined for 3 goals and 4 assists in the Game 5 rout. And the line produced the two third-period goals -- including Daniel's series winner -- that overturned a 2-1 deficit in Game 6.
A Bobby Loo-Loo -- With the Canucks trailing, 1-0, early in the second period of Game 6, Roberto Luongo made the save of the series -- and perhaps the entire first round. Down and seemingly out while lying on his side, Luongo reached up with his catching glove to snare Ryan Smyth's ticketed wrister. That save -- and the pile that preceded it in a first period in which Vancouver was outshot, 16-5 -- enabled the Canucks to survive an early Kings onslaught and avoid a Game 7.
Shorthanded shortcomings -- The Los Angeles power play torched Vancouver for nine goals on 16 chances through the first four games of their Western Quarterfinal. But in winning the last two games, the Canucks killed off nine of 10 Kings power plays.