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Canucks' losing battles in front of both nets

by Dave Lozo /
VANCOUVER -- Roberto Luongo was defiant Thursday morning when it came time talk about what the Canucks have done wrong in the last two losses to the Chicago Blackhawks that have turned their 1-0 series lead into a 2-1 deficit.

"Chicago is not a better team than us," Luongo said. "They're not playing better than us. They're just doing a better job in front of the nets, both sides."

Dustin Byfuglien might need to apply for a business permit in Vancouver if he continues to set up shop in front of Luongo the way he did in Game 3. The gigantic forward had three goals Wednesday, two of which were scored from inside the crease.

The Canucks had no answer for Byfuglien, and less than 24 hours later, they still didn't have a solution for the 6-foot-4, 257-pound forward heading into Friday night's Game 4 (9:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC).

"He's so big and strong that when he does position on you, he's almost impossible to move," Canucks defenseman Shane O'Brien said. "We just have to do a better job of not letting him get there."

Luongo went from defiant to almost defeatist on the Byfuglien front.

"Boxing out is a big thing," Luongo said, "but a guy like that is so big that he's going to get to the front of the net."

Therein lies the almost literal rub. The Canucks know complaining to the officials about the Blackhawks making contact with Luongo isn't going to solve anything. They can't keep Byfuglien from the front of the net, and they can't move him once he gets there.

So what's the answer?

One way to make the Blackhawks think twice about charging into Luongo is to make them pay on the power play. But the Canucks have been brutal with the man advantage in this series, going just 2-for-14 with one of those goals coming on a 5-on-3 advantage early in Game 2.

Converting a little more on the power play could provide the deterrent the Canucks need.

"That's the only way you can punish them, by scoring on the power play," Daniel Sedin said. "That's the good thing about the playoffs. You can adjust and get better."

If the Canucks are physically unable to defend the front of their net by outmuscling the Blackhawks, Luongo offered another solution.

"I think the main thing is just take the stick," Luongo said. "Not only for rebounds, but lots of times there are sticks right in my legs and kind of pushing me around. Not only for rebounds, but so I can stay in control and maybe freeze a puck or make a save on a rebound and try to hold my balance."

On the other end of the ice, Blackhawks goaltender Antti Niemi has had far less traffic in front of him. He's seen the puck very well over the last two games, stopping 55 of 59 shots.

The Canucks believe referees in the series are allowing the Blackhawks to push the limits in the crease areas, and it's about time they start doing the same thing at Niemi's end of the ice.

"I think the guys have to do a better job," Sedin said. "I think Niemi's seeing a lot of the pucks right now. If we need to get two guys there, I guess that's what we got to do."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DLozoNHL

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