It’s finally come. Flash back to last spring around this time, the Canucks and Blackhawks faced off in a bitter, hard fought series which saw the Canucks get eliminated and the Hawks go on … to lose to Detroit. Well… not a lot of ramifications beyond these two fan bases; however, borne out of that 6 game series was an unnatural hatred for each other that boiled over into the regular season this year.
And now, back for the 2010 edition, I give you Canucks – Hawks V. 2.0. The difference? Luongo has a gold medal, but weaker defence. The Sedins have turned into legit first line players, and the Canucks developed their scoring depth. Meanwhile, the Hawks goaltending got worse, but also got all around better defence. Keith turned into a Norris trophy candidate, Toews turned into Captain Canada, and Kane turned into … well, he’s still a midget. But he’s a mighty quick midget, with a wondrously smooth chest. They’ve picked up Marian Hossa for 10 years (or however long that ridiculous contract is), which either bodes well or not well for us, given that he’s been to the last 2 Stanley Cup finals with different teams, but has yet to bring home the big prize.
All I know is that I was watching the first period of the Hawks/ Preds game last night in which the Hawks eliminated the Preds. It was 4-3. AT THE END OF THE FIRST PERIOD. Which tells me two things: 1) the Hawks goaltending is ripe for implosion, and 2) this team is NOT one we can get into a track meet with and win. I think I mentioned 4 or 5 teams that can play with us when we’re running at max RPMS? Well one of those teams is named the Chicago Blackhawks. Youth, speed, size and ability up front, youth, speed, size and ability on the blueline. Their only question mark is their goaltending. Meanwhile, Willie Mitchell still can’t skate, and the Bieksa/Rome/Alberts triumvirate is still dropping giant turds all over the ice. We have major question marks on our blueline; I’m not sold on depending on Edler, Ehrhoff and Salo as our top 3 defensive defencemen. If Luongo continues his strong play, however, this could be the series that he steals for us, vanquishing his playoff monkey as well.
This will be our toughest series in the Western conference, as no other team has as many weapons (that show up, Sharks fans, no other team has as many weapons that show up [yeah, I’m talking to you Joe Thornton, he of 0-3-3 and a -4 rating through your series against Colorado]), defensively and offensively as Chicago. The winner will be whichever team wins the battles down low in both zones: Chicago killed us last year coming out of the corners, while the Sedins are deadly if they’re allowed to set up down low. If either defence can solve those situations, if either defence can make going to the net difficult, the series will belong to that team. And … well, no pressure Luo, but we really need you to show up for every game.