Bruce Ng: Canucks Wagon Watch after a 6-2 win over Chicago.

The bandwagon is at mid capacity after Sunday's win in Chitown.

Throughout the season, the Canucks Wagonwatch series will track how much room is on the team’s bandwagon. In addition, it will also track the completely separate Luongo wagon.

Canucks Bandwagon: 70% Full

Special teams were surgical tonight. The power play converted 5 out of 6 chances, and the penalty kill was a perfect 5 for 5. The second period has been a big let-down for the Canucks this season, but they outscored the Hawks tonight 4-1 in the middle frame, and sustained a decent pace throughout the game. It was a big win in tough enemy territory, so the wagon has a few more folks on it.

Luongo Bandwagon: 50% Full

The Blackhawks first goal tied the game at 1. It really was a bad goal – Frolik beat him with a long wrist shot from 55 feet out along the boards. Deflected or not, Luongo should have had that one. After the Blackhawks first goal, I’m pretty sure the Luongo haters were calling for Schneider, and the Hawks fans were salivating hoping that Luongo would cave, however, to his credit, he settled down really nicely after that. Luongo made some solid saves when the score was 4-2, and again at the end of the 2nd period to hold a 3-goal lead heading into the intermission. Despite making 38 saves, the first goal prevented fans from climbing back onto the wagon tonight. Solid performance though.

“Familiarity Breeds Comtempt”

The Canucks posted a 6-2 win over their Western Conference rivals in Chicago. The Canucks might say that they have more contempt for Calgary, and the Hawks number one rival will likely always be the Red Wings, but it’s not hard for either team to get up for this game – they’ve met in the playoffs for the last 3 years running. Each time, the winner has gone to the Stanley Cup Final.

Sunday, the Canucks looked like they finally played a game where they had more answers than questions.

A Little Faith, Please

As I have gone on this roller coaster ride in the first round so far in the 2011 NHL Playoffs series between the Vancouver Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks, all I can say is I am glad it’s coming to an end, one way or another. This series has had the best of times for us Canucks fans in the first three games and the worst of times in the last three games of the series. But I will give credit where it is due, the Blackhawks have fought back to even up the series and bring it to seventh and deciding game. The team who wants it more will be winning the series. No sugar-coating and no excuses; it’s one and done.

I haven’t written a column in a while, and for whatever reason, I feel like putting up a few comments tonight. I could rehash the ‘would’ve, could’ve, should’ve’ angle of this series for the Canucks, but I won’t. There have been more than enough write-ups about that exact topic.  So I’m going to make this my rally cry. My pledge of allegiance to the team that I have been loyal to for 30 years of my life.

The Canucks can win this series, they just need to put their minds, their bodies and souls into this game.  It may take whatever they have left in the tank, but I know they can.  Why? It’s simple, they have been too good all year long and worked too hard to get to this point to give up now.

Last night in Game 6, I saw a team that wanted to win, dictated play for the majority of the game and most of all played for each other. Despite all that, they came up the short end of the stick.  I refuse to believe it will happen twice. I believe they refuse to believe it will happen twice, especially in their own rink.  I am not sure if I can call it destiny but I have had a feeling about this team since the beginning of the season. Call it ‘wishful thinking’ or whatever you want, but I’ve suffered through many heartaches with this team over the last 30 years to doubt this feeling I cannot shake off.

Believe, just like it says! Photo: Wikipedia Commons

If they happen to lose Tuesday, I will have to figure out as to why my feeling was wrong, but that’s for me to figure out. I just want to see a great game between two great teams playing the greatest game on earth. It’s what every hockey fan wants, but as a Canucks fan, I want my team to win…their way. So to the doubters in Canuck land who have their reservations, I ask you all to be like me,along others, who have been long suffering fans to give our team the support they need and deserve.  It may not seem like a lot because we’re not on the ice playing the game, but I want Canucks fans everywhere to unite and cheer our boys on in the final battle of this series.

I am not hoping they seek ‘revenge’ but rejoice in victory.  To me, as a fan, that’s the key to winning the series, playing their game.  The Canucks will play their game, and win like they have done so many times this season.

I don’t have any fancy sports cliches, no ‘motivational’ words of wisdom but I do have faith. So I ask you all, to join me and have a little faith in our Canucks and I am sure they will do their best to deliver.

Cheer loud and cheer proud my fellow Canucks fans, because we are all that seventh man and right now, the boys need us. As fans, that’s what we are supposed to do…believe.

 

Justine Galo

Canucks and Hawks Preview and your chance to win Canucks Playoff Posters!

So the Vancouver Canucks will once again face the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup playoffs. This was determined on the final day of the regular season, after the defending champs left their fate in the hands of the Dallas Stars who gave them the equivalent of a Governor’s reprieve when they failed to beat the Minnesota Wild.

And so starting Wednesday at Rogers Arena the Vancouver Canucks will start their quest for the first Stanley Cup in franchise history versus the club that has eliminated them the last two seasons. This time however they should be clearly be favoured to win. They are the Presidents Trophy winners (yes we know the stats on that). They’ll have home ice advantage, and they are better than the Hawks in pretty much every statistical category you can name.

Canuck fans seem split down the middle on the matchup. Some feel it’s best to get rid of the monkey off the back and others are worrying that the Blackhawks hold some sort of psychological edge over Vancouver that could be a huge roadblock for the team to overcome in the first round.

To celebrate the start of the second season and hopefully the start of a long run to the cup, the Vancouver Canucks have supplied us with a set of this year’s 2011 playoff posters to give away to a lucky reader. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post to enter and RT this:

I entered to win a set of 2011 playoff posters from @VanCanucks & @CanucksCorner & you can too! http://canuckscorner.com/?p=1792 #Canucks

So without further delay, let’s get into it…our Canucks and Hawks round one preview!

Goaltending: Advantage Vancouver

Roberto LuongoRoberto Luongo will face the usual questions heading onto the 2011 playoffs. Can he shake off the losses of the last two seasons, and can he get it done in the playoffs. The answers to both of these questions should be yes.

Luongo has just finished his most consistent season as a Canuck and you can attribute that to a few things. The best move Mike Gillis made in the off-season was to resolve the Luongo captaincy issue early on in the process. The decision was ultimately Roberto’s but even he realized his attention to detail was being affected by being the spokesperson for the team. The addition of a full time goaltending coach in Roland Melanson and a reduced workload thanks to the stellar fill in work of Cory Schneider has Luongo entering the playoffs relaxed, confident and on the top of his game. The Hawks will try and disrupt Loungo and it will be up to him to keep composed with the help of his defence which is healthy for the first time all season.

The Blackhawks will go with rookie Corey Crawford over the veteran Marty Turco. One could argue that Crawford is the reason the Hawks are in the playoffs given their sub par performance in other areas this season. Crawford beat the Canucks 7-1 early in the season and the Canucks faced Turco in the three other meetings during the season. It will be Crawford’s first playoff experience and despite how he has played during the season, the playoffs are a different breed. If the Canucks can get some early success the pressure will grow, and Luongo’s experience should be a factor. Likewise, if Chicago can light up Luongo and cast doubts and memories of failures past, it could be a disaster for Vancouver.

We’re giving the nod to Luongo here, as he just seems like a more relaxed an confident player this season. it just seems like he’s focused and ready to rid the demons of the last two seasons. That and Dustin Byfuglien isn’t around to have his large and annoying butt in his crease all  series. Crawford could be one of those great playoff stories, but it’s a tall order for any rookie goaltender to be the saviour for his team.

Defence: Advantage Vancouver

One of the great advantages the Blackhawks had in last year’s playoffs was their depth on defence. This year they are once again very strong on the back end, but the Canucks boast a very experienced and for the first time this season, healthy top 6 defensemen. The return of Alex Edler couldn’t have come at a better time, and he’ll like be paired with Christian Erhoff to form the Canucks top unit. Kevin Bieksa, Sami, Salo, Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard and likely Aaron Rome or Andrew Alberts will round the top six and give the Canucks depth they never had in last year’s series. Hamhuis is the biggest question mark after suffering two fairly close concussions in the second half. The physical nature of the playoffs will surely be a test of his current health.

Duncan KeithChicago is also strong with the likes of Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Add in rookie Nick Leddy and Chris Campoli who was a key addition via a trade and the Hawks are well positioned. Duncan Keith has logged a lot of minutes for the Hawks this season, and hasn’t been his Norris trophy winning self, but he’s still dangerous and the Canucks will have to be aware of the crafty d-man at all times.

Both teams can score from the back end, so it may come down to who can keep goals out of their own net, and the Canucks allowed the fewest goals of any team in the league this season.

One through six it’s the Canucks who have more experience, and a little more depth. Slight edge to Vancouver.

Fowards: Even

Daniel & Henrik SedinThe Canucks not only led the league in keeping the puck out of their net, they also filled the opponents net more than any other team. With Art Ross winner Daniel Sedin and brother Henrik leading the way the Canucks possess the ability to score in bunches. Ryan Kesler and Alex Burros have also had strong campaigns to add balanced scoring. If the Canucks are going to succeed their bottom tier forwards need to chip in key goals. Stats-wise Mason Raymond had a disappointing season for the club, and Mikael Samuelsson has had an up and down year. With special attention on the way for the Sedin’s the other forwards are going to have to chip in goals, and the Canucks are better positioned for that to happen this year. Jannik Hansen, along with trade acquisitions Maxim Lapierre and Chris Higgins will look to add grit and scoring respectively in supporting roles.

The Canucks will miss the defensive forward talents of Manny Malhotra but he will be around the team to provide leadership and perhaps inspiration.

Chicago will be no slouches offensively. Jonathon Toews has become one of the greatest leaders in hockey and can take a team on his back. The Hawks also boast the offence of Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp, the latter who has really stepped into the forefront this season after the departures of Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien. Byfuglien won’t be around to get in Luongo’s face, and there is question as to whether Dave Bolland will be ready for game one after missing 14 games with a concussion. A defensive forward who can score big goals, Bolland was was instrumental in containing the Sedin’s last year on the ay to Chicago’s series win over Vancouver.

This one is close and it’s going to come down to who’s second tier forwards can get the job done. We’re saying it’s a toss up.

Special Teams: Advantage Canucks

The Canucks power play has been in no uncertain terms, lethal. They led the league with the man advantage and if the Hawks hope to win their penalty killing needs to be stellar and they have to stay out of the box, or this series could be over quickly. The Canucks penalty killing has laso been strong but did take a dip after the injury to Manny Malhotra. Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows who were both hurt in last years series will be counted on heavily in this role. The Hawks can throw out a lethal power play as well and on the back end have a deadly combo with Keith and Seabrook. If the Canucks can’t stay disciplined, hich they had problems with last year, the Hawks will make them pay.

Because they’ve done it all year, and we feel Luongo has the edge in goal, we’re giving the edge to Vancouver.

Coaching: Even

Both teams posssess great coaching. Alain Vigneault has to get consideration for coach of the year and has kept the Canucks focused and on track all year through some big injuries, especially on defence. Joel Quennville has won the cup and dealt with a big roster turnover this year. Sure they got some help to get in, but they’re in and he’ll have the Hawks ready to compete.

Our prediction:

The Canucks have to get this monkey off their backs. They’ve worked all year to get every advantage they can and have proven to be the most consistent team in the league. I don’t see the Hawks beating them 4 out of 7 games, and we’re picking the Canucks in 6.

Leave your comments/predictions and tweet the message we mentioned above for a chance to win the 2011 Canucks Playoff poster series from the @VanCanucks!

What’s the deal, AV?

They haven't looked good on the ice, so here's a shot of Kevin Bieksa off of it.One day after losing 7-2 to the sadsack Calgary Flames, the Chicago Blackhawks did the long walk of shame into Vancouver, shook themselves out of whatever funk had let them poop out that stinker at the Saddledome, and thoroughly trounced the Vancouver Canucks 7-1.

The Canucks, one day after that embarrassing loss, got right back at it by hosting the Phoenix Coyotes. They had a chance to do just what the dirty rotten stinkin’ Blackhawks had done to them the night before. Let loose. Fire all cannons. Rip off the Chinos and go commando on someone’s ass. But no, the Canucks instead sleepwalked through most of the night and let Taylor Pyatt – YES, TAYLOR PYATT – score two goals including the game winner as the Yotes left the Canucks winless in four.

Pyatt of the light brown eyelashes singlehandedly spent more time in the opposition crease area than the entire Canucks roster (something he could have done a little more often when he still played here, by the way.) It doesn’t take hours of video analysis to see the problems. Defensively, the Canucks are guilty of stick checking – when they check at all, that is. Luongo has been left high and dry on countless occasions in the past two weeks. Hamhuis has made a few decent plays, but only a few. Alberts was all hit for the first ten games of the season, and mostly miss ever since. The wicked D on paper has translated into a paper D on ice.

Offensively, Vancouver has stopped skating at the net. They’ve become utterly predictable. Hell, the most dangerous offensive play by a Canuck this weekend was a rush by Kevin Bieksa in the second period against the Yotes. For some reason, other than that solo Bieksa effort, the Canucks offense has reduced itself to pretty much one play: 1) Carry the puck over the opposing blueline. 2) Hold up on the right halfboards. 3) Look for a trailer.

A junior team could defend against this kind of bland attack.

Perhaps Alain Vigneault’s complaints that Chicago ran up the score on Saturday night were meant to give the media fodder so they wouldn’t look any closer. Keith Ballard is out with the flu – maybe there are others in the dressing room who are sluggish because of a bug, as well. At least it would be an excuse for such lacklustre performances. According to Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun, however, when asked on Twitter if the flu was rampant in the Nucks dressing room: “On any team, any time, there’s always a couple of guys fighting illness but flu “rampant?” I haven’t seen that.” Scratch that excuse, then.

So what is it? The Sedins have been all but invisible; with the exception of his penalty shot goal earlier this year, Henrik hasn’t taken a legitimate shot on net all season. Alex Burrows has been largely ineffective since returning from shoulder surgery. Mason Raymond hasn’t skated around anyone in weeks, and Ryan Kesler’s hotter in underwear ads than on the second line. As for Mikael Samuelsson – how do you say “You’re fired” in Swedish? Maybe it’s time some of these top six underachievers sat in the press box for a few games. Even better, make them pay $150 to sit in the nosebleeds and watch this team’s lack of effort.

Follow Jason Kurylo on Twitter.

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Curse of the Blackhawk

The Vancouver Canucks versus the Chicago Blackhawks looked like the preview of another possible playoff match up, or at least it did before the game started last night. The outcome and the progression of the game didn’t pan out to be a classic Hockey Night in Canada match-up. Instead, it was a lacklustre blow-out type of game.  Are the Canucks cursed when it comes to facing the Blackhawks? Did Patrick Kane’s playoff mullet disturb Vancouver so much it rattles them to this very day? Did the great tribes of the Great Lakes region of North America put a curse on the west coast warriors? I’m beginning to think just that.

Canucks can't figure out the Hawks

Canucks can't figure out the Hawks

After a two week road trip the Canucks come home to host the Blackhawks. The game was the most disappointing game I have seen in recent years.  It wasn’t even so much the score of 7-1 that bothered me. It wasn’t Patrick Kane’s incessant chewing of his mouth-guard, Duncan Keith’s face, or even the over-exuberant celebration of the benched Marty Turco that bothered me last night.  It was the effort (and I use that term loosely) of the home team last night. The Canucks were never closer to the term ‘disinterested’ than they have been in years.

The Canucks were lazy, emotionless and complacent. Last night, their lack of interest couldn’t be masked.  The Blackhawks exposed every bit of their disinterest, their effort and their (lack of) drive. Where was our Hart Trophy winner last night? Where was the whole team for that matter? In fact, where have they been since the game in Ottawa?

I don’t know what it is about the Chicago Blackhawks but the Canucks just can’t seem to ‘get over’ their mental block about them, especially Roberto Luongo.  Although, last night, he deserved less of the blame than the team in front of him, they were far more responsible for those goals than Luongo or even Schneider for that matter.

As mentioned on the Canucks Corner forum board, I believe they will still be a winning team, and will most likely have home ice for the first round of the playoffs, but they need to either exorcise the Blackhawk demons or just try to avoid them all together. I’d prefer the former, but who knows with this bunch. It was the first time I wanted to leave Rogers Arena early for the first time since its opening day back in 1995.

I usually don’t write about specific games but last night stirred some concern in my being regarding this team. Find the deficiencies Canucks, and fill them, because I don’t ever want another Canucks fan to feel cheated the way I was (along with many others) last night.

Justine Galo

Follow Justine Galo on Twitter: @Aviewfromabroad

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