Canucks win game one of what promises to be an epic playoff series, 5-1, in Chicago.
The Vancouver Canucks are an extremely potent offensive hockey team. They have a dozen skilled forwards who combine blazing speed with otherworldly puck possession (I think there was a two-plus minute stretch tonight where the Sedins seemed to have the puck on a string) and a relentless transition game (Ryan Kesler is a Selke Trophy-nominee), several outstanding offensive-minded defensemen who can contribute from the back end (Sami Salo might have the hardest shot in hockey--so long as his stick doesn't break!), and an outstanding goaltender in Roberto Luongo who has unfinished business with the Chicago Blackhawks after last year's playoff series. If Luongo keeps playing at this level I wouldn't be surprised if the Canucks make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals ... but I'm getting ahead of myself.
I was frankly very surprised by two things: Chicago's lack of speed and their unwillingness to initiate contact against the Canucks.
I was not surprised at Chicago's poor goaltending. The Hawks rely on the All-Star defensive pairing of Keith and Seabrook to limit the quality scoring chances their netminder has to face, and neither of them had a good game tonight.
My bet with lightning36 looks good so far, but it's going to be a long series. I expect the Hawks to respond by ratcheting up their intensity and trying to combat the Canucks' puck possession game with a much more persistent forecheck on the Canucks' defense. It's no secret that the Canucks' Achilles heel is a lack of depth on their defense corps so grinding them down is the Hawks' surest path to a series victory.
I can't wait for Monday night and game two.