Last season the Canucks were knocked out of the playoffs in the second round by the Hawks in six games as Chicago moved on to the Western Conference final, eventually losing to the Detroit Red Wings. The Canucks have a bitter taste in their mouth following last season, in which Chicago has developed into one of their top rivals.
“Every guy on the team remembers the feeling leaving Chicago last year, it was one of the worst feelings I’ve ever been through” Expressed Kevin Bieksa. “Were gonna use that and we definitely want to get some redemption on these guys.”
In the series last year the Blackhawks outplayed the Canucks in all aspects, but none was more prevalent than in net where Roberto Luongo’s struggles began. In Game 6 at the United Center Roberto Luongo got lit up for seven goals, a game which was the exclamation point on his poor series.
Luongo’s lack of postseason success has become less of a factor due in part to the Canucks win over the Kings in this years playoffs, but he will be judged on whether or not he can be a playoff goaltender at the end of the upcoming Chicago series.
“This is a new year and last year had nothing to do with this year, personally were just looking to win four out of seven again and move on” stated Luongo, who went on to say “They’re a great team, and we’re a great team, it made for a great series last year and I don’t expect anything different this year.”
In last year’s notorious game six, three of the seven goals scored on Roberto Luongo came off the stick of Patrick Kane who made last year’s series against the Canucks his coming out party as he emerged from the hype of a potential star into a full fledged “Super Nova”. Kane went on to score 14 points in 16 games over the course of last year’s playoffs, with one giant blemish scarring his postseason play, a plus/minus rating of -9. Through the first round this year, having played six games, Kane has improved to an even plus/minus with seven points.
Defensive minded forward Ryan Kesler did not downplay the importance of shutting down Patrick Kane. “I think he’s one of the more underrated players in the league… he’s good five on five, he’s good on the power play, he really doesn’t have a weakness, so we gotta stay on top of him and try and contain him”
The last time Vancouver and Chicago faced off was on March 5th in Chicago when the ‘Hawks thumped the ‘Nucks 6-3. The United Center is a venue which continues to haunt Roberto Luongo as the Blackhawks scored five goals on just fourteen shots in the first period alone, forcing Coach Alain Vigneault to start backup Andrew Raycroft in the second frame. The four game regular season series between the two teams was split with each team winning two games, one each on the road and at home.
“We match up pretty good against them and its going to be a tough series but well take the underdog role,” stated Kevin Bieksa about being the underdogs in Round Two.
The heated rivalry will come to a boiling point Saturday night; the two teams have a clear distaste for each other as they have developed their feud. Both teams have a similar wide open style and play with an equal amount of grit, but after the Canucks penalty killing woes almost cost them the series against the Kings in the first round, the Canucks need to stay focused and maintain a disciplined style of play.
Heading into Saturday night’s main event, Coach Vigneault had this to say about Vancouver’s opponent and his teams’ urgency to stay level headed.
“To be successful in the playoffs you have to play with emotion, but you’ve got to make sure it’s the right type of emotion and I think that we’ve learned from our past experiences whether it be last years series or the LA series,” he said. “We’re better equipped and we’re ready for the opportunity to meet one of the best teams in the NHL.”