If you had told me on Sunday that the Chicago Blackhawks would meet the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the NHL playoffs I would have said that was the least likely senario. To meet the Canucks, the ‘Hawks needed to lose to the Detroit Red Wings in regulation and the Dallas Stars to lose to the Minnesota Wild, lo and behold both scenarios unfolded and the ‘Hawks find themselves in Vancouver.
Now many hockey analysts have said the ‘Hawks basically backed into the playoffs and yes they did lose their final game, one that they desperately needed but after the All Star break ‘Hawks played well and also had an eight game winning streak.
As we enter the first round matchup between the Canucks and the ‘Hawks the question that will surround the Blackhawks is are they content with just making the playoffs or do they have the drive to make another run at the Stanley Cup. Most seem to think the ‘Hawks will be happy enough to make the playoffs but will that truly be enough for a team that reached the greatest high in the sport? I tend to think that going out in the first round won’t satisfy this team and they will give the Canucks all that they can handle in this first round matchup.
A major key for the ‘Hawks in this series will be the health of some of their key players, namely Patrick Sharp, Troy Brouwer and Dave Bolland. Sharp, likely the healthiest of the bunch appeared in the ‘Hawks final three games after missing several weeks and will be in the line up for game one.
However the other two, Brouwer and Bolland have not been in the lineup as of late and Bolland has been out since March 9th when he was elbowed in the head by Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina. Coach Quenneville told the media on Tuesday that he was hoping to have both forwards back sometime in this series and Brouwer might have a chance at playing tonight.
For the Canucks the key to beating the Blackhawks will be puck control if the Sedin’s and Kesler can keep the puck of the sticks of Kane, Toews, Sharp and Hossa then they will have a great chance at beating the defending champs. The Canuck must also prove that the ‘Hawks really are not in their heads after being eliminated by them in the last two playoffs.
If the Canucks can get over the mental hurdle against the Blackhawks then they should have no problem in the physical aspect of the game but if the past two years enter into the minds of Canucks players the ‘Hawks have a fighting chance to knock off the top seeded Canucks.