A preview of the Western Conference quarterfinal between the No. 1 Vancouver Canucks and No. 8 Chicago Blackhawks:
Wednesday, April 13: Chicago at Vancouver, 10 p.m. ET, Versus, CBC
Friday, April 15: Chicago at Vancouver, 10 p.m. ET, Versus, CBC
Sunday, April 17: Vancouver at Chicago, 8 p.m. ET, Versus, CBC
Tuesday, April 19: Vancouver at Chicago, 8 p.m. ET, Versus, CBC
x-Thursday, April 21: Chicago at Vancouver, 10 p.m. ET, Versus, CBC
x-Sunday, April 24: Vancouver at Chicago, 7:30 p.m. ET, CBC
x-Tuesday, April 26: Chicago at Vancouver, TBD, CBC
Season series (Tied 2-2)
Oct. 20: Chicago 2, Vancouver 1, SO
Nov. 20: Chicago 7, Vancouver 1
Dec. 3: Vancouver 3, Chicago 0
Feb. 4: Vancouver 4, Chicago 3
Playoff history (Chicago leads 3-1)
1982: Vancouver 4-1 Campbell Conference finals
1995: Chicago 4-0 Western Conference semifinals
2009: Chicago 4-2 Western Conference semifinals
2010: Chicago 4-2 Western Conference semifinals
Chicago: 4 (1934, 1938, 1961, 2010)
The first brothers ever to both win NHL scoring titles, Daniel Sedin followed twin sibling Henrik Sedin to the top of the point parade, and was the only NHLer to collect 100 points this season. Henrik wasn't far behind, dishing out an NHL-best 75 assists and finishing fourth with 94 points. Ryan Kesler shared fourth among NHL goal scorers with 41 goals and provided the team a secondary scoring option beyond the twins.
Captain Jonathan Toews finished fifth among NHL forwards with a plus-25 rating and led the 'Hawks with 76 points, collecting 38 points in the last 33 games. He also won 56.7 percent of his faceoffs. Patrick Kane collected his 200th assist in the season finale against Detroit, becoming the second-youngest Blackhawk to reach that plateau. Kane has collected 36 points since Feb. 1. Marian Hossa garnered 17 multi-point games, six in his last 19 games.
There's no Norris Trophy contenders in the mix, but from top to bottom, the Vancouver blue-line brigade is solid. Christian Ehrhoff was a splendid offseason addition, leading the club's defenders with 14 goals and 50 points. Steady Alexander Edler collected 25 assists. Kevin Bieksa was a team-leading plus-32, while Keith Ballard blocked a Canucks-best 111 shots. The Canucks are uncertain whether Dam Hamhuis (upper body) or Andrew Alberts (hand) will be a go to start the playoffs.
Brent Seabrook is just the sixth Blackhawks defenseman in the last 15 seasons to produce 10 multi-point games in a season, collecting career highs in assists (39) and points (48). He equaled his career best with nine goals and was third among NHL defensemen with 227 hits. Seabrook and 2009-10 Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith were the only 'Hawks to play all 82 games this season.
He's won world titles, an Olympic gold medal, been a Hart Trophy and Vezina finalist, but until he wins in the postseason, no one seems willing to give Roberto Luongo any love. Luongo tied for the NHL lead with 38 wins and rated among the top four in the league in goals-against average (second, 2.11) and save percentage (fourth, .928). He also became the 25th NHL goalie to post 300 career wins.
Last season, Cristobal Huet was to be Chicago's goalie, but lost his job to Antti Niemi. When the 'Hawks let Niemi walk after he backstopped them to the Cup, Marty Turco was brought in to take over, and quickly lost his job to Corey Crawford. Just the second Blackhawks goaltender to win 30 games since 1994, Crawford compiled a 176:09 shutout streak from Jan. 7-15, the longest by a Chicago netminder since Tony Esposito from Jan. 16-30, 1972.
Seldom mentioned among the elite coaches, Alain Vigneault just seems to win with the Canucks. Winning their first Presidents' Trophy, the Canucks set franchise records for wins (54), points (117) and road wins (27). Vancouver led the NHL in most goals per game (3.15), lowest goals against per game (2.20) and power play percentage (24.3) They are the first club in the NHL's expansion era (since 1967-68) to finish first in each of these categories in a single season.
Just the 17th coach in NHL history to work 1,000 games behind the bench, it was a trying campaign for Joel Quenneville, who was briefly hospitalized due to an ulcer. Quenneville's .643 regular-season points percentage is the best in franchise history, and his .640 postseason winning percentage (25-14) is the organization's best since 1940. He and Jacques Lemaire are the only men to play 800 NHL games and coach 1,000 NHL games.
Vancouver (1st on power play; 4th on penalty kill)
Daniel Sedin not only led the NHL in scoring, he also led the NHL in power-play goals with 18, and in power-play points with 42. Kesler was right behind him in fourth spot with 15 power-play goals and 30 power-play points to his credit. Henrik Sedin's 27 assists with the man advantage was third-best in the NHL. Kesler also netted three of Vancouver's six shorthanded goals.
Chicago (4th on power play, 25th on penalty kill)
Patrick Sharp led the Hawks with 12 power-play goals, while Toews also hit double digits with 10. Hossa potted eight and Troy Brouwer chipped in with a surprising seven while enjoying the man advantage. Sharp (26), Toews (25), Kane (24) and Keith (22) all topped 20 power-play points. Both Sharp and Hossa scored twice while shorthanded, with Toews and Keith each adding one shorthanded marker.
Alexandre Burrows is the perfect linemate for the Sedin twins because he's an aggressive, nasty agitator willing to take on anyone who takes liberties with either of them. He's also equipped with enough skill to garner 26 goals. Two of Vancouver's key checkers will be absent to start the playoffs. Raffi Torres will sit out the first two games under NHL suspension, while Manny Malhotra's future is uncertain after he underwent recent eye surgery.
This is where Chicago took the biggest hit during their summer salary purge. Look at the names of those who left - John Madden, Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Kris Versteeg - a significant chunk of the heart and character of last spring's Cup-winning squad. Minus them, Brouwer led the way with 262 hits, while rookie Bryan Bickell collected 37 points and 177 hits.
An 18-goal scorer this season, Mikael Samuelsson is a streak scorer who when he catches fire, can carry a team to great heights. In 2009, his scoring outbursts helped Detroit survive during an injury-riddled post-season and reach the Cup finals. Last spring, he potted eight goals in 12 playoff games for Vancouver, and a repeat performance would be a welcome addition to a long playoff run.
He recently returned to practice and if Dave Bolland's concussion symptoms clear from his head in time, he could give Henrik Sedin the same migraine he's driven into the Vancouver captain the past two springs. Bolland is Chicago's best defensive forward and its top faceoff man. He had 55 takeaways in 61 games and 35 blocked shots. They can't beat the Canucks without him.
Two straight years, Chicago has proven to be Vancouver's kryptonite, but not this year. This time, the Canucks come to the rink with the better team, the deeper team, the team that's ready to take the next step. It's their time to shine.
Prediction: Vancouver in 6