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Underdog Hawks ready; Canucks 'hate' 'em

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Underdog Hawks ready; Canucks 'hate' 'em

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Posted: 7:56 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

VANCOUVER, British Columbia For Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa, it doesnt matter that this Chicago Blackhawks group is quite different than the one that eliminated the Canucks the past two seasons.

When you put that (Blackhawks) jersey on, its instant hate in this dressing room, Bieksa said. Its a team we want to beat badly.

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Or maybe more a team the Canucks need to beat badly.

As the Blackhawks and Canucks meet for the third consecutive postseason beginning Wednesday night, theres certainly no shortage of story lines. For the Blackhawks, theyve been pretty good: two consecutive series triumphs over Vancouver and a Stanley Cup last season. They could also be getting forward Troy Brouwer (shoulder) back for Game 1. But the No. 1 Canucks are nevertheless the team to beat, and the eighth-seeded champs are, lets face it, dark horses.

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Thats probably where everybodys got us, coach Joel Quenneville said. Winning first game is paramount. Were on the road, were viewed as underdogs and coming into a building thats hard to win in. Weve played hard here, so have to be ready to be at our best.

Meanwhile, the Canucks are dealing with another problem: constant Cup pressure. They led the league in several categories, had a firm hold on the Western Conference and claimed the Presidents Trophy. But until they win that Cup, theyre never going to hear the end of it.

For the whole team, youre not going to be seen as great until youve won it all. There are always going to be questions until you win, Daniel Sedin said. (The Blackhawks) won. Nobodys questioning them. We have to prove we can win.

The Blackhawks, meanwhile, dont want to fall into happy-to-be-here mode. After feeling euphoric on Monday, a day after Minnesotas victory over Dallas got them in, the Blackhawks were more in business mode at Tuesdays practice.

We want things to go our way, we want to win this series, Jonathan Toews said. Theres no working for 82 games just to make it to the playoffs and be happy with that. We want to get this series started on the right foot and hopefully move on after that.

Its the playoffs again and the pressures on again. The Blackhawks have been to the top of the heap. Now theyll play a Canucks team that badly wants take their place.

Theyve proven they can play on the big stage and play through adversity, challenges and the pressure that comes with winning four rounds to get your hands on the big prize, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. We think we can do it, were going to set out tomorrow to try to prove it. Weve worked all year long to finish first and were getting Cup champs. It doesnt get any better than that.

Brouwer close?

Troy Brouwer, whos missed a week with a right shoulder injury, could be in the lineup Wednesday against the Canucks.

Well say were hopeful hes a possibility (for Game 1), Quenneville said.

Brouwer practiced with the Blackhawks on Tuesday, although he was wearing a white non-contact jersey. Still, considering how big the series is and Brouwers family ties here, it may be hard to hold him out.
Patrick Kane found success with the playoff mullet last year, so he decided to sport it again. Why does that make at least one member of the Vancouver Canucks angry? (AP)
Im comfortable and confident in (my shoulder) right now that I can jump in. Once you get into the heat of the game, a lot of things youre feeling you dont pay attention to anymore, Brouwer said. The playoffs are a time when you play through a few things and for me its no different. But I feel good and I can only tell the coach how I feel. Its his decision whats going to happen next.

Mullet musings

Patrick Kanes rush to get his mullet back for the postseason didnt sit well with Canucks left wing Tanner Glass, who sports his own.

Its embarrassing. Hes kind of mocked the mullet and Im not too pleased about that, to be honest, said Glass with a smile. I dont think there are (mullet) rules, but when you do it for a few months and then you cut it off, its mocking.

Battle tested

If Corey Crawford felt butterflies when he played in front of the hometown Montreal folks last week, theyll probably be there again tomorrow night when he starts his first NHL playoff game.

Then again, considering the Blackhawks dogfight to get in, Crawfords already had a taste of playoff-type hockey.

Well find out tomorrow but there have been a lot of tough games, Corey Crawford said. Its only going to prepare us for tomorrows game.

Quenneville has been happy with Crawfords preparation throughout this season.

You have to commend him on how hes approached all these games and continued to get the job done, he said. Hes consistent and quietly goes about his business.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 2 win over Sharks

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 2 win over Sharks

In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the 2010 Stanley Cup team, NBC Sports Chicago is re-airing each of the Blackhawks' 16 postseason wins from the run that ended a 49-year championship drought. You can join the conversation using #HawksRewind on social media.

After stealing Game 1 in San Jose, the Blackhawks took care of business in Game 2 by beating the Sharks 4-2 to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Final. Here are three things we noticed in the win:

1. Building a cushion

You knew the Sharks were going to come out hungry after losing Game 1 in their own building, and the Blackhawks certainly matched that intensity. 

After Andrew Ladd broke the scoreless tie at the 12:48 mark of the first period, Dustin Byfuglien and Jonathan Toews followed suit in the second to put the Blackhawks in front 3-0. It was crucial for the visiting team not to give the Sharks any momentum, and it wasn't until 31:08 into the game before the home team finally got on the board.

2. A make-up game on special teams?

The Blackhawks had zero power plays in Game 1, so they didn't get a chance of testing a Sharks team that had the fifth-ranked penalty kill percentage (85.0) in the regular season. But that changed in Game 2.

The Sharks racked up 22 total penalty minutes and committed six minor penalties, two of which came with 18 seconds left in the game that saw two Blackhawks get sent off as well. The Blackhawks committed only one minor penalty in the previous 59:42.

Both teams converted on the power play once, but the Blackhawks staying out of the box for the majority of the game certainly played a role in preventing the Sharks from getting within striking distance or taking control early.

3. Duncan Keith's strong performance

He didn't garner as much attention as others, but Keith was solid for the Blackhawks in Game 2. He recorded two assists, six shot attempts (three on goal), four blocked shots and led all skaters with 30:21 of ice time. No other skater logged more than 27:56.

Keith was pointless in his first five postseason games, but had nine points (one goal, eight assists) in his next nine.

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NHL 20 sim: Blackhawks close strong late season push with playoff berth

NHL 20 sim: Blackhawks close strong late season push with playoff berth

It all comes down to one game for the Blackhawks. A win at Madison Square Garden earns them a playoff bid as the second Wild Card team and a first round showdown with the St. Louis Blues. A loss, and it’ll be a third consecutive season watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs from home.

The Rangers come into this game having been eliminated from playoff contention, but with plenty to play for. This could very well be Henrik Lundqvist’s last start in a Ranger uniform and there’s no doubt he and his teammates will be motivated to send the legend out on a high note. In addition, you can bet Artemi Panarin would love nothing more than to play spoiler against his former club. Will the Blueshirts bring the Blackhawks down to earth, or will Chicago punch their return ticket to the postseason?

Blackhawks at Rangers (4/4)

Result: Blackhawks win 4-2

Three Stars:

First Star: Kirby Dach (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG)

Second Star: Alex Nylander (1 G, 1 A)

Third Star: Alex DeBrincat (1 G, 1 A)

The youth movement came into full form in Saturday’s win in Manhattan. While the Hawks young players stepped up vs. the Islanders, they doubled down on Saturday. All three Blackhawks goals were scored by players aged 22 and younger and the game’s first star was the 19-year-old Dach. Secondary scoring and role players are vital come playoff time, so the youth contributions for Chicago down the stretch bodes well for their chances in the playoffs.

Scoring summary

First period

4:48: Jesper Fast (R. Strome, T. DeAngelo) 1-0

9:35 PP: Alex DeBrincat (A. Boqvist, K. Dach) 1-1

Second period

5:30: PP Alex Nylander (D. Kubalik, B. Saad) 2-1

12:34: Phil Di Guiseppe (K. Kakko, F. Chytil) 2-2

9:37 PP: Kirby Dach (A. DeBrincat, D. Keith) 3-2

Third period

19:22 EN: Slater Koekkoek (A. Nylander, P. Kane) 4-2

Box score

Shots on Goal:

Chicago: 27

New York: 25

The Blackhawks picked up two points at MSG using a similar formula from their win in Brooklyn: special teams success and a sound defensive effort. For the second straight game, Chicago limited their opponent to under 30 shots on goal after allowing 35.1 shots on goal per game during the regular season.

Goalies:

Corey Crawford: 23/25 (.920 SV%)

Henrik Lundqvist: 24/27 (.889 SV%)

Corey Crawford stepping up in big situations is something Hawks fans have grown accustomed to over the past decade, and the win over New York was no different. Neither goal was really his fault. He was screened by his own teammate on the first and a defensive breakdown resulted in the second. The Blackhawks will need Crawford at his best to have any chance in the first round against the Blues.

Power play:

Chicago: 3-4

New York: 0-1

After a pair of power play goals against the Islanders, the Hawks were even better against the Rangers, cashing in on three of four chances. The penalty kill stepped up as well, shutting down the Rangers in their lone power play chance. Both special teams units seem to be clicking at the right time for Jeremy Colliton’s crew.

Notable Blackhawks performances:

Adam Boqvist (Assist)

Duncan Keith (Assist)

Brandon Saad (Assist)

The pairing of Keith and Boqvist has led the way for the Blackhawks blue line in their defensive renaissance. Both factored in on the scoring in Saturday’s win, but they’ve been the top pairing for a unit that’s playing their best hockey of the season. Duncan Keith is showing flashes of his Norris Trophy-winning self from years past, and Boqvist is proving doubters of his defensive abilities wrong while also showing off his offensive skill. No doubt the 19-year-old Boqvist is benefitting from playing alongside a legend. 

Noticeable absences from the score sheet the last two games are Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Toews registered just one assist, while Kane got only two secondary assists on empty-net goals. The defense stepping up, power play clicking, and youth movement showing promise are important to a playoff run. That said, you can surely expect Kane and Toews to step up in the playoffs. If not, it will be hard to see the Hawks having much of a chance against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues.