There has been a lot of talk from both the Canucks and Blackhawks about being ready for each other as they embark on their paths towards the Stanley Cup. The Canucks were the first to bring up the line brawl on March 29 which, according to a few Canucks, is still fresh in their minds. The melee on the ice that took place involved a number of questionable moves: hair-pulling, bodyslams, enforcers squaring off against goal scorers. And it seems that none of this has been forgotten by the Canadian team. That should make the Round Two matchup between the Canucks and Blackhawks very, very interesting.
First, let's go back to the incident.
Now, obviously there would be some unhappiness on the part of the Canucks after Dustin Byfuglien hit goaltender Roberto Luongo in the face. That's completely understandable, and I would assume that Chicago is going to use every trick in the book to try and get Luongo off his game. Including bumping into him. Which means we should see more of the above in the series.
"Back then it looked like we were going to meet in the first round," Blackhawks enforcer Ben Eager said to The Associated Press. "We just wanted to show them it wasn't going to be an easy series and we were going to play hard."
Well, Chicago showed Calgary that they were here to play, and they took it to the Flames. However, in the Canucks, the Blackhawks will find a pile of sandpaper scratching back. Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler, Shane O'Brien, and Kevin Bieksa all like to throw hits, so it won't be as easy for the Blackhawks to enter the offensive zone as it was in their previous series.
"Obviously we have dislike for them," said Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa to The Associated Press. "Is it more than some teams? Maybe, but it will make for a good series."
Alex Burrows added his thoughts on how the Canucks should be able to win the series. "We can't take 24 penalties in four games, that's going to kill us. There will be physical play, but I wouldn't bet on a line brawl right off the bat. We have to take a punch to get a penalty and make sure we go on the power play instead of going on the PK all the time."
With all the weapons that Chicago had, Burrows has hit the nail on the head. Chicago went 7-for-24 in their series for Calgary, so their powerplay was a large part of their first-round victory. Vancouver's penalty kill was sharp against the Blues, but the Blackhawks feature a number of snipers who shoot to kill.
All in all, I expect a very physical matchup between these two teams, and it should be an enjoyable series. Lots of hits, lots of great saves, and a pile of goals are to be expected. This might be the best Round Two series that no one east of Chicago will care about. And I'm pumped for it more than Washington-Pittsburgh.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!