The series is on.
Well that wasn't exactly the start I was hoping for, but as soon as I saw that Fernando Pisani was a healthy scratch, I knew that this game was lost. The man is a playoff hero, Joel! Sitting him is plain old bad juju. Sure enough, the Canucks looked absolutely dominant in the first period, and even though Alain Vigneault was doing some matching with his defensemen, it's not as though he needed to go out of his way to hide anybody. With the score 2-0 Canucks heading into the second, the Hawks turned things around by aggressively pinching with their defensemen and pushing for offense. They hit some posts (so did the Canucks), but couldn't beat Roberto Luongo, and couldn't get the same kind of pressure in the third. And so it is that for the third year in a row, the Canucks came away with a win in Game One. But it didn't have to be that way. Why, oh why, did you sit Fernando? Scoring chances and more after the jump.
For those who'd like a definition: a scoring chance is defined as a clear play directed toward the opposing net from a dangerous scoring area - loosely defined as the top of the circle in and inside the faceoff dots, though sometimes slightly more generous than that depending on the amount of immediately-preceding puck movement or screens in front of the net. Blocked shots are generally not included but missed shots are. A player is awarded a scoring chance anytime he is on the ice and someone from either team has a chance to score. He is awarded a "chance for" if someone on his team has a chance to score and a "chance against" if the opposing team has a chance to score. Finally, a big thanks to Vic Ferrari for making the whole damn thing possible with his awesome scripts.
|Period||Chi / Van
||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
*Click to enlarge
As I mentioned, the Canucks were dominant in the first period. The game was about even after that, but given the Canucks 2-0 lead, even is a pretty brutal result for Chicago. Beyond the first line, the Hawks didn't have much going on. Joel Quenneville seemed keenly aware of this and jumbled his lines throughout the game, but not to much effect. I'm hopeful that it's not the case, but honestly, the Hawks looked outclassed.
The Righteous Remnant
3. Patrick Kane - By my eye, he was by far the most dangerous player on the ice for the Blackhawks, especially in the second period when the Blackhawks were most effective. His pass to Brian Campbell as the first period was coming to an end was a thing of beauty, but Campbell was robbed by another player who will be on this list. He didn't always make great decisions (he had a two-on-one with Patrick Sharp in the first period where he likely should have shot, and ended up throwing the puck away), but his creativity was one of the few bright spots for Chicago, and his line generated almost all of Chicago's scoring chances.
2. Alexander Edler - He wasn't the best Vancouver defender according to the chances, and he wasn't taking on Chicago's big line, but I thought that Edler and partner Christian Ehrhoff did a great job of shutting down the Blackhawks secondary scoring units, and Marian Hossa in particular. Edler's physicality was also very impressive because his hits were both punishing and well-timed. I didn't notice Edler ever putting himself out of position to make a hit, and yet he was a physical presence all night long. When it was his turn to get hit, it often seemed like Edler still got the best of the collisions. A very impressive night.
1. Roberto Luongo - Yeah, he was lucky with some posts, but I thought Luongo looked much better than his counterpart on this night. Whereas Corey Crawford got caught bobbling the puck from time to time, Luongo always seemed composed, and I didn't notice any particularly egregious rebounds. He also made a couple of incredible saves (the save on Campbell at the end of the first was particularly good), and of course, recorded the shutout.
The Whore(s) of Babylon
3. Dan Hamhuis - Alain Vigneault had him mostly matched up against Chicago's top line, so there should be some grace here, but I thought that Hamhuis really struggled. Unlike Edler, I thought that Hamhuis was reckless with his physicality. The play that immediately comes to mind is a hit he tried to make on Jonathan Toews in open ice. He didn't have support, and when he missed, the Hawks had a two-on-one going the other way. Later in the second period, whenever the Canucks got hemmed in, it seemed like Hamhuis was often the focal point in the Hawks getting into the scoring area. The chances with 7:22 to go in the second, for instance, came from Patrick Sharp first attacking the scoring area for a shot, and then jetting around Hamhuis for the rebound. The Canucks have plenty of options for the shut-down pairing, and if I were Vigneault, I'd be tempted to try someone else.
2. Marian Hossa - The Blackhawks don't have a lot of secondary scoring, so they'll need Hossa to be great in this series in order to take some pressure off the top line. In this game, he wasn't. Usually very hard on the puck, and great in one-on-one battles, I noted a couple of times when he was outworked for a loose puck, or had a puck stolen off his stick by a hustling Canuck. He's a player that needs to be better.
1. Niklas Hjalmarsson - I thought about including Duncan Keith on this list since he was the goat on Vancouver's second goal, but Hjalmarsson just looked so overwhelmed so often that it was hard to ignore. Joel Quenneville certainly didn't. As the game wore on, Hjalmarsson got less and less ice time and was eventually replaced on the second pairing by rookie Nick Leddy. It'll be interesting to see if that change sticks at the start of Game Two.