Blackhawks-Canucks Preview

The Chicago Blackhawks got back into their first-round series

against the Vancouver Canucks with a blowout victory in Game 4.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks’ chances of

continuing the comeback in Game 5 in Vancouver on Thursday night,

and going on to become just the fourth team in NHL history to

overcome a 3-0 series deficit might depend on whether they got back

inside the Canucks’ heads as well.

”There’s still really no pressure on us,” Chicago forward

Patrick Kane said before the team flew to Vancouver on Wednesday.

”They’re the ones in the position where the pressure’s on

them.”

Vancouver players were downplaying that pressure. They said all

the right things about still being up 3-1 in the best-of-seven

series, a lead they would have happily taken going into the Western

Conference series.

”Who thought we would win every game? No one,” Mikael

Samuelsson said after an afternoon practice. ”match important to

win the series. I don’t care if it’s in seven games or five.”

Against any other team it would have sounded more convincing.

But the Blackhawks eliminated Vancouver in the last two playoffs.

And even with key roster subtractions since, there were a lot of

similarities between those series and Chicago’s one-sided victory

Tuesday.

It started with the return of Dave Bolland after missing the

first three games – 17 overall – because of a concussion, and the

disappearance of Vancouver forwards Daniel and Henrik Sedin. The

twins, who won the last two NHL scoring titles, were minus-7

combined while Bolland had four points.

It felt like last season, when Bolland got under the skin of

Daniel while registering six points to the twins’ 10 combined. With

Bolland, Chicago is 9-4 against the Canucks the last three

playoffs.

Asked if Bolland was poison to them, Daniel said, ”Last game he

was.”

”We need to realize he is a really good offensive player,”

Daniel said. ”We need to play him like we play (Jonathan) Toews or

Kane and all those guys. Our line didn’t play up to standard.

That’s the beautiful thing about playoffs. You have a new chance

tomorrow.”

In addition to shutting down the Sedins, who had nine points in

the first three games, Bolland brings better balance to the

Blackhawks’ lines.

”As a coach, you’ve got so many more weapons with him in the

lineup,” Joel Quenneville said. ”There’s not too many guys in the

league who are defensive-oriented centers, but Bollie’s got upside

offensively. He certainly likes the challenge when he gets a strict

matchup assignment.”

The flashbacks didn’t end with Bolland.

Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo was pulled after giving up six

goals, the sixth time he’s surrendered five or more in the playoffs

against Chicago, including all three games in Vancouver last

season.

Luongo, who left the ice gingerly after an awkward save late in

the first period Tuesday, did not practice Wednesday. But like

Henrik Sedin and defenseman Alex Edler, who also were absent from

practice, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said Luongo would play

Thursday.

Whether he finishes may depend on improved defensive support.

Vancouver allowed Chicago players too much time to walk into the

slot and pick corners Tuesday.

”He is a warrior,” Alex Burrows said. ”He will bounce back

and have a solid game. Those were good shots, good clean looks they

had. We have to make sure we play better in front of him.”

The Blackhawks might also get some defensive help as workhorse

Brent Seabrook was on the flight to Vancouver after missing Game 4

with an upper body injury believed to be the result of Raffi Torres

head hit in Game 3. Quenneville said there was a ”possibility”

Seabrook could play after Chicago rallied around his absence in

Game 4, and the fact Torres wasn’t suspended for it.

”We’re definitely going to gather behind that,” Kane said.

Vancouver will rally around the league’s best home record during

a Presidents’ Trophy-winning season, and a an ability to bounce

back, including a 7-1 loss to Chicago in November.

”Sometimes its good to go through things like this,” said

Torres, who declined to talk about his high hit on Seabrook. ”It

humbles us, puts us back in our place.”

That place includes a lot of postseason letdowns against

Chicago. They know the howling from ghosts of playoffs past will

only get louder with another loss.

”You need to have that mentality that you have to finish them

off,” Daniel Sedin said. ”If there’s a Game 6, a Game 7 it s a

different series.