Feb 11, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler (23) and Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook (7) collide during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
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In this week’s Eye on the Enemy, we take a look at the Vancouver Canucks.
Remember back in the 2009-10 playoffs, when the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Vancouver Canucks four games to two in the semi-finals? They went on to win the Stanley Cup for the first time in 49 years. They following year, they weren’t so lucky. They were defeated by these same Vancouver Canucks in seven games during the first round of the playoffs. The Canucks went on to lose in the Stanley Cup Final to the Boston Bruins.
Playing the same team in a best of seven series two years in a row can create quite the rivalry. Competition was fierce, and players and fans alike from both teams did NOT like each other. It made for some very exciting hockey.
Well, fast forward to the 2016-17 season, and the rivalry isn’t quite there anymore. These two teams haven’t met in the playoffs again. While the Chicago Blackhawks have since gone on to win the Cup two more times, the Vancouver Canucks have lost in the first round three times, and not even made the playoffs twice.
Nevertheless, the Hawks and the Canucks will match up against each other tonight. Chicago ranks third place in the league with a record of 12-4-2, while Vancouver sits close to the bottom, with a record of 7-10-1. But, as they say in football, “Any given Sunday”. Once these two clubs hit the ice tonight, it won’t matter who has what record. Both teams will have the same goal in mind, and that’s to win the game.
In preparation for this matchup, we reached out to our fellow FanSided friends up north to answer a few questions for us about the Vancouver Canucks. Expert Jeff Godley at The Canuck Way was kind enough to give us his take on how the Canucks are faring so far, and how they will pair up against the Hawks tonight.
Nov 21, 2015; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler (23) and forward Daniel Sedin (22) celebrate a third period goal by Sedin in the third period against the Chicago Blackhawks at Rogers Arena. Vancouver won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Here are some questions with Jeff Godley of The Canuck Way.
First and foremost, what the heck is a Canuck?
JG: It’s a friendly slang term for a Canadian. It may have been originally used by Americans to refer to French-Canadians, but now can refer to any Canadian.
The Canucks had such a hot start, winning their first four games and gaining a point in the fifth. Since then, they’ve only won three of the last 13 games. What has been the difference to cause things to turn south so quickly?
JG: There were already some warning signs during the four-game winning streak. The Canucks only managed to open the scoring in one of those games. They played three of the games against fairly weak opponents (Flames, Hurricanes, Sabres) yet won by only one goal in each case.
Vancouver does generate scoring chances, but often can’t manage second and third opportunities. So when they don’t bury the few good chances they get, they find themselves trailing in games and unable to come back.
Ultimately, there isn’t enough speed or scoring talent in the lineup to win games regularly. Sometimes they can clamp down on a game defensively long enough to get a win, but it doesn’t happen often.
What has been the most exciting thing for you about the Canucks so far this season?
JG: Looking ahead to drafting Nolan Patrick.
Also, watching young defensemen Troy Stecher and Nikita Tryamkin crack the lineup and become key players for the Canucks. And, while falling behind every game is not a great strategy, seeing the Canucks get most of their wins via third-period comebacks does ease the pain of a losing record.
But mostly Nolan Patrick.
What has been the most disappointing thing about the season?
JG: Ugh… where to begin? $6 Million free agent Loui Eriksson has two goals. Sven Baertschi only has one. The entire defense corps has combined for three…
The MOST disappointing thing, though, is that the Canucks have been this bad while management says they are trying to compete for the playoffs. Most fans recognize that it’s time to take a step back and rebuild, but management still wants to play for the here and now. The team is trying to serve two masters, and it isn’t working.
The Sedin twins are two of the oldest members of the team, yet they lead in scoring. Do you feel they are still effective?
JG: Absolutely. Their days of scoring a point-a-game are over, and their numbers are slowly but surely declining. But they are still the heart and soul of the Canucks offense. That’s partly because the Canucks still haven’t found anyone else to carry the team, but it’s also because they are still productive players. They score at a first line rate and should be good players at least until their contracts expire in 2019.
Without the twins, this team would be 0-20. That’s not a joke.
Apr 21, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith (2) in action during the first period in game five of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports
Here are a few more questions and answers with Jeff Godley of The Canuck Way.
Who is your most hated Blackhawk?
JG: Easy – Duncan Keith. We haven’t forgotten his elbow to the head of Daniel Sedin in 2012. Daniel sustained a concussion on that play and missed the rest of the regular season. He also wasn’t available for most of their first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings, which they lost in five games.
Keith is a great defenseman, but we wouldn’t mind seeing him get a face massage from Erik Gudbranson tonight…
Do you miss the Robert Luongo drama, or are you happy he’s gone?
JG: We miss Lu! It wasn’t his fault the Canucks had two elite goaltenders on expensive contracts. Giving Luongo a long contract with a no-trade clause probably seemed like a good idea at the time. In the end, the only thing that contract did was keep him Vancouver two years after he had decided to leave.
Still, goaltending is the least of the Canucks worries right now. Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom have kept the team close in plenty of games they didn’t deserve to be close in.
If you could have one Blackhawk on your team, who would it be?
JG: Probably Patrick Kane. The biggest need for the Canucks is goals. They don’t have anyone who can break a game open by themselves, and we hear Kane is good for that kind of thing. Maybe one day the Canucks will meet the Blackhawks in the playoffs, and we can see for ourselves….
What are you looking for in a Canucks-Blackhawks matchup?
JG: Seeing the replays from 2011:
What do the Canucks need to do to win this game?
JG: Play perfect defensively, get a big game from the Sedins, and hope Corey Crawford stayed up too late the night before…
Seriously, though, the Canucks are unlikely to win a wide-open, high-scoring game against the Blackhawks. Their best hope is to keep the game tight and the score close, and hopefully they can get a lucky bounce or two.