Thu Apr 30 03:45pm EDT
Grab your No. 2 pencils for our previews of the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs' second round, featuring an academic format and the sort of useless knowledge you'd otherwise expect from a pop quiz.
... what's that? They're actually two physical, pest-filled teams that literally beat the snot out of each other in a hair-pulling line brawl they last time they played? Well, OK then:
While it has the potential to get nasty, most of all this series pits evenly matched teams against each other for the right to
be slaughtered by either the Ducks or Wings play for the conference title.
You think you know the Hawks and Nucks? Time for a pop quiz, hot shot.
Vancouver Canucks (3) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (4)
Thursday, April 30 at Vancouver, 9:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
Saturday, May 2 at Vancouver, 9:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
Tuesday, May 5 at Chicago, 8:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
Thursday, May 7 at Chicago, 8:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS
*Saturday, May 9 at Vancouver, 10:30 p.m CBC, VERSUS
*Monday, May 11 at Chicago, 9:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS (JIP)
*Thursday, May 14 at Vancouver, TBD CBC, VERSUS
1. The Vancouver Canucks might have the advantage at forward because:
B. The metamorphosis of Alex Burrows (three goals, including an overtime game-winner) and Ryan Kesler from pests to impact players is complete; especially in the case of Burrows, who is playing up with the Sedins on the first line.
C. Kyle Wellwood is on the roster. Oh, sorry, that's one of the reasons the Canucks might have the advantage in the new season of "The Biggest Loser."
D. Their forwards are fast and tenacious, but when Mats Sundin went down with an injury (he's expected to play in Game 1) it exposed some depth issues offensively, as Pavol Demitra and Kesler were much less effective playing with Jannik Hansen. The Blackhawks have some outstanding defensive forwards; if the Sedins are neutralized, is there enough secondary scoring to make up the difference?
2. The Chicago Blackhawks might have the advantage at forward because:
A. Martin Havlat has three goals and three assists because he's playing for a contr ... uh, because he's a top-notch playoff performer.
B. Assuming his "resting" isn't something more serious, Jonathan Toews has played himself into the Conn Smythe conversation with six points, a plus-3 and a game-winning goal, proving he's more than just a baby-faced captain with an eerie resemblance to Mark Hoppus of Blink-182.
C. One word: VERSTEEG, he of the seven points overall and four on the power play. Fact: "Some say that yellow snow becomes white in his presence, and that the city of Boston no longer documents its years as A.D., but as years A.V., after his departure."
3. The Vancouver Canucks might have the advantage on defense because:
B. Willie Mitchell led all Canucks in Round 1 ice time (25:46), and is a dependable first-pairing defenseman with Salo. Plus, he successfully fills the team's goofy-ass nickname quota with "Bill Pickle."
C. Sami Salo is back from injury. He's a critical player on the penalty kill that absolutely shut down the St. Louis Blues, and on the first until of the Vancouver power play. In the last 38 games Vancouver's played with Salo in the lineup, they've only lost 11; he's like a 6-foot-2 Finnish rabbit's foot.
D. Along with Alexander Edler, Mattias Ohlund and Shane O'Brien, this unit is deep, steady and versatile. And since none of them are on crutches, in a hospital gown or named Jim Vandermeer, they're going to be a much more resilient group than what the Calgary Flames showed the Hawks in Round 1.
4. The Chicago Blackhawks might have the advantage on defense because:
B. Cam Barker scored three goals in round one, which is half of his regular season total, and still found time to pound the ever-loving crap out of Flames forwards.
D. A very impressive group, especially with the way the pairing of Seabrook and Keith have played and for the puck-moving ability (and yes, even with the occasional defensive liability) of Brian Campbell. This matchup is just about even.
5. Finish this equation:
"Brian Campbell:a poor man's Phil Housley" as "Darcy Hordichuk:____."
6. The unofficial slogan of the Chicago Blackhawks is:
A. "Commit To the Indian"
B. "Televised Locally Since 2007"
C. "Roenick's Favorite Team, No Matter What Philadelphia Thinks"
D. "Bandwagons: They're Not Just for the Bulls and Cubs Anymore. Hey, Look: Vince Vaughn!"
7. (True or False) Roberto Luongo (4-0, 1.16, .962, 1 shutout) and Nikolai Khabibulin (4-2, 2.52, .914) have both shown flashes of brilliance; but if Luongo makes the same kinds of game-changing and emotion-draining saves he made against the Blues, the Canucks have a significant advantage in goal. Oh, and the fact that Luongo's won 21 games at home this year with a GAA well under 2.00 doesn't hurt, either.
8. The correct Getty Images caption on this photo is:
A. "It wasn't so much that the puck went into his mouth and then eventually (and uncomfortably) out the other end; it was that Roberto Luongo guessed glove side instead of five-hole."
B. "Knowing the cameras are on him, Roberto Luongo strikes a male model pose known worldwide as 'The Cloutier.'"
C. "Roberto Luongo #1 of the Vancouver Canucks looks back to see the puck in his net after a shot by Jarome Iginla #12 of the Calgary Flames during their game at General Motors Place April 7, 2009 in Vancouver, Canada."
9. Match the player with the corresponding fun fact:
A. Once held up the line at a fast food drive thru due to his crippling indecision.
B. Pulled Duncan Keith's hair like an extra from "Mean Girls" during the big Canucks/Hawks brawl.
3. Alex Burrows
5. Mats Sundin
E. Smacked Roberto Luongo in the mask with his glove.
6. Shane O'Brien
F. Currently penning a memoir with Jose Theodore called "When All Else Fails, Just Remember You're UFA Rich, Baby."
10. The Canucks have an advantage over the Blackhawks on special teams because:
A. They managed to baffle the Blues' power play (1-for-24), taking away one of the only weapons their first-round opponents had against them.
B. The Blackhawks victimized an undermanned Calgary penalty kill to the tune of a 29.2 conversion rate, scoring three of their seven power-play goals in the final two games.
C. The Canucks showed in Game 3 against St. Louis that it can convert on the power play. With a healthy Sundin (14 PP points in 41 games during the regular season), they could be a little more dangerous.
D. Even if the Chicago power play is as hot as it looked on paper, the Canucks have made it a mission to stay out of the penalty box and limit Chicago's chances. And that Luongo fellow does pretty well for himself, too.
11. The Chicago Blackhawks have the advantage in coaching because:
A. Joel Quenneville did a fantastic job keeping a relatively young team's emotions in check during a sometimes-chaotic series against Calgary, full of off-ice distractions.
B. Quenneville's actually made it out of the second round before, while this is usually the floor where Alain Vigneault gets off.
C. The mustache plays.
(The answer key is here, in case you actually needed one.)
Final Essay: Why the Vancouver Canucks Will Win the Series in Five Games.
As we said in yesterday's thumbnail, the Canucks are playing lights-out hockey at home in a 15-1-1 streak that includes two wins against the Blues in the first round. Their recent history against the Blackhawks can't be dismissed either: a 7-3 win in February and then that brawl-filled 4-0 victory in the midst of the playoff race.
Luongo is 2-1 with a 2.36 GAA and a .923 save percentage against Chicago this season; conversely, Khabibulin was a putrid 0-2 with a 4.87 GAA against Vancouver. He actually hasn't beaten the Canucks since before the lockout. Take that as you will.
The two key matchups in the series: Keith and Seabrook against the Sedins, and the Vancouver defense's ability to sweep the streets in front of Luongo. Chicago's already talked about scoring garbage goals against Roberto, so keeping any rebounds out of harm's way is essential. As for the Sedins, they have to at least produce at the same level they did against the Blues.
Why five games? It's honestly not as lopsided as that would indicate, and in no way would a Chicago victory here be a stunner. But Luongo could be putting together something special, and they're not a team in disarray like the Blackhawks put away in Round 1. If Vancouver takes the first two, they'll take one in Chicago, too. And then it's home for the knockout punch and a trip to the conference finals.
So Vancouver will win in five games. Please discuss in 500 words or less, citing specific examples to back up your claims, and leave your completed quiz on Mr. Leahy's desk ...