For the third year in a row, these two teams meet in the playoffs. The last two times it wasn’t pretty for Vancouver – but the biggest reason for that isn’t with the Blackhawks anymore. Dustin Byfuglien’s rear end can’t torture Roberto Luongo and force bad poetry:
The Blackhawks notoriously were dismantled after the Cup win last year, losing Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager, Kris Versteeg, Antii Niemi, and Adam Burish. That’s a huge amount of people who were key to their success leaving. Which would explain why the Blackhawks had to wait until the last day of the regular season to qualify.
At some times in the season, the Blackhawks played quality hockey, and at other times they looked like a Western Conference “also ran.” Vancouver, in contrast, ran away with the whole thing. The Canucks won the Presidents’ Trophy this season with 117 points, while the Blackhawks finished with 97. Add in the facts that Daniel Sedin finished with a league-high 104 points, that his brother Henrik finished with a league high 75 assists, and that two of the top five goal scorers in the NHL (Daniel and Ryan Kesler), well, you have a reason for Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford to sweat.
That was just the scoring accomplishments of the Canucks. You can’t overlook their goaltending tandem of Luongo and Cory Schneider. Schneider was third and Luongo was fourth in league save percentage, and Luongo’s GAA was a miniscule 2.11. Only Boston’s Tim Thomas was better. Schneider was fourth on that list with a 2.23.
If you look at the numbers, and how much improved the Canucks are – and how much they need to prove themselves this season – then the results are clear.
My Prediction (which will probably be wrong): Vancouver in five.