Last night’s 2-0 loss to Vancouver in Game 1 brought a small look at what this series could turn out to be.
Look, the Canucks are really, really good. Everybody knew that coming in. It’s also possible that this Canucks team is more confident than the team the Blackhawks dismantled the past two seasons. That factor is what should be terrifying to Hawks fans, given that there is no question the Canucks are the more talented team this season.
The frustrating aspect of last night’s game is that the Hawks had an abundance of chances. It seemed like the Hawks ran their offense quite well, giving themselves opportunity after opportunity to sneak one past Bob Luongo. But each occasion either resulted in a near-miss – a puck just out of the reach of someone’s stick like with Marian Hossa on the breakaway – or Luongo standing on his head to make a great save.
Defensively, the Canucks showed that speed kills. Duncan Keith had a mediocre regular season by most accounts and the Canuck forwards were just flat out faster than him, as well as the rest of the Hawks’ defenders. Too many times did we see the Canucks dump the puck into the Hawks zone only to outhustle Keith & Co. and regain control. It was yet another frustrating sight.
However, what makes the offensive missed chances and the defensive frustration easier to take is the fact that those factors mean Game 2 can’t possibly go the same way. (At least that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself).
I’m not going to sit here and say that Luongo can’t possibly be as good in Game 2 as he was in Game 1. The fact of the matter is that he can. Luongo is one of the best goaltenders in the league and we see ALL THE TIME goalies put together spectacular runs in the playoffs. How many times last year do you think opposing team’s fans said there is no way Antti Niemi can play that good again? Probably a lot. Luongo could easily just go nuts this series and completely shut down the Hawks.
The optimism I still have stems from the offensive chances. While Luongo was good, there were opportunities where he was either A) Out of position or B) The Hawks had a really good sequence that left the goal open. Those opportunities will present themselves a couple of times every game and I find it hard to believe the Hawks will continue to miss them game after game.
Game 1 was basically a worst-case scenario for the Hawks. The Canucks totally outplayed them, gained momentum and it gave the Sedin twins and Luongo confidence that they can beat this Hawks team. But remember, the Canucks took Game 1 last year, too.
So maybe my optimism is ridiculous, biased fan talk, and there’s still a good chance the Canucks just continue skating circles around the Hawks and win the series in 4 or 5 games. But one game is a small sample, and the series isn’t even close to over yet. I’m not giving up yet, but talk to me after Game 2.