3rd Line’s The Charm

Dave Bolland may not be around to help the Blackhawks stop Art Ross winner Daniel Sedin.

If it looks like déjà vu, feels like déjà vu, and sounds like déjà vu then it must be déjà vu. Right?

In a match made in heaven for the mindless, the Vancouver Canucks will face their newfound arch nemesis Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In case you don’t follow the NHL, the Blackhawks have ousted the Canucks from the playoffs in each of the last two years while giving Vancouver fans a new hobby.

As Vancouverites continue to poke pins and needles into their Patrick Kane dolls, there is also a growing sense of anxiety amongst fans as to the growing likelihood of a first round upset.

The hometown fan depiction of the Chicago Blackhawks as this Mount Everest-like hurdle, that once overcome will lead to our eventual playoff glory is preposterous. The Vancouver Canucks have lost a couple of years in a row to a couple of pretty damned good teams. A Stanley Cup winning team in fact.

At an attempt to be insightful, fans also carry on the notion that somehow the Blackhawks have “gotten in the heads” of the Canuck team, especially goalie Roberto Luongo.

“They’re in our heads.” “They have our number.” I hear it around town way too much.

As clever as it makes you sound, the thought that the Canuck team itself places the Blackhawks on this glorious pedestal as well is just silly.

Although the circumstances of the series may scream déjà vu, the Blackhawks roster of 2011 hardly resembles their Stanley Cup champion roster. Despite the more well-known core of players such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook still comprising a solid Chicago team, the immense depth that stymied the Vancouver Canucks last season is almost non-existent in the 2011 version of the Blackhawks.

The lack of depth in the salary cap pressed Chicago Blackhawk gives the Canucks a significant advantage that most likely will not be overcome by an otherwise talented group of Blackhawk players.

The key to last year’s series was the ability of the Blackhawks to shut down the vaunted Sedin twins. A combined effort from Chicago’s checking line did a magnificent job of stopping the Sedin’s and essentially Vancouver’s offence.

The problems will lie here for the Blackhawks. A number of important yet underrated checkers lost during the offseason including Andrew Ladd, Adam Burish, Ben Eager and John Madden will pose serious issues for the Blackhawks. Not to mention the questionable health of their most valuable checker, Dave Bolland, who is still out with a concussion.

Moreover, the Vancouver Canucks not only have the Sedin line to carry the offence this year but their increased production from the 2nd line, including 40 goal scorer Ryan Kesler, and improved depth in their bottom 6 will make the task that much more difficult for Chicago’s lack of an adequate checking bottom 6.

The key to this series is in the hands of the bottom 6 and primarily the 3rd lines of each respective team.

The advantage, as you have probably already determined, well that goes to the Canucks. Even though unfairly suspended Raffi Torres is out for the first two playoff games and one of the best faceoff men in the league Manny Malhotra is out for the season because of eye surgery, the Canucks still sport an incredible amount of depth. The deadline day acquisitions of Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre add to the plethora of possible bottom 6 candidates in the Vancouver line-up.

Vancouver’s 3rd line may hold the final key to victory but as I wrote in January, goaltender Roberto Luongo is going to need to step it up in order for the Canucks to make a serious playoff run. He has played brilliantly since Christmas but his weak playoff resume leaves much to be questioned from the franchise goaltender.

The supposed “in Luongo’s head” guy in Dustin Byfuglien has departed, which will leave no reason for fans other than choke if Roberto Luongo doesn’t continue to perform in the manner that he has for much of the season.

This fear from Canuck fans of the name and jersey of the Chicago Blackhawks does not reflect that nature of this sure to be passionate first round playoff matchup.

While the mirage of déjà vu in this series may not flee the minds of Vancouver fans, there is no doubt that a Canuck victory would be as satisfying as a cold glass of water in the middle of the Sahara.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I am now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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About Chris Ross
Questions, comments, suggestions? Send yours to cross_can15@hotmail.com. Follow me on twitter @paintstheblack

8 Responses to 3rd Line’s The Charm

  1. BackCheck says:

    Yay and nay Chris. Yay on 3rd lines or depth is pivotal in the playoffs. Nay on the Blackhawks. They are the proverbial “monkey on the backs of your ‘Nucks.” Exorcising that demon will give your Canucks a huge boost going into the second round and possibly beyond.

  2. landersm2 says:

    Great post man, you focused on the most important component that wins series. Its not a teams top line or their second line, its their third line guys who go out and muck it up. Those are the guys who score the big goals and ultimately help you bring home a championship.

  3. Chris Ross

    What you seem to be saying is almost preposterous!!! Such an event pales in comparison to The Royal Wedding! Even someone as dumb as Paris Hilton would know that!!!


  4. Dallas says:

    Good post Chris. I’m not from Vancouver so I’m kind of looking in from the outside but this match-up isn’t even close (I know it’s a lot easier to call a blowout when it’s not your team but still). Like you said, this is not even close to the same Blackhawks that won the Cup last year. Remember, these guys backed into the playoffs and really, they shouldn’t even be there if Dallas takes care of their business on the last day of the regular season.

    I am not a Canucks fan but I don’t mind admitting that the Canucks have a strong team this year. Even more so than depth being one of their greatest assets, it’s the power play. I disagree that third liners make the difference in playoff hockey. The only reason a third line’s contributions stand out is because the expectations for any production from that line are so low that everybody suddenly takes note when they do score. Vancouver has such a strong top two lines that they really don’t need a good third line to get them through the playoffs. It’s their power play that’s going to bail them out of a lot of sticky situations throughout the run.

    I also have to take issue with the unfairly suspended Raffi Torres comment. Torres did a good job keeping his elbow down for the most part but the hit was pretty nasty and not required. Torres should have been suspended but I could see how there could be some frustration with the NHL’s disciplinary office over consistency.

    I don’t doubt Vancouver will easily get by Chicago. Do you believe the Blackhawks are in the Canuck’s heads or is this one of those sexy first round of the playoffs stories? What are the chances the team could have a let down if they win the series? As a Canucks fan, is a short series better or a long series?

    Good post.

    • Chris Ross says:

      I think, as I mentioned in the article, that this whole notion of the Blackhawks being in the Canucks head is just ridiculous. People seem to insist, including close friends of mine, that this is the case but I have a lot of trouble buying into it. With regards to the let down, I think the thought of a let down makes sense but the possibility of it happening is so small. There is so much hype, energy and pressure surrounding the team in Vancouver that I don’t see how a mental let down from the Chicago series is possible. It is widely realized that these next two years are the windows of opportunity for the Canucks to take it all, which is why I don’t see them taking their foot of the pedal if they do in fact win the series. If they lose they lose the next series but I don’t think it will have anything to do with a mental let downAdditionally, this team could have gone on cruise control throughout this year but they kept playing well their seemingly easy road to first place. As a fan, I obviously would like a sweep but I truly feel that a 5 or 6 game series would be best for the team so they don’t lose any of that momentum that they have gained. 2 years ago the Canucks swept St. Louis and had a long layoff before they played Chicago and didn’t play their best for much of the series. They played so well against the Blues that I believe they lost whatever momentum they had from that 7-10 day lay off or whatever it was.

  5. Hey, that 2-0 victory is a good start. The third line is obviously important, but whoever thinks the Canucks are chokers is absolutely wrong. They had 117 points this year. I have no doubt that they’ll be competitive.

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