Blackhawks vs. Canucks Preview 11/16/2011

Oh boy do we have a show in store for hockey fans tonight. If you’re new to the game or don’t have much exposure, this game, this rivalry, is exactly the way to be introduced or re-introduced to hockey.

Meeting for the second time this year, both teams are coming into this matchup on a hot streak with the Blackhawks winning their past 3 games and the Canucks winning the past 3 of 4. 10 days ago the teams met at the United Center where the Blackhawks failed to show up getting drilled by the Canucks 6-2. Many Hawks fans had high expectations prior to the first matchup. The lack of grit allowed the 2010-2011 Hawks team to get pushed around by Vancouver throughout their epic 7-game series this past year. With the additions of “gritty” veterans such as Jamal Mayers, Daniel Carcillo, Steve Montador, Sean O’Donnell, and with players like Bryan Bickell finally discovering his ability to deliver crushing hits, this game was supposed to be revenge for Hawks fans.

View from my seats right before puck drop, Hawks vs. Canucks 11/6

Didn’t happen. Hawks fell flat and this team eerily looked like the same Hawks team that was out-skated, out-hit, out-everything by Vancouver last playoffs. The Hawks managed to continue this funk by getting shut out by St. Louis 3-0 two days later before finally breaking out against Columbus with a 6-3 victory that saw Coach Q rolling all 4 lines and someone on the defense not named Nick Leddy step up and deliver some goals.

This is a different Blackhawks team than the Canucks faced 10 days ago. With the breakout play from Steve Montador and the rejuvenation of Duncan Keith, this Hawks team is playing the same style of play that gave the Canucks fits during their past playoff matches. Look for tonight’s game to be a much tighter and for the Hawks special teams to be much more effective. After giving up 5 power play goals to the Canucks, the Hawks have been penalized 11 times while yielding 4 goals. While you would like the Hawks penalty kill to be able to have a better percentage of killing off penalties, the fact that the Hawks have only been on the PK 11 times is showing they are playing a more disciplined game.

After going 5/62 to start the year, the Blackhawks power play has gone 5/11 the past 3 games. While finally being able to find the back of the net on the man advantage, the Hawks have also been able to keep the puck in the offensive zone for a much longer time while keeping the defense on their toes by abandoning the backdoor pass that has failed time and time again. Look for the Hawks to try and weather the early storm Vancouver will put on in front of a loud and rowdy Rogers Centre.

Players to Watch: Steve Montador (4 points in 3 games), Jonathan Toews (5 points in 3 games), and Dan Carcillo (21 PIM last game against Vancouver).

Injury Report: The Blackhawks will be without Brent Seabrook tonight as he is out with a lower body injury while center Dave Bolland is questionable with a lower body injury as well. The Canucks will start Corey Schneider tonight with Roberto Luongo being sidelined with an upper body injury. Forwards Andrew Ebbett and Steve Pinizzotto are listed as day to day with upper body injuries while forward Byron Bitz is out indefinitely with a hip injury.

Prediction: Whenever the Hawks travel to Vancouver it is always a tight contest. Losing Seabrook and potentially being without Bolland will be huge tonight in countering a powerful Canucks offense. Unlike their last meeting though, the Hawks have become a more cohesive group and are playing with more confidence. If they can weather the early attack that the Canucks are to bring, they should be able to garner enough chances to defeat their foes.

Hawks 4 – Canucks 2