NHL Playoffs: In Canucks-Blackhawks, Home Ice Becomes a Disadvantage

Nucks IceMan@nucksiceman@twitter.comCorrespondent IMay 12, 2010

I turned it off after the third goal in the second period.

I didn’t need to see anymore to know who was going to win, and I wanted to get this article in before it got late.

The Blackhawks were not going to give up three goals in the third—not with that team.

Although the Canucks weathered the storm in the first period, when Alex Edler went down, it was omen of things to come. With Sami Salo (who shouldn’t have played) skating like he was on egg shells, everyone knew they would be in for a tough night playing with four D-men.

It truly was a war of attrition, which Chicago won by beating the Canucks down.

It didn’t take long in the second period for the roof to fall in.

When Shane O’Brien got caught in the Hawks' zone, Troy Brower made them pay, and it ended up in the back of the net.

Moments later Kevin Bieksa misplayed the puck at his blue line, and a few strides later, Kris Versteeg made it 2-0 with a perfect shot.

That was game, set, and match.

Once again the Hawks' top line completely outplayed the Sedins, the Kesler line contributed nothing, and the Wellwood line was not dangerous.

The last game in Chicago was going to be the Nucks' last victory of the year.

So many times in the past two years (far too many to count) I have written about the Canucks being too soft and small. That is why they always had trouble against the likes of San Jose, Chicago, and Philadelphia-type teams.

I also said they would have trouble in the playoffs when they ran up against those types of teams, no matter what their home record was.

Recall that article that I wrote early in the season which pointed out that ahead of only the Islanders, the Canucks were  second-to-last in team hits.

All these teams and others of that make-up have a Dustin Byfuglien-type player, but the Canucks have only had one in recent years that I can recall, and that was Todd Bertuzzi.

That’s not to compare Bertuzzi’s offensive skill with Byfuglien because there is none; this has to do with their size, and even then Byfuglien outweighs him by 12 pounds. 

The Canucks don’t have enough of the type of Hawks players that Bieksa referred to as “rats."

Throughout their lines, from one through four, they are dirty, mean, and tough to play against.

What I am surprised about is that while going down, the Canucks didn’t take anyone with them. There’s an element that’s missing from the Canucks, and that’s meanness.

The other is skill—as in enough scorers, a money goaltender, and a captain like Jonathan Toews...but that's for another article.

Chicago, despite years of being a poor team, were able to build through the draft, and they drafted quality skill and toughness, which started to surface last season as they came of age.

How many of them they will be able to keep next year is a wait-and-see matter based on the cap space, as they have seven RFA’s and four UFA’s. But that’s for them to figure out.

What the Hawks have done, like all smart teams, is lock up their key players.

As the Hawks head to San Jose, at least the Sharks know that they will have a legion of Canuck supporters backing them.

This next series will be a lot tougher for the Hawks as the Sharks can match them with size, toughness, and skill, now that Joe Thornton is having his best playoffs of his career.

I will voice some thoughts on that series in the next couple of days.

For now, everyone needs to reflect on the career years that a number of Canuck players had, the great home record they established, and how they overcame the longest road trip in NHL history.

I know they are close, and with a few additions, this team will be back in the playoffs again.

Next time the outcome will be different because this was too good of a series not to do it all over again. 


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