This one could be the tightest 1 v. 8 series in recent memory -- and I'm not talking a "ride Halak as he stands on his head" kind of way. Despite their big gap in the standings, the Canucks and Blackhawks are fairly close in their ability to control play. For all their good work winning the underrated President's Trophy despite Islanders-like injuries this year, the Canucks sure drew a tough first-round opponent.
Of course, the bonus in this is it makes for good theater for the rest of us.
|Wednesday, April 13||at Vancouver, 10:00 p.m.||CBC (HD), VERSUS|
|Friday, April 15||at Vancouver, 10:00 p.m.||CBC (HD), VERSUS|
|Sunday, April 17||at Chicago, 8:00 p.m.||CBC (HD), VERSUS|
|Tuesday, April 19||at Chicago, 8:00 p.m.||CBC (HD), VERSUS|
|*Thursday, April 21||at Vancouver, 10:00 p.m.||CBC (HD), VERSUS|
|*Sunday, April 24||at Chicago, 7:30 p.m.||CBC (HD)|
|*Tuesday, April 26||at Vancouver, TBD||CBC (HD)|
Possession (not the Exorcise-able kind)
Some of you are more into this stuff than others, but there is some nice work (that I won't simply replicate here) from the advanced stat-oriented guys, looking at how these teams control possession at even strength.
Great way of gauging these teams over the long haul -- which is a nice way of betting on the short term -- but of course what I love about the playoffs is the lovely short sample that exaggerates little moments, expands the impact of big moments by bad players and uncharacteristic mistakes by great players. The best part of this theater to me (when I have no vested rooting interest, anyway) is when who should win doesn't match who does.
So anyway, even if you're more into the story and the qualitative factors around any playoff series, for a look at why these two teams are closer than one might think, I'd recommend this pretty readable post at Copper & Blue and this one at Behind the Net.
Ex-Islander Factor: Um...Jeff Tambellini? [Update: And Chris Campoli, of course. Somehow forgot him.]
History: The Hawks have kind of owned the Canucks (and Roberto Luongo) for two playoff years. So if the Canucks don't pull this one out, it'll be good for a lifetime of demons.
The Hawks have been pretty good most of the season, showing a surprising lack of drop-off after having to shed the bottom half of their roster to cap cleansing over the summer. But the last two months have been, well, alarming for their fans, and the fact that the team backed into the playoffs when they "had destiny in their hands" can't be a good sign.
I buy that they're still really good, but something about that inconsistent play makes me think it will appear again, and the Canucks will have enough to get past this demon. I'd sure like to see them do it, so...Head and Heart Both Say: Canucks in seven.
LHH Full Playoff Bracket Pool: In WebBard's FanPost
Wednesday night's playoff game chat (if you're reading this Wednesday night): Here.