Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Posted: 7:56 p.m.
By Tracey Myers
VANCOUVER, British Columbia For Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa, it doesnt matter that this Chicago Blackhawks group is quite different than the one that eliminated the Canucks the past two seasons.
When you put that (Blackhawks) jersey on, its instant hate in this dressing room, Bieksa said. Its a team we want to beat badly.
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Or maybe more a team the Canucks need to beat badly.
As the Blackhawks and Canucks meet for the third consecutive postseason beginning Wednesday night, theres certainly no shortage of story lines. For the Blackhawks, theyve been pretty good: two consecutive series triumphs over Vancouver and a Stanley Cup last season. They could also be getting forward Troy Brouwer (shoulder) back for Game 1. But the No. 1 Canucks are nevertheless the team to beat, and the eighth-seeded champs are, lets face it, dark horses.
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Thats probably where everybodys got us, coach Joel Quenneville said. Winning first game is paramount. Were on the road, were viewed as underdogs and coming into a building thats hard to win in. Weve played hard here, so have to be ready to be at our best.
Meanwhile, the Canucks are dealing with another problem: constant Cup pressure. They led the league in several categories, had a firm hold on the Western Conference and claimed the Presidents Trophy. But until they win that Cup, theyre never going to hear the end of it.
For the whole team, youre not going to be seen as great until youve won it all. There are always going to be questions until you win, Daniel Sedin said. (The Blackhawks) won. Nobodys questioning them. We have to prove we can win.
The Blackhawks, meanwhile, dont want to fall into happy-to-be-here mode. After feeling euphoric on Monday, a day after Minnesotas victory over Dallas got them in, the Blackhawks were more in business mode at Tuesdays practice.
We want things to go our way, we want to win this series, Jonathan Toews said. Theres no working for 82 games just to make it to the playoffs and be happy with that. We want to get this series started on the right foot and hopefully move on after that.
Its the playoffs again and the pressures on again. The Blackhawks have been to the top of the heap. Now theyll play a Canucks team that badly wants take their place.
Theyve proven they can play on the big stage and play through adversity, challenges and the pressure that comes with winning four rounds to get your hands on the big prize, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. We think we can do it, were going to set out tomorrow to try to prove it. Weve worked all year long to finish first and were getting Cup champs. It doesnt get any better than that.
Troy Brouwer, whos missed a week with a right shoulder injury, could be in the lineup Wednesday against the Canucks.
Well say were hopeful hes a possibility (for Game 1), Quenneville said.
Brouwer practiced with the Blackhawks on Tuesday, although he was wearing a white non-contact jersey. Still, considering how big the series is and Brouwers family ties here, it may be hard to hold him out.
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Im comfortable and confident in (my shoulder) right now that I can jump in. Once you get into the heat of the game, a lot of things youre feeling you dont pay attention to anymore, Brouwer said. The playoffs are a time when you play through a few things and for me its no different. But I feel good and I can only tell the coach how I feel. Its his decision whats going to happen next.
Patrick Kanes rush to get his mullet back for the postseason didnt sit well with Canucks left wing Tanner Glass, who sports his own.
Its embarrassing. Hes kind of mocked the mullet and Im not too pleased about that, to be honest, said Glass with a smile. I dont think there are (mullet) rules, but when you do it for a few months and then you cut it off, its mocking.
If Corey Crawford felt butterflies when he played in front of the hometown Montreal folks last week, theyll probably be there again tomorrow night when he starts his first NHL playoff game.
Then again, considering the Blackhawks dogfight to get in, Crawfords already had a taste of playoff-type hockey.
Well find out tomorrow but there have been a lot of tough games, Corey Crawford said. Its only going to prepare us for tomorrows game.
Quenneville has been happy with Crawfords preparation throughout this season.
You have to commend him on how hes approached all these games and continued to get the job done, he said. Hes consistent and quietly goes about his business.
Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.