One of the most over used and common cliches during the playoffs is, “game x (fill in number here) is a must win”. So in the spirit of every sound-bite from hockey players throughout the NHL, let me be the first to write that Game 2 on Friday night is a must win for the Chicago Blackhawks. But, before we jump into Friday night’s Star Selector game preview, I’ve got to give a shout out to my new favorite golfer, Kevin Na. The dude took a 16 on a par 4 yesterday. But what makes it even more admirable? The conversation with his caddy counting up his score and the fact that he still posted an 80 for his round. Sorry for the aside, but as a resident of the GTA I am unfortunately accustomed to a little springtime golf influence when thinking or talking hockey during the playoffs.
Back to hockey thoughts:
With the exception of a quiet night from the Sedins and their regular season leading power play, Canuck fans have to be thrilled about the game 1 outcome. Vancouver played physical, rolled four lines, got secondary scoring and most importantly shutout goaltending from Roberto Luongo. Winning game 1 in a series is nothing new, as the Canucks have gotten off to a quick start in the last 2 years against the Hawks. However, Chicago has been quick to return the game 1 volley with consecutive game 2 victories. From a mental and momentum perspective, a reversal of this trend will go a long way to propelling the President Trophy winner’s to a first round victory.
5 (Ok, 6) key players to watch:
1. Daniel and Henrik Sedin. All right I’m cheating a little, but the twins virtually play as one and I have a strong feeling that they will rebound from a quiet game 1 and put up some solid Star Selector points. Why? They are just too good & consistent and rarely go more than a game between points.
2. Roberto Luongo. Vancouver has done a magnificent job getting their number 1 goalie ready for the playoffs. He is rested (Cory Schneider started 25 games this year) and focused. Luongo made several key saves Wednesday night and was full measure for his 32 save shut out victory. A must have in your starting lineup and a solid captain selection.
3. Ryan Kesler. Kesler, in the opinion of many Canuck fans and analysts, is the team’s 2010 MVP. His game 1 performance only enhanced this sentiment. Kesler is the regular season Star Selector leading scorer and is a must-have in your starting five.
4. Jonathan Toews. Just to prove that I’m not completely biased, this is the perfect game to start the Blackhawk’s captain. In his short career, Toews has consistently played his best hockey when it matters most and tonight’s game is an absolute must win (please refer to the opening paragraph).
5. Corey Crawford. Crawford settled down after a shaky first period and provided some solid goaltending. He is a great choice if you feel this series is going to follow the same trend of the last couple of years with Chicago winning game 2.