By Paul M. Banks
In the Chicago Blackhawks-Vancouver Canucks Western Conference Semifinal series, most of the statistics are remarkably even. The one exception: shots on goal. The Hawks hold a decisive edge, accumulating a 31 shot advantage. Even though they’ve taken more shots than a college fraternity pledge during hazing week, the numbers of total goals scored in this series is a dead heat. Many of the Chicago slap shots are coming from beyond optimal range and often after a pass or two too many. It’s a true testament to the Vancouver defensemen, who have done a great job limiting Chicago’s prime scoring opportunities.
It also reaffirms the hype surrounding Canucks’ goaltender Roberto Luongo, one of the best in the business. By stopping 107/115 shots he’s faced (.930 save percentage), he’s clearly outplaying his Blackhawks counterpart Nikolai Khabibulin. The “Bulin Wall” has saved 72 of the 82 shots (.878 save percentage) coming his way. The Hawks scored very late in regulation and then again in overtime of Game 4 to win 2-1 and even the series at two games a piece.
After the road loss, Luongo spoke about the defense in front of him. “It was a pretty close game and we took the lead and we were doing what we needed to do in protecting that lead as far paying the price of blocking shots and stuff like that,” Luongo said.
In order to take control of this series, Chicago must do a better job converting more of their scoring opportunities. The optimal plan might be following Coach Joel Quenneville’s mantra of keep getting pucks on the net and eventually good things will happen.
“I think against him, shots at the net, traffic, second and third opportunities, tip screens, deflections, that’s how you have to beat him. The more we do that, the better chance we’ll have to put the puck behind him,” Quenneville stated. And like the greatest hockey player of all, Wayne Gretzky famously said: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
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