2011 NHL Playoffs: Chicago Blackhawks Blanked, 2-0, By Luongo And The Canucks In Series Opener

For more on the Blackhawks, please visit Second City Hockey.

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Defending Champion Chicago Blackhawks Drop Series Opener Against Top-Seeded Vancouver Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks looked every bit the 2010-2011 Presidents’ Trophy winners on Wednesday night, as they opened their first-round playoff series against the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks with a 2-0 shutout.

Vancouver raced out two an early 2-0 lead in the first period behind goals by Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen. The Blackhawks’ best opportunities to claw their way back into the game came in the same opening 20 minute period. Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane couldn’t execute on a 2-on-1 minutes after the second Vancouver goal. Then with just over a minute remaining in the first period, Canucks goal tender Robert Luongo denied Brian Campbell with an incredible save on an empty-net backdoor chance.

The Canucks defense and Luongo hung on in periods two and three for the shutout. The opening game result has to be considered a huge psychological achievement for Luongo and the Canucks who were torched by the Blackhawks in the second round the last two years.

Don’t count out the Blackhawks though. They’re playing with house money in a way, and despite the solid statement game by the top-seeded Canucks in Game 1, Chicago isn’t exactly going to start feeling intimidated by them. The series resumes with Game 2 on Friday night in Vancouver.

For more Blackhawks analysis and fan reaction to Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals, be sure to stop by Second City Hockey.

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Chicago Blackhawks Vs. Vancouver Canucks, Game One

Last year, the Blackhawks and Canucks met in the Western Conference semifinals; Vancouver, with a top goalie in Roberto Luongo, was confident they could avenge their four games to two loss to the Blackhawks in the same round in 2009.

The Blackhawks would not be denied. After losing the first game, they hammered Luongo in the next three and won the series again four games to two, on their way to last spring's Stanley Cup title.

It's a very different matchup this year. The Canucks had the NHL's best regular season record, led the league in goals scored, and allowed the fewest goals. The Blackhawks would be sitting home watching the playoffs on TV if not for an unlikely win by the Minnesota Wild on Sunday.

The two teams split their four regular season games; here's a short summary of each of those games.

Oct. 20, 2010 at the United Center: Blackhawks 2, Canucks 1, shootout

Marty Turco (remember him?) started this game in goal for the Hawks and made 36 saves. Patrick Kane, who's had good luck against Luongo, slid a backhander under Luongo's pads and Luongo accidentally put it in the net himself for the gamewinner.

Nov. 20, 2010 at Rogers Arena: Blackhawks 7, Canucks 1

This was the Canucks' worst loss of the year, and the only time all season they gave up seven goals in a game. It must have motivated them; Luongo and the Canucks gave up more than four goals only once after this blowout loss, and that was in overtime.

Dec. 3, 2010 at the United Center: Canucks 3, Blackhawks 0

Luongo made 32 saves in this game to post his second shutout of the season. This game showed some of the troubles that were to bedevil the Hawks all year at home -- it was the eighth regulation loss at home of the season, matching the regular-season total from the entire season in 2009-10.

Feb. 4, 2011 at Rogers Arena: Canucks 4, Blackhawks 3

It was the first win for the Canucks over the Blackhawks in Vancouver in six tries, dating back to the 2010 playoffs. Henrik and Daniel Sedin scored goals in the final ten minutes of the game after the Blackhawks had taken an early third period lead on a Dave Bolland shot that was tipped into the net by a Vancouver defenseman. This is the sort of thing that the Blackhawks did far too much of this season -- could not hold on to third-period leads.

As the old sports saying goes, the records reset to 0-0 when playoffs begin. Anything can happen to teams with the top record in the league -- just ask last year's Capitals, who had that record but lost a first-round series to the eighth-seeded Canadiens.

It all begins tonight at 9 p.m. CDT, and you can see it on CSN Chicago and hear it on WGN radio.

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