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.