2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – First Round Series Recap
Western Conference First Round, Game 1 - Vancouver 2, Chicago 0 – Vancouver leads series, 1-0
Yes, Roberto Luongo got lucky, but then again, hockey – especially in the playoffs – is very much a sport in which a few millimeters here and there make a very big difference.
It’s entirely true that the Chicago Blackhawks hit the pipes on three separate occasions Wednesday night in the opener of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it bears mentioning that the margin for error in postseason hockey has always been and will continue to be extremely small. The bad bounce, the lucky bounce, the ugly goal, the fortunate save – they’re all part of the deal in the NHL, and over the course of a seven-game series, the team that plays better is usually the team that wins. Perhaps Chicago outplayed Vancouver in the final 40 minutes, but with a two-goal deficit over the course of those 40 minutes, it’s hard for the defending Stanley Cup champions to complain too much. The Canucks, who have lost to the Blackhawks in two straight playoff series, have felt the sting of being on the wrong side of bad bounces over the past two years. On Wednesday, it was as though the pendulum swung in the opposite direction.
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It needs to be said that Vancouver led in those last 40 minutes because it owned the first 10 and a half minutes. Christopher Higgins and Jannik Hansen scored to electrify Rogers Arena and ignite the hopes of a long-suffering fan base that has never been able to celebrate a Stanley Cup. Vancouver spent the first half of the first period looking like the team that won the President’s Trophy as the leading point-scoring team in the NHL regular season. Equipped with home-ice advantage as long as the playoffs last, the Canucks were intent on making sure that they didn’t forfeit that edge in their very first postseason game of 2011.
As the game unfolded, Roberto Luongo made that two-goal lead stand up… albeit with some help from the iron. On three separate occasions, Chicago shots grazed either the posts or the crossbar of the goal. On one of them, Luongo slightly re-directed the puck with his toe; you can call that blind luck, but its all part of the alchemy of the playoffs. Teams have to overcome the bad breaks that come their way, and it’s worth pointing out that shots which hit off the pipes are not accurate shots – they should have been a few inches more precise. It’s akin to saying that a basketball shot rolled around the rim and was halfway down but not in. One unlucky bounce can’t be said to make the difference in a game. More shots, over time, need to find the net, and even if one of those three pipe-pounders had gone into the goal for the Blackhawks, the fact remains that they still would have lost by a 2-1 score. Luongo stood tall in making 32 saves, and now the defending champions will have to answer with something special in Game 2.
By: Matt Zemek
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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