Canucks notch shutout against Blackhawks
- Luongo makes 32 saves
- Blackhawks hit goal post 4 times
- Canucks lost all 3 home games vs. Hawks in playoffs last season
Two stalls to Roberto Luongo's left in the Vancouver Canucks' dressing room sits speedy third-line right wing Jannik Hansen.
As important as Luongo's second career playoff shutout was during a 2-0 series-opening win against the Chicago Blackhawks -- especially that toe stop he made late in the first period when he stuck out his size-15 foot to foil Chicago defenceman Brian Campbell -- the performance from Hansen and some of his unheralded teammates were as important.
Hansen was a physical force and did a sound job killing penalties for the Canucks, but as a bonus he made good on a breakaway goal to give his club a two-goal advantage midway through the first period that they never would relinquish.
Chris Higgins redirected a shot from Kevin Bieksa for Vancouver's first goal three minutes earlier.
On Hansen's goal, Vancouver's Mikael Samuelsson forced a turnover just inside the Canucks blue-line, and poked the puck towards the Chicago end. Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford decided to stay put and that allowed Hansen to swoop in and score.
"The puck was bouncing, so you don't know if it was going to die suddenly," Hansen said, when asked if he was surprised Crawford didn't skate out to beat him to the puck. "There also was a [broken] stick out there laying in the way. It was in the middle and you don't know."
Hansen was drafted in the ninth round in 2004, and after the Canucks convinced him to come to North America for a season of junior hockey with the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL, he became the first person from Denmark to play in the NHL since Poul Popiel more than three decades earlier.
Now there are a few more Danes that dot the NHL landscape. There is Peter Regin in Ottawa, Frans Nielsen with the New York islanders, Mikkel Boedker in Phoenix and Lars Eller with Montreal.
The 25-year-old Hansen, along with defenceman Alexander Edler and fourth-liners Victor Oreskovich and Tanner Glass, established a physical presence for the Canucks in the series opener, much to the delight of the crowd of 18,860 at Rogers Arena. Vancouver outhit Chicago 47-21.
"We wanted to go out and with us being on home ice, we wanted to establish ourselves and feed off the emotions of the crowd," Hansen said. "We were able to get a couple of hits to build on and then a couple more. All of a sudden we get a goal and everything adds up.
"It was a great way for us to start that game."
The game was not as one-sided in the final two periods. The Blackhawks especially had their way at times in the second period. But Hansen and his penalty-killing partner Mason Raymond played a big role in snuffing out the Blackhawks two power-play opportunities in the second and third period as well as a brief 31-second advantage late in the game.
The play of the third- and fourth-lines, as well as the fact that Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault equally distributed ice time among his top five defencemen (the sixth blue-liner, Keith Ballard, played only five shifts in the final period) was a huge factor in Vancouver's success in the opener.
On the other bench, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville relied heavily on defencemen Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Campbell, while forwards Patrick Kane and captain Jonathan Toews played more minutes than anybody in the Vancouver lineup at 23-plus.
This depth gives the Presidents' Trophy-winning Canucks a huge advantage than in the two previous springs when the Blackhawks eliminated Vancouver in the second round.
"I don't know if we feel any different," Hansen said. "We believed in ourselves in previous years, too. Again, it's only one game. Our main concern is the next game on Friday and what has happened the past two years is behind us."
Tell that to Tanner. He was feeling good about the win, which ended Chicago's three game playoff win streak at Rogers Arena. He was heard humming Chelsea Dagger by The Fratellis afterwards in the dressing room. That's the song the echoes through the United Center after Blackhawks goals in Chicago.