VANCOUVER – The Chicago Blackhawks stayed off the ice Thursday to try and regroup after being out-muscled in their playoff opener against Vancouver.
After an intense, energy-sapping stretch drive that came down to the final day of the regular season, the Blackhawks hope to have more intensity in Game 2 Friday night.
“It’s been a lot of minutes,” defenceman Brent Seabrook said of a closing schedule that saw Chicago play five games in eight nights—four against playoff teams.
After squeaking in as the eighth seed, they flew here Monday, practised Tuesday and lost Wednesday’s opener 2-0 but promised a better start to Friday’s Game 2 of the best-of-seven series.
“It’s one of those things (but) we were ready for that,” Seabrook said of the Stanley Cup champions’energy-sapping push to the post-season.
“We understand how the game goes (but) it’s playoffs, it’s where we want to be and the games we want to be in. It was up and down like a roller coaster. We’d be in the playoffs, we’d be in fourth place, we’d be in 10th place the next day.
“It was one of those things where we never got any breathing room but it was something we battled through and we’re here now.”
The grind didn’t ease in Game 1. Seabrook’s defence partner Duncan Keith came within two and a half minutes of playing half the game.
“Everybody’s played a lot of hockey so we’ll come back and be ready to go in the morning and carry it into the game (Friday) night,” said fellow blue-liner Brian Campbell.
Patrick Kane, who started on the second line, moved up to the first unit with Jonathan Toews and logged just under 24 minutes.
Toews played 23:17, while Marian Hossa, who led the Blackhawks with six shots, was on the ice for 21:40.
All had more ice time than any of the Canuck forwards who had the luxury of no-pressure games after clinching home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
Patrick Sharp, who led Chicago with 34 goals this season, returned earlier than expected from a knee injury and was on the ice for 20:56.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said the early two-goal deficit was a factor.
“When you’re behind you’re going to be forced to play the offensive guys a little bit more,”he said.
Chicago defenceman Chris Campoli said playing meaningless games likely contributed to the Canucks’fast start as they out-hit the Hawks 20-9 in the first period.
“It’s a difference but I wouldn’t call these games meaningless.”the Toronto native said. “I don’t think it really matters. They know what’s at stake and so do we.”
Campbell, robbed by a Roberto Luongo toe save late in the first period, said extra minutes are expected in the playoffs.
“You know you’re going to get hit,”Campbell said.“If you can handle the minutes, you can handle the minutes.”
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault didn’t make it easy on Chicago, often matching his top line of twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows against the No. 1 Blackhawk trio.
Then he sent the Canucks’ third and fourth lines, led by crunching hits by Maxim Lapierre, over the boards to pound Chicago defencemen in their own zone.
This unfolded as Chicago role players Tomas Kopecky was injured and Troy Brouwer played his first game since a shoulder injury.
Quenneville said Kopecky is doubtful for Friday and Chicago expects more physical play from Vancouver.
“We know they’re going to keep it up,”Campbell said.“We’ve just got to be better ourselves taking the man.”
Quenneville said his club must get more bodies in Luongo’s face like they did in the six-game series wins against Vancouver in each of the last two years.
“We need somebody in front of him whether it’s a point shot or plays around the net,”Quenneville said. “We need second opportunities and we need presence and more of a net-front presence.”
A better start would help, too.
“In the first 10 minutes we were on the receiving area of all aspects of the game,” Quenneville said. “We made it too easy for them.”
Campbell said the Blackhawks must find a way to prevent Luongo from seeing pucks.
“Sometimes we felt we were in areas in front of the net but we really weren’t,” Campbell said.
“You almost have to mock what the goaltender’s going to do. We can definitely do a lot better job in those areas coming into Game 2.”
Luongo said after the Canucks practised that he expects more bodies crashing his crease.
“It’s my job to find ways to see those pucks,” he said. “For me, nothing changes. I will just try to fight through those things and see the puck.”
NOTES: Fernando Pisani was a healthy scratch in Game 1 but could be in the lineup if Kopecky can’t go … he scored twice in Chicago’s 7-1 rout here Nov. 20 … the Blackhawks converted only one of 15 power plays against the Canucks during the regular season and were 0-3 against Vancouver in Game 1 … Vancouver gave up seven power-play goals when the Hawks ousted them last season.