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updated: 4/14/2011 11:19 PM

Canucks have more depth than Hawks

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  • Vancouver's Mason Raymond checks Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews during Wednesday's Game 1 that went to the Canucks.

      Vancouver's Mason Raymond checks Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews during Wednesday's Game 1 that went to the Canucks.
    Associated Press

 
 

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Now Canucks coach Alain Vigneault knows how Joel Quenneville felt last season.

The Hawks knocked the Canucks from the playoffs last spring and went on to win the Stanley Cup largely because of their superior depth at forward, but now the skates are on the other feet.

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Quenneville didn't mind any matchup last season when he could roll four lines with confidence. In Wednesday's series opener, the Hawks were basically a one-line team, and it was Vigneault who didn't care about getting the favorable matchups.

Vigneault's preference was to have Selke Trophy candidate Ryan Kesler's line out against the Jonathan Toews line, but if it didn't happen, the Canucks' boss was OK with it.

"I would say 75 percent of the game, that was the matchup," Vigneault said Thursday. "Right now we're more interested in having a good pace on the ice, a fast pace, than looking for certain matchups.

"We think one of our ingredients for us to have some success this year is we've been able to roll those four lines at a quick pace and roll those six defensemen. It's enabled us to go north-south real quick and spend time in the other team's end."

The Hawks' lack of depth at forward was on display often during the regular season when it took them to the final day to make the playoffs. If they should fail to get past the Canucks in this first round it likely will be their downfall.

Even Vancouver's fourth line of Tanner Glass, Maxin Lapierre and Victor Oreskovich were difference-makers in the Canucks 2-0 win in Game 1. The line combined for 15 of Vancouver's 47 hits led by Lapierre's 8.

"We think we can have an impact on this series playing minutes against their big guys and playing them hard," Glass said.

Those Hawks "big guys" certainly didn't play big. Troy Brouwer had no hits in 16 minutes, Ryan Johnson none, Bryan Bickell 3 and Viktor Stalberg 2.

The Canucks were ready to start the playoffs with a dominant first period from a physical standpoint while the Hawks had no response for it.

"We definitely need a better start," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "The first 10 minutes of the game we were on the receiving end of all aspects of the game. We know we need to be more intense and harder to play against. We made it too easy for them last night. We just didn't compete at that level that was necessary across the board.

"We need (Game 2) in a big way, but we need to play with more urgency. When we get challenged, I think we're better with some anger in our game. We're asking everybody to take a bite out of this series here, and not just the top guys. Physically we need everybody to contribute, and I think that can give us more energy when we see guys like Brouwer and Bickell bringing it physically."

The Canucks' quick strike in Game 1 was part of Vigneault's game plan, knowing the Hawks were coming off a draining final week of the regular season.

"Chicago came in here and they had played five games in eight nights, five stressful and intense games to get in," Vigneault said. "Their last one, they lose and think they're out, probably a very emotional day. They fly in here on Monday and we felt it was important for us to come out with a good start.

"But that being said, we know we're going to have to be a lot better (in Game 2). They're going to be a lot better, and we'll have to take our game to another level."

The Hawks have been in this spot before, having lost Game 1 in both previous playoff series with the Canucks in 2009 and 2010.

"We know the series is far from over," Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "We had these guys on the ropes a few years ago with a chance to go up 3-1 and they ended up winning in OT and took the series. You can never count these guys out."

•For more Hawks talk, check out Tim's Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com and follow his Blackhawks reports via Twitter @TimSassone.

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