Both teams are expecting a frenzied atmosphere at the United Center and the return of Brent Seabrook to the lineup will only add a level of excitement for the home team.
So what kind of game can fans expect?
From the Hawks' perspective their strategy is simple: Keep doing what they have been doing. That is, unless Vancouver drastically changes the style of the game.
Both of the last two playoff series’ between the teams have featured a “slow down” by Vancouver when things have gotten out of hand for them in wide-open affairs. Each year the Hawks adjusted, but it took some time to do so. The Hawks don’t have the luxury of patience this time around.
In 2009, after two high scoring affairs in Vancouver, the Canucks played it different in Chicago slowing the game down. It frustrated the Hawks and Vancouver won Game 3, 3-1. Slowly but surely, in Game 4, the Hawks began to adjust to the style and they eventually pulled out a 2-1, overtime win. By the time the series returned to Canada the Canucks were unable to sustain that kind of play. After all, it goes against their normal style as well. The Hawks won Games 5 and 6 by a combined score of 11-7.
In 2010, again the Canucks tried to use the Hawks’ energy at the United Center against them. Chicago won Games 3 and 4 in Vancouver 5-2 and 7-4 respectively. Back at the United Center the Canucks took Game 5, 4-1, employing a similar slow down tactic. But the Hawks adjusted quicker this time and again the Canucks couldn’t sustain that style in front of their home fans losing Game 6, 5-1.
Either way, adjustments are coming from Vancouver. That may have not been the case after Game 4, which they just “threw out.” Game 5 was more of the wake-up call. Head coach Alain Vigneault was asked how he plans on slowing down the Hawks offense.
“You really want me to share that with you right now?” Vigneault said Saturday. “We’re aware of the situation. It’s pretty easy to pick up on television with our loose gap and everything. We’ll put something in place and see if we can and do a better job of shutting down their offensive potential.”
If the Canucks do slow it down, it will be important for the Hawks to get pucks deep and retrieve them.
“You have to recognize early in games what the defensive strategy is or positioning or things like that,” Joel Quenneville said Sunday morning. “Our mindset doesn’t change. We’re better when we think defense first and try to go from there.”
Jonathan Toews doesn’t believe Vancouver will revert to a style they aren’t accustomed to.
“I don’t see that happening,” he said. “They’re a team that generates a lot off their speed and their ability. They’ve tried to get a lot of chances off us on the rush. That’s the type of team they are so I don’t think it’s going to change that much.”
Toews might be right but if history means anything at least one game in the series is played slower than the rest. If it’s Game 6, can the Hawks adjust to it quick enough to pull out the win?