Apr 222011

Much has been made of the physicality in this year’s Blackhawks-Canucks series.  While the Canucks hold a substantial (+46) advantage in the overall credited hits column, they also (according to official scorers in Vancouver) collected a hefty 40 to 14 margin over Chicago in Game 5.  This on a night the Canucks were shutout in their home rink and have worked themselves into a situation where they could see their season slipping away if they don’t get their act together fast.

Now one aspect sometimes overlooked when analyzing hit counts is that if one team has the puck, they’re not looking for hits or finishing checks.  So if one team owns the puck for a great majority of the game, or is sitting back protecting a hefty lead (which the Hawks were in Game 5 as well) they’re not forechecking as hard and thus not finishing as many checks.  Thus why hit counts can oftentimes be misleading.

By periods in Game 5, Vancouver out-hit Chicago 12-4. 17-5 and 11-5.

From a Blackhawks’ perspective you can see how certain players such as Bryan Bickell and Viktor Stalberg have dug into their roles and pressured the Canucks when they’ve been on the ice.  They along with Troy Brouwer (the Hawks regular season hits leader) and Chris Campoli on the blue line have been the most physical Hawks.

Vancouver’s offense in the first three games of this series fed off their forecheck and consistent physical nature.  The Canucks have gone away from that it games 4 and 5.  Vancouver was credited with 32 takeaways in games 1-3 and just 12 since.  The Blackhawks deserve credit for owning the puck.  Vancouver couldn’t take it away from Chicago and have been chasing for the past 120 minutes of the series.

The Canucks certainly weren’t spooked by the hit Raffi Torres put on Brent Seabrook behind the Hawks’ goal midway through Game 3.  Vancouver hit Seabrook twice on his next shift over the boards and out of that game temporarily, and of games 4 and 5 all together.

But since that Torres hit, Chicago has outscored the Canucks 13-3.

Whatever the reason, Vancouver didn’t have their legs in Game 4 and the Hawks walked right over them on their way to a 7-2 final.  That momentum carried over to Game 5 in Vancouver with the Hawks feeding off their power play to take a commanding 3-0 lead into the first intermission.

The Blackhawks without the puck aren’t much of a threat.  Few teams are but the Hawks struggle to create much of anything when they’re forced to grind out victories.

Whether the Hawks are built for it or not, they won’t win this series if they fall back into their perfect and long-pass schemes that held the team back through long stretches during the regular season.

As you’ll see below, if the theory that hits over a long playoff series stack up and take their toll, several Blackhawks players could be facing trouble ahead.  Defenseman who see a lot of ice time against the Canucks’ top offensive players are getting hit in bunches.  Niklas Hjalmarsson, Chris Campoli and Brian Campbell all fall into that category.  Surprisingly, while Duncan Keith expended a lot of energy himself in Game 4 running around seeking eye-for-and-eye retribution for Raffi Torres shoulder on his buddy Brent Seabrook, Keith himself has been able to avoid much of Vancouver’s forecheck himself.

While Vancouver are left scratching their heads and resetting after back-to-back embarrassing mid-series losses, their defense isn’t in near as bad of shape as the Hawks.  Though, as Games 4 and 5 made clear, the more the Hawks engage with the Canucks’ blue liners, the more distracted those Canucks become.

If the Hawks are to win both Games 6 and 7 to complete the improbable come back, they’ll want to mix a little dump and chase into their offense.  Getting the Vancouver defense to turn and make decisions moving backwards or running around their zone with their backs to 190 feet of ice can create a lot of offense.  Make the Canucks pay the price and they just might crack worse than they have already.

Hits in series

Blackhawks – 157:

Bryan Bickell (18), Troy Brouwer (18), Viktor Stalberg (14), Marian Hossa (12), Chris Campoli (11), Michael Frolik (11), Brent Seabrook (11), Patrick Sharp (10), Niklas Hjalmarsson (7), Ben Smith (7), Nick Leddy (5), John Scott (5), Jonathan Toews (5), Duncan Keith (4), Fernando Pisani (4), Jake Dowell (3), Patrick Kane (3), Dave Bolland (2), Brian Campbell (2), Ryan Johnson (2), Marcus Kruger (2),  Tomas Kopecky (1),

Canucks – 203:

Max Lapierre (25), Ryan Kesler (18), Kevin Bieksa (17), Alex Edler (16), Dan Hamhuis (15), Tanner Glass (14), Chris Higgins (13), Jannik Hansen (11), Mikael Samuelsson (11), Viktor Oreskovich (10), Christian Ehrhoff (8), Mason Raymond (7), Raffi Torres (7), Alexandre Burrows (7), Sami Salo (6), Daniel Sedin (5), Aaron Rome (5), Keith Ballard (3), Cody Hodgson (3), Henrik Sedin (2),


# times Chicago Blackhawks players hit by Canucks


Hjalmarsson – 24  (Swedes have been all over Hjalmarsson. Samuelsson has 11 hits in four games, 4 on #4.  Daniel and Henrik have 7 hits between them, 2 have been laid on their fellow countryman Hjalmarsson.  Jannik Hansen [Denmark is close enough] 11 hits in series; 4 on Hjalmarsson.)

Campoli – 22  (Kesler-4 and Lapierre-6 in particular have it out for Campoli)

Campbell – 19  (Everyone aims for Campbell)

Keith – 12  (Only Higgins-3 and Samuelsson-2 have caught Keith multiple times)

Seabrook – 8  (Because of the penalty Torres only is credited with 1, the second & clean check along the side wall that sent Seabrook to the quiet room in Game 3.  Tanner Glass (3 in series on #7) also checked Seabrook clean moments before the second and unpenalized Torres check.)

Scott – 8  (Glass-3, Torres-2, Bieksa-1, Oreskovich-1, Lapierre-1)

Leddy – 6  (Higgins-2, Glass-1, Oreskovich-1, Kesler-1, Hamhuis-1)



Smith – 16  (Bieksa 3x, most)

Kane – 13  (Hamhuis-3, Bieksa-2)

Stalberg – 13  (Lapierre-4, Ehrhoff-2, Edler-2)

Toews – 13  (Bieksa-4, Edler-3, Kesler-2)

Sharp – 9  (Hamhuis-4, Salo-3)

Frolik – 7

Bickell – 5

Brouwer – 5

Hossa – 5

Kruger – 5

Pisani – 4

Bolland – 3

Dowell – 3

Johnson – 2

Kopecky – 1 (Salo)


# times Vancouver Canucks players hit


Ballard – 14

Edler – 14

Ehrhoff – 14  (Bickell-5, Hossa-2)

Bieksa – 12

Hamhuis – 12  (Brouwer-5, Bickell-2, Sharp-2)

Salo – 6

Rome – 3 (2gp, 1f/1d)

Oreskovich – 11

D. Sedin – 10  (Hjalmarsson-3,

Kesler – 10

Hansen – 8

Raymond – 8  (Hossa-3,

Torres – 8  (Campoli-3, Keith-2, Brouwer-1, Hossa-1, Sharp-1)

Glass – 7  (Seabrook-4)

Higgins – 7

Burrows – 6

H. Sedin – 4

Lapierre – 2  (Lapierre credited with 25 hits in 5gp; 6 on Campoli, 4-Stalberg, 1-Scott, 2-Seabrook, 2-Frolik, 1-Keith, 2-Campbell, 1-Hossa, 1-Kane, 1-Johnson, 1-Smith, 1-Sharp, 1-Brouwer, 1-Dowell)

Samuelsson – 1

Hodgson – 0


Series production


Total Time on Ice – (Avg TOI) – GP –Player –  G + A, +/-

128:40 (25:44) 5gp – Duncan Keith  4+2, -1

125:19 (25:04) 5gp – Brian Campbell  1+2, +1

106:04 (21:13) 5gp – Jonathan Toews  0+3, -2

102:27 (20:29) 5gp – Patrick Kane  1+4, +1

95:06 (19:01) 5gp – Chris Campoli  0+1, -1

88:01 (17:36) 5gp – Marian Hossa  2+2, -1

87:36 (17:31) 5gp – Patrick Sharp  3+2, +1

87:13 (17:27) 5gp – Niklas Hjalmarsson  0+1, +3

82:56 (16:35) 5gp – Michael Frolik  1+3, +2

73:49 (14:46) 5gp – Troy Brouwer  0+0, +2

72:53 (14:35) 5gp – Ben Smith  2+0, -1

71:28 (14:18) 5gp – Nick Leddy  0+1, +1

68:12 (22:44) 3gp – Brent Seabrook  0+0, -1

61:49 (12:22) 5gp – Viktor Stalberg  1+0, E

46:35 (11:39) 4gp – Bryan Bickell  1+2, +4

46:34 (11:38) 4gp – Marcus Kruger  0+1, +2

40:30 (10:07) 4gp – Ryan Johnson  0+1, +1

33:28 (16:44) 2gp – Dave Bolland  1+3, +4

25:31 (8:30) 3gp – John Scott  0+0, +1

17:45 (8:52) 2gp – Fernando Pisani  0+0, -1

16:46 (8:23) 2gp – Jake Dowell  0+0, E
Vancouver Canucks

Series production

116:52 (23:22) 5gp – Dan Hamhuis  0+1, +1

111:01 (22:12) 5gp – Kevin Bieksa  0+2, +1

109:23 (21:53) 5gp – Alex Edler  1+2, -3

103:34 (20:43) 5gp – Christian Ehrhoff  1+3, -3

100:19 (20:04) 5gp – Ryan Kesler  0+3, +1

93:02 (18:36) 5gp – Alexandre Burrows  0+1, -1

90:36 (18:07) 5gp – Sami Salo  1+0, -2

87:57 (17:35) 5gp – Henrik Sedin  0+4, -2

85:36 (17:08) 5gp – Daniel Sedin  4+2, E

81:05 (16:13) 5gp – Chris Higgins  1+0, E

79:01 (15:48) 5gp – Mason Raymond  0+1, -1

71:22 (14:16) 5gp – Jannik Hansen  2+0, E

64:21 (16:05) 4gp – Mikael Samuelsson  1+1, E

54:30 (10:54) 5gp – Maxim Lapierre  0+0, -1

51:29 (12:52) 4gp – Keith Ballard  0+0, E

50:25 (10:05) 5gp – Tanner Glass  0+0, -3

33:31 (11:10) 3gp – Raffi Torres  0+0, -1

31:18 (7:49) 4gp – Viktor Oreskovich  0+0, -2

29:45 (9:55) 3gp – Cody Hodgson  0+1, -2

16:16 (8:08) 2gp – Aaron Rome  0+0, -2

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  16 Responses to “Hawks-Nucks: Hits Count”

  1. I’d say the ‘Hawks are best served with playing their game and not going out of their way to deliver hits. They have been physical within the context of their style. Now the Canucks are chasing them around the ice.

    Hossa skating right up the middle of the Canucks zone in the opening minutes of the second period and getting off the shot that chased Luongo was very telling. In games 1-3, they’re all over Hossa. Now they’re backing away. It’s made a big difference dictating the play the last two games.

    Hopefully they can keep it up!

    • Hey Jon, I’m not suggesting the Hawks recklessly mosey about looking to take pieces of Canucks home for the summer.

      Its about dictating pace and where the game is played. You’re approach could work. But you may also be expecting or need the Canucks to come out with about the same or less energy they showed in games four and five. I’m not calling for a complete dump and chase scheme. But I do think there’s a lot to be gained, especially early on in Chicago Sunday night, for the Hawks setting a physical tone and putting the Canucks on their heels. Get them to make two or three passes inside their own blue line. Dictate, as much as they can, that the play is going to preside mostly on the Canucks’ half of the ice. And hit the Vancouver defense as much as possible. If the Hawks stand around or are inclined to exist on finesse, then they are opening a door for the Canucks to get back to what they were doing early on in the series. I just don’t believe the Hawks can win four in a row against the Canucks if they’re not physically engaged. Hits happen all over the ice. The Hawks can get hit on the forecheck to if they’re first to it. Thats a part of it. But the point is the same. Get the puck on their end of the rink and get Canucks on their heels and running around. Just be smart about it.

      • I agree completely, Chris. My point was that we don’t need to go out and collect the hits for the sake of the hits themselves. The more time we spend in their zone, the less time Kesler and the Sedins have to figure things out. The ‘Hawks dictating the pace of the game is an absolute must.

        Looks like Seabrook is going to go tonight. If you are Q, does Scott dress tonight? I say thank the guy and show him to his seat in the team box.

        • My gut says we’ll see a game 7. I don’t think you can spare a roster spot for Scott in games you should expect will be tight, possibly extra sessions.

          • The game was close. Scott played 59 seconds. I’d hope that says it all concerning his ability.

            Who do you go with in Game 7? Dowell, Pisani, or Kruger?

          • I vote Kruger

          • My preference would be a guy who is a part of the plan moving forward but the available spot isn’t a center position. Saying that, I’d lean towards Dowell because he can kill penalties if one of your killers is in the box and also provide a little energy on the wing, plus move to center if someone gets hurt.

  2. Chris,

    Good info – are you sure Kaner doesn’t have more hits? Why is Smith getting hit so much?

    • I take that as sarcasm. Steve does a good job of explaining it. Its also a foot speed and agility thing. Which Smith will improve on this off season as long as he gets through the rest of the playoffs unhurt. Keith would get hit a ton more if it weren’t for his quickness and agility and awareness. Its not like the Canucks aren’t trying to hit Keith. Its also obvious the Canucks are targeting the Hawks less experienced guys. Hoping for turnovers and such.

  3. Smith is getting hit so much because he hasn’t been in the NHL very long and is still learning. As a former hockey player on the smaller side, I got creamed my first month on a travelling team. I eventually learned to keep my head up, set myself up to take a hit and even try to counter. I never could do any damage, but I could prevent myself from getting hit off of the puck.

    Anyways, bigger more physical teams have had the Hawks number all season. Hell, the Ducks kicked our butts last year too. The Hawks often lose in board battles, which is key to keeping the puck in the offensive zone. The game is going back towards a trap style and dump and chase. The Hawks have to add some size not named John Scott in the offseason. We don’t need enforcers, we need veteran players who get dirty in the corners and can put a decent check or two. The Hawks have way to many small and medium guys. Lets hope Bowman makes the right moves in the offseason. The Hawks are a few pieces away from being true contenders again. They are not and have not been this year.

    I am glad that the Hawks have one these last two games, but it does not vindicate this season in any way. The Hawks did not play very well because they are not all that good. With the attitude/behavior of the some of the current Hawks fanbase I feel the need to clarify that this does not mean I am not a “true fan” or a “hater”. I want this team to do well in the long term. We certainly have suffered more than long enough to warrant this.

    • sTEVE,

      tHANKS FOR THE REPLY – IT MAKES SENSE sort of. i guess i was assuming since Smith’s probably played hockey for so long – he should already know that. And then it dawned on me the pace of the game from Rockford to the NHL is up a notch or two.

      I think the hawks are a little better than many give them credit for. The potential to dominate a team like Vancouver only continues to make me question how good we are. Our top 8-10 players are as good as any team out there in my opinion, or at least close. We certainly aren’t as talented as last year, and i agree with your assessment of our size – clearly one of our weaknesses; although that could partially be offset by speed.

      For right now, a huge part of our advancement depends on #50. He’ll have to carry us if we are to sneak one out against the canucks. We’ve actually done a decent job in the last two games getting back and picking up th loose change. Although I realize a great deal of that depends on the fickle bounce of the puck.

      By the way, if I didn’t know better i’d say you were a Chris block clone – you guys right along the same lines and see the game with your brain.

  4. Hey Block,
    Just wanted to compliment you on your statement of John Scott NOT being an option in this series. Good call. He’s never going to be leading a rush, but his presence in Game 4 and 5 have made a difference.
    Why would we want to put a 6’7″ monster into the lineup when we have just gotten knocked around the rink and physically embarrassed for 3 straight games.
    It’s too bad people think you know what your talking about.


    • Hey Tommt,

      Did you even watch the games?

      Explain for me and anyone else; pin the points in games this series when Scott has made a positive “difference.”

      You write that the Hawks were “Physically embarrassed for 3 straight games”….. You’re either ignoring or you weren’t aware that John Scott played in Game 3. Your very contention is flawed.

      Scott was in the line up when Torres ran Seabrook behind the net. Seabrook’s next shift over the boards two Canucks, including Torres, hit Seabrook again. He finished the game but obviously hasn’t played since. Yeah, the Canucks are so intimidated. Scott has been on the ice when Bieksa’s bullying guys. Bieksa seems so concerned.

      Do you ignore the three unforced turnovers in front of his own net in Game 5, including on his first shift over the boards when the game was still scoreless? Exactly how much did Scott have to do in jumping out to that 5-0 lead when 10 of his 12 minutes of ice time came after the Hawks went up 5-0? There’s a reason for that too, no? You’re argument seems to be elementary: (Scott in lineup = Hawks win), well, what’s his impact in that regard?

      Scott’s a +1 in the series (3gp) because he was hopping over the boards on Bolland’s goal in game 4. Everyone’s uproarious over Hamhuis’s elbow on Bolland and Edler’s on Brouwer – both with Scott on the lineup card. He’s a nice guy and I give him credit for trying and not screwing things up too horribly, but your basis is flawed. How is he contributing aside from happenstance?

      Nice try though.

      Thanks for reading.

      • Wow. Owned.

        I’m not bothered by John Scott’s presence as some. In fact, I kinda enjoy him, but he had about as much to do with those two wins as Marty Turco did.

        He only plays because we’ve run out of healthy bodies. But no one’s going to fight him and the Canucks are sooo scared of him – they talk trash about Scott to the media when they know he’s going to play. Heck, the stats Chris lists here say Vancouver’s hit Scott more than he’s hit them. He’s obviously not intimidating anyone on Vancouver.

      • Agreed. The Hawks won in spite of having to dress Scott, not because he was in there.

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