VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Canucks’ game plan will remain the same. They will try to smash and bang every Hawk they can.
It’s on the defending champions to respond better.
“Physically? Way below average,” coach Joel Quenneville said of his team getting outhit 47-21 in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series.
The Hawks have been outhit plenty of times during the regular season. Their loss to the Flames in Calgary during the circus trip stands out as one of the worst. The toughness and resilience of this year’s team has been consistently questioned.
In Game 1, the Canucks were specifically targeting the Hawks defensemen. Their top blue-liners are going to play a ton this series and have all year. Vancouver’s goal is to wear them down.
“They realize what our game plan is,” defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. “They know we’re going to come out again. We’re going to be hitting. We’re going to be pushing the pace. And I’m sure they’re going to want to match that.”
The Hawks aren’t the biggest team and they tend to prefer to look at how they fight for pucks in corners and position instead of the amount of hits as a characterization of their physical play.
But hits can swing momentum. Michael Frolik had just 21 hits in 28 games for the Hawks this season, but had a team-high six in Game 1.
“When the opportunity was there to be physical on their players, we did it,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. “That’s what hockey is all about.”
Bryan Bickell and Troy Brouwer need to have that mentality. As two of the Hawks’ biggest two players, physical play from them is a must. Bickell (three hits in Game 1) and Brouwer (zero) need to be factors.
“We didn’t respond with the right pace or right energy. We expect it to change [Friday] night,” Quenneville said. “We’re asking everybody to take a bite out of this series, not just the top guys. Physically, we need everybody to contribute in that area and that can give us energy when we see guys like Bickell and Brouwer bringing it.”