VANCOUVER, B.C. -- The Vancouver Canucks are going to put a twist on late Chicago-born comic actor John Belushi's immortal words in Game 4 of their second-round playoff series with the Blackhawks.
Vancouver's new mantra has become: Don't get mad. Get even -- by crashing Chicago goaltender Antti Niemi's crease. The Canucks hope to benefit the same way burly Blackhawk forward Dustin Byfuglien did on Wednesday as he scored three garbage goals in Chicago's 5-2 victory.
For the second straight spring, Byfuglien has been a literal thorn in goaltender Roberto Luongo's side -- and the Canucks have yet to find a solution for dealing with the power forward's crease presence.
"Chicago is not a better team than us," Luongo told reporters Thursday. "They're not playing better than us. They are just doing a better job in front of the net on both sides. Dustin (Byfuglien) is doing a good job of what he's doing and he's not getting called for it, so he's taking advantage of it. We've got to realize we can do the same on the other side and make sure we get some presence, get some sticks in the crease when the puck's there and maybe get their guy a little bit off balance."
The Canucks, who tried but failed to maintain their composure in Game 3, hope to restore balance to the entire series. The Blackhawks lead the best-of-seven affair 2-1 and can take a firm grip on it with another win at General Motors Place before the clubs head back to the Windy City on the weekend.
Vancouver centre Ryan Kesler said he and his mates have to adopt Chicago's crease-crashing style and make Niemi's job that much tougher.
"It's hard work and will," said Kesler. "Take a page out of their books and just get in front of (Niemi's) face, jam at his pads and take his eyes away and bump him. That's what they are doing to Louie and that's what we are going to have to do to him."
So far, Vancouver's beleaguered defence corps, which was considered its biggest strength at the beginning of the season but struggled while dealing with several injuries, is losing the net-clearing battles to Byfuglien and his buddies, notably captain Jonathan Toews.
"The guy going to the net hardest for them and getting away with the most is probably Toews," said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. "He's pitch forked. He's run Louie. He's done everything you need to do create offence. And on top of that he's a real skilled player, so we know what we need to do here."
Alex Burrows and Steve Bernier will be counted on to provide net presence, especially on the struggling power play units. But they are middleweights compared to six-foot-four, 257-pound Byfuglien et al. The same goes for Vancouver's blue-liners.
The Canucks are clearly missing shut-down defenceman Willie Mitchell, who remains out indefinitely with a concussion.
Meanwhile, Chicago's rearguards, led by Norris Trophy finalist Duncan Keith and his defence partner Brent Seabrook, have nullified Vancouver's forwards in the one-on-one battles in front of the net.
The Blackhawks have also succeeded in preventing the Sedin twins from playing their patented cycling and back-door passing game. Daniel Sedin, who has just one point in the series after recording 10 in the first round against Los Angeles, took out his frustration on Dave Bolland in Game 3.
While the incident was highly out of character for Daniel, it could also be perceived as a sign that the Sedins have to do everything -- even provide emotional sparks when others do not live up to expectations.
But as others vowed to crash Niemi's crease, Daniel Sedin offered a contrarian view on how the Canucks should invest their sweat equity.
"It's not about running the goalie," he said. "It's about getting to the front of the net, standing there (and) being strong."