Ryan Johnson confident in Blackhawks

Updated: April 11, 2011, 3:18 PM ET
ESPNChicago.com

Chicago Blackhawks center Ryan Johnson believes the Vancouver Canucks probably aren't thrilled to be facing the defending champion Hawks in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Johnson I'm sure they were sitting there hoping there wasn't a plane leaving Chicago today for Vancouver, I can tell you that much.

-- Ryan Johnson

Johnson understands the mind-set in Vancouver after spending the last two seasons with the Canucks and being eliminated by Chicago in the conference semifinals both years.

The rivalry will be renewed on Wednesday when the Canucks host the Blackhawks, who didn't qualify for the playoffs until Sunday.

"I can guarantee you yesterday the whole entire league is scoreboard watching, and that includes them," Johnson said Monday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "And I'm sure they were sitting there hoping there wasn't a plane leaving Chicago today for Vancouver, I can tell you that much.

"I think it's great for the game. The last two years the series have been incredible hockey to watch. It's a rivalry that's grown the past few years, and I think it's great for the game and happening for a third time."

Vancouver led the NHL with 117 points while the Hawks had 97.

The teams split the four-game regular-season series, but Johnson said the Canucks "most certainly" believe the Hawks have their number.

"Most people in the game are going to say they're favored, and based on what they did this year, they should be," Johnson said. "We're a team that believes in itself, a very confident team. As much as we've got some inexperience that's been added to our team, you look at what the major core of this team did last year and I like our chances. I'm excited about getting it going."

While Johnson said the Canucks collectively believe the Hawks have their number, he doesn't think Chicago is in the head of Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo.

"I wouldn't say the Hawks are in his head," Johnson said. "He's a world-class goaltender.

"The way the series played out the last two years, we were often in the series and couldn't finish it off. Is there a little bit of something in all of their minds about the Blackhawks and the inability to beat them the last two years? Of course, but I think it just motivates them that much more to try to get it done this year. But I wouldn't say there's anything in Roberto's head. He's a world-class goaltender and will approach the series like he would any other. But we're hoping we can get to him and get traffic in front of him and make him have to work hard to get things done."

The only reason the Blackhawks are in the playoffs is because the Minnesota Wild beat the Dallas Stars on Sunday evening, hours after the Detroit Red Wings beat the Hawks.

"I should send over a case of cognac or red wine to [the Wild] to kick off the next few days," Johnson said. "I'm sure all of them at the end of the year -- like any team -- get together and have some beverages and relax a little bit. If I could, I would definitely send over a case of the finest stuff they were asking for."

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