As the NHL Playoffs move into the second round, the Vancouver Giants will be well represented. In the Eastern Conference Semi-Final former Memorial Cup MVP Milan Lucic and his Boston Bruins will take on Andrej Meszaros and the Philadelphia Flyers. Lucic and the Bruins will be looking for a little redemption after the Flyers rallied from a 3-0 series deficit in last year’s Conference Semi-Final to beat the Bruins 4-3. In the Western Conference Semi-Final teammates Cody Franson and Jonathon Blum return to their old stomping grounds as their Nashville Predators take on the Vancouver Canucks.
The series between the Canucks and Predators marks the first time these two teams have ever met in the post season. In fact this is the first time in the Predators 12 year history that they have advanced to the second round of the NHL Playoffs. Nashville defeated the Anaheim Ducks in 6 games in the opening round, while Vancouver is coming off a dramatic game 7 overtime win over Chicago to defeat the Blackhawks in 7 games. The Canucks and Predators split their 4 game regular season series with Nashville outscoring Vancouver 8-6.
For former Giant Jonathon Blum, the last 2 months have been a whirlwind. Recalled by the Predators from their AHL affliate in Milwaukee on February 22, 2011, he expected to play one game and return to the farm team. Instead he earned himself a spot in the Predators top 4. “It’s been pretty crazy,” says Blum following the Predators pregame skate Thursday morning. “Joining the team with 20 plus games left, I had to learn to adjust to the NHL game pretty quick and at that point every game was a playoff type game. Once we got to the playoffs, round one was even more intense then I thought it would be, but it definitely was fun to play in and it is nice to comeback here for round two in Vancouver. I get to see some familiar faces and play in front of a crowd I played four years for in junior.”
Nashville head coach Barry Trotz, who is the only coach in franchise history, has been very impressed with Blum’s development. “Obviously we knew Jon was a very intelligent player. We let him develop down in Milwaukee and didn’t rush him. We called him up and almost immediately after two games we said he is ready and would be an upgrade for us and so we made a decision an an organization that he would be here.” Trotz went on to say, “Jon has a lot of subtleties to his games in terms of leverage and understanding. He’s not going to explode into you and knock you down, but he separates people with leverage and a great stick. I’d say he’s got a lot of the qualities of an intelligent defenceman like a Nicklas Lidstrom does.”
Like Blum, Cody Franson is fired up to be back in Vancouver and is hoping he can disappoint all his friends back in Sicamous, B.C.. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. I have a ton of friends back home who are Canucks fans so this will be big for summer bragging rights.” Playing in his second NHL postseason, Franson isn’t worred about getting caught up in all the hype in his home province. “For the most part everybody has been pretty good at not sending too many text messages or anything like that. It’s been good luck and talk to you later. Everybody knows the situation. It’s all about business right now so there is really know distractions.”
Both Franson and Blum were members of the Vancouver Giants when the organization won a WHL Championship in 2006 and a Memorial Cup Championship in 2007. The experience of playing in pressure games in front of huge crowds has helped them adapt to playoff hockey in the NHL. “Playing in those situations at that young age teaches you how to deal with certain pressures that come with different games,” said Franson. “The playoffs in the NHL are in a league of their own, but the experience while playing for the Giants definitely helps.”
So far this post season Blum has 2 points in 6 games and is a +2, while Franson racked up 4 assists in the 6 game series vs. the Ducks. Game one vs. Vancouver is set for Thursday night at Rogers Arena and Franson can’t wait. “Both NHL playoff experiences I have had, including last year, has been everything I thought it would be. It’s a lot of fun. This is what hockey is all about.”