Game #8- Chicago Blackhawks (6-0-1) at Vancouver Canucks (3-2-2)
Game Time- 9:00 pm Central
TV-CSN Chicago or TSN, RDS2 Vancouver Radio - WGN 720 Chicago or AM1040 Vancouver
In a week that could easily have been called rivalry week the Blackhawks prepare to take on the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. The Blackhawks started the week on Sunday facing long time divisional rival Detroit Red Wings. Then mid week they faced what could be a new rival in Minnesota especially if the league realigns and finds the Wild in the same division as the Hawks. The Hawks find if not the best, certainly the most heated rivalry has been saved for last.
While the Red Wings are a respected rival and the Wild are a new foe the Canucks are definitely the most vilified rival and with just reasons for every Blackhawks fan. There are so many villains on this team to choose from.
There’s hair pulling, groin kicking, finger biting forward Alex Burrows. Who can forget his hair pulling escapades with Duncan Keith and then he went for round two last year in a regular season game and decided to kick Duncs in his privates while he was down no less. Oh Alex you nasty, nasty boy.
You also don’t have to look to far either to find Zach Kassian who also has done his fair share of thuggish behavior. All the Hawks that played in the AHL on the Rockford IceHogs should be sick of Kassian since he played on the Chicago Wolves and we could see carry over scores that need to be settled. The Hawks also need to be aware of Kassian. He is the second leading point getter of Canucks forwards only trailing Daniel Sedin.
Truth is Vancouver has not hit their stride yet and has pedestrian numbers so far while the Blackhawks have been blazing hot out of the starting gates. The Canucks’ Achilles heel is one the Blackhawks are all too familiar with, namely special teams. Their penalty kill is currently ranked 22nd in the league. If the Hawks are smart they will try to goad the Canucks into taking penalties and then cash in.
Vancouver is virtually the same team that the Blackhawks and their faithful have come to loath. Their lone pick up in the off season was D man Jason Garrison from the Florida Panthers. While they did not make many changes the addition of Garrison really strengthens the Canucks back end and also provides one killer slap shot from the point on power plays.
While the Canucks top four D men are solid what is surprising is that D men Alex Edler and Dan Hamhuis are also leading the team in assists along with Daniel Sedin. Watch for their defensemen to join the rush and beware the stretch pass as the Canucks have always had great team speed.
Ryan Kessler is out on IR so the forward position is definitely missing an all star but the Sedins are still there and are always a threat every time they are on the ice. It will also be interesting to see who coach Q puts out against the Sedins since Dave Bolland is now centering the second line. Can Andrew Shaw be as much of an irritator as Bolland while maintaining his own control? This could be very interesting to watch.
The big talk all off season and even currently is the Canucks trying to trade Roberto Luongo. The Canucks unable to trade Luongo now find themselves in a precarious position as he is currently in fourth place in the NHL in both GAA and SV%. Interestingly Corey Crawford is not too far behind him in eighth place in both as well. Where is Corey Schneider ranked 32nd GAA and 29th SV% which demonstrates why coach Alain Vigneault has been going with Luongo as of late.
Vancouver has already stated Loungo will be starting against the Blackhawks. You would have to think that Crawford will get the call but coach Q may through everyone a curve ball so we will see.
The Blackhawks need to keep firing a Luongo especially high blocker side and try to rattle him early. While the Canucks top four defenders are top drawer they’re third and fourth D pairings are a little suspect. If Shaw, Stalberg and Bickell can pelt him with shots enough it might wear him down and Viktor Stalberg has the speed to beat their defensemen.
The Blackhawks are coming off their first defeat of the year in a shoot out loss to the Minnesota Wild while the Vancouver Canucks are coming off of 3-0 thrashing of the Colorado Avalanche. Both teams having played on Wednesday.
Last year the Hawks split their series with the Canucks 2-2. This year we will only face them three times, twice in Vancouver and once in Chicago unless they meet again in the playoffs down the road. This will be the first meeting this year between the clubs but I do not anticipate this rivalry and dislike between teams to be any different. That said buckle yourselves in for what should be a great game with a lot of speed,physicality and plain old dislike.
Prediction – In a close physical game the Blackhawks go to OT again but take this one 2-1.
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