Who loves rivalries, aside from NBC Sports Network? I have one for you, one whose modern incarnation began in the 2008-09 season but had actually burned longer than that. Whenever the Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks get together, you’re guaranteed that tempers will flair and memories of past indiscretions will return.
A few things have changed in the nearly 10 months since they last met. The Blackhawks are sporting a new attitude, one that’s taken them to a 6-0-1 record. They’re looking to redeem themselves after their 3-2 shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday. One thing that’s been especially strong is their special unit teams. Their penalty kill is one of the best in the league, but their habit of taking stupid penalties needs to cease, especially in this game. The Canucks love head games and will do anything they can to frustrate their opponents and make them misstep.
As for the Canucks, they have a big goalie problem. Roberto Luongo will be starting in net, and everyone knows that he doesn’t want to be there. He says he’s comfortable where he is, and he’ll play like he’s supposed to be their number one goalie, but he wants out of Vancouver in the worst way. The Blackhawks know how he ticks, so they’ll be throwing everything at him as usual and playing that great game of “How Many Past Luongo”.
Let’s hope that tonight’s game doesn’t end up like Game 2 of the 1982 Campbell Conference Final, when Canucks coach Roger Neilson had enough of his team being penalized right and left and protested by waving a white towel on the butt of a hockey stick. It’s still the most penalized playoff game in Blackhawks history, with the Canucks walking away with 106 PIM while the Blackhawks had 82 PIM.