When asked what he thought of a reunion against the Vancouver Canucks, Blackhawks center Dave Bolland had this to say: “It will be like a playoff game on Sunday. Right from the puck drop. Something will happen. The fans and everybody will be into it. (It) will be a crazy game.”
Suffice to say, Dave Bolland was nearly 100% correct. From the moment Jim Cornelison began another raucous rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, the United Center was in a fever pitch of emotion. The only things missing to make it more of a “playoff atmosphere” were the words Stanley Cup Playoffs at each blue line and Pierre McGuire.
Right from the puck drop, Vancouver dictated the tempo of the game. They won the battles along the boards and were first to nearly every puck. A Blackhawks offensive became a rare sight and the neutral zone quickly became enemy-defended territory.
A lot has been said about how much the Blackhawks added muscle and a ferocity to keep from being pushed around. They did. Vancouver didn’t much mind. From the onset, a physical demand was put on every play. It was clear in the early stages of the game the Chicago Blackhawks were going to have to earn every scrap of ice between them and Roberto Luongo. The goal given up to Michael Frolik seemed to shock everyone, Luongo included. What wasn’t shocking was that it was attempted from 45 feet.
It was early after his signing that Daniel Carcillo made an impression with Hawks fans and news media nationwide. With an aura of Muhammad Ali, Carcillo called out numerous Canucks (some gone) just to remind them what conference he was playing in now and what his role is. Surprisingly, that role hadn’t been seen much. With contributions on a scoring line, Carcillo seemed to have carved a new niche for being less of a role player and more of a grinder. Much to the delight of Old School, Hockey Purists he went back to his roots and didn’t disappoint on his offseason promises.
It was partly Carcillo’s early extra curricular activity that, perhaps didn’t set the tone for a physical game, but surely showed any bodily harm wouldn’t be one-sided. Soon after, it was Henrik Sedin throwing spray into Corey Crawford late after a whistle. Much to the aversion of Patrick Kane (!) who quickly slid in to deliver a none-too-gentle bump on Sedin and thus drawing a roughing penalty. Once Kane delivered the bump, the question began to surface:
What level has this rivalry reached?
Simply put: Top. As in, “Step aside, Red.” The Blackhawks/Canucks rivalry is bigger than Blackhawks/Red Wings
right now and winning has everything to do with it. “The rivalry is definitely in place. When you play them three years in a row in the playoffs there’s something going on there.” Joel Quenneville certainly has the foundations figured out for this new rivalry. But, what makes it so fierce is not just the importance of playoff hockey. It lies in each teams core players, each teams fervent fan base, and each teams recent string of successes. The rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings is prevalent. It’d be foolish to suggest otherwise. However, over the past 4 years its grown different.
2009’s Conference Finals loss to the Red Wings was a signal to the hockey world that these were no longer your dad’s
Blackhawks. The loss was an important lesson for the young Blackhawks and it came at the hands of a veteran team and a franchise they’ve been playing since 1926. The longevity of these two Original Six teams is what makes it special. The amount of times they play per season coupled with total games played in history is staggering. And for the networks it makes an easy broadcast filled with highlights, stat lines and bar graphs.
However, when it comes to Blackhawk fans about Vancouver there is nothing short of pure revulsion. A sense of hatred toward numerous players on the Canucks nearly breaching the definition of immoral, any opportunity to heckle Roberto Luongo is jumped at.
Chants of “Detroit Sucks” are heralded as easily as Christmas carols when compared to the vindictive Budweiser-laced expressions shouted from tops of the 300 level, down to ice level at the Sedins or Ryan Kesler.
A concussing, open ice hit on Jonathan Toews is regarded as an assault on a younger brother; open handed slaps on the glass become pounding fists of swollen knuckle and bruised skin.
Hair pulling, not powerplay strategy is the talk of the day.
An imposing force in front of a confidence-shaken goaltender fills our hearts with joy with every shot that goes by unseen.
A possible sweep against this foe is not manageable to our psyche. Somehow, for the Blackhawks to come home so defeated would cost each of us a part of our soul. An epic comeback that falls just short is considered not one of our greatest
letdowns, but a message in itself.
And to see an opposing fan base tear its city apart somehow doesn’t make us feel better about losing too. It doesn’t take our attention away from the next chance at revenge.
Unfortunately, revenge is still another game away.