All of the main stars are still around and they still strongly dislike each other.
Think that's a bit of an overstatement?
Players from both sides would disagree, even though the Canucks are officially taking a "winning means more than the rivalry" approach in the Sunday showdown against the Hawks at United Center.
"It adds a little motivation to just a regular-season game," Hawks captain JonathanToews said of the ongoing feud with Vancouver. "You keep telling yourself it's not the case, but there are some games throughout an 82-game schedule that … I wouldn't say feel meaningless … but just feel like it's another game. This would be the exact opposite of that."
"I've been looking forward to this game and a lot of guys have. … This isn't just another game. It won't be taken lightly and it won't be an easy game."
-- Chicago center Dave Bolland
Add it all up and each of the times these guys meet this season will mean a little more than just two points in the standings – at least, that's what the Hawks are saying.
"If we get down a goal or two, there's no giving up in a game like this," said Toews, who took the loss to the Canucks in last season's playoffs particularly hard. "You find a way to keep that pride against a team like this because you hate to swallow it and you hate to lose to teams like Vancouver."
Thanks to that classic series this past spring, the Hawks now have a taste of what it felt like for the Canucks to lose to them in the previous two postseasons. Chicago clawed back from a 3-0 deficit to force a Game 7 before losing in overtime in Vancouver.
The sting was strong, as was watching the Canucks celebrate on the ice. Chicago also got physically manhandled a bit in that game and vowed to makeover the roster to add some toughness.
Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman followed through in free agency and trades, adding veteran "grit" to the lineup. Chicago is off to a great 8-2-3 start and the Canucks are reeling fron the "hangover" associated with losing a Game 7 at home to the Boston Bruins in the the Stanley Cup Final.
The Hawks want a piece of the Canucks, but the visitors sound like they just want two points more than anything.
"We need a win right now regardless of who we're playing," said Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who's been at the heart of the rivalry on and off the ice since it started. "It just so happens we're playing a pretty big rival of ours and obviously we took 'em out in the playoffs in the first round and they're not going to be too happy about that. They're going to want to come back and redeem themselves. More than anything, though, we need a win right now."
He's right, of course – on both accounts.
The Canucks (6-7-1) do need to get back to their winning ways, while the Hawks have been quietly simmering since that Game 7 defeat – counting down for this day to arrive. Even the new faces who have arrived as free agents – guys like Daniel Carcillo and Jamal Mayers – are ready to join the fray in what's become a heated rivalry.
"I think the whole city has (been looking forward to it)," said Hawks center Dave Bolland, who's made a name for himself by harassing the Canucks' ultra-talented Sedin twins. "I've been looking forward to this game and a lot of guys have. I know Carcillo and Mayers and a lot of those guys are going to be into it. They know what it's like to play Vancouver and how hated the rivalry is, and I think there's going to be a lot of edge. This isn't just another game. It won't be taken lightly and it won't be an easy game."
Carcillo, in particular, has gotten into the rivalry quickly with some verbal jousting. At his introductory press conference with the Hawks, he said the Canucks were widely regarded as a hated team in the League and even mentioned center Maxim Lapierre as a guy he'd be looking to fight.
He also tweeted this past weekend that after scoring on a pretty backhand during a breakaway on Friday night, it was time to "backhand slap a few Canucks," on Sunday night.
Bieksa said he hadn't seen any of Carcillo's comments and then gave the new Blackhawks a brush off that's become commonplace in this rivalry.
"I don't really care too much about this guy," he said of Carcillo. "If we're going to beat this team, we're going to have to focus on a few other guys other than him."
GAA: 3.19 | SVP: 0.884
The pro-Hawks crowd loves to get on him, too, shouting "Loooo!" for every goal. He says that's just part of the fun in this matchup.
"These are always fun to play in," Luongo said. "We all know the history the past two years, so I think the boys are excited. We want to make sure we're focused on playing our game first and foremost, and executing how we need to as a group. The other stuff surrounding the game is just the stuff that gets the juices going."