Throughout the season, there are always certain opponents that make you take notice whenever they come to town. After Wednesday’s 3-2 loss, it seems like the Blackhawks have gained another can’t-miss rival on their schedule in the Vancouver Canucks, as each game in recent memory between the two has been tougher and more physical than the last.
“Every game with them is a hard-fought battle,” said Kris Versteeg. “It’s tough down there in the corners and each team seems to want it quite a bit. It’s intense.”
“We haven’t forgotten about last year and neither have they,” said Cam Barker.
The hard feelings Wednesday weren’t due just to recent past history or the Hawks’ tough loss, but they stem just as much from the way that Chicago lost. Ahead 2-1 after two periods, the Hawks drew 10 penalty minutes in the third, including a four-minute roughing penalty by Versteeg in retaliation for a knock-out blow to Jonathan Toews
“Any time you see a guy go down like that – especially your captain – you’ve got to respond,” explained Versteeg. “You just try to go in there and help your guy.”
“It was a big hit,” said Duncan Keith
, whose defensive partner Brent Seabrook
also left the game with an upper-body injury. “We had a good penalty kill there, but when you’re down a man and the puck is flying everywhere, it’s tough to defend. I feel like the puck was in our end a lot and we had a lot of penalties in the game.”
With two of their best players off the ice and forced to play back on their heels, the Blackhawks seemed to lose some composure and gave up two goals late in the period.
“I look at the last two games and we’ve taken four or five penalties in the third period,” said head coach Joel Quenneville. “You can’t give a team four or five power plays. There’s no reason to be careless and give up those power plays.”
But that’s not to say that Quenneville thought Versteeg’s actions were uncalled for.
“Every situation is different,” he said, “but in this case it was justified.”
It’s not all bad blood between the two teams. Though each game has become a metaphorical and literal battle, Keith says that the teams have as much respect for each other's talented lineup as they do animosity. Each meeting is a new challenge that both teams enjoy preparing for.
“We like to play against these guys,” said Keith. “They’ve got some guys who like to talk and so do we; that’s the way it is. But it’s always fun.”