Sure, you have classic rivalries between Original Six teams like the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens. But the problem is that with the exception of the Bruins and Habs, those teams haven’t met in the playoffs recently—or even made the playoffs recently, in the case of the Maple Leafs.
The Penguins and Capitals have a rivalry going in the post-lockout era, born of the star status of Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. But it isn’t really a rivalry between teams as much as it a feud between Ovechkin and Crosby for who is the face of the new NHL.
In a similar fashion, you could make a case for the Penguins and Islanders after their brawls last year, but the Islanders would have to get an NHL team before you could really call it a great rivalry.
The Penguins and Flyers have a pretty good rivalry going on, and that might be the only other current rivalry that could match the Canucks and Hawks. But they haven’t played each other enough in the playoffs lately.
Rivalries are born of playoff games, when every shift matters and teams are willing to spill blood for any advantage.
The Canucks and Hawks have met in each of the last three postseasons, totaling 19 hard fought playoff games.
The Blackhawks won the first two playoff series, each in six games, and the Canucks won the most recent series in dramatic fashion. The Canucks went up 3-0 in the most recent series, then Chicago stormed back to force a Game 7. After a last-minute tying goal by Jonathan Toews to force overtime, Alex Burrows scored the series winner.
The regular season games are pretty entertaining as well, featuring big hits, lots of goals, fights and line brawls. Even hair-pulling and and fish-hooking. The only thing missing is a good old-fashioned goalie fight.
Off the ice, both the Canucks and Hawks trash talk each other and get into a war of words. Most recently, new Blackhawk Dan Carcillo spent his first press conference after signing with Chicago trashing the Canucks. Carcillo also promised on Twitter recently to “backhand slap a few Canucks.”
The match between the Canucks and Hawks on November 6th promises to be a good one. The Blackhawks are looking to avenge their Game 7 loss last spring, and the Canucks are looking to bust out of their recent slump.
There is a precedent for the rivalry games being the building block for the Canucks to get out of a slump. Last season, the Canucks were mired in early-season doldrums when the Hawks spanked them 7-1 in Vancouver on November 20th. This was the catalyst for the Canucks to rebound and run rampant through the rest of the schedule, winning the President’s trophy handily.
No matter who wins, the loser will be looking for revenge when the Hawks visit Vancouver on November 16th. Hopefully, no one is suspended or injured for that game after the events of this afternoon’s match.
Every hockey fan, regardless of loyalty, should have these Canucks/Blackhawks games circled on the calendar to watch, as these hard-fought games are the best rivalry in the NHL today.