Chicago Blackhawks vs. Vancouver Canucks: Best Rivalry in the NHL?
It's just that awesome.
Not only do Canucks and Blackhawks fans hate each other, but the the players also have a healthy dislike for each other.
Only the rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins might equal the intensity of what the Canucks and Blackhawks have brought to the table recently. (Perhaps I will do a rivalry comparison in the next few weeks.)
For now, though, I've decided to break this rivalry into the three categories to show why it's so great.
A combination of the playoff wars, the physicality and the trash talking over the last three years has made this rivalry what it is today.
I'll also look back at the recent history between these two teams and create a timeline of the significant events that have made this rivalry so epic.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Starting with the category that everyone knows about, the Canucks and Blackhawks have waged war on each other in each of the past three Stanley Cup playoffs.
While the hatred between the two teams started during a game late in the 2008-09 regular season, which I'll discuss in more detail in the next slide, the rivalry took off in the second-round of the 2009 playoffs.
This series was not without its share of altercations and post-whistle battles.
Some of the more notable incidents include a pair of dirty blind-side hits by former Blackhawks Ben Eager and Andrew Ladd on Rick Rypien and Ryan Kesler, respectively.
In the end, the Blackhawks won the series 4-2. The series also marked the coming out party for Patrick Kane, who notched a memorable hat trick in the series-clinching victory.
One year and a few regular season battles later, the two teams met again in the second round of the playoffs and the result was exactly the same.
The Blackhawks ended up winning four games to two in another series that had its share of altercations.
In fact, you could argue that the main reason the Blackhawks defeated the Canucks was due to their agitators who got under the Canucks' skin and baited them into taking dumb penalties.
The hatred amongst Canucks fans for Dustin Byfuglien also increased during this series after Byfuglien scored a hat trick in game four and then taunted the Vancouver crowd.
However, the Canucks got their revenge in the spring of 2011. The Canucks were heavy favourites as they entered the playoffs as the regular season champions.
The Blackhawks, on the other hand, were the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, but that didn't stop them from nearly pulling off a huge upset.
After the Canucks dominated early on and took a commanding 3-0 series lead, the Blackhawks stormed back to even the series at three.
I'm pretty sure you remember what happened next. Alex Burrows ended things in grand fashion in game seven.
While the playoff battles aren't the only reason this rivalry is arguably the best in the NHL, it's certainly the biggest reason.
After all, rivalries are built in the playoffs and are not strictly based on geography. Are you listening Gary Bettman?
Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Because You Hate 'Em
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Many of the physical battles between these two teams have already been covered in the previous slide.
However, it's worth noting that the brawl that started this rivalry occurred just before the 2009 playoffs. It happened in a game on March 29th, 2009, when Byfuglien crashed into Roberto Luongo.
This sparked a melee between both teams that featured Shane O'Brien squaring off with Adam Burish, Burrows wrestling Duncan Keith and Kevin Bieksa going at it with Eager.
If that brawl set the tone for their 2009 playoff series, then that same playoff series set the tone for their regular season battles in 2009-10.
First, Willie Mitchell destroyed Jonathan Toews with a huge open-ice hit, which didn't sit well with the Blackhawks even though the hit was clean.
Last season, the number of notable fights dropped off a bit, but it was amped back up in game four of their 2011 playoff series.
So far in 2011-12, the teams have played each other twice, with the first game featuring a couple of tilts.
One of those scraps involved the Blackhawks newest agitator, Daniel Carcillo, who shall be discussed in more detail in the next slide.
War of Words
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Some consider trash talking through the media to be petty and immature, while others love it.
Regardless of which side of the fence you're on, you can't deny that it certainly helps fuel a rivalry.
The Canucks and Blackhawks are a perfect example of this. Throughout the last three years, both teams have had their share of players who enjoy bumping gums.
The Canucks have the likes of Maxim Lapierre, Kevin Bieksa, Burrows and Kesler, along with former Canucks trash talker Shane O'Brien.
As for the Blackhawks, they arguably have an even longer list of trash talkers from both the past and present.
During the first two seasons of this rivalry, the Blackhawks had players like Adam Burish, Kris Versteeg, Eager, Ladd and, of course, Byfuglien.
Today, they still have Dave Bolland on their roster and they also acquired Carcillo over the summer.
In fact, at his introductory press conference after he signed with the Blackhawks, Carcillo made a point of calling out a few members of the Canucks, even though two of them had already signed with new teams.
As a result, Carcillo was forced to back up his words when the Canucks and Blackhawks met for the first time in the 2011-12 season, fighting Canucks tough guy Aaron Volpatti.
Carcillo is not the only Blackhawk who has made his dislike of the Canucks known through the media.
Just last week, Bolland went on a WGN radio program and had a number of disparaging things to say about Daniel and Henrik Sedin, to which Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault fired back with an even more hate-filled rant about Bolland.
The exact quotes from this recent smack talk battle can be found by clicking here.
Combine that with Kesler calling Ladd a coward, along with some comments from Bieksa that confirmed the hatred between the two teams, and you have yourself a complete rivalry.
Clearly the Canucks and Blackhawks have all three aspects of a good rivalry covered quite nicely.
Is it the best rivalry in the NHL? Perhaps.
Look for my breakdown of the Canadiens-Bruins rivalry in the coming days, along with my rivalry comparison in the coming weeks and then judge for yourself.
In the meantime, enjoy your holiday season and try not to start a rivalry with any of your family members.