VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks — remember when these two teams hated each other so much it was palpable?
Yes, the venom that used to be so evident between these two teams has faded, at least in our opinion. We’re sure the Blackhawks and Canucks still don’t like each other, but they just don’t provide the same drama — or melodrama — that used to grace seemingly every game.
That doesn’t mean there still won’t be angst when they meet Wednesday night at Rogers Arena; we’re just guessing the anger will be with their current situations more than it’ll be with each other. The Blackhawks are going through a bit of a slump — they’re 3-3-6 so far in January, with this game wrapping up the month’s schedule. The Canucks have issues of their own; they’re missing some key players including Henrik Sedin and have struggled to find any consistency throughout the season. Both teams, if nothing else, will be looking to reverse their recent trends.
So while we raise a toast to this fine Pacific Northwest jewel and search late-night sushi options, we look at the Five Things to watch for in tonight’s Blackhawks-Canucks game.
1. Light the fire early. The Blackhawks had another forgettable start on Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames, and their opponent was more than happy to take advantage of it. The Canucks are vulnerable, they’re struggling and they’re looking for any spark to right their own ship, especially early. The Blackhawks can’t give it to them.
2. Channel the energy. The Blackhawks had to work extra to get back into Tuesday night’s game — they were down 4-2 at one time — and once again went to overtime. This wasn’t far back-to-back travel, but the Blackhawks will nevertheless need to spread the minutes around if they want to get any points out of tonight’s game.
3. Don’t be so pass happy. Remember how we say the Blackhawks usually get the over-stylish stuff out of their game once they hit the road? Well, they didn’t last night. Too many passes, trying to be too cute on some of them, it led to mistakes and, in some cases, Calgary goals. The Blackhawks need to get back to a simple road game.
4. Keep that fourth line engaged. The Blackhawks’ fourth line has been strong lately, and was again on Tuesday night. Brandon Bollig, Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith have played solid minutes, and they’ve added a goal or two — Smith had one on Tuesday, Kruger had one disallowed. Their play takes pressure off other lines, and it could be key again Wednesday night.
5. Who’s our pick to click this evening? We were horribly off on Tuesday night — Antti Raanta did not click. Still, we’re confident that we can get back on the right track here. With that being said, let’s go with Patrick Sharp.