Super-intense rivalry brings out best in Hawks, Canucks

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Super-intense rivalry brings out best in Hawks, Canucks

VANCOUVER Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault chuckled at the notion that nearly two-month-old comments were going to provide more venom in this Chicago Blackhawks-Vancouver rivalry.

How could it be more intense than it already is? Vigneault said with a laugh. Its two great teams that like playing one another because it brings out the best in both teams.

Exactly.

All radio bits and barbs aside, this rivalry comes down to what really matters: the game. And the Canucks and Blackhawks have played their share of memorable and intense games. Thats unlikely to change tonight when they square off again here in Vancouver.

Bolland raised the rancor of the Canucks when, during a radio program, he brought out the Sedin sisters comments, along with some other disparaging ones aimed toward Henrik and Daniel. The Canucks said plenty at the time. Vigneault was particularly unhappy with the comments, saying Bolland has an IQ the size of bird seed and a face only a mother could love. He said Monday, however, that he and the Canucks have moved on from that.

Now its just onto the game, and all the vim and vigor they bring.

When you come in here, its always a playoff environment, coach Joel Quenneville said. Most (of them) feel like playoff games. Were coming off two frustrating losses (against Nashville) and we want to start this trip on a positive.

The Blackhawks have a good chance of doing that, considering theyll get both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp back in the lineup tonight. And with the addition of veteran Brendan Morrison, they bring in another guy who knows this rivalry all too well.

Itll be a test for both teams right out of the All-Star break, but both are welcoming it.

Its a good measuring stick, a good start to the last push, Alex Burrows said. Theyre always one of our biggest rivals. Theyre high-intensity games and its going to be tight. It should be another fun one.

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Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Bruins

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Bruins

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins on Friday night:

1. A sluggish start.

The Blackhawks have gotten off to some solid starts lately, scoring the game's first goal in the opening frame in five of their last six contests heading into Friday. But they were lucky to get out of the first in a 0-0 tie this time.

They had 15 shot attempts (six on goal) through the first 20 minutes while the Bruins had 30 attempts (17 on goal). Fortunately for the Blackhawks, Scott Darling stopped all of them that came his way.

Boston's third line of Ryan Spooner, Riley Nash and David Backes dominated possession, leading all skaters with a plus-12 Corsi in the period.  

2. Scott Darling steals two points.

Joel Quenneville decided to go with Darling in an effort to give a slumping Corey Crawford a chance to reset, and the Lemont native an opportunity to play in front of his father away from home, where he's used to watching him shine. It's safe to say he made his papa proud by putting on a great show.

Darling turned aside all 30 shots he faced, including 17 in the first period, for his second shutout of the season and fourth of his career. He has now allowed two or fewer goals in eight of his last 12 starts. 

Asked after the game whether he will earn a second straight start Sunday when the Blackhawks host the Vancouver Canucks, Quenneville responded, "We'll see."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Special teams not a factor.

In a game that featured only one goal, you'd think the way to crack the scoresheet would be on the man advantage. That didn't happen.

The Blackhawks went 0-for-3 on the power play, while the Bruins failed to cash in on their only two opportunities. Boston entered the contest by going 7-for-17 on the power play in their previous five games, good for a 41.2 success rate.

It was a nice bounce-back game for the Blackhawks' penalty kill unit, which allowed a goal on the man advantage in their previous two games.

4. Third line steps up at crucial moment.

The Blackhawks' third line of Vinnie Hinostroza, Marian Hossa and Tanner Kero had the worst possession numbers among all skaters, each registering a 24 percent Corsi or below. But when their team needed them the most, they stepped up.

With 1:26 left in regulation, Hossa ended his 10-game goal drought by burying home a terrific feed from Kero to snap a 0-0 tie and give the Blackhawks their second consecutive win. It's Hossa's 17th goal of the campaign, which ties Artemi Panarin for second on the team, and his fifth game-winning goal of the year. His 83 career game-winning goals now ranks 24th in NHL history, surpassing Mike Bossy, and remains fifth among active players.

Hossa's goal also moved him within a tie of Pierre Turgeon for 37th on the all-time goals list with 516.

Kero has six points in his last six games, while Hinostroza has two goals and one assist in his past two.

5. Despite recent struggles, Bruins in good hands with Claude Julien.

It seems like this is a discussion every year, but firing Julien would be a huge mistake for a Bruins team that fell to 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. They're still the No. 1 possession team in the NHL, controlling 55.42 percent of the even-strength shot attempts, and give up the fifth-fewest high danger scoring chances with 326, according the naturalstattrick.com. They average the second-most shots on goal per game at 33.9, and allow the second-fewest at 26.5.

To back it up, their PDO is 97.5 percent, the sum of a team's even-strength save percentage and shooting percentage that usually works it way toward 100, which indicates they're due for a fairly large correction. They're not getting bounces right now, but they're playing the right way and a change behind the bench would be a step in the wrong direction, considering Julien is easily a top-five coach in the NHL.