Sunday, November 6, 2011
Blackhawks powerless against rivals
By Melissa Isaacson ESPNChicago.com
CHICAGO -- It's one of those games that might be easy to dismiss in early November, even with its exposure of a lingering problem, if not for the nemesis that dismissed them.
The Chicago Blackhawks returned from a father-son weekend in Florida looking as though they fell asleep by the pool without sunscreen. Though they were 1-1 in the Sunshine State, they looked infinitely better than they did in the listless 6-2 loss sustained at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks upon their return home Sunday night.
It was supposed to be the Hawks' crack at revenge after losing in overtime of Game 7 of their opening-round playoff series in Vancouver last spring. Instead, they allowed the Canucks to enhance their league-best reputation by scoring five power-play goals. And if that wasn't bad enough, the Hawks continued to falter on the flip side, failing on all five of their own power-play chances.
It was the first regulation home loss for the Hawks and the first time in 14 games this season they have lost two in a row.
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The Hawks were without Duncan Keith, who is out with an injury to his left hand, while the Canucks were missing Alexandre Burrows. But Keith's absence was more apparent.
"Power play as usual , as of late, wasn't very good and penalty kill went for a hike today too, but it went beyond that," said Jonathan Toews. "We didn't play a very good game all around. If those things go better for us, maybe we can keep it a tighter game and keep our confidence, especially late in the game, and make a game of it like we have in some of these past games where we haven't played our best. But we didn't give ourselves that chance at all."
The five power-play goals scored against them tied a Blackhawks' team record, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
While it was billed as a payback game for the Hawks, a build-up they did not deny, the Canucks merely held firm to the notion that they simply needed the points.
And indeed, at 6-7-1, the Canucks had been looking as hungover as their city.
They're booing beleaguered goalkeeper Roberto Luongo in his home rink. And Vancouver prosecutors are still bringing charges against the hooligans who nearly burned the city down last May when the Boston Bruins defeated the Canucks in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Daniel Carcillo was spoiling for a fight with the Canucks, but the Hawks were roundly beaten on Sunday.
Meanwhile in Chicago, Daniel Carcillo was jumping feet first into his new team's rivalry with the Canucks by calling them the most hated team in the league at his introductory news conference and even singling out center Maxim Lapierre as a player he said he'd be looking to fight.
After a recent goal, Carcillo even tweeted that it was time to "backhand slap a few Canucks."
Instead, the Canucks added more fuel to the Hawks' biggest rivalry of the past several years by slapping them around on their home rink before a sellout crowd of 21,883 that did all it could, particularly at the outset, to create a playoff-type atmosphere, including the razzing of Luongo after he gave up his first goal to Michael Frolik.
"The fans are always good," Hawks goalie Corey Crawford said. "[But] it seemed like they had a little bit more juice in them than usual. It's a big rivalry, just a frustrating game. All you can do is just forget about it and move on."
That would be infinitely easier if it wasn't the Canucks, and if the Hawks did not have to go back on the road this week against St. Louis and Columbus.
"If you go into the next one and play 10 times better and turn things around right away, of course [you can dismiss it]," Toews said. "That's what you have to do.
"We should've been expecting an effort like that from [Vancouver]. I'm not sure why we took them lightly."
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.