Welcome to Canucks vs. Blackhawks, Round 3: It’s Still Personal This Time Around. There’s a lot of hype around this series, and the storyline is readymade. Will the Canucks finally have the ability to defeat their arch-nemeses? Unfortunately, the hype around it really doesn’t feel as justified, this time.
The theme for the Canucks-Blackhawks series seems to be demons, and the exorcism of them. That, right there, tells you all you need to know about how much of a threat the Blackhawks really are. Last season was different. Last season both teams had improved, and it was a really interesting matchup. This season is a lot like the 2008 playoff matchup between the 1st seeded Red Wings and the 8th seeded Avalanche — when you take away the history, it becomes pretty dull.
Commentators have said a lot about the mental hurdle of the Blackhawks, and how the Canucks need to get past them. That’s where the teams stand right now. The Blackhawks don’t represent a threat to the Canucks on the ice, but in their minds. On the ice, the Canucks aren’t facing the same team. Sure, they still have some of their strength, but besides Patrick Kane, they don’t have any of the players that Vancouver fans reserved their hate for, or the players that really gave the Canucks trouble (besides Dave Bolland maybe.)
The ‘Hawks aren’t contenders this season. They aren’t even that dangerous a team. They squeaked into the playoffs because the Minnesota Wild decided to play spoiler for the Stars. They weren’t even masters of their own destiny, this season. The most generous thing said about the Blackhawks is that they’re “still dangerous.” Really, though, they’re not. This isn’t going to be like a rematch between Rocky and Apollo Creed. It feels more like the Tick vs. the Terror — a battle against an old villain past his prime.
That’s not to say they can’t win. Like Arthur discovered during the battle with the Terror, the greatest threat here is a mental one. Last season, the Blackhawks were a stronger team. This season, the only place the ‘Hawks can hope to win is in the Canucks’ heads, where their lost strength may not yet be fully understood. What in the past had been a close to-hit roll against a high AC has been reduced to a mere Will save, and with a low DC at that.
In a way, by disbanding, the ‘Hawks ensured that their victory could never be erased. The team that hoisted the Cup will never assemble again, and therefore may have been destroyed, but will never be defeated. The ‘Hawks aren’t the same, and beating them now seems less like making up for past shortcomings and more like kicking them while they’re down.
That’s not to say the ‘Hawks aren’t dangerous, but the Red Wings or the Sharks would have little difficulty with them. Playing the Canucks was Chicago’s only chance at seeing the second round. They’ve been reduced from Stanley Cup contender (and champion) to Vancouver’s own personal demons, that must be vanquished before the real test begins. I appreciate that getting past the Blackhawks will be meaningful to the Canucks, because they’ll emerge from the first round stronger, and feeling more confident as a team. That or the Canucks will exit, embarrassed, leaving TSN panelists talking of President’s Trophy curses and damaged Canuck psyches. This time, there’s no good excuse for failure, and the only acceptable outcome is a Canucks victory.
Tags: Babcocks, Blackhawks, Series Previews