Hawks Hitting the Heights
It's what Detroit-Colorado used to be; at the very least the best NHL rivalry in the west.
Maybe the best, period.
When the Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks play, everyone watches, and such was the case Tuesday in the Windy City in a much anticipated battle.
On the line was Chicago's spectacular start to the 2012-13 season, one in which they needed one more point to tie the league record for most games to start the season without a single regulation loss (16).
The Hawks got it. But not without a heckuva fight and some controversy.
In the end, Ray Emery outdueled Cory Schneider in a shootout for a 4-3 victory that moved the Hawks to 13-0-3 on the season, tying Anaheim's 2006-07 record.
The Hawks can break the record Friday night at home with at least a point against the San Jose Sharks.
Chicago looked headed for an impressive regulation victory against the Vancouver, cradling a 3-1 lead into the second half of the third period after scoring three in the middle frame. But with Schneider refusing to give up a fourth goal and the visiting Canucks scored twice to tie the game, including the equalizer with 61 seconds to play.
In the shootout, however, Andrew Shaw sped in on Schneider and beat the Vancouver goalie with a nifty backhand high to give the Hawks the win. Kesler, given a chance to extend the shootout, couldn't beat Emery.
It was a fast, hard game, and as usual, with a bit of bad blood. In this case, it came from an unlikely candidate, with Vancouver's Jannik Hansen knocking Marian Hossa out of the game with a sneaky, punishing elbow to the back of Hossa's head as both players went to play a puck high in the air.
Hossa had played brilliantly to that point, scoring twice in the second period. Hansen will have a phone hearing today with NHL hanging judge Brendan Shanahan about the incident. Since it's over the phone, he can receive up to a maximum of five games.
"We are both kind of jumping for it and he grabs the puck first and I'm coming down and I kind of land on him a little bit and apparently I hit him in the back of the head is what the ref is telling me," Hansen told reporters. "It's hard for me to tell what really happened.
"It's a hockey play and we bumped together a little hard and he goes down. I can't really do anything about that. We both go for the puck and we ran into each other."
"Obviously we know he got hit last year I think everybody in the hockey world knows that," Hansen said. "But it's a hockey play and when you go for a puck, you go for a puck."
Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault didn't even believe a minor penalty was warranted on the play. Chicago, naturally, differed.
"It was tough to see," said Chicago forward Patrick Sharp. "I thought it was a questionable hit. I’d have to see the replay a few more times, but I didn’t like the hit when I saw it. You like it even less when you see a guy like Hoss on the ice who’s been through something like that before. Hopefully he’s doing okay."
Vancouver welcomed David Booth back to the lineup for his first game of the season, putting the club at full strength after Ryan Kesler returned last week.
But the Hawks were the better team for most of the night, pounding Schneider with 43 shots, including three breakaways in the first period alone, as the Canuck defensive shield was uncharacteristically leaky on the night.
This sizzling Chicago team, it should be noted, is different than the big, pounding club that won the 2010 Stanley Cup. While some of the faces are the same - Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith - the Hawks have built a faster team with the likes of youngsters like Shaw and Brandon Saad.
The Hawks were without No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford and key blueliner Brent Seabrook for the game, but still had enough to win. The game was much more entertaining than the previous encounter, a 2-1 Canucks shootout win on Feb. 1 in British Columbia.
Right now, only Boston-Montreal and Pittsburgh-Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference can compare to the intense Vancouver-Chicago rivalry. The two clubs next meet on April 22nd in Vancouver.
Hawks three breakaways in the first, didn't score
exploded in second for three goals to take a 3-1 lead
Hawks different from big, punishing squad that won the Cup