After a quiet and relaxing affair Tuesday night that barely had the heart pumping or the juices flowing, the Hawks have to flip the hour glass because tonight will be the total opposite. The Vancouver Canucks visit, and these games are everything the games against the Jackets are not. Loud and viscious will be the order of the day.
The Hawks did not have a morning skate Wednesday as is custom when faced with back-to-back matches. So we can only guess at the starting goaltender. But seeing as how Joel Quenneville is in his "win now" mode, it is almost a certainty that Corey Crawford will wheel right back out there tonight. Crawford has played well in two games against the Canucks in Vancouver but got torched in his start against them here in November. This will be his third start in four days, though he didn't have all that much to do in the first two. We'll just have to see how he holds up.
The Canucks come in during a stretch where they keep kicking their own heels and falling over. They've only won three of their past 10 and have been leaking goals like a city council bleeds dollars. Some of it has been because of Roberto Luongo chasing shadows again, but it has more to do with the defense in front of him falling apart. The Canucks have been terrible in that department with turnovers, poor decisions and taking too many penalties.
Not helping is they're not keeping the puck as much as they used to. The Sedin twins have been pushed around in both zones, not shielding their defense by continually possessing the puck and playing offense. The second line with all-world slayer Ryan Kesler has had its issues as well, and the rest of the forward crew just isn't that good offensively.
Is it fatigue from so much hockey over the past couple seasons? Is it just boredom as the Canucks wrapped up the division long ago and the playoffs aren't knocking on the door yet? Is it real problems that will see their downfall quicker than expected in B.C.? You can make an argument for any of it. The defensive issues are a real concern, though.
We do know they won't be bored or listless tonight. If the Canucks can't get up for a game against the Hawks, there may be no hope for them. The Hawks must stay out of the box because the Vancouver power play is still lethal, best in the league. But with the way the Hawks' top three lines are playing, and the open game the Nucks want to play, they should get a lot of looks at a struggling defensive team. That should result in happiness at the offensive end, it's just a matter of if the Hawks can keep them out at the other.
Sam Fels is the proprietor of The Committed Indian, an unofficial program for the Blackhawks. You may have seen him hocking the magazine outside the United Center at Gate 3. The program is also available for purchase online. Fels is a lifelong 'Hawks fan and he also writes for Second City Hockey .