By Adam Hoge-
CHICAGO (CBS) – Sure, the Blackhawks sent a message, they just forgot to do everything else.
After an offseason focused on getting tougher to handle teams like Vancouver, the Blackhawks watched the Canucks come into the United Center Sunday, take their fair share of punches and still leave with a 6-2 victory.
Revamped with guys like Daniel Carcillo and Jamal Mayers to counter Vancouver’s “thugs”, the Blackhawks made a point of showcasing their toughness by engaging in fights and playing after the whistle.
Hell, even Patrick Kane leveled Henrik Sedin with a late-hit and went to the box for roughing.
Problem was, almost every time a Hawk went to the penalty box, Vancouver scored. All-in-all, the Canucks scored five power play goals on six chances. To put that in perspective, the Blackhawks had only allowed four power plays goals all season coming into Sunday night’s game.
“Too many penalties,” head coach Joel Quenneville said. “It’s an emotional game. They had one more (power play) than we did, but we took some penalties we can’t take.”
Those penalties started with Brent Seabrook’s interference call that he didn’t even argue 4:17 into the game. David Booth gave Vancouver a 1-0 lead moments later. Then came Kane’s late hit on Henrik Sedin in the final minute of the first period, which led to Aaron Rome’s first goal of the season 1:16 into the second period. Brian Bickell’s boarding penalty later in the frame then led to a Daniel Sedin goal that put the Canucks up 3-1.
“Probably a couple of the penalties were not necessary to take,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson admitted.
But the Blackhawks were clearly trying to show off their new look as they played the Canucks for the first time since losing Game 7 in Vancouver in last year’s playoffs. Unfortunately, that’s about all they seemed focused on.
“We should have been expecting an effort like that from them,” Toews said. “I’m not sure why we took them lightly. We played well and did some good things all week and we didn’t show much of that tonight.”
While Vancouver’s power play flourished Sunday night, the Blackhawks’ special teams unit continued to struggle as they failed to convert on five chances.
Quenneville actually wasn’t too upset with how the unit played overall, but admitted that in the end, you need to score.
“We had some chances,” he said. “I thought we weren’t terrible, but we’re looking for production at the end of the night.”
Without that power play production, the Blackhawks had no chance to keep up with the Canucks Sunday night.
But if there’s any silver lining, it is clear this group can match Vancouver’s toughness. Even after the Canucks took a sizeable lead, the newcomers didn’t back down. Carcillo pretty much announced to the world in his introductory press conference over the summer that he couldn’t wait to drop the gloves against Vancouver, which he did 13 minutes into the second period with Aaron Volpatti. Later, Carcillo was handed a roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the same play and given a 10-minute misconduct on top of it. Mayers also dropped the gloves, giving Kevin Bieksa a couple right-hand pops as the second period ended.
Unfortunately, all that means nothing when you lose 6-2 against the team you are going to be compared to all season long. It likely means very little going forward against the rest of the league, but when the Blackhawks travel to Vancouver Nov. 16, they’re going to have to find a way to exude their toughness while also playing well – a task that doesn’t seem like it should be that hard.
Some might call Sunday night’s game a reality check for the Blackhawks. It may have been. At the very least, it was a wakeup call.
“I hope it surprised us,” Quenneville said. “Certainly gets your attention.”
Yes, yes it does.
Adam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the White Sox, Blackhawks and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.