VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Vancouver Canucks are going to find out if it’s dangerous to get what they wished for.
The Canucks will have a chance to settle an old score when they face the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL Western Conference semifinal. The best-of-seven series will open in Chicago later this week. It is a rematch many of the Canuck players wanted. Chicago eliminated Vancouver in six games in last year’s conference semifinal.
“There is a lot of history and bad blood there,” defenceman Shane O’Brien said Tuesday. “Every guy in the room remembers the feeling of leaving Chicago last year. It was one of the worst feelings I had ever been through.
“We definitely want to get some redemption on those guys.”
Chicago defenceman Duncan Keith was asked if the teams don’t like each other.
“It’s pretty easy to say that,” Keith replied.
Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo had tears in his eyes after allowing seven goals in the final game of last year’s series.
“That’s long gone for me,” said Luongo. “You live and learn from those things.
“It was a tough way to go out but sometimes in life you’ve got to learn from your bad experiences and move on and use them in the future.”
Bad blood boiled between the teams this year.
Canuck defenceman Willie Mitchell flattened Jonathan Toews with a hit last fall that knocked the Chicago centre out of several games with a concussion.
In January, Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler and Chicago’s Andrew Ladd fought in a game. Afterwards, Kesler called Ladd a coward and accused him of breaking his nose with a cross-check during the playoffs.
Kesler was careful Tuesday when talking about Ladd.
“I’m not too worried about him,” he said. “I am more worried about winning the series and trying to get even that way.
“No payback. I’m just looking at winning the series.”
Canuck coach Alain Vigneault said a certain amount of disdain for each other is normal during the playoffs.
“We’re starting ahead of the schedule I guess because of our playoff experience against this team,” he said.
The Blackhawks advanced to the second round of the playoffs after eliminating the Nashville Predators in six games.
Chicago has big, mobile forwards that can score and all four lines are capable of collecting goals.
“We know the kind of skill they have over there,” said Kesler. “They have a dangerous power play and a really aggressive penalty kill that really tries to score. We have to be good on both sides of the coin.”
Chicago’s weakness could be goaltender Antti Niemi who lacks playoff experience and can be inconsistent.
The Canucks top line of twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin playing with Mikael Samuelsson combined for 29 points during Vancouver’s six-game victory over Los Angeles in the opening round of the playoffs.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said you must control the Sedins to beat Vancouver.
“The Sedins are as good as anybody in the game,” said Quenneville. “Their puck possession, their threat off the rush, their involvements with their (defence), there are a lot of things you have to be aware of.”
The Canucks have also enjoyed some secondary scoring from Steve Bernier (four goals) and Pavol Demitra (two goals, three assists).
The Canuck penalty kill looked like Swiss Cheese early against Los Angeles, but got better as the series progressed.
Vancouver lacks depth on defence. Mitchell is out with a concussion and Aaron Rome is listed day-to-day with an injury.
At times Luongo was shaky against the Kings but made some big saves that kept the Canucks alive.
Henrik Sedin, the NHL’s regular-season points leader, said Vancouver will need more scoring from the third and fourth lines.
“It’s not going to be Mikael scoring seven goals every series,” said Henrik. “We are going to need different lines to step up and come to the forefront at different times.”
The teams split their four meetings this season. The Canucks won 3-2 and 5-1 while the Blackhawks won their games 1-0 and 6-3.
Chicago finished the regular season with a 52-22-8 record for 112 points to win the Central Division crown and finish second in the conference. It was Chicago’s first division title in 17 years.
The Canucks won their third Northwest Division title in four years with a 49-28-5 record for 103 points, which gave them the third seed in the West.
Last year’s series turned in the fourth game in Chicago. Vancouver led 1-0 late in the third period, and had a chance to go up 3-1 in the series. The Hawks managed to tie the game, then won it 2-1 in overtime.
The loss seemed to sap the Canucks emotionally and they lost the next two games.
Defenceman Kevin Bieksa said the Canucks are better able to face adversity this year.
“We are a more mature team,” he said. “With experience we have a lot confidence.
“We go into this confident. We are going into it knowing what to expect, how to play, not to get rattled when we are down. Hopefully that makes us a better team.”