It doesn't really matter what happens or how the standings change. For the foreseeable future, the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks are semi-permanently linked (*I'm aware that 'semi-permanently' makes little sense). Every loss for one team is echoed with a win by the other. Each highlight reel tally by Patrick Kane is laid picture-in-picture next to Roberto Luongo's flashy glove hand. The Sedin Twins are mocked by David Bolland, and Jonathan Toews is just grumpy all the time.
The Canucks and Blackhawks trade punches 24/7. It's a rare rivalry, because while Chicago has had the upper hand in this now five-year-old affair, both Vancouver and ChiCity are home to exceptionally talented squads.
On Sunday, however, we were given a one-night microcosm of the whole storyline. The Canucks followed an inspiring thrashing of the Los Angeles Kings with a bipolar loss to the always-down-and-out Calgary Flames, while the Blackhawks scored with two minutes left in the third to tie the Red Wings, won it in a shootout, and have now picked up a point in all 22 games they've played this season.
The Canucks are an enigma. Henrik Sedin is capable of turning Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty into hockey cards and Roberto Luongo might be the most skilled goaltender of all time. Their defence is fast and furious (and, very big), and they can carry a game like almost no other team in the NHL.
For whatever reason, though, they tend to fart. The Canucks disappear once the bugle sounds.
The Blackhawks are different. In 2010, they won the Stanley Cup and took down the Canucks in what might have been the most lopsided six-game playoff series in West Coast hockey history. In 2011, they became the league's greatest eighth seed of all time, until the Kings re-defined that position the next year and slapped Vancouver in five to kick things off.
In 2013, the Blackhawks have yet to lose in the first 60 minutes. They're a mind-blowing 19-0-3 on the season, and that's included an overtime loss and an overtime win against the Canucks. Facing Vancouver, Chicago is 1-0-1. Vancouver is also 1-0-1 against the Hawks. And yet, Vancouver is stuck in that third-place pandora it owned in 2009 and 2010. They're better than almost everyone, but they're not elite every night.
That explains their strong but still disappointing 11-6-4 record, and their 4-4-2 spell in their last 10 games.
Vancouver has a heart beat, but they need to figure this whole thing out before the 48-game tryout is over.
The Blackhawks, meanwhile, are in overdrive. They just have to hope they don't run out of gas in April.
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