Defeating the rival Vancouver Canucks is always a great moment for the Chicago Blackhawks and their fans, but a positive result from Tuesday's matchup at the United Center would be extra special for the NHL's best team.
The Blackhawks can tie the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks' NHL record of 16 games without a regulation loss to start a season if they win or go to overtime against the Canucks.
Chicago is off to its best ever start with a record of 12-0-3, which puts it two points ahead of the Ducks atop the Western Conference standings.
With the Blackhawks attempting to make history, one of the league's best rivalries will be must-see TV on Tuesday night.
"I think the rivalry always seams to kind of heat up as the season goes on, game per game," said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews on Tuesday morning (via The Chicago Tribune). "This is Game 2 and it's only going to get more intense, so we're expecting that tonight."
Here's what's on the line for the Blackhawks on Tuesday:
- With a win, the Blackhawks will tie the NHL record for most consecutive games with a point to start a season (16 by the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks). Chicago is currently tied with the 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers with 15. The team's previous record was seven.
- Blackhawks have a 21-game point streak (dating back to the 2011-12 regular season), which is the longest such streak since 1979-80, when the Montreal Canadiens also went 21 straight games unbeaten.
- The head-to-head record between these clubs could help settle a tiebreaker if they are tied in the standings at year's end. Vancouver won the first meeting in a shootout.
- Chicago is the only NHL team without a regulation loss.
The Canucks are 3-1-1 in their last five games against the Blackhawks and have gone four straight games without losing in regulation at the United Center.
With star defenseman Brent Seabrook out of the lineup (per the team's Twitter account), the Blackhawks offense—which ranks second in goals scored—will be a little less powerful from the blue line.
Chicago Blackhawks @NHLBlackhawks
Defenseman Brent Seabrook will not play tonight. Q says Crawford skated before practice today, and "doing well." #Blackhawks2/19/2013, 5:21:50 PM
The Duncan Keith and Seabrook duo, which is arguably the best defensive pairing in the NHL, has combined for seven points in the last two games.
After having a difficult time scoring on Roberto Luongo in the season's first meeting (2-1 shootout loss), the Blackhawks will be happy to learn that Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault has decided to start Cory Schneider in net (per the Canucks' Twitter account).
Luongo is 4-1-1 against the Blackhawks over the last two years (including this season), while Schneider is 1-1 with 10 goals allowed in his last three games combined versus Chicago since the 2010-11 season.
Schneider struggled in his most recent start on Friday, which was a 4-3 defeat to the Dallas Stars. It was the third time in seven starts that he had given up four or more goals in a single game this season.
This is a statement game for the 25-year-old goaltender, who has not played well on a consistent basis in 2013. If he wants to be the No. 1 goaltender for the Canucks during the playoffs, he must lead his team to victory against top teams such as the Blackhawks.
It will be interesting to see how Schneider handles the first 20 minutes of the game because the Blackhawks have scored 19 goals (nearly 40 percent of the team's scoring) in the first period this season.
They are also 10-0-2 when leading after the first period.
The Canucks are the only team that has kept the Blackhawks from scoring in the first and second periods this season, and Vancouver needs a similar defensive performance to stop Chicago's historic streak on Tuesday.
Breaking records that highlight regular-season success isn't the top goal for the Blackhawks this season, but making history against a team that they don't like certainly gives them extra motivation to dominate the Canucks in front of their hometown fans on Tuesday night.
However, the Canucks snapped the Detroit Red Wings' 23-game home winning streak (NHL record) last season and you know Vancouver would love to prevent the Blackhawks from making history and improve to 2-0 against its rival this season.
Expect a physical, playoff-like game at the United Center between two great rivals that are both looking to make a statement to each other and the rest of the NHL.
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