Blues-Blackhawks rivalry heats up again

News-DemocratOctober 8, 2013 

The Blues' David Backes talks rivalry with Blackhawks, and a commercial he shot.


— The biggest difference between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks are five Stanley Cup championships, including two in the last four years.

One of the NHL's best rivalries resumes Wednesday when the defending Stanley Cup champs visit Scottrade Center for a nationally televised game on NBC Sports Network.

"I think what creates the rivalry is they have the (Stanley) Cup and everybody wants a piece of it back," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, whose team outscored the opposition 11-2 on the way to a 2-0 start. "They're a measuring stick for everybody that plays them."

Blues captain David Backes and Chicago captain Jonathan Toews are part of a new commercial for NBC Sports Network's new "NHL Rivals" series that highlights a rivalry with a show broadcast one night before the games.

"They did a pretty good job on it if you ask me, they dialed it right in," said Backes, who hasn't paid much attention to the commercial with he and Toews glaring at each other.

Backes said they used "the magic of video" to make it seem like both were together on the ice. They weren't.

"There's going to be measuring sticks along the way and the team that's won two Stanley Cups in the last four years is a good team to measure yourself against," Backes said.

The NHL's new division alignments and playoff format also places more of an emphasis on the rivalry.

While eight teams from each conference still qualify for the playoffs, the Western Conference will take the top three teams from each of two divisions --the Blues are in the Central -- along with the teams with the next two best records as wildcard entries.

Detroit's move to the Eastern Conference from the Western leaves Chicago as the Blues' natural top rival.

"It's already there, but it's just going to get more and more fierce," Backes said. "We play them five times during the regular season and then in order to get to the next level in the playoffs. you're going to have to beat two other teams in your division to get there."

The Blues have won the season series against Chicago only twice since 2005. Has the 2013-14 edition of the Blues managed to close the gap a bit?

"They've proven themselves twice now," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said with a nod to Chicago's two recent championships. "We went through a little bit of growing pains the past couple years. They were able to get to the summit quicker and achieve that goal.

"I don't think we view them as any better than us because they've won it. We look at them as equals and (Wednesday) we have to best them and do it for the rest of the season."

Chicago star Patrick Kane said recently he felt Vancouver was a bigger rivalry for the Blackhawks than the Blues.

But the teams have close ties, from former Blues coach Joel Quenneville having won two Stanley Cups with Chicago to Toews being a teammate of Blues winger T.J. Oshie at the University of North Dakota.

Chicago's Brandon Saad is off to a quick start with two goals and four points in two games. Kane also has two goals.

Hitchcock said the next three games should give him a good indication of where this Blues team is headed.

Do the players consider the Blackhawks a good measuring stick to see where they're at?

"We feel that we're every bit as good as them and they obviously did it last year, they did the whole thing," Shattenkirk said. "They went the distance. But that's our goal this year and they're another team that we have to work through to get there."

Hitchcock likes the way his team has attacked the net during the 7-0 win over Florida and 4-2 victory over Nashville.

"What's different about this team than any one that I've been around here is that they are really hungry to score and they don't take the foot off the accelerator," Hitchcock said. "It looks like there's a real hunger to make the other team defend, which I think is the way you have to play in the NHL if you expect to play defense.

"Once we sniffed out a little bit of blood in the water, we kept the foot on the gas right to the end. That's what made us happy."

While new Blues Maxim Lapierre, Brenden Morrow and Derek Roy have been facing the Blackhawks for years, now they get to do it from inside the rivalry.

"It only takes one mistake and they'll make you pay for it.," Morrow said. "They're very disciplined."

Backes thinks the feisty Lapierre should add to the rivalry mix.

"He's a guy that you love having on your team," Backes said. "When you turn the temperature up, he's a fierce competitor that doesn't back down from anyone. That's kind of our way of life around here."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or on Twitter @NormSanders

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