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Blackhawks are an angry bunch as they look to avoid series sweep

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Vancouver Canucks trouble-maker Raffi Torres’ head-high hit to defenseman Brent Seabrook further incensed an already angry and ­disappointed Blackhawks team.

Hate, it seems, finally is back as a factor on both sides of this once-tumultuous rivalry.

‘‘It’s just concrete evidence of how much we dislike that team, and it’s added motivation to our situation,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said Monday. ‘‘[But] it’s not the only thing that’s going to be motivating us to play our best hockey.”

Of course, there is pride — especially for the last year’s Stanley Cup champions.

But perhaps some overdue anger might assist the Hawks in earning a victory tonight against the Canucks in Game 4 at the United Center and stave off an embarrassing sweep against their rivals.

As Seabrook said, ‘‘To win the game and take it back to Vancouver, that’s the best way we can get back.’’

Still, one win wouldn’t be nearly enough. A lot of damage has been done, a lot of energy spent.

The Philadelphia Flyers rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to eliminate the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season before reaching the Stanley Cup finals. The Hawks see hope in that. But the Flyers’ rally was the first time it happened in 35 years.

The Hawks are sticking to their belief that they still haven’t played at their best, which has been a common theme all season. The Hawks still feel that the Canucks, despite all their success, are a beatable team and are even getting too much credit for their triumphs.

‘‘I think so,’’ winger Patrick Kane said. ‘‘They’re a great team. They’re first in the conference and the league for a reason. But at the same time, Games 1 and 2 we didn’t give them much to compete with, and we were right there in both of them. And [Sunday] night, we showed how we can play when we want to play as good as we can. But they’re up 3-0, so you have to give them a little bit of credit.’’

Torres’ hits on Seabrook in Game 3 — the second of which forced the Hawks to take Seabrook out to check for a concussion — were more examples of the bold aggressiveness that embody the Canucks’ game plan. They are playing playoff hockey. They are hitting with a purpose, targeting the Hawks’ defensemen and best players.

‘‘We’ve answered back physically throughout parts of different games, and we’re doing a good job finishing checks and playing that style of game,” forward Patrick Sharp said. “It’s a matter of winning a game that’s most important to me.”

But there seems to be anger behind the Canucks’ game. It’s most likely the result of being eliminated by the Hawks the last two seasons and the Hawks’ reluctance this postseason to give the Canucks the credit they believe they deserve.

Can the Hawks win four in a row against a team that wants to continue to dish out punishment?

Maybe the Hawks have a couple of desperate, pride-filled victories in them. But four in a row is unlikely. The Hawks haven’t shown anything in this series or in the regular
season to prove they’re capable of such a rally.

Their struggles and inconsistencies from the regular season have surfaced in the playoffs. There have been poor third periods, inconsistent performances by the top players, a power play that struggles to connect at key times, an inept penalty kill and a team that has been thrown around one too many times.

It’s the last issue that’s the most troubling at this time of year. The Canucks have landed the game-changing blows. There haven’t been any instances in which Ryan Kesler or Henrik and Daniel Sedin were sent reeling to the ice or a time where goalie Roberto Luongo has lost his cool.

“We can be more engaged physically in this series and against those guys,” coach Joel Quenneville said.

It will go a long way in getting their first win.

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