It’s January and 51 games have been marked off the Chicago Blackhawks schedule. Yet we haven’t seen arguably the best rivalry in hockey until game 52 because of the curious realignment from a year ago. But here we are, awaiting the first Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings game all season, and unless they meet in the Stanley Cup Finals, we only get one more meeting between to the two Original Six foes. I can sit here and complain about the realignment for a few reasons, but I was raised to appreciate what I have and therefore, will take in all 60 minutes (and hopefully more!) of Wednesday night’s contest.
So far this season, the Red Wings have been underwhelming and are fighting for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. Wow, just writing that sentence gave me the chills. Red Wings + 8th seed + Eastern Conference does not equal normal. Either way, you don’t need any help from me to get up for a ‘Hawks-Wings matchup, but I may as well give my two cents about why this year’s tussle is going to be very interesting.
First off, it is both teams first meaningful meeting since game seven of last season’s Stanley Cup playoffs. After trailing three games to one, the ‘Hawks stormed back, winning game five easily, then overcoming a three goal deficit to take game six. Then came game seven, where Brent Seabrook’s overtime goal capped a comeback that even without their Stanley Cup title later on that season, would have given Blackhawks fans immense bragging rights over their Red Wings counterparts. I am sure this Red Wings team has been thinking about that series all offseason and have had this game circled on their calendar since the season started.
This year’s rivalry games are going to have a bit of a different look. The Red Wings have been playing outstanding defense as of late and goalies Jimmy Howard, who missed eight games due to a knee injury and injured his knee again on monday, and Petr Mrazek have been fantastic over the last few weeks. We may not see the normal 5-3, or 5-4 game between these two clubs because of the level of defensive hockey played by the Wings so far this season. The Blackhawks do have the ability to put up a five spot against the Wings on Wednesday, but I wouldn’t expect the Wings to keep up with a Hawks team that has played some real good offensive hockey over the last few weeks.
But the main reason this week’s game is intriguing is because though certain things have changed in terms of style of play and what division both teams play in, both rosters are still very similar to last year’s playoff series. These players do not like each other and any Red Wing seeing Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews across from them is going to want to get his licks in if they can. The same goes for the ‘Hawks. Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen. The usual suspects still wear that Red Wing on their chest and these players are so familiar with one another, it only makes the rivalry more intriguing.
Some may argue that the realignment can build more anticipation for a game like this because they meet less often. I don’t know about those people but I would love nothing more than to see these guys go at it four times a year. We are going to see a hungry Detroit Red Wings team that doesn’t want to miss the playoffs in their first season in the Eastern Conference. They are too talented to finish beneath the likes of the Washington Capitals and former division foe the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blackhawks would love to play a role in helping the Red Wings watch the postseason from home. I am just happy to finally see both teams on the same ice in a game that counts since last year’s playoffs.