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How The Chicago Blackhawks Are Like The 1990’s New Jersey Devils

By Skylar Peters
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The New Jersey Devils of the late 1990’s were no dynasty by Montreal Canadiens or New York Islanders standards, but they were always a perennial Stanley Cup contender. Wins came often for the team, and though they never truly dominated the league at any point, they were always at the top of the heap come Spring.

The one thing the Devils lacked in those days, was excitement. From the GM’s office to the ice surface, the Devils were as beige as a hockey team could be.

Though the Chicago Blackhawks haven’t always been this way since their rise to annual Cup Contender status 6 years ago, it seems the latest incarnation of the team, sans-Patrick Kane, is certainly headed in that direction.

When the NHL’s leading scorer (at the time) went into the boards, and Blackhawks’ fans learned of his fate, that he would not return until a potential Western Conference Final match-up, many held their head between their legs, bracing for a plummet to the Wild Card playoff seeds.

At first, it seemed like it would be that way. Three straight losses, capped by a 4-0 embarrassment at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning on February 27th, left the Blackhawks’ reeling. However, it would not be that way for long.

Stan Bowman, who has shied away from the ‘big trade’ in recent years, made two of them in 72 hours, just days before the trade deadline. Since then, that action on the ice hasn’t been electrifying as usual for Blackhawks’ fans, take away a big six-goal performance in San Jose yesterday afternoon.

Antoine Vermette, who the Blackhawks gave up a first-round draft pick and a highly-touted defensive prospect for, certainly doesn’t have the ‘wow’ factor that Patrick Kane possesses, but has been effective nonetheless.

Vermette’s presence, coupled with Jonathan Toews’ leadership, has worn off on some of his teammates: Patrick Sharp and Andrew Shaw in particular, who both snapped goal-less droughts spanning over a dozen games, on Saturday afternoon.

The Blackhawks have become a more physical team, something that will come in handy come playoff time, with another first-round date with the St. Louis Blues seemingly unavoidable. Their offense, which is usually at the pinnacle of the entire NHL, currently ranks 11th in goals/game. Just a week ago, they ranked sixteenth in that category.

Yet, the Blackhawks keep winning. In fact, while most fans on Twitter have lauded the team for their efforts in the past few weeks, the team is 6-1-1 in their last eight games.

The pessimist would look at the Blackhawks’ recent stretch and remark that only one team, the New York Rangers (who handed the ‘Hawks an overtime loss) are currently in a playoff position, and things get much tougher up ahead, particularly in the month of April, with two dates with the Blues on the horizon.

However, the Blackhawks are getting it done, and when the Blackhawks finish game #82 on April 11th, the NHL will not ask “How?”, they will ask, “How Many?”

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the Blackhawks are saving the excitement until May.

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