The Chicago Blackhawks-Detroit Red Wings rivalry has been a thing of hockey beauty.
The Blackhawks consider it their healthy, clean rivalry. It’s intense and entertaining, and void of the tiresome drama and ugliness that comes out of Blackhawks-Canucks games. It’s long been a series to look forward to every season.
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It may be even more so this season. Because when realignment comes, and if Detroit does go East as it’s been expected to do for some time, this series just isn’t going to be the same.
So let’s enjoy it for what it is, for as long as we can, shall we?
When the Blackhawks and Red Wings meet on Sunday in Detroit, there will be plenty of subplots. The Blackhawks will enter Sunday with their stunning season-opening streak of 21 consecutive games without a regulation loss. Right wing Marian Hossa, who spent one Stanley Cup Final-reaching season in Detroit, will play in his 1,000th game.
[BLACKJACK: Hawks extend point streak to 21]
And the Red Wings, who have won three of their last four games, will look to spoil the Blackhawks’ day.
Detroit struggled through mid-February but is starting to find its way again. The Red Wings’ defense took huge blows this offseason when Brad Stuart was traded and the much-decorated Nicklas Lidstrom retired, and their absences were noticeable. But the Wings’ blue line has been much improved in recent games. Detroit coach Mike Babcock was especially happy with it following the Wings’ 2-1 shootout victory over San Jose on Thursday night.
“I thought it was the best group we’ve had all year. We looked like a hockey team at times,” Babcock told the Detroit Free Press. “We've had a number of people not available to us, and I'm not trying to make excuses at all, but that was the best that I've thought we looked.”
[RELATED: Hossa reaches his 1,000th game, sees no sign of stopping]
Meanwhile, back in the Windy City, the Blackhawks have been something. Record-setting something. Even in their shakier games, such as Friday night’s 4-3 overtime victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Blackhawks have found ways to win. And they’ve found answers from everyone: Goaltending, penalty killing, scoring from third- and fourth-line players.
And they keep pushing themselves to be better.
“We were hoping to have a great start and go from there,” coach Joel Quenneville said on Friday. “I don’t think we envisioned this at all. But this is where we’re at and trying to get better off these levels is what we’re all about.”
[MORE: Proposed realignment could send Detroit, Columbus east]
And great hockey is what the Blackhawks-Red Wings series has long been about. If the proposed realignment is agreed upon, that’s going to change. Sure, the teams will play a home and home against each other, but it won’t be the same. So long to six games between these two per season. So long to them battling, neck and neck, for the Central Division bragging rights. So long to a big chunk of hockey tradition.
Enjoy the current format while it lasts.