DETROIT — When the Chicago Blackhawks face the Detroit Red Wings here on Wednesday, it will be a little different.
It used to be very personal, given the two being in the same division/conference for so long. It used to feature several games a season, and most of them were tremendous, fun, entertaining games between the two. No, with the change in Detroit’s scenery and the lack of division/conference implications, the rivalry just isn’t the same.
Or is it?
The Blackhawks won’t be seeing the Wings as often during the regular season anymore, but players say that doesn’t diminish the feel of a rivalry that has too much past history to disappear.
“It’s definitely different with the way this year is set up, but we’re still looking forward to going there,” forward Brandon Saad said. “Call it a rivalry or not, the fans love it, and we’re looking forward to going there.”
Coach Joel Quenneville agreed.
“Everyone will be into it to a different level than anyone we play, and we’ll be revisiting a great seven-game series that could’ve gone either way,” he said. “Knowing we play only once a year in each building, we can still bring back the intensity that’s been in that rivalry for a long time.”
The inner-conference tilts couldn’t have ended more dramatically for either squad, or better for the Blackhawks. Their second-round matchup featured everything: a 3-1 Detroit lead, a frustrated Jonathan Toews who would be calmed by defenseman Brent Seabrook, a Game 7, a nullified Niklas Hjalmarsson would-be game-winning goal, an overtime and a Seabrook game- and series-winner.
Much like their Stanley Cup Final vs. Boston, those memories won’t be at the forefront when the Blackhawks play on Wednesday. But they don’t feel the rivalry is any less now, either.
“Oh yeah, that’ll always be a big rivalry: two good teams going head to head and the history going back there, it’ll always be one for a long time,” defenseman Nick Leddy said. “It’ll definitely be a little different with them being in the East now, but it’s still a big rivalry.”
Perhaps the games will have more of a main-event feel, given the lack of them.
“Maybe it’s more exciting when we haven’t played them in a while,” Marcus Kruger said. “It’ll be a fun game against a good team. We’re looking forward to it.”
Some things just don’t die with fewer meetings.