Stop me if you heard this before: The Blackhawks and Red Wings played a Sunday matinee at Joe Louis Arena that ended in a shootout.
In the last four seasons, it seems like the two teams have engaged in roughly 33 games that followed the script from today. One team controls the tempo, then the other team. By the end of regulation, one of the teams scores a late goal to send the game to overtime and in the overtime, both teams have opportunities for the winner.
In other words, today’s game was no different than any of the previous years between the Hawks and Wings. Except for that whole winning streak the Hawks have going. So let’s get to it.
–What a game for the Shaw-Bickell-Stalberg line. They were by far, the best line on the ice for either team. If it weren’t for Jimmy Howard’s efforts, they would’ve been rewarded with at least one goal. It’s kind of a bummer that it’s taken this long for Bickell to become this much of a difference-maker, what with this being the last year of his very undervalued contract, but I suppose it’s just worth enjoying now and worrying about later. His behind the back passes from the behind the net are simply glorious.
The Hawks lone goal was made possible by the efforts of Viktor Stalberg. He out-hustled Kyle Quincey (?) to a loose puck and fed a wide open Patrick Kane.
It seems like every game this line is getting better and better. That’s a problem for America.
–Starting off 19-0-3 creates a bit of a conundrum for Joel Quenneville. The normal reaction would be to not change anything because if you’ve gone 22 games without losing in regulation, how much really needs to change? At the same time, he also wants to start experimenting with different combinations to learn a little bit more about his team as was the case this afternoon. Dressing 7 defensemen and 11 forwards hopefully won’t become a trend but for one game, it’s not that big of an issue.
At the same time, with Jamal Mayers and Brandon Bollig perfectly capable of playing, it makes no sense to play a guy (Sheldon Brookbank) who is completely uncomfortable playing out of position. The Hawks have a ton of depth this year; this should not happen again. It kind of defies logic.
–If this is the version of Corey Crawford the Hawks are going to get this year, you might as well just skip the Western Conference playoffs altogether and just let the Hawks face the Eastern Conference champ. That may come off as complete arrogance and untactful but it’s the truth. I simply don’t see how there’s anyone capable of beating the Hawks 4 times when they’re getting goaltending that they are right now.
While the Hawks team defense has vastly improved from last year, the biggest difference is getting phenomenal goaltending. With the talent of this roster, that single difference takes them from being a 4th-7th seed to the President’s Trophy.
–There should be no doubt the Hawks faced the Wings absolute best effort today unless you think Brendan Smith is sacrificing his face against the Blue Jackets as well.
–Allow me to talk less about the game and more about the Hawks season thus far. Even with a 28 game point streak, I can’t help but realize my enthusiasm is not nearly what it was a few years ago. At some point between the point Jonathan Toews was handed the Stanley Cup and now, it’s become much less about the journey and more about the destination. Wins in November or March don’t mean nearly as much as they used to. When the ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup, everything else is just noise until that moment becomes closer again. And sorry, but regular season games are simply not in the same area code.
Let me clarify, I’m not saying I’m not enjoying this incredible run the Hawks are on. I am. I just can’t help feeling a little bit empty that I’m not as excited about it as I was the first time I was in a sold out United Center for the first time in ’07-08 when the Hawks beat the Oilers 3-2 in late December.
That being said, when Patrick Kane scored the equalizer, I’d be lying if I didn’t scream a few expletives in celebration.