Biggest NHL realignment loss? The Blackhawks-Red Wings rivalry
The Blackhawks extended their NHL-record start to 22 games with at least a point by beating the Red Wings 2-1 in a shootout. It was an amazing game, one that reminds us of what we'll miss with realignment.
Up to this point, there have been some real problems with the current realignment proposal. With all due respect to the travel of the Florida teams and the inequity of the uneven conferences, the biggest problem is we won't be graced with more Blackhawks-Red Wings matchups.
The two Original Six rivals met again on Sunday in Detroit, and the 2-1 shootout win for the Blackhawks was every bit as good as many of their NHL-record number of matchups over the years.
It was a playoff game in the first week of March except that it wasn't actually a playoff game. It was just another game between the Blackhawks and Red Wings.
If you didn't see the game, you'd probably think based on the score that you didn't miss much. But you'd be wrong. Oh, booooy, would you be wrong. It was the perfect example of how a low-scoring game can be highly entertaining. You don't have to score 13 goals like the Penguins and Canadiens did on Saturday to entertain. In fact, that was nowhere near as entertaining as the game on Sunday with just two goals scored.
The goalies, Jimmy Howard and Corey Crawford, did the proverbial head-standing with tremendous efforts and numerous great saves. Both teams, but the Wings in particular, were blocking shots like it was Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. It was just another game at roughly the midpoint of the season according to the schedule, but it was anything but just another game.
Of course, there was the backdrop of the Blackhawks' record-setting start to the season and that certainly amped things up. The Wings would have loved nothing more than to be the team that finally handed the Blackhawks a regulation loss, the first in 22 games to start the season.
It looked like it was going to happen until the Blackhawks found themselves on the power play in the final 2 1/2 minutes and just seconds in, Patrick Kane was firing home the game-tying goal.
Oh, then there was Kane in the shootout doing what he does best.
Seriously, in case you didn't know, this guy is really good. He came charging full speed then came to a near stop only to finish like this. Hate the shootout all you want, but that was pretty.
If you're not getting it here, the gist is that this was another excellent game in the storied Hawks-Wings rivalry. And yet, with realignment coming probably as soon as next season, these teams won't be in the same division. Heck, they won't even be in the same conference.
One of the premier rivalries in the sport, one that constantly produces matchups that can be described only as must-see TV, is going to be reduced to two meetings a season. We will only get the chance to see what we just saw twice a year, not six times. It's a damn shame.
Considering the fact that the Red Wings have been out of place in the West for years, it's inevitable. Detroit wants to play with other teams that are in the Eastern Time Zone instead of heading west all the time. But with that comes the loss of the Blackhawks as division foes. Good for the Red Wings' overall interests, but bad for the casual hockey fan.
Some will say the silver lining in there is these teams would be able to meet in the Stanley Cup Final, and how great would that be? It would be tremendous, yes, but the chances of it happening are slim. And it's definitely not going to happen with enough frequency to make us forget about what we're losing. These regular-season games feel like playoff games as it is.
There's no real way around it unless the Red Wings continue to play where they don't want to play (or the NHL could expand to 32 and take my suggestion!). But that doesn't mean it's not a big mistake to split up the Hawks and Wings. They continually produce high-quality hockey, and Sunday was as great an example of that as you will find.
In the meantime, I suggest savoring each of their meetings for all they are worth, which is their weight in gold.
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