When the NHL decided to separate the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings into different conference, there was a huge uproar from hockey traditionalists who didn’t like the idea of only allowing these two long-time rivals to face-off twice a season.
Ever since that separation, the teams have gone in opposite directions. The Blackhawks, currently in first place in the NHL Central Division, are flying high after knocking off the Ducks and Bruins over the weekend. Meanwhile, the Red Wings are suffering through a slew of injuries and are currently sitting two points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
In spite of the difference in direction between the two clubs, there will still be plenty of buzz surrounding Wednesday’s game between the two clubs, the first of the current season and their first meeting since this happened in Game 7 of the Western Conference semi-finals:
That Brent Seabrook goal is just one of countless moments that have happened through the years between the two teams. Wednesday’s game will be the 726th all-time regular season meeting between the Hawks and Wings, with Detroit holding a 363-265-97 advantage in the series. The Blackhawks do hold a slight edge in the playoffs, winning 43 of the 81 meetings between the two clubs.
During the Blackhawks’ resurgence into prominence during the past decade, the tide has begun to shift in the rivalry. The Blackhawks did drop the 2009 Western Conference Final to the Wings in five games, but after Detroit lost the Stanley Cup Final that year to the Pittsburgh Penguins, it’s been all Blackhawks. Chicago has won two Stanley Cups in the past four seasons, and while the Red Wings have continued their remarkable streak of playoff appearances, they haven’t gotten back to the conference finals since that 2009 campaign.
Last season, the Blackhawks held the upper hand by a wide margin in the series, winning all four regular season matchups before storming back from a 3-1 deficit in the playoffs to win the series and advance to the Western Conference Final.
Despite the tide reversing in favor of Chicago for the most part, the rivalry between the two teams is still a special one. Whether one wants to base that assertion on the fact that some Hawks fans still chant “Detroit Sucks” at the United Center even when the Wings aren’t in town, or just base it upon the historical record between the two clubs, these Original Six rivals will always have a special place in one another’s histories.
Having the teams only meet twice a season may not be the most ideal scenario, but the Red Wings are happy to be playing in a conference where the vast majority of their games are played in the Eastern time zone, and the Blackhawks have seemed to acclimate just fine to having new divisional rivals like the Avalanche and Stars in place of the Wings.
Realignment may have separated these two teams, but with all of their shared history and the bad blood that will likely be simmering beneath the surface as they battle at Joe Louis Arena on Wednesday, the Hawks and Wings will likely prove that the series is predicated on quality, not quantity.