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Blackhawks Thu Jan 23 2014

Blackhawks Renew Red Wings Rivalry

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png It seems just like yesterday the Blackhawks and Red Wings tangled in an epic seven-game series in the Western Conference semis, which alone cleared Pepto-Bismol from the shelves of every Dominick's store in town. You remember the players: Abdelkader, Nyquist, Kronwall, Zetterberg -- just to name a handful -- gave most everyone watching at home nightmares by the mere mention of their names from Doc Emerick calling the action.

In the end, the Blackhawks won Game 7 by the final of 2-1 in OT off a Brent Seabrook blast, which put the Blackhawks in the Western Finals, sent the fans home in a daze and ended the Red Wings season and place in the Western Conference. Most didn't want to see the series end, just like they didn't want to see the Blackhawks' oldest rival move to the Eastern Conference, which meant only two games per season.

Would the rivalry die off? Would games against the 11-time Stanley Cup champs mean any less? Would the intensity on the ice cool off with each and every passing game amongst the players? Not any time soon, as it would seem, as both teams picked right back up Wednesday night at the Joe from where they left off last June. Call it Game 8.

The move to the Eastern Conference for the Red Wings made sense, being the only team in that time zone to play in a conference where a handful of the teams are west of the Rockies. The need to play two Original Six teams in the west seemed like a good idea, in terms of ticket sales for struggling franchises like Phoenix, but ultimately moving Hockeytown to the east was inevitable and just.

As soon as the Blackhawks' 2013-'14 schedule was announced, one of the first things anyone did was look to see when Mike Babcock's crew would come to town (Sunday, March 16, at 6:30pm). The second was to check when the Blackhawks were in Detroit, which was to be the first of the two-game set this season.

The only thing that changed going into Wednesday night's tangle was the lack of a few players on the Red Wings' bench. Injuries have plagued the Red Wings this season with the likes of Jimmy Howard (knee), Pavel Datsyuk (lower-body injury), Daniel Alfredsson (back), Johan Franzen (concussion symptoms) missing from the starting roster. This M.A.S.H. unit has stuck it out in a somewhat weak Eastern Conference, holding steady with a 22-18-10 record for 54 points, which currently has them at ninth in the conference. Everything else: the intensity level, hard checking, loud cheering in the stands remained the same.

In recent Blackhawks' fashion, Joel Quenneville's team took an early 2-0 lead, off a goal each from Marian Hossa (one of the hottest players on the planet right now -- six goals in six games for Big Hoss) and Andrew Shaw, before relinquishing the lead right back. When the final horn sounded in regulation, the game was tied 4-4 and back came those memories from last year's playoff run.

The only downside here was the inevitability of a shootout and not a never-ending possibility of multiple 20-minute overtimes (another story for another time). In the end, the Red Wings collected the extra point after Darren Helm blasted one past Corey Crawford, followed by Jonas Gustavsson stonewalling Shaw in the sixth round for a 5-4 final.

The game was entertaining as ever, though somewhat frustrating for Blackhawks fans in how the team performed by way of giving up another lead. But there they were again, the Detroit Red Wings, an old foe who took the Blackhawks to the limit last season in a series no one is soon to forget.

By the time Game 7 ended last year, no one wearing a Blackhawks logo ever could have imagined playing the Red Wings again anytime soon. Series over -- get the heck out of here and to the Eastern Conference you go, please! Limiting these two teams to just two games a year might defuse the rivalry for those just now getting on board with the game, but in the end it always will be there, and it always will mean a little something.

And who knows, maybe within a few seasons these two teams could play each other an extra seven games at the end of the year: in the Stanley Cup Final. Too bad Dominick's decided to move elsewhere, too. We're eventually going to need more Pepto.

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