Hockey Correspondent and Occasional Shakespeare Character, White Cover Magazine
There was a part of me – I dunno, at maybe the 10 minutes mark of the second period or so – that looked at the TV, heard Bob Cole’s voice, and got a little nostalgic for that large chunk of time in the mid-to-late-2000s, a time when the Detroit Red Wings were so far above every other NHL team on an average winter’s day.
I watched this version of the Wings – this No. 7, 2013 version – hold their own against what was supposed to be a potent Blackhawks attack. I watched Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg control the puck like Chicago was Tampa. I watched Jimmy Howard turns waves of red-sweatered shots away. I saw the grit of the Detroit Red Wings – Justin Abdelkader and Daniel Cleary, among others – out work their Chi City counterparts.
And then, reality was restored.
The Blackhawks turned it on in the third period, and that’s putting it lightly. Patrick Kane started holding the puck a little longer and with more fever. Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa weren’t afraid to shoot or stickhandle. David Bolland got annoying and Duncan Keith didn’t look alone at the blue line.
Chicago peppered Jimmy Howard, and Detroit’s walls caved in.
First, Patrick Sharp hit Jonny Oduya in the slot, and Oduya made it 2-1.
Then, more pressure in front of Detroit’s net led to a Marcus Kruger shovel-backhand to the top corner.
And, finally, Sharp swished home an easy empty netter.
4-1, your final score. 1-0, Chicago leads the series.
It dawned on me – and not for the first time, don’t worry – that these Blackhawks really are that good. That the Vancouver Canucks – if they had somehow made it by San Jose – would have been no match for their old rivals in Twenty Thirteen.
That Detroit was still Detroit, but that this Hawks team was maybe better than the Wings ever were.
Some part of me still treats Datsyuk and Zetterberg like they’re young, because I remember when they were on the heels of their greying teammates, Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan.
Of course, the real youngsters right now are Toews and Kane and, very soon, some other team will load themselves up with twin rockets who can dangle and win Cups like those two Hawks can.
We still haven’t yet realized just how good Corey Crawford is, and we may not ever. When Chicago won their Cup in 2010, most folks didn’t even realize how solid Antti Niemi was in their crease. They still don’t, because Niemi is backstopping the Sharks to a defensive-minded playoff run.
Chicago is still far from guaranteed a Stanley Cup appearance, or even a win in this series. Detroit is still good enough to catch them napping, as are Los Angeles and San Jose. And, don’t forget about the Eastern Conference, because chances are Boston or Pittsburgh will be waiting with clenched fists and sharpened skates at the end.
But, right now, these Chicago Blackhawks are a special group to watch. I hope you take the time to enjoy them while you can.