Nearly a decade has passed since Patrick Kane was selected first overall at the 2007 NHL entry draft by the Chicago Blackhawks. Since then, they have been renowned as the NHL’s premier powerhouse. While it’s impossible to win the Stanley Cup every year, Chicago never seems to be a bad bet.
Equipped with the skill, intelligence, experience and coaching necessary to win, it would appear that Chicago is yet again unstoppable.
Hold your horses.
Monday night offered hockey fans a glimpse at just what might be another Western Conference heavyweight matchup. Kings v Hawks. While the tension took hold of the atmosphere immediately, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. What was surprising was the score.
Los Angles put 5 goals past Corey Crawford and the vaunted Blackhawks defense. Not impressed? Well, the game was also in Chicago or “The Madhouse on Madison”. Adding to it all, Chicago’s attack was relentless all game long which speaks miles to the performance of Johnathan Quick, who recorded his 41st career shutout, which is an American born goaltending record.
Breaking records on its own is an extremely special feeling, made that much sweeter against one of your top rivals. You see, this wasn’t the Minnesota Wild or the Carolina Hurricanes, it was the Chicago Blackhawks, in their own building.
For Los Angeles, a team which has been building traction in the West since the trade deadline, this was unanimously considered a statement game. Without a doubt, it turned a lot of heads, and put the Kings right back in the thick of things in the championship discussion.
Via John Buccigross’ twitter, the Chicago Blackhawks over the past two seasons have been shutout the 3rd most league wide at 15 times. Buffalo is number one at 20, and Toronto follows suit at 17. Not exactly elite company.
The major difference being Chicago has raised three banners since 2010 and neither of those previously stated teams have raised a single one in my lifetime.
In the latter portion of Monday nights trouncing, both Dustin Brown and Tyler Taffoli knotted goals, which made very little difference on the outcome of the game, but should be considered more symbolic. They both had been experiencing long goal droughts and with those tallies, they should shake their funk off.
While it’s not set in stone that these two teams will go head to head late in the playoffs, it’s certainly something to root for.
Both 2013 and 2014 Western Conference finals matchups between the two are fit for the memory books. 2016’s installment could be the nastiest of them all. Remember Dale Weise tormenting Milan Lucic so much so in the 2014 playoffs as a member of the Canadians that Lucic violated sacred hockey morals in the handshake line? Well, you could see those two square up once again if both teams go the distance. Which would be fantastic.
Adding to an already boiling pot would be former Blackhawk wing Kris Versteeg, now a member of the Kings. Versteeg has been quite the journey man since winning a Cup in Chicago in 2010. His triumphant return in 2015 saw him capture his second ring. But now as a member of the hated Kings, he’ll most likely be viewed as a Benedict Arnold rather than a John Kennedy.
Rob Scuderi and Christian Ehroff have played some important hockey in their long careers. Scuderi is famous for being on the receiving end of a 5 minute game misconduct call in game 6 of the 2012 Stanley Cup finals against the Devils, which the Kings scored repeatedly on en route to their first ever Cup championship.
Ehroff was a part of the 2011 Vancouver Canucks who lost in game 7 to the Boston Bruins, and was an integral part of their power play unit. However, he fell out of Vancouver’s trust circle and wound up crunching his timesheet in Buffalo. X amount of years later, he signs a one year deal with Los Angeles for pennies on his previous contract in Buffalo’s dollar.
So what do they have in common? They were dealt straight up for one another at this year’s trade deadline. Scuderi returning to LA and Ehroff heading to the windy city.
Regardless of who plays who and where, this year’s playoffs are shaping up to be one to remember. If the fantasy matchup of Hawks v Kings is going to come to fruition, the Hawks will need to beat the Stars. On the other side, the Kings will need to do away with the Ducks. Neither of which appears to be a simplistic task.
Hey, a man can dream, right?
But, for God sakes, can we do away with the stereotype of the Western Conference finals being better than the actual Cup final? Asking for a friend.