Blackhawks

The tides have turned in Blackhawks-Red Wings rivalry

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The tides have turned in Blackhawks-Red Wings rivalry

For years, the Blackhawks found themselves chasing the Red Wings in an Original Six rivalry that was one-sided for roughly a decade.

Now, the tides have turned.

The Blackhawks came at the Red Wings in waves during Sunday's 4-1 win over Detroit, their second victory against their former division rival in five days.

Patrick Kane wasted no time in helping the Blackhawks jump out to a lead, ripping one past Red Wings netminder Petr Mrazek just 21 seconds into the opening frame.

"They have a great team. Great offensive team," Mrazek said. "We were trying to get ready for that, and the first 15 seconds they had the 2-on-1 that they scored and that for sure helped them in the game."

Less than six minutes later, Duncan Keith slapped home a power play goal to give the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead, which prompted Detroit head coach Jim Blashill to replace Mrazek in goal for Jimmy Howard.

It was a gutsy move that certainly appeared to work when Gustav Nyquist responded shortly after with a goal of his own, putting a halt to Chicago's momentum.

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In the second period, it was all Red Wings, who peppered the Blackhawks with 13 shots on goals while allowing only three. But they failed to capitalize on the opportunity, and the defending Stanley Cup champions made them pay.

Artem Anisimov and Jonathan Toews scored two goals in a span of 1:08 midway through the third period to put the game out of reach for the Red Wings, who slipped to the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference after Pittsburgh's win on Sunday.

"I thought the guys showed up," Mike Green said. "I thought that we played well. They're a good team. You slip for a second and they'll put it in the back of the net."

The Blackhawks scored two more power play goals on Sunday, equaling the amount they scored in Wednesday's contest against Detroit.

And that may have been the difference.

"They're very good on the power play," Blashill said of the Blackhawks, whose power play now ranks No. 1 with a 24.1 percentage rate. "That's one area that they've, we've struggled against it obviously. I think that's probably what's separated them through the season. If you look at, I saw 5-on-5 goals ... goals for and goals against were virtually no different between our teams, but their power play has been really good.

"Corey Crawford has been real great in net and they've got real quick-strike offense and if you make mistakes, they can certainly make you pay."

[MORE: Corey Crawford, Blackhawks shut down Red Wings]

The Blackhawks, by far, lead the league in wins (36) when scoring the game's first goal and continued their run when leading after two periods since the start of the 2014-15 season, including playoffs, to 65-0-2.

It's been a key ingredient to the Blackhawks' success over the last seven years, which has resulted in three Stanley Cups and five Conference Final appearances, a familiar dominance last seen by the Red Wings.

The Red Wings haven't missed the postseason in 24 years, the longest active streak by any of the four major North American pro sports leagues. They're also the last team in NHL history to repeat as champions, accomplished in 1997 and 1998. 

The Blackhawks are seeking to become the first team to do that in the salary cap era, and once aspired to be in Detroit's shoes.

Is it the other way around now?

Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterman said "we don't look at it that way," but Tomas Tatar admitted it's hard not to want to emulate the Blackhawks.

"To be honest, I love playing against them," Tatar said. "They play nice hockey. I think that's how every team should be playing. They're really offensive, they're having fun out there, they're just fun to play against. Their (defensemen) are really joining the rushes, and that's what makes them really good."

[RELATED: Five Things: Blackhawks' Patrick Kane hits milestone]

Although the rivalry took a bit of a turn in 2013-14 when the realignment forced the Red Wings to change conferences, it's still alive and well, and should be for a while.

Dylan Larkin was dubbed "The Next Jonathan Toews" in February's edition of The Hockey News magazine.

Andreas Athanasiou scored a highlight-reel goal over the weekend against Dallas, and nearly did the same in the first period of Sunday's game when he maneuvered his way past Brent Seabrook and Erik Gustafsson.

Tatar is young enough where his best days are still ahead of him. Same with Nyquist. So there's no reason to believe that the Red Wings will fall off the grid any time soon.

But for now, it's the Blackhawks' time to enjoy their spotlight.

"They have really good structure right now," Tatar said. "They have a few players that have been the franchise players for them and they've just been playing really good. And the last six years, they've been really successful."

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”