On Thursday, the Chicago Blackhawks head a few hours east to play their first game of the 2009-10 season against the Detroit Red Wings.
The game has changed in the past 12 months between these two historic rivals. No longer are the Blackhawks the laughable younger brother who tries to put up a decent fight. Detroit was pressed by Chicago in the Western Conference Finals last year, and weren’t able to roll over the Hawks as easily during the regular season.
This summer, the Blackhawks took a big risk and signed Marian Hossa away from the Red Wings. He was Detroit’s leading goal scorer last year, and brings two consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup Finals to Chicago in exchange for a long-term deal.
The Blackhawks also signed Tomas Kopecky away from Detroit. Kopecky was second on Detroit in hits last year.
Detroit also rolled the dice this summer. They lost Hossa, Kopecky, Jiri Hudler and Ty Conklin, and didn’t replace one of them with a veteran free agent.
Now, after both teams started their seasons overseas, the roles are strangely different than they have been in recent history.
The Blackhawks blew three leads in their first game and lost in a shoot out before winning their second game in regulation. Those three points are three more than Detroit has coming home.
The Hawks scored seven goals in their two games, allowing just four. The Red Wings were outscored nine to six in their two games to begin the season.
The Red Wings are also converting only 20 percent of their power play opportunities, while they’ve been victimized nearly half the time they were shorthanded (55.6% PK).
To the contrary, the Hawks have converted 37.5 percent of their power play opportunities, and have killed all of their opponents’ power plays.
Yes, it’s only been two games, but the signs are pointing up for the Blackhawks and they’re ambiguous for the Wings. In this first game between the two this season, one could make a strong statement to begin a new year.