File this one under crazy ironies. Or, under the fact that I have no life.
On more than one occasion this year, I’ve said this Blackhawks team is the best the organization has seen since the 1994-’95 squad. During the strike-shortened season, the ‘Hawks went all the way to the Western Conference Finals before bowing out against the Detroit Red Wings. Other than talent level, I didn’t think there was anything else in common with these two teams. Little did I know. Care to see?
–Both teams lost key offensive players to knee injuries against the Dallas Stars. In the 33rd game of the 94-95 season, Jeremy Roenick had his knee blown out by Derian Hatcher. Roenick was able to return for the playoffs that season but Hatcher effectively ruined his career. This Valentine’s Day against the Stars, Patrick Sharp did……something to his knee. What he did exactly we have no idea, but he didn’t blow it out and Derian Hatcher was not involved. This can only mean good things.
–Both teams suffered through horrendous losing streaks towards the end of the season. Though I wouldn’t call this current stretch of suck for the Blackhawks horrendous, it is their worst of the season. Despite the fact they still haven’t lost three games in a row all season, they have lost 7 of their last 10 games. The ’94-’95 squad laughs at such streaks. That team went on a 13-game winless streak (0-10-3) before winning the last five games of the season. During the winless streak that spanned nearly a month, the team never scored more than 3 goals. So before you step out on that ledge, realize that it can always get worse.
–The key trade deadline deal for both teams was a third line defensive checking center. And no, I do not consider Gerald Diduck to be a major deadline acquisition. The ‘Hawks acquired Murray Craven when they shipped out the immortal Christian Ruutu. Although Craven had way better career stats than I remembered, he was brought here to win some face-offs, kill penalties, and shut down the opposition’s top line. Even though Sammy Pahlsson has yet to suit up for the ‘Hawks, he was brought here for the same reasons. Good news, the Sammy Pahlsson Blackhawk era begins this week!! Alas, that news is far too relevant, I’m too busy making weird connections between two teams 15 years apart.
–When the ‘Hawks locked up the 4th seed in the Western Conference, they squared off against the Toronto Maple Leafs. You remember them, right? They used to play in the same division as the ‘Hawks. One of the best rivalries in the game. Anyways, the Leafs were led by a 23 year-old Swedish beast named Mats Sundin. These days, the ‘Hawks looked destined to face-off against the Vancouver Canucks. Whether they hold on to the 4th seed remains to be seen, but that isn’t the crazy coincidence. What is is that Vancouver is led by a now 38 year-old Mats Sundin. After struggling to fit in the first month, the team has taken off, cutting a once seemingly insurmountable ‘Hawks ten point lead to two in a matter of a couple weeks.
–During the off-season, the ‘Hawks signed veteran Bernie Nicholls to anchor their power play. The ‘Hawks were notoriously a pathetic power play unit even with Jeremy Roenick, Chris Chelios, and Gary Suter. With Nicholls, the ‘Hawks became a top 5 unit. In the past decade, there has been more talent on AHL power play units than the ‘Hawks. This past summer, they signed ace Brian Campbell to turn a weakness into a strength. He’s done exactly that. The ‘Hawks have been in the top 10 of power plays the majority of the year. Despite his obvious defensive shortcomings, Campbell has been all that was promised.
So what does all this nonsense mean? Probably just that. Does this mean this year’s team is destined to go all the way to the Western Conference Finals? Who knows, but if they do, I can add another crazy coincidence to the list and I can fall even farther into the land of the insane.
–Be on the look out tomorrow for the link to our PuckCast with Hockee Night. We covered a smorgasbord of topics including Foley, retired Rangers, mustaches, and Nickelback.