Blackhawks Confidential

Blackhawks vs. Sharks Tonight!

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What a difference a year makes!  365 days ago we were all gearing up for a clash of the titans.  Two teams were to meet at the HP Pavilion, winner ready to take on the title of "Best in the West."  It was Marian Hossa's debut as a Blackhawk.  NHL gurus everywhere were calling it must see tv.  Ah, the good ol' days!  Let's snap back to reality.  The Blackhawks will get their first look at the Sharks tonight, this time the winner will get to claim the title of being a .500 hockey team (Counting OT losses as L's, as they should be).  Instead of winning to prove dominance over the entire NHL, tonights victor will have a much needed W as it tries to get its season on track.  I've heard all of the Blackhawks excuses for their poor play, but what gives with the Sharks?  Are they too struggling from a lack of consistency? Or is there something more?  I know there's plenty of subplots to this game.  Western Conference Finals rematch, Niemi faces his former team, blah blah blah.  Instead of going one of those routes I want to take this opportunity to tackle a broader topic that has been on my mind.

Chicago is 11-12, San Jose is 9-10, Vancouver is 10-10, Pittsburgh is 12-10.  What gives? Going further St. Louis is 11-8, Columbus is 13-6, Dallas is 10-9,  Minnestoa is 10-9, etc.  It appears as though the "middle class" of the NHL is growing stronger and stronger with every passing game.  Are the elite teams faltering or is the salary cap creating parity that doesn't allow for any team to stand out that far above the rest?

The buzz that surrounded this Hawks vs. Sharks game last year is non-existent tonight.  Is that because both teams aren't nearly as good as last year, or is it because this season playing San Jose isn't that much different than playing Dallas or Columbus?  Minus the Flames and Oilers, only 4 points separates home ice from 13th place.

Maybe that's why we can't find consistency in the Hawks play?  It's not because their not friends or because the chemistry is gone.  Maybe the shackles of the salary cap added to the target that comes from being on top have created a very formidable task for our Hawks?

But who knows?  I feel like a hypocrite now saying it's the NHL's fault the Hawks are 11-12.  I have spent so much time harping on the Hawks it feels strange to pass on some of the blame to things out of their control.

Am I crazy to praise to the Hawks for hanging tough in a rough NHL and still being in the mix despite their lackluster performance for a majority of the season? Probably, so I won't go there.  But with Thanksgiving dinner on everyone's mind maybe it's food for thought.

A win in San Jose tonight will not crown the Hawks as the front runner for the Cup like it did last year.  The league has changed quite considerably since then.  There's probably 6-8 teams in the NHL right now capable of winning Lord Stanley this spring.  Instead of continuing to try and parallel this season with last, tonight I am going to embrace a new reality that has become apparent to me.  The days of rattling off 8 or 9 game win streaks and establishing dominance are gone.  It's time to acknowledge the up and down grind that it will take to make the playoffs this year.  Is it the Hawks fault or NHLs?  That's for you to decide....

Enjoy the Game!  Happy Thanksgiving to all you Blackhawks Confidential readers out there!  Even you OneTeam!  I always enjoy logging on to see my article got 40 comments, 37 of them from you.  Don't let Dustin Byfuglien's thrashing of your Wangs tonight ruin your holiday!        

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2 Comments

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VegasHawksFan said:

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This is actually an interesting question and I do think parity is starting to take hold. Playing so many games after losing so many guys was a big hit is tough, but the reality is that this team is not currently a top tier team.

hgfchgcy- if you are a real person, you are a douchebag.

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