Apologies for missing a couple days here, guys - life and work responsibilities kicked in a bit.
Back to the ice!
The Cats have been playing some nice hockey lately and have strung together five wins in a row. They seem to be finding ways to be competitive and win - with the comeback win over Minnesota being the most exciting in that stretch.
They’ll need this momentum heading into Chicago…
Tonight’s tilt is a special game, not only for me, but a lot of fans.
The NHL recently named Q the coach of the decade and the Blackhawks the team of the decade.
Like many Chicagoans, I watched the coaching brilliance of the mustachioed Queenville for 10 years behind the Hawks bench. Having him come back to the Chicago barn fills me with a lot of good memories and feelings.
I still remember when the announcement was made that the Hawks fired Denis Savard and replaced him with Q. I was shocked. I remember calling my dad when I got out of class and telling him I thought it was a bad move. Savard was/is a Chicago staple and Hall of Famer. Firing him seemed so strange and I knew really nothing about his replacement, aside from the fact that he had a great cookie duster and played for the Whale (always cool).
At the time, Chicago’s ship was loaded with young, promising talent and they needed a captain to lead the way. Shortly into his tenure, it was clear why Hawks brass made the decision.
Those guys needed a stoic, no-nonsense guy that was fair and could mold them into the best players they could be.
There’s no doubt that Q was a major piece in the equation that would lay the seeds that eventually blossomed into the juggernaut that put the Chicago Blackhawks back on the hockey map with three Stanley Cups.
The similarities between those Hawks teams and the current Panthers roster are close – heck, even Q said that was one of the factors that excited him about Florida.
The Windy City
This is a huge night for both sides. It’s legitimately the most anticipated game of the season for me. Both teams (and myself) had this date circled on the calendar since the schedule was released – HA!
Despite attempts to downplay it by Q and both organizations, this is going to be a night full of emotion. Chicago is a top-class organization under Rocky Wirtz and I’m expecting a really nice video tribute and welcome home for Q.
Add to that the fact that both teams have been winning lately and it should be a really fun contest.
The Hawks have looked like their former selves the lately, going 12-5-0 since December 15th. The combination of young guns the likes of Kubalik, Nylander, Gilbert, etc. and veterans like Toews (3rd Star of the Week) finding their games have really brought a boost to Chicago.
Like the Cats, they’re on a five-game winning streak and seem to be scoring at will. They’re playing a very up-tempo brand of hockey that’s fun to watch. On top of that, Kane scored his 1,000th point against Winnipeg Sunday night – becoming the 90th player in NHL history to reach that mark and making him the youngest United States-born player to reach the milestone.
Remember when I said they seem to be scoring at will? Take a look at this goal by Kubalik the other night. Awesome stuff.
So…yeah…they have some momentum going for them, too.
One of the things the Cats will need to do is figure out Chicago’s bluepaint. Both Crawford and Lehner have played really well for the Hawks this season – especially the latter. Bowman will need to find a way to move Crawford in order to make an offer to keep Lehner around. I think it would be a big loss if they fail to sign him. He really is an incredible goalie.
Tonight’s game really is the perfect time for these two teams to meet up. They’re both playing good hockey with the Cats sitting a playoff position an the Hawks fighting for one.
I never liked how Q left Chicago. I didn’t agree with the timing of the firing. I also think it put current Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton, who is young an inexperienced, in a no-win situation because Q was such a staple and fan favorite.
But now that both guys have settled into their roles, it’s going to be awesome watching them go head-to-head.
There’s no doubt that Q wants to come back and squash the Hawks and I’m sure the home team, as much as those guys love Q, don’t want to let that happen. I’m expecting a really fast/fun game.
See you at puck drop…where emotions will be running high!