Sunday’s matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings was as dry and unremarkable a game between the two teams as we have seen in years. The 4-1 win for Chicago contained little in the way of drama or intrigue, a sharp contrast to what fans are typically treated to when the Blackhawks and Red Wings meet up.
Certainly some of this air of boredom was attributable to Detroit’s two best players, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, both being out with injury along with several other key roster players. More distressing than the sluggish on-ice product, however, was the utterly tame atmosphere surrounding the game from puck drop until the end.
It was inevitable, really. The NHL‘s wide-sweeping realignment following the 2012-13 season drastically changed the landscape of the league and moved the Red Wings (among others) to the Eastern Conference, separate from Chicago in the West. The two longtime rivals now only meet twice each year, and we can already see the results.
Specifically, I speak of the decline in intensity (among fans and players) in games between Chicago and Detroit. The absence of emotion was palpable in Monday’s game; the Chicago faithful who have so gleefully heckled the Red Wings every time they come to the United Center were uncharacteristically meek, despite their Blackhawks dominating the game from start to finish.
It is exceedingly unfortunate that realignment seems to have sapped the strength of such a powerful rivalry, one consisting of two teams that have matched up against one another more than any other twosome in the NHL’s history.
Both teams will find new areas to fixate animosity, no doubt, but there will be no replacing what used to be.