Inside the Rivalry: Chicago Blackhawks
We are taking a look at what makes each division rivalry so much fun.
For years, the Predators were always playing catch up to the Detroit Red Wings. Once they moved to the east, most Preds' fans, including myself, thought the division would be wide open and up for grabs. Needless to say, I was dead wrong. The Chicago Blackhawks are now the big brother of the Central division. They may not be winning the division every year, but they are always in the mix, and always seeming to torture the Predators in the process (with the exception of last year). They have built a team that will contend for years to come and will not slow down for anyone who gets in their way.
For this one, I have decided to enlist the help of fellow staff writer (and Blackhawks expert) Braden Thompson to help me out. Let's dive right in!
Record against Chicago in 2013-2014: 4-1-0
Anish: The Predators, in the mid 2000's, seemed like a team that was on the rise. They were making all the right moves in the off season (both through free agency and the draft). The organization wanted to make it a point that they weren't going to be pushed around anymore. David Poile did a great job by drafting Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, and also signing Paul Kariya, Jason Arnott, and acquiring Steve Sullivan in a trade from the Blackhawks. The Predators had the upper hand in the rivalry for a good amount of time. That all started to change when Chicago drafted Jonathan Toews in 2006 and Patrick Kane in 2007. Ever since their rookie season in 2007, the Blackhawks have seem to have the advantage in the series.
Braden: Full disclosure, I have been a Chicago Blackhawks fan since I was six. I couldn't be more excited to cover the Predators this year, and I've become very excited and intrigued by this team...but yeah I'm also a Hawks fan. FYI, you can be both a Hawks and Preds fan because the world doesn't have to make sense. Now that we have that out of the way, I have to agree with Anish on the history here. The Blackhawks were an embarrassment of a franchise for years up until they were able to draft Toews and Kane in consecutive drafts. In fact, their years of toiling in the basement of the league is basically what allowed them to become the team they are today. Before Chicago's rise in the 2008-09 season, Nashville was a team with much more promise. Before 2003, Nashville never appeared as a serious threat, but from 2003-2008 Nashville was the better team hands down. Recent history is a little more murky as the 2010 playoff matchup turned out to be less of a cakewalk than Chicago fans would like to admit. With Chicago firmly entrenched as a cup contender and Nashville as a team on an upward trend of possession and skill, I wouldn't be surprised to see this rivalry take off again in the near future.
Most Hated Player
Anish: This is a tough one for me. I, personally, don't really have a hatred for anyone in particular on this current team. If i have to choose though, I am going with Marian Hossa (out of pure respect mostly). I only say Hossa because he seems to always find his scoring touch against the Preds. Not only that, but his goals come at clutch moments for the Blackhawks. Again, this hatred comes strictly from him always finding a way to crush the hopes of all Preds' fans.
Braden: If it were a year ago, I would say Patric Hornqvist. He never put up head turning point totals, but he was an effective, tough power forward who had a knack for getting under the skin of players and fans alike. On the current roster, the most hated player has to be Shea Weber. As a great player on an opposing team, it's easy to dislike Weber. He's got an absolutely venomous shot from the point and is a top-5 defenseman in the league. Basically, he's easy to hate because he's so good.
Best Game From Last Season
Anish: This has to be the tilt between these two teams on April 12th, 2014. A high scoring, fast paced affair that left the fans in awe and in complete hockey bliss. A back and forth match that didn't have a clear cut favorite until the very end. Not a great game for the goalies, but from a fan's perspective, who doesn't enjoy seeing 12 goals scored in a game. I could watch the highlights for this game over and over again, but I'll let you guys enjoy it for now.
Braden: As a former (and current) Hawks fan, I have only one choice as best game from last season. To be honest, the game on December 17th, 2014 was a pretty dull affair. A great blast from Weber and some "Showtime" from Patrick Kane are really the only noteworthy events from this game. Anish's choice is probably the best game, but for the sake of not following his lead again and to see how crazy the comments get about me being a Hawks fan writing for a Preds blog, I'm sticking with the only Hawks win over the Preds from last season.
The Moment This Became A Rivalry
Anish: I think the moment that the Blackhawks drafted Toews and Kane is when this really started to become a rivalry. For years prior to that draft, Chicago struggled to stay relevant in the division. With no major star power, the Blackhawks needed a change badly. In come Toews and Kane, and the rest is history. Games started to become more competitive and trips up to the United Center weren't guaranteed victories any more. I mean, you can't even count games at Bridgestone as a victory any more as well. With the Predators reloading their team with fresh faces throughout, I look forward to seeing what this rivalry has in store for us in the future.
Braden: The most vivid memory of this becoming a true rivalry in my eyes was the 2010 playoff series between these two teams. Despite being heavily favored, Chicago struggled against a disciplined and underrated Nashville squad. Who knows how the series would have panned out had the Predators just played four corners on the power play to end regulation. Going back to Nashville down 3-2 would have been no easy task. In my opinion, this was the toughest series for Chicago before the finals.