There was a time where the roles were reversed in this former rivalry. In a 4-1 victory for the Chicago Blackhawks over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night, Chicago used to play in Detroit's role. That role is of the inferior team that controlled play for a good portion of time, then ultimately faltered when the superior team team in Chicago decides to put it away in the waning moments. On the back of 33 saves on 34 shots by Corey Crawford, as well as two points each for Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov, the Blackhawks decided to take this game when they wanted to.
The Hawks came out firing in the first period. Just 21 seconds in, Patrick Kane led a breakaway and fired a wrister from the right circle past Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek to make it 1-0. It was Kane's 89th point of the year, a new career high as he pushes for the Art Ross and a possible Hart trophy. Michal Rozsival received his 300th career NHL point for the only assist on the goal to add to the growing list of milestones for these Hawks.
A little under six minutes later, Duncan Keith would tally a power play goal, his ninth of the season, giving the Hawks the early two goal advantage. The strike came off of excellent sustained pressure by the Blackhawks second line of Panarin, Anisimov, and Kane. This was the fourth straight game where the Hawks have scored on the man advantage as they now also possess the NHL's best power play, percentage wise. For all of the criticisms in the past, it's a unit that's been on fire for the most part all season, due to the additions of skill guys like Panarin, Anisimov, etc.
Just two minutes after, a turnover by Trevor van Riemsdyk, allowed Danny DeKeyser to set up Gustav Nyquist for a prime opportunity where he ripped it past Crawford to slice that lead in half.
Poor play and sloppy passing from the second half of the first period bled into the second for the Hawks, as Detroit thoroughly dominated the middle frame. Chicago had zero shots on goal for the first 15 minutes, and had just three overall in the period as the Red Wings attempted to take control. The Hawks taking three penalties in the time will also never help. However Corey Crawford was a wall as usual and ultimately set up Chicago to put this one away in the third.
With the Hawks waking up a bit in the final frame, they would add a second power play goal off an Anisimov redirect of a Panarin shot to take the lead back up to 3-1. The 27 year-old Anisimov needs just four goals for a new career high. A minute later, Jonathan Toews would then tip one in off a Andrew Desjardins shot, his 24th on the season, putting the game on ice at 4-1.
Effectively despite whatever struggles the Hawks had in being outshot 34-26 in a game where they weren't at their best, it spoke volumes of their capacity to make the most of key opportunities. The Red Wings aren't a prime contender, but they have more than a solid roster. Sweeping the season series and arguably dominating this team is quite the accomplishment as the Blackhawks look to get in a groove in the stretch run with their new players and pieces.
Crawford was the first star of the game in picking up his 35th win of the season, 2nd in the NHL, as he pushes for Ed Belfour's all time mark in season wins for the Hawks, with 43. It's truly becoming another season to remember for the 31-year-old stalwart in net.
Chicago improves to 41-21-5 this season, as they currently sit tied for 1st place with the Dallas Stars in the Central Division. The Blackhawks have a tough stretch coming up with road games against the Blues and Stars, as well as a home contest against the Kings, so all of these points are crucial.
Marian Hossa will be expected to make his return and give the Hawks a full compliment of their lineup, as they head to the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Wednesday night. Puck drop for that one is set for 7:00 p.m. CT.
Robert Zeglinski is a staff writer and contributor for Second City Hockey and No Coast Bias. He is currently the sports editor at Aurora University. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski