For decades, the Detroit Red Wings were the toughest kids on the block.
Their players had names like Yzerman and Federov and Lidstrom and Zetterberg. They poached a beloved Blackhawks defenseman named Chelios. Ring a bell?
All told, the mighty Wings won four Stanley Cup titles during an 11-season span from 1997 to 2008. That increased the Wings’ championship count to 11 in total, which trailed only the Montreal Canadiens (25) and Toronto Maple Leafs (13).
Meanwhile, the Hawks languished.
From 1997 to 2008, the Hawks reached the playoffs only once. That happened in 2002, when the St. Louis Blues knocked them off in five games in the opening round.
Times have changed.
The Hawks no longer are weaklings. In fact, they’re pretty strong.
When the puck drops today at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, the Hawks will aim to extend their history-making streak against one of their most bitter rivals.
At 18-0-3, the Hawks have not lost in regulation time through the first 21 games of the season. Including the end of last season, the Hawks have earned at least one point in 27 consecutive games, which is eight shy of the all-time record set by the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers.
“This is pretty amazing being part of a run like this,” said Hawks forward Viktor Stalberg, who is one of seven players on the team with at least five goals this season. “But it seems like it hasn’t gotten to our heads at all.”
The powerhouse Wings of the previous decade used to get into the Hawks’ heads, but that does not seem to be the case anymore. The Hawks beat the Wings, 2-1, on Jan. 27 at the United Center thanks to Nick Leddy’s game-winning goal in overtime.
That win marked the latest evidence of a power shift in the rivalry.
Since the Hawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, they are 9-2-2 against the Wings. Their .692 winning percentage during that span is the best of any decade of the rivalry, far exceeding the 2000s (.386), the 1990s (.308) and 1980s (.493).
Yet Hawks coach Joel Quenneville knows better than to underestimate the Wings, who have won three of their past four games to improve to 10-8-3 this season.
Quenneville said he had a good idea of what to expect today in Detroit.
“A hungry team,” Quenneville said. “They’ll be ready, for sure. [It’s] the first time in their building, so it will be a great challenge, a great test.
“Let’s be ready.”