The Blackhawks face off tonight (Blackhawks tickets available here) against one of the surprise teams of the NHL this year in the Avalanche. Colorado got off to a red hot start this season winning their first six games and currently sport a 14-5-0 record. With the Avalanche lurking right behind the Blackhawks for first place in the Central Division, here are five reasons why tonight’s matchup will be the beginning of the next great Hawks rivalry.
Both the Blackhawks and the Avalanche are relatively young teams. The Hawks average age is 28.019 years old while the Avalanche average out at 27.370. The core players on both teams are very young with long careers ahead of them. Toews, Kane, Keith, and Seabrook will be going up against the likes of Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly, and Nathan Mackinnon for years to come providing both teams a familiarity that is sure to get under each others skins.
2.) The Captains
When Jonathan Toews was named the Blackhawks captain in 2008, he became the third youngest player to ever captain a team. The first? Gabriel Landeskog. Described by many analysts as “Toews-Lite”, Landeskog’s leadership and all-around game elevates the play of his teammates and there is a noticeable difference to the Avalanche’s play without him in the lineup. Given the age of Toews and Landeskog as well as their consistent ranking as top all-around players in the league, the rivalry between the two will enhance the play of both teams as these stars try to outshine the other.
The Avalanche are one of the few teams that are able to keep up with the up-tempo style of play of the Blackhawks. They have been a team that has given the Hawks a fit in recent years by successfully engaging in track meets. Unlike many teams that get worn out by the speed of the Blackhawks, the Avalanche are able to match this style of play and force the Blackhawks to adjust their game.
Joel Quenneville and Patrick Roy are on opposite ends of the coaching spectrum when it comes to style of play and personality. Quenneville has instilled a defensive mindset for the Hawks by making forwards responsible for covering d-men when they engage in the play and making sure he gets the line matchups on he wants on the ice to neutralize opponents offenses. The Avalanche on the other hand have relied on an offense first style of play. With a suspect defense, their exceptional talent at the forward position is dangerous and allows them to bring an all out offensive assault on opponents.
Coach Q is a relatively quiet coach offering up ambiguous statements about the play and condition of his players. Patrick Roy on the other hand? The video below shows what type of personality he brings.
5.) Division Rivals
These teams will be seeing each other a lot with the recent divisional realignment. Given the age of their cores, both teams styles of play, and their leadership, the recipe is there for a great rivalry. Up-tempo play is the recipe for exciting hockey and both teams are able to bring this on any given night.