Detroit and Columbus Give Blackhawks two Divisional Mountains to Climb

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When I covered the 2009 NHL Western Conference Finals, I saw firsthand when the Detroit Red Wings soundly defeated the Chicago Blackhawks. Actually, I saw Detroit own Chicago the way Goldman Sachs owns the United States government, and it made me realize the only way the Blackhawks were ever going to win the Cup was if they did during a Detroit down year.

Sure enough last year, the Hawks peaked before the implosion of salary cap grenade, and at the same exact time Detroit suffered a ton of broken wings. But now that those Wings have all healed, and the road back to the top of division goes through the Motor City; and Columbus too.

I don’t see St. Louis or Nashville as a legitimate threat, but if the Hawks are goign to turn this epitome of mediocrity that is 2010-11 into a worthwhile season, they’ll have get past both the Red Wings and the Blue Jackets.

By Paul M. Banks

We know the Red Wings will be there. They always are, like the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA, the New York Yankees in MLB and Duke in college basketball.

But now the Hawks have to contend with the Jackets too. They’re solid, and Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock agrees:

“I like their team and I thought the same thing for three years. They were a playoff team, and Mase came off it a bit last year and they had a ton of injuries and things didn’t go as good, but the thing I’d say is there’s growth there. Dorestt’s gotten to be a better player, Brassard and Voracek have gotten to be better players. And to me they have a really good back end,” Babcock said.

Detroit defeated Columbus last Friday night, and the game was indicative of what CBJ needs to- improve their power play percentage. They had 6 power plays and converted zero of them.

“I think we’re a dangerous team right now, but yeah a good power play that can capitalize is definitely a weapon,” Jackets defenseman Mike Commodore said.

“It keeps the other team on their toes a little bit, they want to stay out of the penalty box, maybe play a little diferent that way.”

And it will also help Columbus if they work on developing their puck possession game more.

“If you look at the teams that have won the last few years, Chicago, Detroit, they control the puck. Sometimes you have to get rid of it and sometimes there’s no play, and sometimes you have to have the moxie and wherewithall to know when to do that. But I think it’s coming here, we’re playing well,” Commodore said.

Good use of the word moxie. That’s a word I’d like to hear much more often.

The Hawks have a huge problem in that miss Andrew Ladd “like the deserts miss the rain,” if I can quote one of the most popular dance songs of the 1990s. And because Stan Bowman made a fire sale of 1992 San Diego Padres proportions, forward depth in Chicago has been thinner than Calista Flockhart on ephedra.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

He also does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports Radio.com

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