|10-4-5, 25 points||17-3-1, 35 points|
|2nd in Central||1st in Pacific|
CSN Bay Area
Consider for a moment the new NHL- a league fixated on the notion that higher-scoring games lead to more revenue at the box office, where speed through the neutral zone is necessary for success, a place where young playmakers are thrown into the limelight and expected to deliver at the highest level.
With all of these in mind, take a look at the Chicago Blackhawks. The youngest team in the NHL this year (25.65 average age), the Hawks are loaded with burgeoning superstars. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are just a few of the notables skating in Chicago this season- an impressive short list that speaks volumes about the benefit of being inept since the late nineties.
A quick glance at the current Sharks roster yields the same results, albeit with a slight amount of tinkering. Assuming that Jeremy Roenick and Rob Blake are not in the long term plans of San Jose (a relatively safe assumption considering their age and respective one-year contracts), we see some striking similarities in both teams makeup.
Rounding out to a youthful 26.1 years of age, the current Sharks roster is (as it has been in the previous three seasons) built for the long haul. Devin Setoguchi, Joe Pavelski, Christian Ehrhoff, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are players who, although they might not get as much media attention as Kane or Toews, deserve serious consideration as the new faces of the NHL marketing machine. You don't inspire an All-Star voting campaign based solely off a great nickname, and you don't win a championship at every competitive level you've played just by being a nice guy to have around.
For the sake of comparison, a look at the statistics compiled during this season for all the previously mentioned players:
- The goals and assists column may seem to be favoring San Jose's young guns by a noticeable margin, but keep in mind that the Sharks as a whole have potted 80 goals compared to 71 from the Blackhawks (while playing two more games).
- All the skaters log minutes good enough to be in the top seven on their team. The only exception to this is Setoguchi, who's apparently making the most out of his limited ice time. Keith and Vlasic both lead their respective squads in this category.
- GF/60 (goals for while on ice at even strength over sixty minutes) yields a number that seems to give the edge to Kane & Co. The only rebuttal I would offer is that Setoguchi is the lone Shark to get consistent ice time with heavy point-producers (Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle), while all four Hawks players skate on the top line with one another. On the flip side, the case can be made that the Hawks are put up against tougher defensive lines.
- GA/60 is about as close as you can get.
Do you see where I'm going with this?
The Blackhawks haven't been a serious contender for quite some time, and yet the potential for a rivalry is brewing. The 6-5 win in Chicago was a good indicator that both teams can skate, both can score in droves, and both are able to recover from being down a couple goals. Talented youth in both cities should keep those ideals intact for the future. Brian Campbell's contract will fuel the media. Doug Wilson's ties to Chicago provide a nice backstory.
All we need now is a playoff series.
Prediction: Sharks win 4-2. Goals by Pavelski, Boyle, and Big Joe (x2). Brian Campbell gets booed, and while it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, it sure makes you smile.