Need to know: Wings-Hawks was year's best

There was a lot to digest while watching the frenzied action at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday afternoon. Big picture, the Chicago Blackhawks continue to amaze with their speed and their attention to detail. When Detroit took a 1-0 lead early in the third period and the clock was ticking down toward what appeared to be the dagger in the Blackhawks’ record streak, you might have expected the Hawks to sag just a little. But even with the Wings pressing for the insurance marker, the Blackhawks didn’t buckle. With Corey Crawford standing tall (he stopped 32 of 33 shots to run his record to 10-0-3), the Blackhawks pressured the Wings into a late delay-of-game penalty and then Patrick Kane whipped home the tying goal with 2:02 left in regulation after a heads-up play by Viktor Stalberg to negate a Wings clearing attempt. Kane then juked his way to the winner in the shootout and bingo, the Blackhawks are 19-0-3.

The game might have been the most entertaining we’ve seen in this lockout-shortened season and while the Wings are not the Wings of old and a playoff spot is by no means assured (they’re tied with four other teams with 24 points and were technically in eighth place as of Monday morning, based on the tie-breaking system), this one had a definite playoff feel to it.

Although there might have been 20 or 25 glorious scoring chances combined, the player who once again stood out was Kane. He simply looks faster and more confident than we've seen the former rookie of the year look in a long time. We all know the various ups and downs of his brief career: the Cup-winning goal in 2010, the silver medal at the Olympics, the reports of partying, brushes with the law. Sunday, though, it was hard not to imagine that this is a young man who is finally getting it and he is full value for the Hart Trophy discussion that surrounds him at the halfway point.

Finally, as this terrific tilt wound its way to its conclusion, you had to wonder if the fans at Joe Louis Arena had a moment of nostalgia for what will be lost as the Blackhawks will remain in the Western Conference and Detroit will be headed for the (bloated) Eastern Conference if the league has its way with realignment. We already know Chicago fans and the team itself won’t be happy to bid adieu to their longtime rivals, especially after a tilt like Sunday’s.