Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Sharp celebrates his hat trick with Duncan Keith (2) during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Newark, N.J. The Blackhawks won 5-3. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Updated: January 17, 2014 4:12PM
Talk to the Blackhawks players and they’ll tell you they’re well prepared heading into any game not only because of how they practice but whom they practice with on the ice.
Still there may be no greater test of that assertion than playing the Ducks on Friday night at the United Center.
These two teams aren’t exactly mirror images of each other, but are pretty darn close at least in one respect.
Patrick Sharp characterized a Ducks team that is playing historically well as one that is patient with the puck and that likes to keep the puck. Well, so are the Hawks.
There isn’t a statistic that tracks time of possession. But if there was, there isn’t a match up in which it would be more crucial.
“Fast starts are important, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing,” Sharp said. “But they do a good job of making it tough to score goals and get to that net and they like to handle the puck a lot as well.”
With both teams jockeying for first place in the Western Conference—the Ducks led the Hawks by six points for the top spot heading into Friday night—their match up at the United Center had multiple implications beyond Friday.
Could it be that these two teams are trendsetters for how teams will have to play in order to win? That can only be determined over several seasons.
But with some three months left in the regular season and these two teams shaping up as the class of the Western Conference, it appears that style of play could dictate who makes it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2014.
“They’ve got a lot of skilled guys throughout the lineup,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “Their first three lines can score a lot of goals so we’ve got to play really solid defensively.
“As long as you have the puck you they can’t score goals so we’re going to try to have the puck as much as possible and put it in their end and try to cycle them and create chances, shoot a lot, and keep doing our thing.”
It’s the Ducks thing too. Just a matter of who does it better.