Weekend Takeaways: How Chicago came to celebrate Chelios, but cheered for Kane

Detroit Red Wings' Patrick Kane celebrates after scoring the winning goal against Chicago Blackhawks goalie Petr Mrazek to win in overtime of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, in Chicago. (Paul Beaty/AP)

You wonder if, 10 years from now, Sunday evening’s game at the United Center in Chicago will be one it seems like 250,000 people attended.

You know how it goes; sports fans will be feeling it at a bar, playing a round of “Remember When” and suddenly every second person in the Second City will be saying he or she was there the night they lifted Chris Chelios’ No. 7 to the rafters and Patrick Kane returned to score an overtime goal that both Red Wings and Blackhawks fans cheered with equal vigour.

There might be a math problem with so many people claiming an on-site viewing, but you can’t blame anybody for wanting a piece of the magic we saw in Illinois on Sunday.

Because, even from the couch, that’s absolutely what it felt like.

This was a major-market fêting — after a long wait — a native son, while simultaneously welcoming back a true franchise-, league- and country-defining talent on Hockey Day in America.

Sixty-two-year-old Chris Chelios looked dynamite in his all-black suit and Patrick Kane looked even better on the ice, scoring not just an extra-time winner, but a vintage Kane snipe that came after he had all day to shuffle the puck a few times on a breakaway before zinging it past Petr Mrazek’s glove hand.

Once upon a time, in his heyday with the Hawks, I wrote that Kane — when he pulls up inside the blue line and surveys the scene — looks like a golfer waggling his iron from 150 yards out before sticking the ball three feet from the hole.

And, boy oh boy, do those hands still work.

Kane, who also picked up an assist versus Chicago, has 14 points in his past 10 outings as his hip surgery fades further and further into the background.

He’s a three-time Cup champ who’s won both regular season and playoff MVP awards and will almost certainly end his career as the highest-scoring American player of all-time.

But as much as a day like Sunday is cause for a zoom out, the here and now is a huge part of this story. Kane is helping another Original Six team get back on its feet, as the Wings are winning their way to a spot where their first post-season appearance since 2016 is almost starting to seem locked in.

A healthy ‘Showtime’ starring in a revved-up Motor City starved for its first playoff action in nearly a decade?

It feels like more big moments could be just around the corner.

Other Takeaways

• Detroit’s win in Chicago was its second of the weekend after a 6-1 shellacking of the St. Louis Blues 24 hours prior. Combine that with Tampa Bay ending a miserable three-game skid with a victory on Long Island on Saturday followed by another in New Jersey on Sunday and, suddenly, the Eastern Conference wild-card picture is beginning to crystalize. On the flip side, the “Fi-re Lin-dy!” chants are back at the Prudential Center thanks to the Devils’ 4-1 loss to the Bolts. With Tampa and Detroit looking pretty solid in the wild-card slots (though the Lightning have played the most games in the East) it’s starting to feel like Jersey’s only chance to salvage this season is to catch Philly for third in the Metro. And even the Flyers might have felt out of reach had Sidney Crosby not put together an incredible four-point performance on Sunday in a wild 7-6 win over his Pennsylvania rivals in Pittsburgh.

• The Rangers’ 10-game winning streak ended on Sunday at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Leafs have posted seven straight W’s after their win in Denver on Saturday, but that team gets a lot of attention even without Tyler Bertuzzi scoring a birthday hat trick. Less noisy, but nearly as impressive, is the five-game streak the Nashville Predators have put together, with all five victories coming on the road after triumphs Saturday in San Jose and Sunday in Anaheim. Nashville suddenly has one hand — or at least a few fingers — on the final Western Conference playoff berth and you have to wonder if that changes the calculous when it comes to potentially dealing Juuse Saros. The Preds are pretty openly future-focused right now, but thinking big picture is a tick harder when you’re actually in a post-season spot as opposed to floating around the fringes.

• Speaking of streaks, make 12 straight L’s for the Coyotes, who last won on Jan. 22. Arizona fought its way out of a two-goal hole on Sunday night in Winnipeg, but wound up losing in overtime. You know things are going back when, in the extra frame, your guy (Sean Durzi) dances through their defence for a Grade A chance and not only does he not cash, he falls and crashes into a teammate, wiping out two of three skaters you have on the ice, which basically gives their guy (Kyle Connor) a gimmie at the other end. Ugh.

Weekend Warrior

Tampa Bay scored eight goals over two wins on the weekend and Nikita Kucherov drew a point on seven of them. He really wants that Art Ross, friends.

Red and White Power Rankings

1. Toronto Maple Leafs (33-16-8) There have been all kinds of talking points during the Leafs’ big run, which became a seven-game winning streak with a 4-3 victory in Colorado on Saturday. Somewhat lost in the positive noise is the fact Mitch Marner, who posted 1-1-2 versus the Avs, has 15 points in this seven-game stretch.

2. Vancouver Canucks (38-16-6) Saturday’s win sure felt like a big one for Vancouver, which trailed the visiting Bruins 2-0 entering the third period, but clawed back for a 3-2 overtime victory — tying the game with just 71 ticks left — to end a four-game skid. Brock Boeser, who had been getting his apples but had just one goal in his previous 10 outings, got off the schneid with two tallies, including the PPG to end overtime.

3. Winnipeg Jets (36-15-5) Two overtime wins on Friday and Sunday, two three-assist games for defenceman Josh Morrissey, who suddenly has nine points (all helpers) in his past four contests.

4. Edmonton Oilers (33-20-2) After Saturday’s 6-3 loss to the Flames, Edmonton is allowing an average of 4.0 goals against in nine games since its 16-game winning streak ended.

5. Calgary Flames (28-25-5) Make it three straight games with a goal for Nazem Kadri, who has definitely found his offensive rhythm in Year 2 with the Flames. Kadri could hit 30 goals with a strong finish and has 25 points in his past 21 outings.

6. Ottawa Senators (25-27-3) Josh Norris found the net for the second straight game in Ottawa’s 4-3 win over Vegas on Saturday. After hitting paydirt just once in 20 contests, the 24-year-old has three goals in two games. Here’s hoping this guy can play a full 82 next year and show us exactly what his goal-scoring chops are.

7. Montreal Canadiens (22-28-8) Saturday’s 4-3 setback in Jersey makes it five straight L’s for a Habs team that is now the second-worst outfit in the East, ahead of only Columbus. In terms of goal differential, Montreal is last in the East at minus-46.

The Week Ahead

• With less than two weeks to go to the March 8 trade deadline, it’s fair to wonder if the market will completely shake loose any day now.

• The Central is the only division where any one of three teams could still very conceivably finish the year atop the group. Two of those contending squads — the Stars and Avalanche — square off Tuesday in Colorado.

• Earlier this year, Toronto hosted (and beat) San Jose when it was on an 11-game losing skid. On Thursday, the Leafs could be hosting an Arizona squad on a 13-game slide should the Coyotes lose two nights earlier in Montreal.

• We’ve spent a lot of time wondering if Calgary goalie Jacob Markstrom could be on the move before the deadline. Remember the trade the Flames made to acquire Miikka Kiprusoff from the Sharks in 2003? Calgary sent a second-rounder to San Jose and, in return, got a Vezina-calibre stopper who was leading the Flames to the 2004 Stanley Cup final about six months after landing in Southern Alberta. The stellar Finn — who retired in 2013 — will have his No. 34 raised to the Scotiabank Saddledome rafters on Saturday night.

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