All the Blackhawks have to do to see where they want to be is look up. Not all the way to Detroit, but to the top of the Central Division, where the Red Wings occupy their familiar spot.
The Wings simply reloaded after their Stanley Cup championship run last season and are again among the elite in the NHL. Detroit has occupied the top spot in the Central the last seven seasons and has two Cups during that span to show for it.
The young Hawks believe they're on the cusp of challenging Detroit. And Saturday night, after faring well against them last season, they got the first of six chances this season to see how close they are.
Early returns show the Hawks appear to be closing in as they played the Wings tough before falling 6-5 in a shootout in front of a crowd of 22,690 at the United Center.
The Hawks, who had goals from five different players, led 4-2 after two periods but gave up three straight Red Wings goals in a span of 7 minutes 16 seconds in the third before rallying with a Patrick Kane power-play goal with 7:27 remaining.
After a scoreless overtime and a 1-1 tie through the first three rounds of the shootout, Detroit goaltender Ty Conklin stopped Martin Havlat and Marian Hossa beat Hawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin to complete the Wings' comeback.
The defeat snapped the Hawks' two-game winning streak but extended their points streak to six games. They are now 3-2-3 on the season.
"It's a tough loss; they're a great team," said Kane, who misfired on a shootout attempt for the third time this season. "They've even added players over the summer.
"It's going to be a great rivalry. Even this year we're going to compete for a playoff spot, and they'll probably be at the top of the conference."
Jiri Hudler and Niklas Kronwall each had a goal and two assists for the Wings. The Hawks got a goal and assist from Havlat and two assists from Troy Brouwer.
"You can't give this Detroit team an inch," Hawks defenseman Brent Seabrook said. "We might have given them a bit too much. They are such an explosive team that they capitalized.
"It's going to be a tough-fought six-game series with these guys. They're a great team, as we are. Shots were bang-on pretty close, and I thought we played well."
Kris Versteeg, Aaron Johnson and Ben Eager also scored for the Hawks, while Johan Franzen, Hossa and Pavel Datsyuk added goals for Detroit.
"It was a good effort," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "They may have improved from being a Cup champion team over the summer, but at the same time I thought we did a lot of good things and we're right there with them. It was a good measuring stick for us."
Conklin finished with 36 saves; Khabibulin had 39.
"That was a tough game to play," Hossa said. "Chicago played well, especially in the beginning of the game. We didn't quit [and] we came back strong."
Patrick Sharp had to give the Wings their props.
"They're still the standard in the league," he said. "They've had great teams for a lot of years and won the Cup last year. Right now they're the defending champs, and our goal is to get to that level.
"They're the team that everybody is trying to be like, not just the Hawks."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times