When the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings played their last game of the season, fans lamented that it could be the very last time that the two teams would meet as division and conference rivals. What would become of their storied rivalry now? Fear not, fellow Blackhawks fans, our prayers have been answered.
With the Red Wings winning their series against the Anaheim Ducks, they’ll meet the Blackhawks in the Western Conference semifinals, with the first game starting tonight. For at least the next four games, the rivalry will be as alive as ever, and every minute will be relished.
As we’ve seen during the season, the Blackhawks have really matched the Red Wings’ game. Both teams are puck possession teams with great goalies (Corey Crawford for the Blackhawks and Jimmy Howard for the Red Wings). They’ll both use physicality if they must. They also each have a player with amazing skills that frustrate their opponents and leave fans breathless (Pavel Datsyuk and Patrick Kane).
We’ve also seen that the Blackhawks beat them in all of their meetings during the season. They swept the Red Wings in their season series, and all but one were decided with either overtime or a shootout. The lone game that ended in regulation was the Easter Sunday 7-1 blowout that included Jakub Kindl’s goal on his own net.
One important item to mention: Viktor Stalberg has been rendered a healthy scratch for tonight’s game. He’d been wearing the white “no line” jersey for a few practices until today. Coach Joel Quenneville says it’s a “coach’s decision”, but rumors are swirling that he’s been loudly questioning why his role on the power play unit has been drastically cut lately. He needs to prove his worthiness to play on that unit instead of whining about not being on it.
The last time the Red Wings and Blackhawks met in the postseason was in 2009 in the Western Conference Finals. The Blackhawks lost, but one good thing came from it: Kane scored his first NHL career hat trick in that series. Will he do it again? Fans certainly hope so.