Make no mistake, these teams hate each other. I hate the Red Wings more than any other professional sports team on Earth. Now is the time when I will reach the peak of hatred: the Western Conference Finals. I thought that the Winter Classic was going to be the highest-prized match between the two this year, but there is literally no higher stakes that the two most-heated Western Conference rivals can play for; a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.
You thought their regular season meetings were tough? You're in for a surprise. I can only imagine the kinds of vicious hits and cheap shots we'll see starting Sunday afternoon.
Somethings to be hopeful about:
Osgood is not as good as Luongo
Let's be honest, we just faced one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. We still managed to produce games where we put 6 and 7 pucks in the net. Let's be a little more honest, Osgood hasn't played as well this year as he has in years past. For large parts of the season, the Red Wings used their back-up (former Penguins starter), Ty Conklin. When the playoffs started, everyone was asking, "Will Osgood start?" The Red Wings were forced to defend their veteran and announcing that they trusted him to do a good job. He played well enough against the Blue Jackets as the Red Wings swept them in 4. However, the Ducks weren't so easy to shut down, and they barely made the playoffs (much like the Blue Jackets). Granted, the Ducks were on a hot streak, but I think our forwards will have a better time against the Red Wings.
Detroit has to be tired.
They just got done struggling in a seven games series against the Ducks. They get two days rest and it's back to the ice. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks have been done since Monday, just waiting for the other teams to wrap up their series.
Experience vs. Youth?
So many people have brought this up in the playoffs already. The Blackhawks are the youngest team in the league. This means that many of them have not played in the playoffs before, with some exceptions (Andrew Ladd, Brian Campbell, Nikolai Khabibulin to name a few). However, when you point out their inexperience due to their youth, you must also account for the positive side of being a young team. They're fast! Vancouver even admitted that our guys can move. Yes, across the ice we see a very experienced team, but we also see an older, slower team. Beyond speed, the Blackhawks recover quicker. A day off is about all they need to re-energize for another game. We'll see how this compares to Detroit's recovery ability. Lastly, and probably most weakly, Patrick Kane has said throughout the last series that since they're so young, they don't know any better than to come back from game they are behind. I've already pointed out in past posts how the Blackhawks have come back from 1, 2, and even 3 goal deficits in games during these playoffs.
The Blackhawks have been awesome on the power play in the playoffs, scoring a little more than 29% of the time. If you don't watch hockey, I'll let you know, I don't think anyone was that high for a regular season total. Even though the Red Wings are good on the power play as well, their penalty kill hasn't been stellar. I think this might give the Blackhawks a little bit of an edge.
There's plenty that Detroit has to bring to the table, as well:
I'm going to go ahead and counter my last argument. The experience these guys have is ridiculous. I know I just down-played the Red Wings experience, but it does play a roll. I mean, we're talking about guys who have played in multiple Stanley Cup Finals series' and won. More importantly, they were together on this very same team while doing it. This poses a terrible threat to the Blackhawks.
The Red Wings are stacked. Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Marian Hossa, Nicklas Lidstrom. I could keep going, but that's enough for now. And unlike the Yankees this year, who have all the right players, but no chemistry, these guys have been playing together and winning championships together (except for Hossa) for years and have plenty of chemistry.
They've had our number this year.
The Blackhawks were 0-4 against them this year until the final two games of the regular season, which was a home-and-home between the two where the Blackhawks picked up two wins. However, by the end of the season, the Red Wings had already wrapped up the Division and weren't really playing for anything. The only thing the Blackhawks really have to be hopeful about is that they know they can beat the Red Wings, and also, they went 2-2-2 against them, forcing the Red Wings to OT twice.
Series starts tomorrow in Joe Louis Arena on NBC. Let's Go Hawks!