05.25.2009 2:15 PM ET
We're back in Detroit, where the Red Wings have a chance to earn a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night when they face the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.
The Wings didn't skate this morning, earning a well-deserved day off following their 6-1 win on Sunday at the United Center. Today, though, coach Mike Babcock ruled out Kris Draper (groin) for Game 5. Meanwhile, Pavel Datsyuk (foot) and Nicklas Lidstrom (lower body) remain day-to-day. Lidstrom was a surprising scratch on Sunday, which ended his streak of 228 consecutive postseason appearances.
Chris Osgood, however, is good to go for Game 5. Osgood was unable to finish Game 4 due to dehydration, although he says he would have played the third period had the game not already been decided.
"I would have stayed in for sure," Osgood said on Monday. "I just cramped up a bit, came off and did an IV. It's not a big deal. It was a good time for it to happen at that point, though."
It was also a surprising time for Detroit to dominate, considering it was forced to play without Datsyuk and Lidstrom. Datsyuk is a candidate for the Hart Trophy as the League's Most Valuable Player, while Lidstrom, as usual, is up for the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman.
But other players stepped up, such as Marian Hossa, who scored a pair of goals in the victory. Henrik Zetterberg also scored twice.
"I don't know if it had anything to do with us missing Nick, Pav and Drapes, but I think we just simplified our game for some reason and played smart," Osgood said. "When we do that, it creates offense and we see what happens when we play like that."
Other notes from Monday:
-- While the Chicago Blackhawks won Game 3, plenty are saying that Nik Kronwall's hit on Martin Havlat was the turning point in the series. Chicago certainly didn't maintain its level of discipline in Game 4, which led to three power-play goals for the Red Wings in the 6-1 decision.
"I don't know … I think that's up to you experts or journalists to talk about for us," Kronwall said when asked about the hit. "It's about winning games and we have to play solid defensively and stay out of the box and stay patient out there. Hopefully we can get the job done."
-- Should the Wings finish the job here, a lot will likely be attributed to Detroit's enormous edge in experience. Zetterberg admitted it may be playing a major role in this series.
"For their players, this is the first time that they've been in this situation," Zetterberg said of the young Hawks. "This locker room has a few guys who have been there before and I'm glad I have those on my side. It's nice to have than experience."
-- Babcock was thrilled to see Hossa have the game he did on Sunday, especially under the circumstances.
"We needed him to step up," Babcock said. "What I liked about him is he skated great. He took the puck to the net. He was physical. If you do those things, the rest of it happens.
"Sometimes when you're a scorer, you're so concerned about scoring, you think the only way you play good is you score. That's the same with 'The Mule' (Johan Franzen). That's not what makes them important. What makes them important is how big they are and how they skate."
-- The Red Wings will skate tomorrow morning at Joe Louis Arena, while the Blackhawks will practice in Chicago before traveling here in the afternoon.
-- Brian Compton
Wings kill the clock
05.24.2009 5:31 P.M. ET
With nearly half the third period gone at this point, both teams seem content to just let the clock run out. While there have been chances for both teams, neither the Wings nor the Hawks are playing with a particularly aggressive style.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville appears to be taking this period to rebuild his goalie's confidence, as Cristobal Huet is back between the pipes, but it would serve Chicago well to put on the pressure and try to get at least a goal or two if they're hoping to take a run at bringing this series back to the United Center for a Game 6.
As for Detroit, letting the seconds tick off is all part of the game plan now. The Wings are set to take a 3-1 lead back home to the Joe for Wednesday night, and just about the only thing they could do wrong right now is to wake up the Hawks with some unnecessary physical play. The best move for Mike Babcock's group is to let this game die out softly and get ready for a potential clincher in Game 5.
Welcome to the show, Corey Crawford
05.24.2009 4:30 P.M. ET
At the start of Game 3, Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford sat in a suite in his suit. His life has just gotten a lot more interesting in the last 48 hours.
After Nikolai Khabibulin went down with an injury Friday, Crawford was called down to the bench to sit in uniform in the event Cristobal Huet could not do the job. While Crawford stayed on the bench for the Hawks' overtime win, today is a different story.
Jonathan Toews gave the United Center something to cheer about with a power-play goal early in the second period, but Marian Hossa ended that glee just 12 seconds later, extending the Wings' lead to 4-1. That was when Joel Quenneville decided he had seen enough.
Corey Crawford is now in net for the Hawks and if ever there was a definition for "baptism by fire" this might well be it. Crawford has never seen action in the NHL postseason before, and he is being tasked with holding down the fort as Chicago makes a desperate bid to save its season.
The damage may be too much at this point for the Hawks to rally, but any shot at a comeback will depend on their new netminder.
Kronwall keeps the hits coming
05.24.2009 4:12 P.M. ET
In a game that has gotten increasingly chippy as time has worn on, Niklas Kronwall has continued to make his presence felt. A few tussles arose during the first period as Dustin Byfuglien and Tomas Holmstrom had a small shoving match by the boards and Sammy Pahlsson knocked Valtteri Filppula to the ice with a check in front of the Chicago net.
But it is Kronwall who continues delivering the big blows. In this case, Kronwall laid an open-ice check on Patrick Kane as the final seconds of the period wound down. While the result wasn't as powerful or obvious as Kronwall's check on Martin Havlat in Game 3, it shows the Wings are continuing to set the tone physically.
For the Hawks, this is unusual. They'll need to start throwing some checks around in the second period, if they're to take back the momentum.
Who's on the power play again?
05.24.2009 3:43 P.M. ET
For the first five minutes of the game, Detroit controlled the puck so much it appeared Chicago was on the penalty kill the entire time. In actuality, the Blackhawks were on the penalty kill for none of that stretch, and even managed to get the game's first power play after Henrik Zetterberg was sent to the box for holding Dustin Byfuglien.
No matter for the Red Wings, though.
They came out all the better despite being down a man, as Marian Hossa took advantage of a funny bounce in the Detroit zone to break out a two-on-one with Valtteri Filppula that resulted in Hossa potting a shorthanded goal to give the Wings an early 1-0 lead.
The Hawks have been more aggressive in the moments since, but make no mistake, Detroit has almost entirely controlled the game to this point.
Seems like very old times
05.24.2009 3:19 P.M. ET
With the M.A.S.H. unit in Detroit getting a heavy workload today, 47-year-old Chris Chelios will be in the lineup for the first time in the conference finals and even took the ceremonial face off with Chicago's Jonathan Toews, who was not alive when Chelios made his NHL debut. Chelios also played the last time these two teams met in the conference finals in 1995, although that year he was suiting up for Chicago.
While he's normally a healthy scratch, don't be worried about the 26-year veteran keeping up with the young kids. He acquitted himself just fine in four games against Anaheim in the second round.
Lidstrom, Datsyuk out for Game 4
05.24.2009 02:48 P.M. ET
As expected, Cristobal Huet will get the start in goal today for the Chicago Blackhawks. He replaces Nikolai Khabibulin, who suffered a lower-body injury in the midst of Game 3 on Friday night.
Martin Havlat is participating in warm-ups and will play. Havlat was briefly knocked unconscious by Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall in the first period on Friday and did not return. He leads the Blackhawks in postseason scoring with 15 points.
Hart Trophy candidate Pavel Datsyuk is not out for warm-ups and will not play. Datsyuk suffered a foot injury in Game 2. Nicklas Lidstrom will also be out with a lower body industry.
-- Brian Compton
Olivia Newton-John should be here
05.24.2009 2:00 P.M. ET
The Red Wings and Blackhawks probably haven't worked out or practiced in the same short shorts, leotards or headbands that you'll see in the music video for Olivia Newton-John's 1981 No. 1 hit "Physical" since, well, probably ever. Frankly, I would be shocked if any pictures of Reed Larson, Jim Schoenfeld, Doug Wilson or Al Secord in those types of outfits haven't been destroyed by now.
Regardless, the chorus of the Billboard chart-topper might serve as a fairly appropriate mantra for this afternoon's tilt. After Martin Havlat was knocked back to the Czech Republic by Niklas Kronwall's thunderous check Friday night, it would be surprising if things didn't get a little physical when Detroit and Chicago drop the puck today at 3:00 P.M. ET on NBC. The Hawks were quick to stir things up immediately after the hit in Game 3, and as their bullying of Calgary and Vancouver showed, they haven't been afraid to get into a fracas or two all postseason.
The interesting thing, should the game escalate physically, will be Detroit's reaction. The Wings certainly aren't a team that would allow themselves to be pushed around, but they also maintain a veteran savvy that might allow them to let their cooler heads prevail. Should Adam Burish or Ben Eager take a shot at Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg, participating in the ensuing scrum might play right into the Blackhawks' hands.
If the Hawks do take their shots, whether or not they try to lay a hit on one of the Wings' skill players or on Kronwall himself will reveal itself early on, but either way, there should at least be one or two mix-ups on the ice today. That said, getting physical wouldn't be out of the ordinary for Chicago. How Detroit responds will be the key.
Maltby's back in
05.22.2009 02:58 PM CT
It's been a tough few days for Kirk Maltby.
Sure, the Detroit Red Wings forward is excited that his team is still playing at this time of year, but having to watch Game 7 against the Anaheim Ducks in Round 2 and then the first two games of the Western Conference Finals in Motown was a little tough for Maltby to take.
But Wings coach Mike Babcock has decided to put Maltby back in the lineup tonight for Game 3 at the United Center. Maltby will replace rookie Justin Abdelkader, who has one assist in five games.
"It's behind us now," Maltby said when I asked him how tough it was to sit out, especially a Game 7. "I'm just glad that wasn't the last game for us as a team. You get dealt a lot of things throughout the course of a career, and fortunately for me I've had a pretty long career. You just deal with them as they come along and you be professional about it."
Few, if any, can be compared to Maltby from that aspect. Now that the veteran is back in the lineup, he intends on staying there.
"Everyone wants to play," Maltby said. "You want to go in and contribute and do the things you're supposed to do to win this game. When you're not playing, you do things to prepare to be called upon and make sure you're ready to go, and that's what I did. You're happy the guys are winning, but it's always a lot better when you're in there."
Other notes from Friday's morning skate:
-- Chicago will not be making any changes to its lineup, although there's a chance you'll see more of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews skating on the same line. Kane is currently with Samuel Pahlsson and Kris Versteeg, while Toews is centering Dustin Byfuglien and Troy Brouwer.
A lot probably will depend on if Chicago falls behind. That will call for desperate measures, which means Joel Quenneville might not have a choice but to put Toews and Kane together.
"We'll see," Quenneville said. "It's an option. I think at some point I'm sure they'll be playing together. How much? We're going to find out."
-- The crowd will be deafening here tonight, but that doesn't mean the Red Wings will be intimidated. In fact, Detroit coach Mike Babcock applauded the city and its fans on Friday morning.
"The crowd's going to be great, but it's great for us, too," Babcock said. "We talked about that. What a great place to play. We've had a lot of fun playing here over the years. It's great for the National Hockey League and it's great for the city of Chicago … and it's great for the Detroit Red Wings that we have a good rivalry against a good team.
"I think the Chicago Blackhawks are going to change the way the NHL markets itself. It's a great thing for the rest of us to ride that wave as well."
-- Brian Compton
They were better, but …
05.20.2009 1:50 AM
The Chicago Blackhawks were better in Game 2 than the series opener in the Western Conference Finals, and yet the end result was the same.
It makes you wonder, if the Hawks can't find a way to beat Detroit when the likes of Pavel Datsyuk and Marian Hossa aren't scoring, how will they ever beat the Wings should those aforementioned stars start finding the back of the net?
Datsyuk didn't score again in Game 2, although he won the faceoff that led to Brian Rafalski's game-tying goal in the first period. Hossa had five shots on goal but was held off the score sheet entirely.
For Detroit, it didn't matter. Dan Cleary scored again and Mikael Samuelsson finished off a 3-on-1 in overtime to help the Wings take a 2-0 series lead.
"We have the depth throughout our lineup," Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "It's great when you don't have to rely on one or two lines to score goals for you. You can still get wins with other guys chipping in. I think it makes it so much harder to play against when you have four lines that can score."
That's exactly what the Wings have. All eight of their goals in the first two games of this series have come from the second, third and fourth lines. Cleary has three and six this postseason.
"You've got to go with it," Cleary said of his hot stick. "I seem to be getting a bounce or two. You've just got to make sure you keep the legs going and shoot the puck on net. You never know what can happen."
Cleary made his goal happen in Game 2, as he once again stripped Brent Seabrook of the puck at his own blue line, then raced past Duncan Keith before beating Nikolai Khabibulin on a breakaway.
"I caught those guys off-guard again," Cleary said of Seabrook and Keith. "I think it went off my skate. I just got a good jump on it. With those two defenders, those guys, in my mind, could possibly be on the Olympic team. They're a real good pair. You've got to try to get behind them."
Detroit did what it had to do on Tuesday night despite a more gritty effort from Joel Quenneville's group. Jonathan Toews had a pair of goals, while Patrick Kane generated three shots on goal after having none in Game 1.
Still, the result was the same.
"I think they played with a little more grit," Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "This was probably what we expected the first game. It's going to be even faster and I think more back-and-forth in Chicago."
That might be just what Datsyuk and Hossa are hoping for. Stay tuned.
Other notes from Game 2:
-- With a helper on Rafalski's power-play goal in the first period, Lidstrom became Detroit's all-time assists leader in postseason history with 116. Lidstrom surpassed the legendary Steve Yzerman in that department.
"It means a lot," Lidstrom said of the achievement. "I played with Stevie for many years and he was one of the all-time greats for the Red Wings. It's something I'm very proud of to be able to do that."
-- Not only did Lidstrom break Yzerman's record, but he also managed to accumulate four minutes in penalties in Game 2. It was the first time he received two minors in a game since Nov. 20 against Edmonton.
I asked him if he was playing with an edge on Tuesday.
"I don't know about the second one," he chuckled. "The first one, my stick came up in his face. The second one, I wasn't too happy about. But we still got away with a win, so I'll take that."
-- Cleary insisted Toews' game-tying goal at 12:20 of the third period didn't get the Wings discouraged. Once again, it was the experience shining through that helped Detroit win in overtime.
"We don't like to be tied late, but we're a pretty calm bunch of guys on the bench," he said. "There's nobody getting upset or frustrated. You just stay with it and keep skating. We got a good break and found a way to get it done."
-- Wings coach Mike Babcock said after the game that his team is in desperate need of a day off, which it will receive on Wednesday. Babcock has that luxury since Game 3 won't take place until Friday night at the United Center.
He's not alone.
"I think so, especially going into overtime," Valtteri Filppula said when asked if he felt the Wings need a day to relax. "I think it's good that there's a couple of days in between now. We get to regroup and be ready to go in Chicago."
-- Brian Compton
Hawks used to seeing Wings
05.19.2009 1:05 P.M. et
The Blackhawks may be the new kids on the Stanley Cup Playoff block, making their first appearance since 2002, but they are not in awe of the Red Wings. Chalk that up to playing them six times during the regular season.
Chicago right wing Kris Versteeg, a Calder Trophy finalist admitted to feeling a little overwhelmed the first time he played Detroit. But after playing them six times in the regular season and once so far in the playoffs, Versteeg and the young Hawks are used to playing the mighty 'Wings.
"Maybe during the season, the first time you play them it's tough to get by it," Versteeg told the Chicago Tribune. "But now you've played them so many times you don't really think about it anymore. We have one goal and that's to win the Stanley Cup. When you're going through a team like the Red Wings, it's pretty tough."
Chicago, which played two six-game series, had a tougher cumulative route to the Western Conference Final than Detroit, which swept the Blue Jackets in four games, but was pushed to the limit in a seven-game series against the Ducks in the last round.
Patrick Kane, who was last season's Calder Trophy winner and leads the team with 8 goals in 11 playoff games, knows that playing Detroit is different than going against Vancouver or Calgary. Kane was held to no points, no shots and a minus-3 rating in Game 1 of this series while matched up against Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.
"It's a little different against Detroit than it was against Vancouver and Calgary," Kane told the Chicago Sun Times. "They played a real physical game, but I don't think I got chirped at once. Maybe we'll have to play defense first and get our chances out of transition."
Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook agrees that this series is going to be Chicago's toughest test yet.
"They're the Stanley Cup champions for a reason," Seabrook told the Chicago Sun Times. "They're a good team. And (this series) is different from the first two. The intensity's up. Everything's stepped up. It's the best four teams in the playoffs."
-- Adam Schwartz
Almost time to break them up
05.18.2009 3:30 P.M. ET
Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was in rare form today following practice at Joe Louis Arena.
Due to the fact that the Chicago Blackhawks have so many weapons, the Wings' coach said he's looking forward to the day when the League's salary cap forces Chicago to lose some of its top guns.
Patrick Kane and captain Jonathan Toews both become restricted free agents following the 2010-11 season, along with defenseman Duncan Keith. Martin Havlat and Nikolai Khabibulin will be free to sign with any club this July 1.
Kris Versteeg -- who had 22 goals and 31 assists during the regular season -- will be a restricted free agent this summer. He made $490,000 this season in the final year of his original three-year deal.
"I can't wait," Babcock said. "They've got way too much skill, and so the only way we can eliminate their skill is by the salary cap getting involved here. So the more those young guys score …
"When you're on the outside looking in, you're hoping that 32 (Versteeg) is going to snipe one more and get another one and another one. The salaries just creep up and they can't have all the players."
Another subject Babcock touched on was the recent play of Dan Cleary. The Newfoundland native scored twice in Game 1, leading the Wings to a 5-2 victory. After getting podium time Sunday, a herd of reporters was found in front of Cleary's locker again Monday.
"I hope he's not reading all this stuff here … that's the first thing," Babcock said. "It's important to remember who you are and where you're from. He's a hard-working, grinding-type NHL player. In saying that, he's got a lot of skill. You don't have the amateur career he had unless you have elite ability of some kind. He's found a home and he's playing well."
Cleary was the 13th player selected in the 1997 Entry Draft. The man who sits right next to him in the Wings' dressing room was taken 12th by the Ottawa Senators.
His name? Marian Hossa.
"Hoss was 12th … thank God he went ahead of me," Cleary joked.
Other notes from Monday's skate:
-- One reason why Detroit was so successful in Game 1 was its ability to stay out of the penalty box. The Blackhawks didn't receive their first power play until Jonathan Ericsson went off for interference at 1:28 of the third period.
"We know that spending less time in the penalty box can help us," Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "It's a big key for that first game … not having to play some of their key players more, killing penalties. You can get all the four lines skating, too. I thought that was a big key to not take any penalties."
-- Despite his inability to record a shot on goal in Game 1, Hawks forward Patrick Kane insists his confidence level hasn't wavered heading into Game 2 here tomorrow night.
"I had a pretty good series last series," said Kane, who had six goals against Vancouver. "I was pretty happy with it. It's only one game. You've got to put it behind you and move forward. That's what I'm going to try and do here. I know what I can do out there."
-- Brian Compton
Game 1 thoughts
05.17.2009 6:22 P.M. ET
I know I've said more than once today that the Red Wings are a great hockey team, but it bears repeating. Words can't do justice to how good this team is. They don't often wow you with wild offensive outbursts, and at first glance they don't seem overly dominant. Regardless, they do all the little things right.
All of them.
Despite the Wings' soundness and complete play wearing down the Hawks over the course of 60 minutes, I would still argue the best player on the ice all day was on the losing side. Nikolai Khabibulin displayed the talent and poise that has made him a perennial All-Star and a Stanley Cup champion. Without the "Bulin Wall" in net, the Wings could have won by a four- or five-goal margin, and put the game away well before they finally did.
However, a big question lingers for the Hawks as Game 2 approaches Tuesday night. With his hat trick in Game 6 against Vancouver, Patrick Kane had the type of performance that could establish him as a star for years to come, but the reigning Calder Trophy winner was nowhere to be found this afternoon. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Martin Havlat were equally as absent, with all four of the Hawks' top offensive guns being kept off the scoresheet.
This was still a close game, with the outcome well in doubt for much of the afternoon, but unless Chicago's main offensive weapons can wake up, the Hawks will have an entire series of nail-biters where they wind up on the short side. Detroit is simply too veteran-laden, too savvy and too good. Khabibulin can't do it all by himself.
If Kane, Toews, Sharp or Havlat start scoring some goals on Tuesday night, we'll know they found their alarm clock.
I don't get by with any help from my friends
05.17.2009 5:20 P.M. ET
Try your best to call me dated by bringing up a song from 42 years ago if you wish, but I'm just a 23-year-old with a love for the classics. That said, if Ringo Starr were playing hockey, this would not be his kind of game.
In a rather peculiar quirk of this game, the first three goals on the afternoon were all scored without that burdensome statistic known as an assist. Indeed, Adam Burish's early goal, Daniel Cleary's breakaway tally and Johan Franzen's wraparound all came without any other teammate touching the puck. I couldn't tell you the last time that happened in any game, let alone a playoff game, but I imagine it's been a while.
The streak of individualism has been cut short by Kris Versteeg, however, who tied up the game on a power-play goal early in the third courtesy of assists by Brent Seabrook and Dustin Byfuglien. I doubt Joel Quenneville minded a return to teamwork, but the excitement on the Chicago bench from Versteeg's tally has likely subsided.
Four minutes later, Mikael Samuelsson put the Wings back in front, this time with assists from Brett Lebda and Valtteri Filppula, whose deft puck-handling kept the play alive and set up the goal. My guess is Samuelsson might have been listening to Sgt. Pepper during the second intermission.
Wings jump in front in front
05.17.2009 4:47 P.M. ET
After the fantastic display Nikolai Khabibulin has put on between the pipes in the second period, it's not surprising that he might give up a goal eventually -- after all, nobody's perfect -- but the type of goal Khabibulin finally did allow was somewhat surprising.
With both teams scrambling for the puck behind the net, Johan Franzen made a great play to use his long reach and take it away from Duncan Keith before beating Khabibulin on a wraparound. The remarkable thing about Detroit is one might have expected it to get frustrated after failing to beat Khabibulin despite a furious flurry earlier in the period.
But this team is too levelheaded and technically sound to allow frustration to knock it off its game. The Wings simply kept plugging away and waiting for their chance to take the lead.
This can only lead me to one conclusion: the Detroit Red Wings are not human. They are too good to be mere mortals.
Now, I don't want to say anything too outlandish with 20 minutes left to play in a one-goal game and a pretty good Blackhawks team ready to come back in the third, but this has been a very impressive 40 minutes for the Wings. It hasn't been spectacular or visually overwhelming, but they are playing their game and dictating the course of events.
Chicago is capable, but with each moment that ticks away it looks like it will be more and more difficult for the Hawks to break them.
The Bulin Wall stands strong
05.17.2009 4:21 P.M ET
For stretches of the past few seasons since he signed in Chicago, it's appeared as though Nikolai Khabibulin's best days were behind him. But for an absolutely mind-boggling stretch here early in the second period, Khabby has made it very clear that the reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated.
With Detroit on the power play early, the Wings put several high quality chances on net, but Khabibulin was equal to the task with multiple spectacular saves during the penalty kill.
If the Hawks wind up winning this game, it will be in no small part due to that stellar stretch by their netminder.
Well that didn't take long
05.17.2009 3:42 P.M. ET
I know in my last entry I implied the Wings might be content to sit around and wait for their opportunity to strike despite falling behind early.
Apparently, they didn't feel like waiting.
Not even three minutes after Adam Burish lit the lamp, Daniel Cleary took advantage of a turnover by Brent Seabrook at the blue line and flew down the wing before blasting the puck past Nikolai Khabibulin.
I wouldn't expect scoring to happen this quickly all afternoon, but that is simply due to the fact that both goals came off mistakes. With the way these two teams have looked so far, I don't anticipate us seeing very many of those.
Hawks break through early
05.17.2009 3:33 P.M. ET
So far both teams have had their opportunities in the early going. One could surmise that Chicago has gotten the better of the chances, but neither the Blackhawks nor the Red Wings have really overwhelmed the other yet.
Despite not overpowering the Wings, Chicago has still taken an early 1-0 lead on a truly bizarre goal by Adam Burish, one that landed on his stick after a fortuitous bounce off the end boards.
So far, it appears the young Hawks are in no way daunted by the experienced Wings. Of course, it's no secret the Hawks aren't afraid of the defending champions because, being as brash as they are, they simply don't know any better. Detroit is not daunted either, but its lack of fear comes from simply having been here before.
Detroit is a deliberate, supremely confident team -- and rightly so -- so even if the Hawks hold the early edge, it would be no surprise if the Wings simply wait for their chance to take control.
Regardless of the early tally, the underrated Chris Osgood won't be flustered. After all, Ozzie did win in his last postseason run a year ago.
Then again, the last time the man across the ice, Nikolai Khabibulin, tasted the postseason, he too wound up hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup.
The 2009 Spring Classic?
05.15.2009 3:27 PM ET
On Jan. 1, the 701st edition of the Blackhawks-Red Wings rivalry was played to much fanfare at the hallowed grounds of Wrigley Field. The next time these two take the ice it will probably be far more pleasant to sit at the Friendly Confines for three hours given that it's no longer the dead of another brutal Chicago winter, but this time the action will take place indoors.
There will be significantly more on the line when the Hawks and Wings drop the puck in Game 1 Sunday at Joe Louis Arena (3 p.m. ET, NBC). At the time of their Winter Classic clash, the Wings were continuing the strong brand of hockey for which they're known while the Hawks, no doubt an improved bunch from the previous few seasons, were still a questionable playoff entrant who had made a habit of getting April tee times. Now, however, nothing less than a shot at hockey's holy grail is at stake.
Since then, however, these two franchises have taken remarkably different turns. While the Wings have become a modern dynasty with four Stanley Cups in the last 12 years, the Hawks slowly faded into obscurity before this season's rebirth ended a seven-year playoff drought.
While these Hawks aren't playing like the seasoned veterans the Wings prove themselves to be night in and night out, Chicago isn't playing scared either. What lies ahead could be well more than your standard playoff series. The Hawks will be looking to prompt a changing of the guard, while the Wings intend to re-assert their dominance over not just their traditional geographic rival but the entire Western Conference.
Whatever happens, these teams will certainly be ready for each other. The Blackhawks and Red Wings have faced off more than any other two teams in NHL history. With so much tradition between these Original Six rivals, it made perfect sense to put them in the League's marquee in-season event on New Year's Day.
It only seems right to have them in the spotlight one more time.
-- David Kalan