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Blackhawks vs Red Wings

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Blackhawks vs Red Wings - 2013 SCP Conference Semifinals

Five reasons Blackhawks are on verge of being upset

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

DETROIT -- Members of the Chicago Blackhawks spent the morning before Game 4 of their Western Conference Semifinal series against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena talking about how they knew this never was going to be easy, even if they stormed through the regular season with the best record in the League and won their first-round series in five games.

Coach Joel Quenneville talked of being excited to see how his team would respond to its first test of adversity. After another frustrating performance in Game 4, the Blackhawks now trail the seventh-seeded Red Wings 3-1, in the best-of-7 and will be playing at United Center to avoid elimination Saturday in Game 5 (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).

The Blackhawks had not lost three games in a row all season, but they have now. What happened to the juggernaut?

Here are five reasons the Red Wings are in position to topple their rivals in what would have to qualify as a stunning upset:

Howard emerging as the center of attention in Detroit

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

DETROIT -- Jimmy Howard had just authored one of the best performances of his NHL career -- not just because the Detroit Red Wings goaltender stopped all 28 shots against a desperate Chicago Blackhawks club, but because of the magnitude of the situation.

The seventh-seeded Red Wings now are one win from completing an incredible upset of the Presidents' Trophy winners after Howard's second career shutout in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a 2-0 win Thursday against the Blackhawks in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

Despite this, Howard displayed his typical calm, reserved demeanor in front of a large contingent of credentialed media.

Well, until an older man in a red jacket and black slacks managed his way through the horde of people holding cameras and recording devices to extend his right hand to congratulate him.

Red Wings in new territory, shift adversity to Hawks

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings have played a lot of desperate hockey in the past month.

They won four straight games to close the regular season and claim a spot in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and already have fallen behind in a series four times. The Red Wings have proven to be a resilient bunch -- they've won the next contest each of the four times to even the series and avoid a two-game deficit.

Now the Red Wings will face a slightly different challenge Thursday in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Chicago Blackhawks (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS). Detroit no longer is chasing, and the Red Wings will have to play against a more desperate team for the first time.

"We know how hard they are going to come at us because we've been in that situation," Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey said. "At the end of the day, if we don't match their desperation, it isn't going to be much of a game. They're going to beat us pretty good. We still have a ton of respect for them and how good of a team they are. I think we're just going to play like [Detroit coach Mike Babcock] said [Wednesday] -- we have to play an even better game than we did last game to win. That’s our goal."

Blackhawks, Red Wings struggling on power play

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

DETROIT -- The second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs has had one stark contrast from the opening series for the Detroit Red Wings.

When the seventh-seeded Red Wings knocked off the second-seeded Anaheim Ducks in seven games in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, power-play goals were plentiful for each side. Through three games of the Western Conference Semifinals, led by Detroit 2-1, the Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks have combined for one extra-man goal -- and that one from Chicago's Marian Hossa came 9:03 into the series.

Since Hossa scored, the Red Wings and Blackhawks have combined to kill off 20 consecutive chances with the man-advantage.

"It has been [different]," Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "I think both teams have had their chances to score some goals, but they haven't really been able to do that. Some part is the goaltending. They've been playing really well on both teams. It is going to come down to special teams eventually. We have to bear down when we get the chance and the same thing, we have to have a good [penalty kill] if you want to win games."

Blackhawks need best players to play like their best

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- It looks strange to peek at the Chicago Blackhawks' stats for the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs after eight games and not see Jonathan Toews anywhere near the top.

Toews, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy in the Blackhawks' 2010 Stanley Cup championship run, hasn't scored a goal and has three assists to rank in a tie for seventh on the team in scoring. Toews does a bunch of other things to help his team's cause and isn't the only big-name player not putting up points in bunches, but he is the Blackhawks' captain and "conscience" of their team -- as Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock put it prior to the start of a Western Conference Semifinal series his team leads 2-1 after two straight wins.

Chicago scored two goals combined in those back-to-back losses -- one each at home in Game 2 and at Joe Louis Arena in Game 3 on Monday -- and there's now a sense that more of the Blackhawks stars need to come out soon in order to shine in Game 4 on Thursday in Detroit (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

"Absolutely," said Duncan Keith, who won the 2010 Norris Trophy and helped the Blackhawks win that Cup. "This is the biggest game of the year, so I mean, we need everybody, but we also need the guys who are relied upon the most to be at their best."

Blackhawks in angry series against Red Wings

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Joel Quenneville wanted his Chicago Blackhawks to get angrier as the Stanley Cup Playoffs progressed, and now he's got his wish.

The Blackhawks are pretty steamed three games into a heated Western Conference Semifinal series against the rival Detroit Red Wings, but they're also trailing 2-1 after losing 3-1 in Game 3 on Monday.

It was filled with hard hits, post-whistle skirmishes and lots of chirping, particularly between Chicago's Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw and Detroit's Daniel Cleary and Brendan Smith. Afterward, some wondered if the Red Wings successfully are throwing off the Blackhawks by getting under their skin.

Hossa playing his part in Blackhawks' success

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

DETROIT -- Slovakia didn't offer much resistance to Mike Babcock's Canadian team at the 1997 IIHF World Junior Championship in a 7-2 loss in the quarterfinals.

Marian Hossa
Right Wing - CHI
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 7
SOG: 27 | +/-: 1
Babcock's team went on to collect the gold medal, but when he returned to his full-time job, with the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League, there clearly was a player on that Slovakian team who made an impression on him.

It was a kid from small town in northeastern Slovakia named Marian Hossa.

"Obviously [Hossa] is a real good player. The first time I saw him was in '97 at the World Juniors," Babcock said. "I came back from the World Juniors and I told our GM we needed to get him. We weren't willing to pay the 50 grand to get him. Portland got him and he played there, won the Memorial Cup and beat us."

Red Wings' Brunner not bothered by playoff pressure

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

Damien Brunner
Center - DET
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 8
SOG: 20 | +/-: 0

DETROIT -- In recent seasons, the Detroit Red Wings dressing room was populated heavily by veterans, Stanley Cup winners with a businesslike mentality.

Not to say there weren't unique characters or personalities, but it certainly wouldn't have been considered one of the League's most colorful.

This has been a different kind of season in Detroit in many respects. There was a youth movement unlike anything seen for this franchise in some time. A half-dozen of the 23 skaters who have dressed for a game in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs had no prior postseason experience at this level. Two others are in their second postseason.

There is a different vibe in the Red Wings dressing room. To be certain, veteran leaders Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Daniel Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi have made sure the central principles of the Red Wings' machine remains, but the kids definitely have added a splash of color.

No one personifies this more than Damien Brunner.

"I really don't think he has a clue what's going on," Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard said. "I don't think he understands the realm of things, of what could possibly happen here as the playoffs unfold. He's in a good mood every single day."

Long shift turned momentum in Red Wings' favor

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

DETROIT -- Around and around the puck went, and the clock just kept ticking.

Patrick Eaves
Right Wing - DET
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 2
SOG: 11 | +/-: -1

The Chicago Blackhawks put on a passing clinic at the end of a power play early in the second period, but it ended without many quality shots on net. They kept the puck in the Detroit Red Wings' zone even after the penalty expired, and the pivotal moment of Game 3 of this Western Conference Semifinals series arrived.

Somehow, the Red Wings survived despite having four players on the ice for more than two minutes and two for more than three. Shortly after the marathon shift, the momentum shifted and Detroit rode it to a 3-1 victory and a 2-1 series lead.

"I was very aware and so were my lungs, and my legs were very aware," Detroit forward Patrick Eaves said. "That could have been a turning point if they would have scored on that power play and extended end-zone shift. But with [Jimmy Howard] back there, if we could keep them to the outside and knock any rebounds away, he's going to do a good job for us."

Red Wings clicking after season of figuring identity

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings have been the gold standard in the NHL for more than a decade, something not lost on the rival Chicago Blackhawks.

This current collection of Blackhawks has been building toward trying to meet that standard, winning the Stanley Cup in 2010 and knowing that knocking off the Red Wings for the first time in the playoffs as a group and reaching the Western Conference Finals for the third time in five seasons would be a major step forward.

When the focus is narrowed to just the 2012-13 season, though, the roles for these two franchises are reversed. The Blackhawks started the season on an incredible run and have been the pacesetter for the entire campaign, capturing the Presidents' Trophy and cementing their place as the team to beat in the Western Conference by dispatching the Minnesota Wild in five first-round games despite members of the club admitting it wasn't their best work.

This has been a different season for the Red Wings. It began with decreased expectations from people outside the dressing room, and a slow start seemed to confirm what pundits thought a Detroit team without Nicklas Lidstrom would look like.

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