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Blackhawks vs Red Wings

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Blackhawks vs Red Wings - 2013 SCP Conference Semifinals

Five reasons Hawks advanced to conference final

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- For the Chicago Blackhawks and their fans, there was a collective exhale late Wednesday night.

The Blackhawks had a historically great regular season, beginning the campaign without a regulation loss in their first 24 games and rolling to the Presidents' Trophy. After swiftly dispatching the Minnesota Wild in the opening round, the Blackhawks ran into trouble during the Western Conference Semifinals.

This season was one loss from having a tremendously disappointing ending, but the Blackhawks rallied to win three straight against the rival Detroit Red Wings and advance to the Western Conference Final with a Game 7 overtime victory Wednesday at United Center.

Chicago is halfway to claiming the Stanley Cup for a second time in four years.

Here are five reasons the Blackhawks were able to eek by the Red Wings:

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Five reasons Wings were eliminated from playoffs

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- About a week before the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs began, it appeared the Detroit Red Wings might not be taking part.

Instead, the Red Wings won their final four games of the regular season and earned an invitation for their 22nd straight tournament on the final day. It would be hard to find someone who thought this retooled Detroit roster was ready for a long playoff run, but the Red Wings were one goal from the Western Conference Final on Wednesday night.

Alas, that goal was scored by the rival Chicago Blackhawks, and the Red Wings' season came to an end in overtime of Game 7 at United Center. Strange as it was to see the Red Wings positioned as an underdog, they embraced the role.

Here are five reasons the clock struck midnight for Detroit in the Western Conference Semifinals:

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Red Wings come up short after Filppula injury

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Mike Babcock has a phrase he likes about the early part of a hockey game -- he wants his team to "start on time."

The Detroit Red Wings started on time against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals, but an injury to forward Valtteri Filppula early in the first period Wednesday night left them scrambling. Detroit was eliminated in a 2-1 overtime loss.

Filppula finished a shift and went to the bench, but Blackhawks forward Viktor Stalberg was there near the door. Stalberg had already engaged with one of Filppula's teammates on the ice and at least one sitting on the bench before he turned and knocked Filppula to the ice at 3:43 of the first period.

The replay showed Stalberg kicked Filppula's leg out from under him, or "slew-footed" him. Babcock's response to a question about the scrum was only, "You can see the video. You decide."\

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Hawks overcome disappointment of waved-off goal

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO – United Center was insane for a brief moment late in the third period Wednesday as it appeared defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson had given the Chicago Blackhawks a lead against the Detroit Red Wings in a tightly contested Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

But the celebration was both premature and short-lived.

While Blackhawks fans high-fived and pounded on the glass partitions surrounding the rink, the on-ice officials were already waving off the call because the whistle had blown before Hjalmarsson's shot. So, the score remained tied at 1-1 with 1:49 left in the third period as order was restored quickly.

But what had actually happened?

Behind the play, Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey had put Chicago's rookie forward, Brandon Saad, into the Red Wings bench and then shoved him to the ice. Saad threw a gloved swipe at Quincey's face from his back and both drew roughing minors that were called by referee Stephen Walkom before Hjalmarsson took his shot. Once Walkom blew his whistle, the play was dead.

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Howard a hard-luck loser for Red Wings

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

Jimmy Howard
Goalie - DET
RECORD: 7-7
GAA: 2.44 | SVP: 0.924
CHICAGO -- When Brent Seabrook's shot reached the back of the net behind him, Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard skated over to defenseman Niklas Kronwall.

The puck had gone off of Kronwall and fluttered just enough to beat Howard, and the goalie sympathized with the pain his teammate felt as the Wings were bounced from the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday night in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals at United Center.

"It's tough. How can you get upset at someone who is sacrificing their body out there, blocking shots?" Howard said. [Kronwall] has been huge for us all year and you know, he doesn't deserve that luck."

The same could be said for Howard.

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OT winner caps Seabrook's revival

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO – Brent Seabrook has a knack for saying a lot with just a few words.

He also has a knack for saving his best for the Detroit Red Wings, whose season the Chicago Blackhawks defenseman ended on Wednesday night at United Center with a snap shot that found the back of the net 3:35 into overtime of Game 7 to conclude a classic Western Conference Semifinal series.

After collecting the puck in the neutral zone following Dave Bolland's big hit on Detroit's Gustav Nyquist, Seabrook skated the puck into the Red Wings zone and fired a hard shot from the high slot that skipped off the left skate of defenseman Niklas Kronwall. The puck knuckled in mid-air, Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard couldn't glove it -- and just like that, the series was over.

"I had some room," Seabrook said after scoring his first winning goal in 62 Stanley Cup Playoff games. "I didn't really know what was going on. I just tried to get the puck on net and change and it bounced [off the skate] and went in. Lucky."

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Red Wings' Filppula leaves with injury

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

Detroit Red Wings forward Valtteri Filppula left Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night with an apparent lower-body injury.

Filppula was heading off the ice after his second shift of the game when he got into a shoving match with Andrew Shaw after the Chicago forward took a whack at Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg. He tumbled onto the ice, got himself onto the bench and quickly limped off to the dressing room and reportedly was later seen on crutches.

He played only 1:28 before the injury.

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Crawford, Howard seek next step in playoff careers

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Team success can go a long way toward cementing a player's legacy, especially if that player is either the goaltender or captain.

That may seem unfair at times, but it is part of the culture of hockey. One long playoff run can change the perception of a player and a team. And in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a long playoff run usually means reaching the second half of the tournament. Sure, careers are defined by hoisting the Stanley Cup or reaching the Stanley Cup Final, but winning two rounds in a postseason is incredibly hard, and being part of hockey's final four has a lasting impact.

What is the primary difference in the careers of, say, Joe Thornton and Alex Ovechkin, to certain people in the hockey community? Neither has played in a Cup Final, but Thornton's San Jose Sharks have reached the conference finals twice while Ovechkin's Washington Capitals have yet to breach that barrier.

It's a big reason Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals at United Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS) could be an important marker in the careers of the two goaltenders involved. The captains of these teams, Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks and Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings, have both won a Conn Smythe Trophy and led their clubs through long playoff journeys.

But Chicago's Corey Crawford and Detroit's Jimmy Howard have not. Both are starting goaltenders for elite franchises that are trying to return to previous levels of success. This game is their chance to be a part of that.

"It's going to be a blast. Starting from warm-ups, you know the crowd is going to be loud. It's going to be a great atmosphere," Howard said Tuesday afternoon. "You can't get ahead of yourself, you can't try to accomplish everything on one shift or one save. It's going to be a grind out there [Wednesday] night, it's going to be a battle, and you just have to stay within yourself."

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Game 7 a last hurrah of sorts for CHI-DET rivalry

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO -- It feels almost predestined that a Stanley Cup Playoffs series between Original Six rivals soon to go their separate ways comes down to one game for bragging rights and the chance to keep playing for hockey's ultimate prize.

The Detroit Red Wings, who are shifting to the Eastern Conference next season, will face the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS) in a highly-anticipated Game 7 of a Western Conference Semifinal.

It also comes with a sense of finality to it, considering it will be the last time these Midwestern-based Original Six stalwarts meet in the playoffs without the Stanley Cup at stake.

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Red Wings need big games from Datsyuk, Zetterberg

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

There was a point in the opening round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the star players from the Anaheim Ducks and the Detroit Red Wings were essentially canceling each other out, and it was the depth players from the second-seeded Ducks who propelled them to within one victory of the Western Conference Semifinals.

Then Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk took over, powering Detroit to victories in Games 6 and 7 against second-seeded Anaheim.

The role players for the Red Wings have stepped to the fore in the second round. Though Detroit's top two centers have done their part at the defensive end, they have combined for one goal in the series and three points in the past four games.

Now, for the third time this postseason, the seventh-seeded Red Wings face elimination. The top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks can end their surprising run Wednesday night in Game 7 at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). To avoid that scenario, the Red Wings need Zetterberg and Datsyuk to step up as they did in the first round.

"That's why they are who they are," Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "I wish I could tell you why. They bring it every night and in games like these is when they shine the most. They seem to find that comfort zone and just go out there and produce and make things happen out of nowhere. They're two of the best players in the League, and we're really happy that they're on our club and not the other team's."

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Quote of the Day

What we expected is what we got. Very mature young individual that's focused. He is on the right track. He's not only a great hockey individual, but he's a good person off the ice. He seemed to take a leadership role with this group right off the hop and ran away with it, and was vocal, was respectful, was everything it takes to be a Panther. His future looks bright.

— Florida Panthers director of player development Brian Skrudland on defenseman Aaron Ekblad's performance at development camp