Big story: It almost feels like fate that the Detroit Red Wings' last twirl in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as a Western Conference franchise would require the team to face the Original Six rival Chicago Blackhawks in a seventh game.
What a series it's been through six games, with momentum tilting like a teeter-totter. The Blackhawks won the opener easily, lost three straight to put their Presidents' Trophy-winning season in dire jeopardy, then won two straight elimination games to force the winner-take-all contest Wednesday night at United Center.
That Chicago comeback included a 4-3 victory in Game 6 at Joe Louis Arena on Monday night, marking the first time in 2013 the Red Wings lost a game in regulation when opening the third period with a lead (26-1-2).
Red Wings: If there's any lesson to be learned after watching this series unfold, it's probably not to overlook the underdog. Most thought the Blackhawks would roll to victory after comfortably winning Game 1, but the Red Wings reeled off three straight wins to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series heading back to Chicago for Game 5.
Now, after back-to-back wins by the Blackhawks, the assumption is that the home team is going to finish off the comeback to take the series. It would be wise, however, not to assume that will happen. The Red Wings still need just one win to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
"I’ve been fortunate to win some on the road and lose some and vice versa," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said of Game 7s. "To me, I don’t know. I just don’t worry about that. We just have an opportunity to play in it. It should be a lot of fun. Let’s get ourselves ready, and what I always hope for in these games is that you maximize what you’ve got. That’s to me what it’s all about. Maximize. Play your best game that you can play and we’ll see what happens."
Blackhawks: While it can't be assumed they will polish off their long-time nemesis, if there is such a thing as momentum in a playoff series, Chicago has it right now. In fact, the Blackhawks stole it right out of the Red Wings' hands with impressive victories in Game 5 at United Center and Game 6 at Joe Louis Arena (aka The Octopus’ Garden).
Chicago’s third and fourth lines have continued to shine, led by the secondary scoring of Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw. But there’s still a feeling that sooner or later the Blackhawks' top stars will come out. Goalie Corey Crawford let in a bad goal to give Detroit a 2-1 lead heading into the third period of Game 6, but he's been strong otherwise and Chicago will need that to continue, along with a strong defensive effort in front of the net.
"I don't really worry about who has the pressure," Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "It is not really about who is having the pressure, I don't think. It is just a matter of winning the next game, one game. If you win, you go to the next round and if you don’t you're out. Personally I love to play those types of games, especially in the playoffs."
Who's hot: Detroit forward Damien Brunner scored his team-high fifth goal of the playoffs on Monday, third in this series. … Bickell scored his fifth goal of the playoffs to put the Blackhawks ahead 3-2 early in the third period of Game 6, which was his second goal in as many games. Chicago forward Michael Frolik scored on a penalty shot in Game 6, which made him the only player in NHL history to score on two postseason penalty shots. He also did it in 2011 against the Vancouver Canucks.
Injury report: Red Wings forward Mikael Samuelsson (upper body) is day-to-day. Regular third-line center Darren Helm (back) and rookie defenseman Danny DeKeyser (fractured hand) are out for the series. … Chicago is fielding a healthy lineup.