Red Wings in new territory, shift adversity to Hawks
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."
Red Wings center Cory Emmerton said: "It is a little bit different, but we can't treat it that way. The biggest thing about being ahead is not getting complacent. We've got to have that killer instinct, have to have the urgency to play the same way."
One of the dominant themes of the 2013 playoffs in Detroit has been the play of the younger members of the Red Wings. There will be six players in the Game 4 lineup who either are in their first or second NHL postseason, and this will be a new experience for them.
They have proven they can handle playing with desperation, but the young Red Wings also have thrived in the underdog role, and maybe that alleviates some pressure.
"I think what happened in the last series is we would win and get back to a tie in the series and kind of let up the next game," Emmerton said. "It wasn't until we were facing elimination did we kind of string together two must-wins. It is just going to be key for us to stick to the same plan and play the same way."
Detroit lost and then won three straight times against the second-seeded Anaheim Ducks in the first round before finally breaking the trend in Game 7 at Honda Center. The Red Wings dropped Game 1 of this series, but have responded with two straight victories.
The Red Wings now have won four of five and look like a completely different team than the one that was in danger of missing the playoffs five weeks ago. They have talked about learning on the fly and gaining experience as the postseason advances, and maybe the win in Game 3 of this series is an indication that some of those lessons are taking hold.
"We never talk about being ahead or behind," Babcock said. "Even before, we just talked about the game to play and that's what we're doing here now. … That's what the NHL is all about and what the playoffs are all about. Let's execute, let's focus on the process and let's focus on what we're supposed to do. If you do good things, most of the time good things happen."
For the Blackhawks, this also is new territory to navigate. Chicago has played 56 games in the 2012-13 regular season and playoffs, and lost in regulation nine times.
This edition of the Blackhawks also never has lost three games in a row in any fashion. The word "adversity" has been used a lot in association with the Hawks in the past three days, which was not the case at any other point this season.
"It's a good test for us, a good challenge," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We knew we were going to get tested along the way here. It's never a smooth road; there are always obstacles that occur that you have to overcome. Being behind in the series is something that has got our attention here. The response we're looking for will be needed across the board. It will be good to see how we handle this test."
Chicago rolled in Game 1 against Detroit, but the Red Wings returned the favor in Game 2. The Blackhawks had plenty of chances in Game 3, and put 40 shots on goaltender Jimmy Howard.
Now the Blackhawks are in that tricky spot as a favorite where the team played well enough to win the last game (for the most part), but the pressure has increased since Game 3 and could continue to grow if the Red Wings get off to a good start in Game 4.
"I think both of those words [desperation and urgency] are a pretty good way to describe it," Blackhawks forward Viktor Stalberg said. "This is as close to a must-win in this season as you get here [in Game 4] and we certainly don't want to go back home down 3-1.
"We feel good about our game. We feel we are playing well. There is another level we can go to, and we're confident we can get there, but we can't wait any longer. We need to get there [Thursday]. We need to get this win here."