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Original Six rivalry had it all this season

by Rocky Bonanno / Detroit Red Wings
Perhaps the NHL should consider moving the Western Conference finals between the Blackhawks and Red Wings to Soldier Field and Ford Field, respectively. Judging by the overflow regular-season crowds, these rival teams could easily fill two football fields for a postseason series.

In six regular-season matchups, the Blackhawks and Red Wings played before no less than 20,066 fans, the maximum capacity of Detroit's Joe Louis Arena. The smallest crowd in two meetings at Chicago's United Center was 22,376. For those five games, the average attendance was 21,053. Add the frigid 40,818 fans that filled Chicago's Wrigley Field on Jan. 1 and the six-game average swells to 24,347.

The Blackhawks and Red Wings have met 703 times in the regular season -- the most between two franchises in League history -- since both teams entered the NHL in 1926-27. The rivalry is as hot as ever, and the 2008-09 season included six thrilling games with plenty of offense and drama.

"Every time you play the Red Wings, it's usually a fun game. If you can't get up to play against the Red Wings, there's a problem," said Chicago's Patrick Kane the day before a home-and-home series against Detroit leading up to the Jan. 1 Winter Classic.

In the six games, Detroit's Jiri Hudler led all scorers with nine points on 4 goals and 5 assists. Defenseman Brian Rafalski was close behind with a goal and seven points, and Marian Hossa and Henrik Zetterberg each contributed two goals and six points. Goaltender Ty Conklin went 4-1-0 with a 3.10 goals-against average, while Chris Osgood lost his only appearance against Chicago. The Blackhawks were paced by Martin Havlat's two goals and eight points. Defenseman Brian Campbell recorded a series-high seven assists, and both Andrew Ladd and Jonathan Toews chipped in three goals and two assists. Goaltenders Cristobal Huet and Nikolai Khabibulin each posted a 1-1-1 record against Detroit, but Khabibulin had the better goals-against average (2.68 to 4.28).

Detroit and Chicago have met in the postseason 14 previous times, with the Blackhawks winning eight of the series. In the 69 total games, Chicago holds a 38-31 advantage in wins and has outscored the Red Wings, 210-190. They last met in the 1995 Western Conference Finals, won by Detroit in five games. The Blackhawks last won a postseason series against the Red Wings in the 1992 Norris Division Final.

Here is how these teams fared during their regular-season matchups.

Oct. 25: Detroit 6 at Chicago 5 (SO)

A regular-season franchise record 22,690 fans packed the United Center for the first meeting between the Midwest Original Six rivals. The Blackhawks led 4-2 after two periods but the Red Wings stormed back with three straight goals for a 5-4 lead. Kane's 5-on-3 power-play goal with 7:27 left in the third period tied the score, and Detroit's Hossa scored the game-deciding shootout goal to end a wild contest.

"This was a tough game to play in," Hossa said. "Chicago played well, especially in the beginning. We came back strong."

Hudler and Niklas Kronwall each led the Red Wings with a goal and two assists, and Conklin stopped 36 shots for the win. Chicago was paced by Havlat (1-1-2) and Troy Brouwer (0-2-2), and Khabibulin made 39 saves.

"We'll take the point, but obviously we're disappointed since we had a two-goal lead," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "It was a good measuring stick for us."

Dec. 6: Chicago 4 at Detroit 5 (SO)

The Red Wings led 2-0 only 4:33 into the first period, but the Blackhawks rallied to take a 4-2 lead early in the second. Detroit regrouped with two scores in the third to force overtime and a shootout, ending with Pavel Datsyuk's game-deciding score.

Valtteri Filppula and Hudler each scored a goal and an assist, Hossa and Zetterberg also scored goals, and Conklin made 28 saves for Detroit.

"It was nice, especially after that third goal, to be able to battle through," Conklin said.

"At the start of the third we talked about no panic," Hossa said. "Just keep skating at them and take the puck to their zone."

Toews scored twice, Ladd had a goal and an assist and Patrick Sharp added a goal for Chicago. Huet stopped 26 shots.

"Good effort on our part," Quenneville said. "A tough ending."

Dec. 30: Chicago 0 at Detroit 4

In the first game of a home-and-home series leading up to the highly anticipated Winter Classic outdoor game two days later, the Red Wings sent a strong message with a shutout. Conklin needed to stop 39 shots to end Chicago's franchise record nine-game winning streak.

Johan Franzen paced the Detroit attack with two goals, and Datsyuk added a goal and an assist. Kronwall and Rafalski contributed two assists apiece.

Chicago dominated early, outshooting Detroit 12-1 in the first 9:21. Conklin went on to make 31 saves through the first two periods en route to his third shutout of the season. "The defense was outstanding, especially on the penalty kill," Conklin said.

"They played better the first 10 (minutes)," Franzen said. "We got a couple of penalties, and Conks made some big saves to keep us in the game ... We took over later."

The contest was the 700th in the regular season between these teams, the most in NHL history. Detroit improved its record against Chicago to 355-254-84-7.

Jan. 1: Detroit 6 at Chicago 4

A chilly crowd of 40,818 packed historic Wrigley Field for the 2009 Winter Classic. The opening faceoff temperature on an overcast day was 32 degrees, but it felt colder thanks to an 18 mph wind.

"It exceeded my expectations," said Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom. "I don't think the wind or playing outdoors bothered either team."

"I kind of had my mouth open in the beginning," said Detroit's Hudler, who had two goals in the second period to tie the game. "We were all looking at each other during the anthem - 'Wow, this is awesome."'

For the third time in four games during the season series, the Blackhawks scored the first goal and led by at least two goals. And once again, Detroit rallied for the victory. Kris Versteeg, Havlat and Ben Eager put Chicago in front 3-1 after one period. The Red Wings scored the next five goals -- the first two coming from Hudler -- to take a 6-3 lead early in the third period. Duncan Keith scored Chicago's final goal with 10 seconds remaining in regulation.

Hudler finished with two goals and an assist, Rafalski had a goal and two assists, and Zetterberg and Hossa each recorded three assists. Conklin made 33 saves for the win.
"It was a cool feeling seeing 45,000 fans screaming and yelling. The atmosphere was really unreal." -- Patrick Kane
Havlat finished with a goal and three points for the Blackhawks, and Huet (24 saves) and Khabibulin (13 saves) both received time in net.

"It was a cool feeling seeing 45,000 fans screaming and yelling," Kane said. "The atmosphere was really unreal."

April 11: Chicago 4 at Detroit 2

Again Chicago scored the first goal. Again they coughed up a lead. But for the first time in the season series, the Blackhawks emerged victorious, and did so in dramatic fashion. Dustin Byfuglien's penalty-shot goal with 28 seconds remaining in the third period snapped a 2-2 tie before a crowd of 20,066 at Joe Louis Arena.

Detroit Red Wings Playoff GearByfuglien was hooked by Kronwall on a partial breakaway, setting up the winning score.

"I got hit, but I couldn't tell how hard with everything that was going on," said Byfuglien, who beat Conklin with a high shot. "We got the break."

Swedish defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson scored his first career goal only 16 seconds into the game to put the Blackhawks ahead. Filppula and Zetterberg gave Detroit a 2-1 lead after two periods.

The Blackhawks began their comeback with Eager's goal at 8:53 of the third to tie the score. After Byfuglien beat Conklin (22 saves) on the penalty shot, Ladd added an empty-netter with 11 seconds remaining.

Huet made 21 saves to earn the win.

April 12: Detroit 0 at Chicago 3

In the regular-season finale for both teams, the Blackhawks received a 37-save shutout from Khabibulin before a crowd of 22,376 at the United Center.

Chicago Blackhawks Playoff Gear"It's definitely nice to finish on a high note. The game didn't mean much for either team, but you want to have good habits going into the playoffs," Khabibulin said.

Ladd and Toews -- his team-leading 34th goal of the season -- scored in the first period, and Dave Bolland added a power-play goal in the third.

Detroit scratches included Lidstrom, Kris Draper and Hossa. The Blackhawks played without Keith and Sharp.

Contact Rocky Bonanno at

Author: Rocky Bonanno | Staff Writer

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