The Detroit Red Wings may have taken four of six games from the Chicago Blackhawks during the regular season, but that doesn't mean they're going to waltz through the 2009 Western Conference Final, which is set to begin on Sunday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena.
One of those regular-season meetings, of course, was Detroit's 6-4 win at the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Wrigley Field. It was one of several close battles between the clubs, as the first two meetings -- both won by the Wings -- required shootouts to determine the winner.
For Chicago, those games probably seem like a lifetime ago.
It didn't take long for the first question about the Blackhawks to come up on Thursday night -- it came just moments after the Wings eked out a pulsating 4-3 victory in Game 7 of their conference semifinal against the Anaheim Ducks.
While most of the Wings were still trying to celebrate the series-clinching victory, others were open and willing to discuss what could be their most dangerous opponent yet. Chicago ousted both the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks in six games to reach the Western finals for the first time since 1995 -- when they lost the Red Wings in five games.
"They're young, loose and confident," Wings goalie Chris Osgood said. "That makes them dangerous. They're never out of a game. I'm not thinking too much about them right now, but we'll be ready for them, for sure."
One could certainly make the case that the Blackhawks are the most exciting young team in the League, headed by young studs Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The latter had his first playoff hat trick in Monday night's series-clinching 7-5 clinching victory over the Canucks at the United Center.
"Some of their younger players have been their best players," Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom
said. "They've been getting better and better in the last couple of years. They're playing real well, so we're going to have our hands full in the next series."
One way the Wings can be successful against Chicago is if they can continue to get contributions from everyone in the lineup. Detroit was able to beat Anaheim despite getting a single goal from Pavel Datsyuk
, a finalist for the Hart Trophy as the League's Most Valuable Player after a 97-point (32 goals, 65 assists) regular season.
"They've got a good, young, offensive team and a great defense. We don't expect anything less from them"
-- Red Wings forward Jiri Hudler
With Nikolai Khabibulin between the pipes on the other end of the ice, Datsyuk is going to have earn his goals against Chicago, which racked up 104 points in the regular season and finished fourth in the West.
"They've got a good, young, offensive team and a great defense," Wings forward Jiri Hudler
said. "We don't expect anything less from them.
"We know it's going to be a battle every shift. We've got the advantage of home ice for the first game. We've got to put pucks behind them and get a lot of pucks to the net. He's a great goalie, too." Contact Brian Compton at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Brian Compton | NHL.com Staff Writer