The Detroit Red Wings walked out of the United Center on Saturday a very happy, very satisfied bunch.
They walked in and gave the Chicago Blackhawks the proverbial punch to the gut. But Detroit coach Mike Babcock wasn’t selling the Blackhawks short afterward; he was just recognizing what his own team did instead.
“It’s a good club; they’ve been good all year,” Babcock said of the Blackhawks. “We have a good club. We haven’t been good all year; lately we just got better.”
And it begs the question: are these Red Wings better than the Red Wings the Blackhawks faced –- and swept –- during the regular season? Yes, it was just one game that stymied the Blackhawks, who were by far the dominant group in Game 1. But the Wings impressed many with their seven-game series triumph over No. 2 Anaheim, which gave the Blackhawks last-minute fits this season.
“They had a long, hard-fought battle at the end of the season to get in, and what they did against Anaheim is unbelievable,” Andrew Shaw said. “They can score, they can play defense. They’re great in all aspects of their game and we have to be ready.”
Bryan Bickell gave Detroit its credit for the talent they have but doesn’t see a lot of differences between the Wings now to the Wings of a few months ago.
“The games we had against them were pretty close (in the regular season). The level of hockey in the playoffs changes,” he said. “They did what they needed to do to win; they got by Anaheim for a reason. But we have to bounce back yesterday like we did previously.”
The Wings are a good team, there’s no doubt. They recognized, and capitalized on, the desperate situation they were in on Saturday. They’re playing some of their best hockey at the perfect time. But the Blackhawks know how they can play, how they usually play, and know they have the depth and strength to rebound from that forgettable Game 2.
“We have a lot of respect for what they’re capable of. They beat a good Anaheim team. We know how good they can be. But we also have to be better,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You have to earn everything you get. So forget about everything we accomplished before (vs. Detroit). We have to accomplish everything on our own here.”