The Blackhawks collected an overtime victory against the Detroit Red Wings here in Chicago early this season. They notched a come-from-behind shootout triumph in Detroit, pummeled them there to start April and then wrapped up the regular-season sweep with another shootout victory here. Oh, and Corey Crawford won all four of those games.
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Now, all that information we just gave you, that whole synopsis of Blackhawks-Red Wings this season? Throw it out. Because as tempting as it is to say the postseason results could mimic the regular one, it doesn’t really work that way.
When the Blackhawks and Red Wings square off in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals on Wednesday night, the slate will be wiped clean. The Blackhawks will certainly take a lot of good vibes from the games they played against the Wings this season. They’ll take the intensity level they had, too. But as far as assuming these games will play out like those? No way.
“We didn’t beat them as long as I’ve been here in the playoffs; we played them just once,” said Jonathan Toews, referring to the Wings’ 4-1 Western Conference Final series victory over the Blackhawks in the spring of 2009. “We have to be ready for that. What happens in the regular season, just goes to show you, doesn’t matter. It’s whoever goes out there and wants it more and competes harder in the confines of a seven-game series. That’s what matters to us.”
Obviously there are differences between the 2009 Blackhawks and Wings and the teams now. The Blackhawks were on the rise at that point and the Wings were en route to their second consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearance. Now the Blackhawks are the No. 1 seed. The Wings may have entered the playoffs as the No. 7 seed but they reminded everyone in their first-round series against the Anaheim Ducks that they’re not to be taken lightly. Ever. That goes double for the postseason.
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“It’s going to be a tough series,” Marian Hossa said. “We had their number during the regular season but they were all tight games. They’re playing extremely well from what I saw of their games against Anaheim. We’re going to need to elevate our game.”
Indeed, the Wings will be coming on a tremendous high after toppling the No. 2-seeded Ducks. The Blackhawks may be the more rested of the two – there will be six days between their Game 5 elimination of the Wild and Game 1 vs. Detroit – but they’ll be equal in many other facets.
“It’s a fresh slate; it’s a new season. We’re starting clean,” Quenneville said of the postseason series vs. Detroit. “You look at all but one game, they were all close and tight games. You can expect that kind of pace throughout the playoffs.
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“(Detroit) had a great stretch to get into the playoffs. They had to make some hay to get in there and they did it,” Quenneville said. “Their top guys are special. The tradition, they know how to win and they find ways to bring the best out of our team. But we’re worried about how we have to approach it, so let’s make sure we’re at our best.”
The Blackhawks will take their regular-season sweep of the Wings for what it was: a great batch of regular-season games that they would certainly like to emulate. But this is a bigger stage, and it will feature bigger play.
“We know what we’ve accomplished against the them last few years but it doesn’t mean anything,” Toews said. “We want to prove ourselves again (in the postseason). We have something to prove.”