The Chicago Blackhawks talked about it throughout the first round -- the need to raise their level of play and intensity.
Considering their second-round opponent, they shouldn’t have a problem elevating those levels now.
When the Blackhawks host the Detroit Red Wings in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series on Wednesday, there’ll be little need to find motivation. These two teams bring out the best in each other, from individual performances to overall games. It’s tremendous, high-level, intense, skilled, speedy, rival-driven hockey between these two, and the Blackhawks should be than ready for it.
“It’s tradition and animosity, from the fans to the players. It’s a special history there,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ve found when we play Detroit and teams in our division, the intensity and motivation is right in place. We want to make sure we take care of our own business. They’re a strong hockey team that plays with a purpose. We’re going to have to be at our best. Let’s welcome it and let’s look forward to it.”
That shouldn’t be too difficult. Sure, the stakes are higher between the two now, and it’s been a few years since they’ve squared off in the postseason – the 2008-09 Western Conference Finals, which the Wings won 4-1. But be it a regular-season game, a Winter Classic tilt or this, the Blackhawks don’t need to search too far for motivation. It’s built in, as is the intense play that comes with it.
“Even during the regular season, when you play them, it’s a fast pace out there, there’s a lot of backchecking and not much room,” Marian Hossa said. “I can imagine what it’s going to be right now is so fast, and we have to be ready for that pace.”
The pace will be intense, as will be everything else in this series. There are no secrets with these two teams. They both play a similar style, have similar skill and a similar mindset. Perhaps that’s why the hockey between them is so great on a consistent basis.
“The respective fan bases, Original Six, the last time they’re in our division: it should be a good series,” Bryan Bickell said. “Hopefully we can come out on top.”
The Blackhawks have an old history with the Minnesota North Stars but let’s face it: that was a long time ago, and the old Norris Division hatred just didn’t spill over to include the Wild. But against Detroit, there’s no need to do a pulse check. It’s there. And more intense hockey should be, too.
“The history with them, the intense games – we’ve had a couple great ones this year,” Quenneville said. “We’re excited about getting into this round, but we’re going to have our hands full with this team.”