Admit it: there’s a little part of you that wanted to see this matchup one more time in extended series form. The rivalry, the longstanding dislike for the other, the two Original Six teams that will be in separate conferences starting next season.
But it’s not before one final Western Conference tilt.
The Chicago Blackhawks will host the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference semifinals beginning this week at the United Center.The Detroit Red Wings announced on Twitter that Game 1 will be Wednesday and Game 2 will be Saturday. Start times and remaining dates should be announced Monday. The Wings, seeded seventh at the start of the playoffs, earned this spot with their 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks late tonight.
These two can’t get much more familiar with each other, given their six games per regular season that will go away with realignment in 2013-14. And even with all the years built between them, there’s still something classic and classy about this series. It’s venom minus vile, dislike without the dirtiness.
Now, in what physical shape will the Red Wings be come this second round? If nothing else, Detroit has to be riding an adrenaline-infused high, coming back from a 3-2 series deficit to eliminate the Ducks in Game 7. But it’s been a long series, both in the number of games and with the travel. The Red Wings will be recovering fast from that series its jet lag.
Still, the Red Wings are a dangerous team. The playoffs are an annual stop for them, and their drive at this time of year was evident in their comeback against the Ducks. Detroit jumped on Anaheim early – Henrik Zetterberg put the Wings up 1:49 into the game – and had the Ducks pressing for most of the evening. And Jimmy Howard was stellar.
For the Blackhawks, it’s been rest, practice, rest, practice, with some scoreboard watching thrown in for good measure. They’ve been waiting, preparing, honing and focusing. On Saturday, when asked about their potential second-round opponent (San Jose or Detroit at that time), the Blackhawks were vague with their answers. They weren’t going to give many opinions before Sunday’s final outcome. But with the Red Wings, the Blackhawks know what to expect: strong, physical, skilled hockey and solid goaltending backing it up.
If this matchup is anything like their regular season games these past few years, it’s going to be tremendous hockey. The Blackhawks swept the Wings this season, but two of those games were the typical tight contests the teams have made a habit lately.
Corey Crawford enters this series on a high, having exorcised some demons and silencing critics – for now, anyway – with his first-round outings against the Minnesota Wild. He’s got a great career record against the Red Wings, too; in 15 games, he’s 11-2-0 with a 1.82 goals-against average and .943 save percentage.
The Blackhawks know their second-round opponent now, and it’s an opponent they know well. The two have had some tremendous regular-season games in recent years. You would have to think this series could offer the same.