It’s been a frustrating week for fans of the Chicago Blackhawks. They advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and learn that they are facing the seventh seed Detroit Red Wings. Easier said then done. The Red Wings have taken a stranglehold on the series thanks to a Game Four win at the Joe Louis Arena on Thursday evening. With the league’s best team down three games to one, things are starting to look a little bleak. However, that may not be the case. Here’s why you shouldn’t put that jersey away for the summer just yet;
- Babcock Has Out-Coached Quenneville So Far, But It Will Not Continue
Comparing Mike Babcock to Joel Quenneville is not easy. Both coaches are among the elite in the hockey world, and they both have years of success, and championships, under their belt. Babcock has out-coached Coach Q in games two, three, and four, matching lines, and squandering the Blackhawks top weapons with their Detroit equals. Henrik Zetterberg was on the ice for thirty-seven of Jonathan Toews‘ forty shifts in games Three and Four, holding him to no points and a -1 rating. Babcock could do this all day, but unfortunately, he will soon find out that his players cannot. The Red Wings are aging. They played 2 more games than the Blackhawks, and had to fight their own way out of Round One to get to this point in the first place, while Quenneville and the Blackhawks got rest, but stayed sharp. The conditioning of the young guns on the Hawks will pay dividends in this series, and this will start on Saturday night. Toews, Kane, Saad, Bickell, and company will be able to sustain a high intensity level for all 60 minutes, while Zetterberg, Datsyuk, and Kronwall will all start to feel the effects of two long, drawn out series’, on top of an already tough season. Their coverage will start slipping, and the Blackhawks’ offense will get back to regular form. These players on the Red Wings will not be able to play that much ice time, and it will burn them in the end.
Starting lineup for Game Four, where they scored 0 goals:
Starting lineup for March 16th vs. Dallas, where they scored 8 goals:
Moral of the story: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It. Those lines from the Dallas game went through minuscule changes during the season, and those included the games against these very own Red Wings. Now is not the time to turn away from the combinations that brought the President’s Trophy to Chicago, just because they are under pressure from a team. For the Hawks to be successful, they need to keep Toews and Kane on separate lines, and have trust in the top lines to wipe out the Red Wings power, and the bottom six to burn them with the depth that killed all the other teams the Blackhawks faced this season.
- Streaking Is In Their Blood
It’s true that the Blackhawks will have to win three straight games to punch their ticket to the Conference Finals. It seems daunting to any NHL club, but the Hawks might have an advantage. They did attain a 24 game point streak that got a little bit of publicity… inside that was an eleven game win streak. To put that in perspective, the Blackhawks only need 11 more wins to win the Stanley Cup. There were five times in this shortened season where the Blackhawks went streaking, earning 3 or more straight wins. With some help from the Blackhawk faithful at the United Center on Saturday, the Blackhawks could blow the doors off, and take this series and flip it on it’s head, and even continue that into the next round.
- The Stars Are Starting To Line Up
It’s no secret the Blackhawks have had some misfortune in this series. From a multitude of goalposts, to a rough crowd in Detroit, and spotty officiating, the Blackhawks have not had an easy ride to this point. However, at one point, the hockey gods have to show mercy. We thought it would in the third period of Game Three, and it didn’t. We thought it would in Game Four, and it didn’t. Now it’s time for the Red Wings to face the music. They are walking in to the Madhouse on a Saturday night, and that crowd will have no intentions of giving them a nice ride. They will be LOUD. They will be PROUD. Most importantly, they will be the fire under this Blackhawks team, and the Blackhawks will run the board tomorrow night. All they need to do is put up and impressive win, and they will have all the tools ready for use. Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa will not be held back, and with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook defending an outstanding Corey Crawford, the Red Wings will get lit up like the Fourth of July. Those lucky goals will go in, the Red Wings will play stupid, and all of a sudden, the Blackhawks will only need two more wins to take the series. Only one more road win is needed to get out of this series, and with a big Game Five win, that will be a lot easier.