This in fact will be “it”, since it’s Game 7 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals, between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings, the winner will advance, and the loser of tonight’s game will knocked out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Blackhawks are on a roll, as they have evened the series at 3-3, after being down 3-1. There must be something that is motivating about being on the brink of elimination that has given the Hawks new life. They are absolutely firing on all cylinders at the moment, just as the series reaches it’s conclusion at the comfort of their own home, in Chicago. The Power Play has been producing, finally. Jonathan Toews has found a way to be productive, finally. Corey Crawford has been playing out of his mind, as he has stifled the Red Wings offense, for the most part. Bryan Bickell is playing the best hockey of his life, along with the rest of the bottom six forwards for the Hawks, as their scoring depth couldn’t be better. What could go wrong? Keep in mind that this has been the story for only the last two games. In Games 2, 3, and 4, the Blackhawks played like a “Bizarro” version of the unstoppable force that has been the Games 5 and 6 Blackhawks. So there is a legitimate concern over which of the recent Hawks will show up for Game 7. As long as the Hawks keep up what’s been working in the previous 2 games, they will advance to the next round. They cannot afford to become complacent.
The Red Wings have fallen far from their tremendous shut-down style from Games 2, 3, and 4. In those Games, Wings’ Head Coach Mike Babcock intricately chose his matchups to shut down the Hawks top scoring lines. Babcock used his top lines that feature Henrik Zetternerg and Pavel Datsyuk to frustrate and completely neutralize the Hawks top scorers. That combined with stellar goaltending from Jimmy Howard, left the Hawks dumbfounded and gave the Wings’ a 3-1 lead in the series. Since then, things have flip-flopped. Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville has tweaked his lines, and when he uses them, ultimately throwing off Babcock’s shut-down strategy. The Wings will have to find a way to return to their stingy ways, as Howard has proved to be more than reliable in this series. If the Red Wings can find a way to shut-down the Hawks top lines, and cool the monstrous momentum that the Hawks have, they have a great chance of advancing.
Now it has all come to this. A series that will mark the end of the divisional and conference rivalry, that has been around since 1926, between the Blackhawks and Red Wings. A Game 7 of a series that has truly been a tale of two teams, and the end of an epic chess match between two elite head coaches. It should be a great game.