May 23, 2013
Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan
#1 Chicago Blackhawks at #7 Detroit Red Wings
Before the series even started, NHL fans knew they were in for a treat. A classic rivalry: The Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings, Two teams that go deep in the history books together, would face-off for the final time as division opponents.
Roles were somewhat reversed of years past, with the Wings keeping their streak of 22-straight playoff appearances going, but just by a hair, winning all four of their final four games to keep the season alive. The playoff experience kicked in, when they beat the Anaheim Ducks as a seventh round to move on to round two.
The Blackhawks, a team that one decade ago, was named the “worst in sports”, had one or the most successful regular seasons in league history. A president’s trophy under their belt, they took care of the Minnesota Wild painlessly, and earned themselves this matchup.
Game One was what Blackhawks fans wanted, with a convincing win at home. It had gone downhill since then, as the Red Wings rallied off a win by the same amount just two days later, and took the series lead with another win in Motown.
The stage was set: the Blackhawks didn’t want to face elimination, and the Red Wings, plus the hungry crowd at the Joe, were fired up to put the pressure on their long time rivals.
The first period look good for the Hawks; they put the pressure on Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard with 14 shots, were very physical, and played with emotion. There were a couple chances to take the lead, but Howard turned them aside. Both teams would head into the room tied 0-0. The Blackhawks and their fans weren’t worried at this point, and they knew that they could put one or two in the net, and contain the Wings.
That’s would be as close as the Blackhawks would get. The second. Would bring one of the darkest 20 minutes in Hawks’ fans memory.
Henrik Zetterberg took a penalty early, and the Blackhawks went to the power play and once again came up with nothing. This wasn’t so much a problem as annoyance, or at least at this point.
In between 5:20-10:54 of the frame, Chicago captain Jonathan Toews would find himself in the penalty box 3 times, unexplainable for a player such as him.
The Blackhawks’ penalty kill, stellar and perfect through the first eight games of the playoffs, finally found its first chink in it’s armor. Jakub Kindl would find the back of the net on Toews’ second penalty, and the Red Wings had a one-nothing lead.
The Blackhawks were down, but they were not I would. They threw everything at Jimmy Howard, But the 2012 all-star turned away everything that he faced, With some spectacular toe and glove saves.
Corey Crawford held his own, but he wasn’t fast enough on the power play in the second period, and he wasn’t on the ice on Daniel Cleary scored the game-sealing goal, And empty-netter that made it 2-0.
After the game, all eyes are on Toews, and understandably so. The Blackhawks’ star had gone through a demoralizing four games, and with no goals in his last 10 playoff games, he was facing a team that got to him both physically and mentally. However, underneath all this angst, Toews was still contributing for the Blackhawks. Unfortunately, analysts and fans alike were judging Toews’ performance by his goals, something he wasn’t able to do in the playoffs until that point.
The Red Wings had one more step to take after this: they had to go into the Madhouse on Madison and beat the Blackhawks if they wanted to move on to the Western Conference final.
It’s wasn’t happy times in Chicago after Game Four. The Blackhawks had many chances but were frustrated by the great defense of Detroit, and underneath Toews’ struggles was a team that as a whole wasn’t contributing as much as they could.
It was about time: the Blackhawks a team that went 36 and seven in the regular season finally had their first bit of adversity. They were not functioning well, and almost the entire league was on the opposite side of them, waiting to see the President’s Trophy winners get kicked out of the playoffs by their foe.
All of this left fans begging, hoping, and praying for a game five revival back at home. Playoff traditions were changed, rally caps were worn, and banners were waved extra hard for the next game, which could be the final of the Blackhawks season.
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