The Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings are scheduled to face-off Sunday evening at the United Center for their final matchup of the regular season. Unfortunately there will only be two meetings between these historied rivals this year and in the regular seasons to come. This is due to the NHL league realignment during the offseason that sent the Detroit Red Wings to the Atlantic Division, while the Chicago Blackhawks remained in the Central Division. The chances of these two teams seeing each other in the 2014 NHL Playoffs is also slim to none with the possibility of the Detroit Red Wings missing the playoffs for the first time since 1990. Yeah, that’s not an error, 22 consecutive seasons they have made it.
As most of you probably remember en route to the Stanley Cup Championship, the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Detroit Red Wings in a frenzied 7 games during the second round of the 2013 Playoffs. Not only did the Chicago Blackhawks have to come back from being down 3 games in the series, game 7 was one for the books with a hard-fought overtime battle.
Their first matchup this season in January ended with a 5-4 shootout win for the Detroit Red Wings. The Blackhawks managed to blow a 2-0 lead early in the game where Corey Crawford gave up 4 goals on the first 17 shots that he faced. This game Sunday will look a little different for Detroit without several star players in the lineup however. Todd Bertuzzi, Pavel Datsyuk, and Henrik Zetterberg are just a few to name and the list is longer with not much left in their reserves.
Recently the Chicago Blackhawks have also experienced what it’s like not having one of their top players in the lineup. During the first period of the Soldier Field Stadium Series game Marian Hossa was sidelined with an upper body injury he sustained when taking a check into the boards. Since then the Chicago Blackhawks have gone a bleak 2-3, with the 3 losses coming against Central Division foes. As a result they have slipped down the standings and have found themselves in third place, 7 points behind the St. Louis Blues. Good news has just come their way though. Marian Hossa was interviewed after a Friday morning skate where he said, “It’s actually better than yesterday, which is a good sign. You’re never happy when (you’re hurt) but that’s part of the sport. You have to make sure you heal as quickly as possible and be back right away but you also have to take some time. Hopefully the time will come against one of those two (Wings or Flyers).” This tells me if there are no setbacks expect to see him out there Sunday night in a decent role and if things go well, he’ll be back at it 100% vs. the Flyers Tuesday. Quote courtesy of Tracy Meyers at CSNChicago.com.
After a 3-2 loss against the Colorado Avalanche Wednesday night and a 3-2 loss against the Nashville Predators the Chicago Blackhawks will be looking to snap this 2 game funk that they are in. Posting a 3-4 record since the Olympic break the Chicago Blackhawks have had Jekyll and Hyde style play. This team is capable of putting up the numbers and have done it often this season. However, far too many times this season the Chicago Blackhawks lose a game because they fell behind early, usually down 2-0 or down 2 goals in the third period and have to fight back just to tie it. The problem with those losses was that they didn’t put themselves in the position to win in the first place. Playing at a slower pace and not using the boards to their advantage is what I have seen. If they get their feet moving quicker and dump the puck into the zone with an extended effort to get the puck in the dirty areas of the ice they will return to their winning ways.
Jonathan Toews couldn’t have said it any better in his interview after their game vs. the Nashville Predators Friday. When questioned about the teams scoring consistency he said, “We’ll get bounces. Like I said, when we work harder, the harder you work you know you’re going to get bounces eventually. Pucks will land on your stick , we’ll get some ugly goals around the net and we’re not finding those pucks right now because we’re not working for them, it’ll come when we pay the price.” Quote courtesy of blackhawks.nhl.com
Listen to your Captain fellow Blackhawk players, listen to those words and follow, “it’ll come when we pay the price.” Jonathan Toews plays with so much heart and intensity every night on both ends of the ice, which is why he is the valuable player he is. Recently without his 7 goals in the last 6 games I think the scores could of been a lot more lopsided. So lets pay the price guys and pick up your tempo from the start and grind out those gritty pucks in the corners! I know Coach Q would be a lot happier…
Tune in to catch the game Sunday night at 7:30 ET on NBCSN or TSN2. LETS GO HAWKS!