Even though the two teams shook hands following the game, a custom saved for the end of playoff series, the season is by no means over for the ‘Hawks. Coming into a home and home against the Red Wings with a chance to be tied for first in the Central Division, the Wings swept the ‘Hawks in dominant fashion and sent them back to the drawing board.
The ‘Hawks came out blazing in the first led by Martin Havlat who played arguably his best period since his ‘Hawk debut against Nashville in the ’06-’07 season. Revenge was on their minds for the shenanigans Detroit pulled on Tuesday night. Brent Seabrook wasted no time evening the score with Dan Cleary by sending him head over heels into the ‘Hawks bench which then led to a too many men penalty on the Wings. On the ensuing power play, Versteeg followed a Havlat slap shot and banged home the first goal. The ‘Hawks owned the physical play putting a body on any Wings player within 4 feet. Every whistle led to scraps and the ‘Hawks were playing the role of aggressor. Just ask Andreas Lilja who still has a piece of his face on the glass after Andrew Ladd bumped into him. After Mikael Samuelsson tied it up on a power play goal, Havlat knocked in a one-timer from a no look pass from Versteeg. Then Ben Eager followed it up with a great individual effort behind the net and one of the funniest goal celebrations you’ll ever want to see. He skated as fast as he could all the way to the blue line and whipped out an incredible assortment of fist pumps. Things were about as perfect as possible in Blackhawkland. Then the period ended.
In one of the most annoying storylines of this season, the ‘Hawks opened up a period with a two goal lead against Detroit and watched it disappear as quickly as they got it. I don’t know if the ‘Hawks expect the worst to happen when they start a period with a lead against the Wings or if Detroit just decides they’re going to start playing but this has officially become a trend. Jiri Hudler scored on a scramble in front a minute and fifteen seconds and then scored almost the exact same goal about eleven minutes later right as Brian Campbell’s tripping penalty expired. After Detroit scored three ugly goals to tie it, Pavel Datsyuk scored on an end-to-end rush that ‘Hawk fans will have to relive during every Winter Classic. Along with the Eager celebration, expect to see him split Campbell and Barker every New Year’s Day.
For all the goodwill Cristobal Huet has built up among the ‘Hawk faithful, expect it to be tested after the third period disaster. He let in a goal three minutes into the period so soft it couldn’t have done any damage to certain members of the Ice Crew’s enhanced anatomy. Then Buffalo Grove’s finest Brett Lebda (Did you know he’s a Cubs fan???!!!???) roofed one right over Huet’s glove seventeen seconds later. After that, it looked like the Wings had 12 guys on the ice and the ‘Hawks only had 3. They probably had control of the puck for 85% of the time. Every shot the ‘Hawks put to the net hit a body before it even got to Ken Dryden. To add extra salt in the wound, Duncan Keith scored with nine seconds left which would’ve been the tying goal if not for those two goals.
The Wings are still the King of the Hill. In the last three games against the two top Western Conference foes (the ‘Hawks and Sharks), they outscored them 16-4. Make no mistake, they are as impressive a team the league has.