Great Expectations

The Detroit Red Wings it is. 

After the Hawks disposed of the Canucks and the home crowd was expressing their desire for the next opponent, I called for a holding of everyone’s horses.  After taking in tonight’s Game 7 tilt, I may have spoke a bit out of turn.  The fact remains, number one, that this is the Western Conference Finals and there are no pushovers left.   

Then after seeing Detroit’s play for the last period and a half, they looked completely and utterly exhausted.  Anaheim gave them everything they could handle for seven games.  Detroit wobbled, but ultimately stood tall, thanks to Daniel Cleary being a pest in front of the net.

So now, the Wings must turn their attention to the Hawks after a quick turnaround and be ready for more-rested squad ready to throw their best punch.

Nevertheless, things are looking pretty good ever since Anaheim forced that Game 7.  It would’ve been nice to see overtime, but as someone once told me, “beggars can’t be choosers”.

With all this being said, here are some things you can expect to see throughout the Western Conference Finals:

Pavel Datsyuk will be elated that he won’t have to see Todd Marchant’s face until next October.  Marchant played the role of ‘shadow’ to such critical acclaim that Esa Tikkanen is asking for royalty rights.  Datsyuk was held to just 2 assists through the seven games and if that tells us anything, it should be that Datsyuk is the straw that stirs Detroit’s Shirley Temple.

Niklas Lidstrom will log a half hour of ice time per game.  Since I’m still on a “Lost” kick, I’m going to call Lidstrom ‘Richard Alpert’.  The man doesn’t age.  He’s been around since the dawn of time and he is still shutting down the opposition’s top two lines.  This is why he’s so great:  Calgary and Vancouver had to decide which defensive pairing was in charge of HavBolLadd and Kane-Toews-Sharp.  Detroit can just throw Lidstrom out there and he’ll counter both of them. 

Patrick Kane will be target numero uno for the Red Wings.  The formula the Wings have used all year against the Hawks was to pester and hit Kane.  It shouldn’t be any different come playoff time.  Kane torching the Canucks will only give them more reason to administer the same game plan.     

Chris Osgood is still a mediocre NHL goaltender.  Save percentage be damned, Chris Osgood is not very good.  The key to this series may very well be how many shots the Hawks can direct towards him.  If they average 30 shots per game, they will have a terrific shot at bouncing the defending champs.  However, if Detroit’s defense puts the squeeze on them the way they’ve done the first two rounds, the Hawks will have some problems.   

Detroit’s power play will put more terror into you than the previews for ‘Drag Me to Hell’.  Another key to this series will be the Hawks limiting their idiotic penalties.  Detroit’s power play is like a machine sent from the future designed to kill your first born.  They will stop at nothing and chances are, they will succeed.  The key here will be for the Hawks to take as few penalties as possible. 

The silver lining in all this is the Wings won’t be trying to beat the tar out of the Hawks so that should limit the possibilities of Ben Eager or Dustin Byfuglien swinging a wild haymaker at an unsuspecting Wing (although Jiri Hudler probably deserves it).

Expect a ridiculous amount of attention paid to Scotty Bowman.  While Bowman hasn’t been seen or heard from by the public since the Denis Savard firing, he is still very much alive and you will be reminded of it at every whistle.  Bowman will probably end up getting credit in some corners for single-handedly turning around the Hawks by drafting Kane and Toews, putting home games on television, hiring Joel Quenneville, and re-modeling the Hawks dressing room.  Then on the seventh day, he scouted Kyle Beach.

There will be no talks of neutral zone traps or left wing locks.  These teams are nearly identical copies of each other.  They each use the neutral zone as a launching pad into the offensive zone and get a considerable push from their defensemen.  Not to mention, they both go four lines deep.  When each team gets a one goal lead, they will look to tack on more.

The only dump and chase played in this series will be on penalty kills, line changes, and empty net situations.  You’ll hear the words ‘puck possession’ in your sleep. 

The Hawks will still struggle to play with the lead.  Perhaps the most disturbing trend of the playoffs thus far for the Hawks has been their inability to play with a lead.  The Hawks had no idea what to do with themselves when they held a lead for more than five minutes against Vancouver.  Only in Game 2 did the Hawks grab the lead and look confident while holding it.  You could go back to Game 5 of the Calgary series and the Hawks have looked more comfortable playing 3 goals down than with a one goal advantage.   

Make no mistake, this will be one entertaining series.  Both fan bases have a strong distaste for each other and the players don’t seem to care for one another all that much either.  It’s only fitting that the two deepest teams in the Western Conference battle for entry into the Stanley Cup Finals.

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9 Responses to Great Expectations

  1. Lou says:

    To be the best you got to beat the best (or the defending champs).

    The Hawks can’t be afraid of these guys and as you said it they have to play with the lead. We didn’t do that a couple of times in the regular season. We are a much better team now. Believe in the Indian!!!!!

    Questions to think about…
    Will Toews be the Wolverine?
    Can Kane take the hits and still score?
    What will Buff do to Oswood? He messed with a much better goalie in Luongo.
    Can Buff out muscle super goon Holmstrom?
    What will the refs call? The tick tack or everything?

    We wanted to chant it all season, now we get our chance.

  2. Brian says:

    “Datsyuk is the straw that stirs Detroit’s Shirley Temple”??? How do you figure? He scored exactly 0 goals in the entire series against the Ducks and the Wings still won. I know you guys want to play the Red Wings, but I think the Hawks are going to learn exactly how deep a team really can be against the Wings. Their 4 goal scorers tonight were 2 4th liners, a 3rd liner, and a 2nd liner. And that was only because the Ducks had 2 Norris caliber defensemen shutting down their top-line. Just imagine how ugly it is going to get when the that line starts putting up numbers against the Blackhawks much weaker top defensive pair along with all those other guys.

    I’m excited to see the Blackhawks relevant again, but unless the Red Wings are truly tired from the Anaheim series, I can’t see this series going more than 5 games. BTW, how does a city that is bigger and in far better condition than Detroit actually manage to have an inferiority complex?

  3. John says:

    well Brian, obviously this is your first time over here but I’ve said since for quite some time I wanted no piece of Detroit. The only reason I’m feeling more optimistic is seeing how exhausted the Wings looked after the series ended.

    You could argue one of the major reasons Anaheim was able to extend that series to 7 games was the fact they shut down Datsyuk which was the point I was trying to make. That, and Hiller was shooting fireballs out of his ass.

    Who exactly are the 2 fourth liners that scored last night?

  4. Brian says:

    This is the first time I have visited (never had a reason before), and I must say that I am glad that the Blackhawks have better bloggers than the Ducks had. A series is much more enjoyable when the opposing team has good people writing about them.

    Actually, after re-thinking it, I think you’re right, the 4 goals were scored by 3 3rd liners (Helm, Samuelsson, Hudler) and 1 4th liner (Cleary). Truthfully, due to Draper’s re-insertion back in the line-up, I am not really sure what the line make-ups were. But you get my point.

    Either way, it’s going to be a great series. The way hockey should be played as opposed to the way the Ducks/Flames/Predators/etc play.

  5. LML says:

    I just hope Q has emphasized the need for team discipline while they’ve been off. I am sure he has, but we can’t have senseless penalties being taken against the Wings (as was the case against the ‘Nucks). They’ll torch us. I am namely referring to Kane and his errant use of his stick. He has stated that he gets his stick up to defend himself against the bigger opposition. I understand he needs to do something to fend off the attack, but if the Wings are going to constantly pound him, I am hoping it doesn’t result in Kane being the only one going to the box. He’s not the only one guilty of carelessness once in a while, but he is the first one that pops into my head. Not to sh*t on his game 6 parade or anything =).

  6. blackhawkbob says:

    Well, thanks for coming, Brian.

    I think you and John are both on to something, though: who the hell knows who the Wings’ fourth liners are? What makes the Wings so dangerous is that they have 10 or 12 forwards who can hurt you offensively, and the others play an important role.

  7. Lou says:

    It really is scary when you don’t know where a team’s third line ends and fourth line begins. Detroit is the defending cup champs for a reason.

    But as John puts it they do look tired and we can beat them but we have to stay out of the box on the dumb/lazy penalties. If Eager and Burish can do it, Kane and Versteeg can do it. The highsticks and trips and such have to stop expecially 200 feet from your own goal.

    To beat Detroit it is going to take a total team effort by avoiding the dumb penalties with discipline and playing comfortably with leads. We can’t expect to come back every game. Detroit Goaltending is suspect. Get the leads early and we can win.

    Regardless, this is a true test for a young team. This is now a journey towards consistency after a decade plus of mediocrity.

  8. Matt Saler says:

    John,

    With my comments at OtW, I didn’t mean to indict your fanship. I can tell just from a glance at your blog that you’re a knowledgeable guy. Please understand that I was letting loose with a little post-victory-high bravado there. I’m not usually “that guy,” but the Wings had just beaten a hated rival and is about to face another. I won’t be nice in this series. This is still a rivalry, after all, and I’m supremely confident in my team. But I’ll try to keep the crowing to a minimum.

    I’ll respond to your comment more fully at OtW when I have time later tonight, but I just wanted to clear that much up, at least.

  9. John says:

    No worries Matt, I’ve got thick skin. I just wanted to make sure my point got across that we’re certainly not as confident as you guys and we’re looking for any chinks in the Red Wing Kevlar. I certainly underestimated how much Osgood love there truly is in Detroit.

    By all means, crow away, don’t let me stop you.

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