There is nothing like old school playoff hockey.
The purists had to be smiling when they found out that the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings will renew acquaintances in the Stanley Cup semifinals.
The latest meeting between the Original Six rivals is historic on so many levels. The series will be the first time the two have faced off in the playoffs since 2009 when the Red Wings got the better off the Madison Street Hockey Club. Also, this series will be the last time the two teams can be called division rivals.
The Red Wings are moving over to the Eastern Conference next season. After that, all of the fans from the two passionate fan bases have to look forward to is an annual home and home series.
There are three things to look forward in this best of seven series:
Look for the style of play to increase to a fevered pitch
Even though the Blackhawks beat the Red Wings in every game they played against them this season, expect the intensity on each shift to be ratcheted up a few notches. Detroit is not going to lie down because of what happened in the regular season. There is genuine concern on the side of Chicago. The Red Wings did something that the Blackhawks could not do the season: Get the better of the Anaheim Ducks. The Blackhawks came up short three times this season against the Ducks. That tidbit of information has to be something that Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has to remind his team of.
Line changes in the Windy City
Even though the Minnesota Wild were sent back home after five games, Coach Joel Quenneville was not happy with the overall performance of the team. Last week, he demoted Calder Trophy finalist Brandon Saad and Viktor Stalberg from the first and third lines respectively. Dave Bolland, who is back from injury and Ben Smith were moved up to replace them in the lineup. According to the Facebook account of the Blackhawks blog, The Committed Indian, Stalberg will be a scratch from tonight’s line up. This was not the first time this season Quenneville shook things up before a matchup with Detroit. Before the team’s last game with against the Red Wings, winger Brandon Bollig was made a healthy scratch so an extra defenseman could be added to the roster. Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are forces to be reckoned with. Except a commitment to the forecheck to offset the offensive prowess of the two aforementioned players.
The changing of the guard
The Red Wings know things have changed since the last time the played the Blackhawks in the playoffs. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa are now household names. The men wearing the Indian head sweater are now a core of battle tested veterans who have no fear of the opponent standing in the way of postseason immortality. This isn’t the Blackhawks of the late 90’s. The speed and depth of Chicago will eventually wear down the Red Wings. “She ain’t what she used to be” applies best here.
PREDICTION: BLACKHAWKS IN FIVE