Western Conference - Playoff Update - 05.17.09
4. Chicago Blackhawks
2. Detroit Red Wings
Game 1: @ Detroit, Sun. 5/17, 3:00 p.m. ET
Game 2: @ Detroit, Tue. 5/19, 7:30 p.m. ET
Game 3: @ Chicago, Fri. 5/22, 8:00 p.m. ET
Game 4: @ Chicago, Sun. 5/24, 3:00 p.m. ET
*Game 5: @ Detroit, Wed. 5/27, 7:30 p.m. ET
*Game 6: @ Chicago, Sat. 5/30, 8:00 p.m. ET
*Game 7: @ Detroit, Mon. 6/1, 7:30 p.m. ET
* If necessary
The histories of the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings are legendary. Names like Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Ted Lindsay, Stan Mikita, Denis Savard, and Steve Yzerman are names that echo the greats scorers and leaders of their time.
Old time hockey returns as rivalry is renewed between the ‘Hawks and the Wings.
The Red Wings come into the matchup as the favorite; they are the defending Stanley Cup champions, captained by Nicklas Lidstrom and powered by Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom, and elite right winger Marian Hossa, who joined the team in the off season after being defeated by Detroit as a Pittsburgh Penguin.
On the flip side, the youthful movement has brought a hockey renaissance to Chicago. Donning the captain’s “C” on his sweater is 21-year-old Jonathan Toews, who is joined by 20-year old RW Patrick Kane, 25-year-old defenseman Dunkan Keith, and 23-year-old LW Kris Versteeg as some of the most exciting young players in the game today. Leading the team in scoring this post season is veteran speedy winger Martin Havlat, who has 13 points (5 G – 8A), one more than Kane and 3 more than both Toews and Versteeg (both of whom have 10 points).
One of the biggest issues the Blackhawks will have to overcome will be their “lack of drive” early in a game. In their semi-final matchup against the Vancouver Canucks, the Blackhawks appeared to come out flat and would end up being down one or two goals before really turning things on. While they were able to rally from behind, this method will definitely not cut it against the defending champions, who love to shut things down with their aggressive style of defensive play. Falling down by one or two goals early in each game could easily be a death sentence for the Blackhawks season.
Detroit faced the Blackhawks six times in the regular season, winning four of the contests. The highest profile contest between the two clubs was the 2009 Winter Classic, held outdoors at the hallowed Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL. Detroit won that meeting, which was broadcast nationally on NBC, 6-4.
Chicago netminder Nikolai Kabibulin will need to be a brick wall in net to help keep the dream of bringing a Stanley Cup back to Chicago alive. Khabibulin, often times referred to as the “Bulin Wall”, has posted a 8-4 record this post season, with a 2.76 goals-against average with a .896 save percentage. Detroit was getting over 35 shots per game on net against the Anaheim Ducks’ Jonas Hiller. Will the “Bulin Wall” be able to weather such a storm?
8. Anaheim Mighty Ducks 3
2. Detroit Red Wings 4
Detroit wins series 4-3
It was a rough and tumble series, but the Detroit Red Wings found a way to defeat the Anaheim Ducks, who put on a great show as the “dark horse” 8 seed in the Western Conference.
With the defeat of the Anaheim Ducks, the defending Stanley Cup champions find themselves once again close to their goal. They will face off against the Chicago Blackhawks, long time “Original Six” rival, for the Western Conference championship.
Defeating the Anaheim Ducks was no easy task. The 8th and final seed in the West fought valiantly throughout the playoffs. They defeated the number one seed in the West, and best team points wise in the league, the San Jose Sharks to even advance to face the Red Wings, who handedly defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Game seven scoring began with a power play goal at 15:43 of the first period, scored by Detroit Red Wing Jiri Hudler as Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf sat in the box feeling shame. A mere 1:17 into the second period, Detroit struck again, this time at even strength, by Darren Helm. This gave the Red Wings a 2-0 lead.
Helm told reporters, “I think I got a pretty good jump on the puck there. I just wanted to get away from both ‘D’ as quick as I could. I didn’t put any added pressure on myself. I knew I was going to respond, and the team was going to as well.”
The “Finnish Flash” Teemu Selanne put the puck past Detroit netminder Chris Osgood at 14:50 of the second period to cut the deficit in half. Only a minute and thirty seconds later, Detroit’s Mikael Samuelsson scored his third goal of the post season to return the Red Wing lead to two goals.
With 16:46 left in the second period, Jiri Hudler was called for goaltender interference on Anaheim netminder Jonas Hiller. On the ensuing power play, Corey Perry notched his 8th post season goal at 17:12.
With twenty minutes remaining in regulation, the Ducks needed to show some urgency, crash the net, and somehow find a way to tie things up. Bobby Ryan answered the call by scoring his 5th of the post season at 7:37 of the third regulation period.
The Detroit Red Wings, however, would not stop their onslaught. They peppered Jonas Hiller with 17 shots in the first twenty minutes. They had a lull in the second period, getting only 7 shots on goal. But in the third period, they turned things back on, shooting another 15 shots towards the young Anaheim netminder. In all, Jonas Hiller faced 40 shots. One of those shots ended up costing Anaheim their chance to advance in the post season.
With a loose puck in front of Hiller, off of the stick of Henrik Zetterberg, Dan Cleary found a way to get a shot off that trickled through the Anaheim goalie, putting Detroit up 4-3 with 3 minutes remaining in regulation.
“Z made the play really … he put it on net, and I just happened deflect it,” Cleary said to the media post game scrum. “I stayed with it. It’s the biggest goal I’ve ever scored, considering the situation and the time.”
And so, the stage is set. The two teams that met in the 2009 Winter Classic, outdoors at Wrigley Field in Chicago will once again renew hostilities, reviving a decades old rivalry. This Western Conference Final will be one to remember.