Some would say it was meant to be. As the regular season dwindled down, the Detroit Red Wings were in a dog fight for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There were whispers from Chicago Blackhawks fans that Detroit had to make the playoffs so the two Original Six franchises could square off one last time before the Wings move to the Eastern Conference.
As it turns out, both fan bases got what they asked for, and then some. Now they play one game for a spot in the Conference Finals. Is there anything better than a Game 7? Forget about who the teams are, a seventh game in a playoff series is a must-watch. Sure, it’s a little easier on the heart for fans that don’t have a vested interest in the teams participating, but that doesn’t mean they will choose not to watch.
Looking forward to Wednesday night’s game, here are a few things the Blackhawks need to do to help move on to the next round:
The best players need to be their best players.
Getting production from the bottom half of the roster is great. Michael Frolik became the first player in NHL history to record 2 goals via penalty shot in postseason play. Bryan Bickell scored his 5th goal of the playoffs when he put the ‘Hawks ahead in Game 6. Bickell scored 9 goals in 48 regular season games. It’s nice to have depth, but the big guys need to step up.
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp need to show why so many general managers envy Stan Bowman. The “core” of the Blackhawks is comprised on All-Stars and Olympians. This isn’t a statement about salary and earning your paycheck. This is about having better players than Detroit and proving it on the ice.
Corey Crawford needs to continue to impress.
“Crow” was good during the regular season. He’s been better in the playoffs. While splitting time with Ray Emery, Crawford saved 92.6 percent of the shots he face while allowing 1.94 goals per game. Since taking the job full time in the playoffs, his save percentage has gone up and his goals against average has gone down – in a good way.
The goal he allowed in the second period could have finished his career in Chicago. Can you imagine if the Blackhawks weren’t able to tally three goals in the third period? The season would have ended on a knuckle puck from the blue line. Crawford would have been thrown under the bus as the reason the season was over. Instead, “Crow” put it past him and did what he’s done all year: stop shots.
Control the tempo and use your speed until you’re given a speeding ticket.
Three minutes and 44 seconds into Game 6, Detroit defenseman Jakub Kindl decided to hold Frolik rather than let him fly by en route to the puck. Nine seconds later, Hossa scored a power play goal. Frolik used that same quickness later in the game to force the penalty shot. Viktor Stalberg has been used sparingly by Coach Joel Quenneville. When he’s on the ice, he needs to exploit the sluggish Red Wings defense. Pedal to the metal all game long. I wouldn’t expect anything else for a Game 7.
Photo: Chicago Blackhawks