DETROIT – At first glance, the regular season series between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks was quite a one-sided affair with the Western Conference’s top seed winning all four times.
However, take away that 7-1 blowout at Joe Louis Arena and the other three games were decided in either overtime or a shootout.
“They beat us all four times, I read that on the way in here,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “You’ve got to play real hockey now in those situations. They thumped us the one time on Easter Sunday. That stuff is all over now.”
The teams meet in a best-of-seven semifinal series beginning Wednesday in Chicago at 8 p.m.
“I think we played some good hockey,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We had ups and downs and I think that’s part of the process, but at the same time hopefully we can continue like these last two games and keep rolling.”
The Wings needed seven games to dispatch of second-seeded Anaheim, winning the final two games in the series.
“If you love what you’re doing and you’re doing it to the best of your ability that’s a lot of fun and we’re getting to play when lots of teams are home,” Babcock said. “There are eight teams left, so it’s a thrill for you to have an opportunity to play at this time of year.
“What I think is exciting about this series is there’s two Original Six franchises, two great cities that love hockey, they have been around for a long, long time, lots of tradition that are getting to play,” Babcock added. “We’ve played them in the playoffs and in the past and had lots of fun in those series. I thought the series this year, with the exception of the 7-1 thumping they gave us on Easter, was a good series. If people didn’t remind me I wouldn’t know we didn’t win any of the games. To me, we played them real well, with the exception of the one.”
This is the 16th playoff series between Detroit and Chicago.
“I think we know more about what we have in here,” Kronwall said. “I think that’s something we’ve learned over the season. We learned how to play to have success. We’ve eliminated some of the earlier mistakes we made. I think we’re definitely the last few games have been moving in the right direction.”
Twice Chicago has beaten Detroit in the Cup final (1934, 1961). On nine other occasions, the team that won the series advanced to the Cup final, but lost.
Nine of the last 10 games between these teams have been one-goal finishes.
“It’s tight,” forward Daniel Cleary said. “I think they had a hell of a season. Obviously you get excited to play good teams. We were in that position for a lot of years here where teams got excited to play us. Chicago’s going to be a fun matchup. It’s going to be like no other in terms of anthem, in terms of energy and crowd for some of the younger players who haven’t seen it before.”
With the Wings heading to the Eastern Conference next season it’s the last time these two teams will meet in the postseason unless it’s in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The last time Detroit and Chicago met in the postseason was 2009 with the Wings taking the series in five games. Three of the games in the series went to overtime.
“Chicago is young and talented, and you could see that they were destined for good things,” Cleary said. “I think they learned a lot from that series. Obviously, they went to win. They’re a talented team. Obviously, the Original Six history speaks for itself. But in terms of rivalry, the rivalry is there based on the history. We have a huge rivalry with Anaheim and San Jose, but there’s no history, it’s all based through the playoffs.”
Chicago has won the last seven regular season meetings against the Wings.
“I think we’ve learned a lot about ourselves over the last stretch of the season and how well we played just to get into the playoffs, and then how well we played against the Ducks,” goalie Jimmy Howard said. “It’s a team that may not be as talented as some of the teams that we’ve had in years past. But it’s a team that works extremely hard, and when you have that aspect you can be a hard team to beat.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has never beaten the Wings in a playoff series as a head coach.
“Winning the Cup you’ve got to take on the best comers,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “We had a good chance five years ago. It’s amazing how long ago that was, and we didn’t face (each other) since then. I don’t think the series was as dominating as 4-1against us, but it was a good learning curve for us. A young team learned from one of the teams that knows how to win, defending Cup champ, I think there’s an education there from them. Now it’s a whole
new challenge and they’re playoff tested. They know how to play. They know how to compete and they know what’s ahead of them, but I think we learned as well. I thought we applied it the following year. You can’t pick and choose who you’re going to play in the course of a playoff