Well, ladies and gentlemen, the Detroit Red Wings somehow made it through the first round and now face the uphill battle against the Chicago Blackhawks.
You know, the team they didn’t manage to beat once in the regular season.
How concerned should we be?
Nothing in the last round against the Anaheim Ducks points to any miraculous turnaround of this team. Leads were blown. Third periods collapsed. Costly mistakes were made. None of this was new from the team we saw during the majority of the regular season.
But in those mistakes, this team that sometimes feels as though there are more rookies than veterans in their ranks found ways to dig deep, to dig against those odds and win games. They never counted themselves out. They proved that maybe the Blackhawks should be a little concerned that they’re facing us. The Red Wings have made it to the second round of the playoffs, something they didn’t manage to do last year with Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom, and Brad Stuart still in their ranks. That’s a huge accomplishment that most people did not expect.
What makes this match-up against Chicago any different?
In the first round, the Red Wings were only sort-of underdogs. Anaheim had fallen a little flat of late and our team was coming off an incredible four-game winning streak in order to make the playoffs. In the second round, I’m pretty sure everyone is guessing Chicago in five (I personally said Chicago in six).
But if my prediction seems anti-Red Wings or that I don’t have faith in this team, know that I’m not counting us down and out yet. And I doubt Chicago is just waiting for us to roll over and die in this series. After defeating Minnesota in five games, they probably watched the Red Wings tough it out with the Ducks and see that while we may still look shaky, those moments of sheer danger still win out.
While the Red Wings may not have won any of the four games against Chicago this season, three of the four went to overtime and two of them went to shootouts. There are no shootouts in the playoffs. And it’s glorious. And terrifying.
Aside from the 7-1 blowout on Easter Sunday, the Red Wings played close hockey with Chicago. Hockey that you could compare to the games against the Ducks in the last round. That fact is either comforting or terrifying or a strange mix of the two.
The players that needed to step up last round did step up, at least when it counted. Pavel Datsyuk did his usual magic in the last few games after not many chances in the first four games. Henrik Zetterberg, the new captain, showed yet again that he steps up in big games. Justin Abdelkader has become a central, important player on this team, helping make plays and screen the goaltender to create chances. Johan Franzen was in normal form, banging away at pucks and trying that Brendan Shanahan shot from behind the goal line to score. And somehow, the combination of Zetterberg, Filppula, and Dan Cleary on a line became magical, magnetic, and downright good. (Go ahead and read that last sentence again.)
With the adversity this team has faced since January (and maybe even in the off-season), the fact that they made it out of the first round is enough for the fans that have been watching for the whole season and witnessed the ups and downs. Even winning a game or two in this round will be a huge accomplishment. If the Red Wings somehow beat Chicago and move on to the Western Conference Finals, most fans will probably have heart attacks.
But if the Red Wings do bow out in this round, fans should not hang their heads. They should be proud of what this team has done. Don’t be intimidated by the Blackhawks; stand up with your heads high and feel accomplished for how far we’ve made it.
In the end, it comes down to what Down Goes Brown said after Toronto’s blown lead in Monday night’s Game Seven:
That’s what sports is. The good and the bad. Someday, maybe, if you’re lucky, all the bad moments end up making one good moment mean more.
— Down Goes Brown (@DownGoesBrown) May 14, 2013