Game 7, arguably the two best words in professional sports. Tonight, the Blackhawks and Red Wings will conclude their final playoff series as conference opponents in what only seems like a fitting way, Game 7. Many people, myself included, didn’t think that this series would ever reach this point after Detroit took a commanding 3-1 series lead with their Game 4 victory, but here we are.
Let’s take a quick look back at the first 6 games of this series:
The Blackhawks dominated Game 1 and won by a final score of 4-1. They forchecked as well as they have all year long and pretty much did whatever they wanted to against the Wings. Whether it was tired legs for Detroit after their series with Anaheim or simply a lack of energy, they looked awful and the Hawks looked phenomenal.
It was as though there was a role reversal in this game. The Blackhawks looked like the Red Wings of Game 1, and the Wings looked like the Blackhawks. Detroit dominated much of the game and made the Blackhawks look like they were skating in mud the whole game. The Wings controlled the puck for much of the game and never let the Hawks get anything going. Detroit won 4-1.
Back on their home ice, the Wings again were the much better team in Game 3. They controlled most of the first two periods and jumped out to a 2-0 lead heading into the third. After a Patrick Kane breakaway goal, Andrew Shaw scored what many thought was the tying goal, but the referees ruled goalie interference and the goal was taken away. Detroit would score one more time in the third and won the game 3-1.
The Blackhawks actually played well in this game. They played with a major sense of urgency and desperation, but it just wasn’t enough. Corey Crawford held the Wings to just 1 goal (they would add an empty netter), but Jimmy Howard shut out the Hawks. This was the first time all season that the Blackhawks had been shutout. The final was 2-0.
The Blackhawks knew they had to win or they were done, and that’s just how they played. Surprisingly, they scored 2 power play goals, and one of which was by Jonathan Toews (his first goal of the playoffs). Similar to Game 1, the Blackhawks controlled almost the entire game and won 4-1.
The Hawks started off with a strong start in this game and scored another power play goal about 5 minutes into the game. Detroit would answer back with the next two goals, one of which was a very soft goal allowed by Crawford. Then the third period happened. Michal Handzus got an early goal to tie the game in the third, and this propelled the Hawks to a dominating period. Bryan Bickell would score the go-ahead goal just minutes later, and Michael Frolik would score on a penalty shot to give the Hawks a 4-2 lead. Detroit scored late in the period, but that was it. Hawks won 4-3.
And that brings us to tonight’s Game 7. Both teams now have their backs against the wall knowing that it’s win or go home. I would expect the Blackhawks to continue playing with the momentum, but Detroit isn’t going to just lay their sticks down either. It will be interesting to see if Mike Babcock switches up his lines at all tonight, for instance by putting Datsyuk and Zetterberg on the same line.
Here are my keys to a Blackhawks victory in tonight’s game:
- The Blackhawks second line. Hossa, Handzus, and Bickell all scored a goal in Game 6, and this line has provided a major advantage for the Hawks over the last 2 games. Detroit has yet to find an answer for stopping this line, and if they can’t stop them again tonight, they could be in trouble.
- Corey Crawford. While Crawford has played pretty well all postseason, he has still given up some soft goals from time to time. I thought for sure that the bad goal he allowed in Game 6 would cost them the series. He needs to eliminate any bad goals from being scored on him tonight and come up with some big saves.
- Oduya/Hjalmarsson. When this pairing plays well, the Hawks generally win. Now that Quenneville reunited these two as well as Keith and Seabrook, the defense has played a lot better. I am confident that Keith and Seabrook will be big again tonight, but Oduya and Hjalmarsson will be key. If they can shut down the Wings forwards, I like the Blackhawks’ chances.
- Home ice. I honestly believe that playing on their home ice will be a huge plus for the Hawks. They have played their best games this postseason at home, and in this series in particular. Detroit has looked like a completely different team on the road in this series (despite Game 2). The United Center will be deafening tonight, which the Blackhawks have stated they will feed off of.
I don’t think that tonight will be like Games 1 and 5 in which the Hawks dominated on home ice, but I do believe they will be the better team tonight. Jonathan Toews has been a different player over the last 2 games, and if he steps up in a big way tonight like he did 2 years ago in Game 7 against Vancouver, the Wings will be in trouble.
If you are unsure how to handle a Game 7, you’re not alone. Here’s some tips:
-Watch the game where you feel most comfortable, whether that’s at home, in a bar, or even at the game. Watch it where you aren’t afraid to act like a 4 year old, make loud noises, or voice some profanity.
-If you’re like me, you’ll get so nervous to where you can’t eat for hours before or after the game. Don’t freak out, it’s normal.
-Have something to help you through the game. I like chewing sunflower seeds just to help my nerves. You may choose something else, but do something to help you along.
-DO NOT watch the game with anyone who isn’t a diehard fan. There is nothing worse than watching a big game with someone who wants to talk the whole time or focus on other things.
Puck drops in 5 hours. I hope we all make it through this night with out too much difficulty. Just remember, you’re not the only one who will be freaking out the whole game. All of Chicago and Detroit will be as well.