Raise your hand if you thought that the Chicago Blackhawks would sweep the Detroit Red Wings after Game 1.
Now raise your hand if you thought that the Red Wings would defeat the Blackhawks by more than two goals in a game this series…didn't think so.
When I was watching the game yesterday, it was reasonable to expect the Wings to play much better, given that they had an extra day to rest.
What I never would have expected was the Wings to open up the proverbial can of you-know-what in the second and third periods.
The Red Wings sent a loud and clear message to the Blackhawks yesterday. That message was, to put it politely, "We don't give a rat's gluteus maximus about what you did in the regular season. It's the playoffs."
I will admit that Chicago is a good team. They execute well and don't do anything stupid, except for flopping to draw penalties (cough, cough, Marian Hossa). I could go on and on about how much I despise players who flop, but that's for another time.
My point for this column is as follows, the Blackhawks have too much hype surrounding them, and the Red Wings beat them at their own game.
From a fan's standpoint, I've heard enough about what the Blackhawks did in the regular season. The media outlets all say, "They won the most games in the regular season. They won the Presidents' Trophy, They rarely lost in regulation. Blah, blah, blah."
Get the picture yet?
The Wings do. But it never occurred to me until after the game. Even when Valtteri Filppula put them up 4-1, despite the fact that the four gaols was the most scored on the Blackhawks in these playoffs, all I was doing was hoping that the Wings didn't do what Toronto did against Boston in Game 7 of that series.
The thought that the Blackhawks were in some deep doo-doo first came to me when Johan Franzen scored in the third period to give the Wings a 3-1 lead. At that point, it was the first time that the Blackhawks had trailed by two goals in the third period, let alone at all, in these playoffs. In short, Franzen's goal was the backbreaker.
When Filppula scored, most of the Blackhawks fans had left the United Center or were heading for the exits. Of course, Brendan Smith's goal that put the Wings ahead for good in the second period made the Madhouse on Madison so quiet, you could have heard a pin drop.
I've said this time and time again, regular season success does NOT guarantee success in the postseason. The Red Wings know this, as they have won the Presidents' Trophy six times since it was introduced, but they won the Stanley Cup just twice (2002, 2008). In fact, only five other times has a team won the Presidents' Trophy and the Stanley Cup in the same season (1986-87 Edmonton Oilers, 1988-89 Calgary Flames, 1993-94 New York Rangers, 1998-99 Dallas Stars, and 2000-2001 Colorado Avalanche.)
Did the Red Wings expose a weakness of the Blackhawks? Only time will tell. If they can sustain that success in Games 3 and 4, and win both, we could very well have another victim of the Presidents' Trophy curse.
And if Chicago is tired of one thing already, it's curses.
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