The Chicago Blackhawks waited until the third period to turn on the desperation, but hey, whatever works.
The Blackhawks did well to score first on the road against the Detroit Red Wings, but were outplayed going into the third period. The unlikely trio of Michal Handzus, Bryan Bickell, and Michael Frolik scored consecutively to lead the Blackhawks to a 4-3 win.
Wednesday will be Game 7, the greatest spectacle in sports. This will not be just any Game 7, but it will be a match-up of the best and longest rivalry in NHL history before Detroit moves to the Eastern Conference.
The Blackhawks tried their hardest to let Detroit power past them after taking the lead in the first. Good intermediate passing, winning board battles, and throwing the puck on net made it look like fans of both teams would be watching a repeat of games three and four. What really made it seem like the end was near for Chicago was a soft goal let in by netminder Corey Crawford on a knuckling shot from Joakim Andersson from the top of the left circle.
For the Blackhawks sake, hockey has intermissions.
Michal Handzus showed master patience on his goal 51 seconds into the third, and the rest was history. Minus a late powerplay goal, Chicago controlled the third. Even more important, Crawford played well and made a handful of A+ saves.
Obviously, all can still be lost if Chicago loses Wednesday. Coming back from a 3-1 series deficit is never easy. Finishing the series off? Even tougher, just ask Detroit.
Crashing the net has been the Hawks’ key to scoring. Bickell and Hossa cleaned up the garbage in game six, and a similar recipe should be on tap. Chicago also kept their feet moving when they had momentum in the final period. Sounds simple, but skating keeps an offense from being stagnant.
The Blackhawks powerplay continues to improve. Each powerplay was uglier than the first. Long passes on the man advantage do not work as often as the Hawks would like. Moving the puck to Patrick Kane’s side led to more shooting opportunities. No defenseman on Chicago can handle the puck as well as him, so it will be important to get it off their sticks unless it is for a shot.
Detroit played a physical style for majority of the game, but it did not keep Chicago from pressing. Their third line continued to impress. Joakim Andersson played well even if his first goal of the playoffs was fluky. Damien Brunner is going to be a player the Wings can depend on for the foreseeable future.
Jimmy Howard, much like Crawford, is playing world-class hockey. His confidence has not waned, and cheap goals have been minimized. Chicago’s frustrations have come in large part because of Howard’s ability to take away opportunities and stop those that shouldn’t.
If you can find Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk’s offense, inform authorities, because the city of Detroit has been on a mad hunt for it. A credit to both teams, the top players on the top lines have been neutralized for the majority of this series. Hossa and Toews helped energize the Blackhawks in games five and six, and Detroit is still waiting for that same spark from their best.
Game 7 will be must-watch television for any sports fan. Rivalries like this one should live on at no costs, but since Detroit has been on the bad end road trips for the past couple of decades, they will move to more eastern pastures in 2013-14. This will be the last game as division foes potentially forever. We should all be lucky to have enjoyed the hatred between the Blackhawks and the Red Wings while we have it.
It will be fun to see who gets the last laugh.
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