The NHL playoffs are finally almost upon us, which has had me thinking of the match-ups I want to see this season. This post is going to be one of a few I’m going to be doing during the next couple days, and I would like to focus on a first round match-up between the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks.
Now, there’s a good chance I may only be writing about this match-up because of the fact that I’m a life-long, die hard, Red Wings fan, and with the way it’s looking now, they might be missing the playoffs for the first time since before I was even born. So I may be a little biased, but I think we can all agree that whenever the Red Wings swing into Chicago, or the other way around, it’s always a good game.
The Blackhawks swept the Detroit Red Wings in the season series this year, but three of the four games went into overtime, and two of them went into shootouts. The lone game that didn’t go into overtime was an embarrassing stomping that the Blackhawks put on the Red Wings in Detroit on March 31st.
The thing that makes this series so interesting, is these are two good teams that play good defense, and still find a way to get offense. The Blackhawks have averaged 28.75 shots a game against Detroit, and the Wings have averaged 31.5 against the Hawks this season.
The games between the Wings and the Hawks always comes down to a matchup between Cory Crawford and Jimmy Howard. Cory Crawford has a 96% save percentage against the Wings this season. Jimmy Howard has a save percentage of 91%. Howard’s stats don’t reflect the way he’s played against the Blackhawks. If you take away the game on March 31st that Jimmy gave up 4 goals on 14 shots (which weren’t all his fault due to a defense that couldn’t keep the Hawks away from the net) he has a save percentage of 94.3%.
Whichever goaltender can stand on his head and knock the puck out of the air the most wins. I love watching games where it all comes down to the goaltending. When teams are applying constant offensive pressure on both sides of the rink, and the goalie denies every opportunity when there seems to be no hope for the defense to keep the puck out of the net, that’s playoff hockey, and that’s why I want to see this match-up.
Next season, the NHL realignment has Detroit playing in a separate division as the Blackhawks. The Wings and the Hawks have always had a bitter rivalry that always ends in a race for the division, and a series of season games that leave you on the edge of your seat. As a fan of the rivalry, I am definitely sad to see this one go. The two teams will still meet each other twice a season, once in each building, but it won’t be the same as it is now. I would love to see these two come together in the first round to cap off an awesome rivalry that I’m definitely going to miss come next season.
We can only hope that the Detroit Red Wings will get there game together and finish out the remaining games on their schedule with some wins and sneak into the playoffs. The Blackhawks already have clinched the Western Conference, so all Detroit has to do is get passed Columbus, Phoenix, and Dallas for the eighth seed.