The Detroit Red Wings will get their third and final chance to close out this best of seven series against the Chicago Blackhawks. Unfortunately for the Red Wings, the Blackhawks will also have the opportunity to eliminate the Red Wings tonight in this winner take all game seven.
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Matchup: Detroit Red Wings vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Venue: United Center; Chicago, IL
Time: 8:00 PM EST
Television: NBC Sports Network; CBC
Series: Tied 3-3
The Red Wings have done exactly what they did not want to when they took a mammoth 3-1 series advantage over the Blackhawks. The Red Wings allowed the Blackhawks to regain their dominance that was on display in game one of this series to charge back and even the series at three games a piece. That sets up a showdown tonight which is sure to be an instant classic.
This game tonight will be the final meeting of the Red Wings and Blackhawks as divisional and conference rivals, so it is only fitting that it comes down to the final meeting to determine the better team. Despite the two teams long history that dates back to the Original Six days, this is only the third time that a playoff series between the Red Wings and Blackhawks has gone to a game seven and the first time since 1965. Both teams have won a game seven with Detroit winning in Chicago in 1964 and Chicago winning in Detroit in 1965. That is just another reason this game will be historic, it will be the rubber match for game sevens all time. If the two teams are to ever play a playoff series again after this game, it will only be if they meet in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Chicago comes into the game tonight with home ice advantage and all of the momentum on their side in the series. After losing three straight to the Red Wings, the Blackhawks charged back with two consecutive victories with the latest coming on Monday at Joe Louis Arena.
The Blackhawks were able to strike first once again early in game six with a powerplay goal only 3:53 into the first period when Marian Hossa was able to sneak the puck into the net as it was lifted off its moorings. The goal would go to review to see if the net was off the moorings before the puck went in, but the goal was eventually upheld. The Red Wings were not able to break through until late in the first period when Patrick Eaves was able to fire a wrist shot past Corey Crawford with only 1:09 left in the first period. After some ups and downs in the first, the Red Wings were content heading into the locker room tied 1-1 after one period.
The second period was the best period for the Red Wings. They were able to keep pressure on the Blackhawks for almost the entire period, out-shooting the Blackhawks 18-10 in the period and keeping the puck in the Blackhawks zone for much of the period. The Red Wings were able to capitalize on their pressure when Joakim Andersson put a puck on net that looked as if it was going to be an easy save for Crawford. The wobbling puck eluded the Hawks netminder and gave the Red Wings a big 2-1 lead with 9:49 remaining in the second period. Despite all of their pressure in the period, the Red Wings were not able to add any insurance goals, and they went into the locker room with a 2-1 lead at the end of the second period.
The Red Wings were only 20 minutes away from eliminating the top seeded Blackhawks when the third period began, but the comfort did not last for long. Just 51 seconds into the third period, Michal Handzus was able to get the game tying goal and quiet down a loud Joe Louis crowd. The Red Wings faithful was then nervous that the fate of this game would be decided in overtime. That was until Brian Bickell was able to score the go ahead goal at the 5:48 mark of the third period. The pain was not over for the Red Wings and their fans though. A questionable penalty shot call allowed Michael Frolik to score an insurance goal, and the eventual game winner, with just over ten minutes remaining in the third period. The Red Wings were able to tighten up the game when Damien Brunner connected for his fifth goal of the playoffs with 52 seconds remaining. With Jimmy Howard pulled from the net, the Red Wings tried frantically to get the tying goal to send the game into overtime, but were unable to score and the end result was a 4-3 Chicago win and a date with game seven tonight.
Jimmy Howard will be starting in the biggest game of his NHL career tonight after two consecutive losses that saw him give up four goals in each game. The Red Wings have never advanced past the second round with Howard in net, so a Red Wings win tonight would be a career mark for Howard, though he does not need to prove to anyone that he is the right man for the job for the Wings.
Corey Crawford gave up more than two goals for the first time since game three, but was able to earn the victory for the Blackhawks. Goaltending was the biggest question mark for the Hawks coming into this season, so a victory tonight with Crawford in net would silence any doubters that are still left out there.
It is not known what will happen tonight as game seven’s are as close to a toss up game as you can get with home teams being 2-2 this year in game seven’s. The only thing that is for sure is that the golf courses around either Chicago or Detroit will have a few more customers come tomorrow morning.
Players To Watch:
- Pavel Datsyuk has been quiet for the most part this series, and will need to step up and have a big game tonight, both offensively and defensively, if the Red Wings are to advance to the next round.
- Henrik Zetterberg has also been a ghost offensively this series with no goals scored, and only three assists. The Red Wings will need offensive contributions from Zetterberg along with Datsyuk to have a chance in game seven. This is the time that your team’s stars are supposed to shine, so this will be big for both players.
- Brian Bickell has come up big for the Blackhawks not only in these playoffs, but mainly in this series. Bickell has five goals so far this post season after scoring only nine all regular season. He has been able to get to the Red Wings with his goal scoring and agitation, so the Red Wings will need to come up with yet another containment plan for another player.
- Michael Frolik was credited with the game winning goal after earning a controversial, at least to Red Wings fans, penalty shot midway through the third period. Frolik only adds to the Hawks depth on forward and will be another critical weapon for the Red Wings to contain.
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