Blackhawks and Red Wings meet in Western Conference Semifinals

Tonight, a big NHL rivalry is rekindled when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Detroit Red Wings in game 1 of their best of seven Western Conference semifinal series.

The Blackhawks entered the postseason with the best record in hockey ranked No. 1 in the conference and easily disposed of the Minnesota Wild in the first round 4-1.

The Red Wings entered the postseason No 7 in the conference and defeated the No. 2 ranked Anaheim Ducks in seven games 4-3.

The Blackhawks and Red Wings are two of the Original Six in the NHL and have a long and storied rivalry over the years. The last time the two teams met in the postseason was in the finals of the conference in 2009. Detroit was the veteran team who got the better of the Blackhawks in the series and went on to another trip to the finals of the Stanley Cup.

However, things change. Chicago won the Cup in 2010 and the Red Wings have fallen off their elite team pedestal just a bit. In 2011, the Red Wings lost to San Jose in the second round of the postseason and last season were knocked out in the first round by Nashville.

During the lockout abbreviated regular season, the Blackhawks swept the head-to-head series with the Red Wings. Three of the games the two teams played went to overtime before Chicago won.

The series will show early if the first round seven game series against Anaheim took something out of Detroit. They had to play seven tough games and traveled back and forth through three time zones five or six times and that can zap the energy out of players. Chicago on the other hand played Minnesota in the same time zone and should have fresher legs due to playing two fewer games and traveling thousands of miles less.

Both goalies responded well to pressure in the first round of the playoffs. Corey Crawford for Chicago and Jimmy Howard of Detroit have constantly had to prove to everybody their talent in the net and both were very solid during their teams’ opening round.

Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk played very well for Detroit in the first round and are still top-notch world class players. They however, will be facing the likes of Chicago’s Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and the most underrated star of them all Patrick Sharp.

Sharp will be a key in this series. He plays well and does things that go unnoticed by most however, he is leading the team with 5 goals after the first round. Both Kane and Toews did not score a goal in the first round, which makes it hard to defend the ‘hawks since you expect them to score, but then Sharp comes along and nets 5.

The type of series will be evident shortly after the start of game 1 on Tuesday. If the Red Wings can skate with the Blackhawks and have not spent all their energy defeating Anaheim, then the series will be a tactical matchup that could go six to seven games. However, if Detroit shows obvious signs of being tired, the series could end in 4 or 5 games.

Nevertheless, Chicago will win the series in 6.

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