The Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings have battled to a stalemate in their Western Conference Semifinal. Game 7 and the right to advance against Los Angeles awaits both teams at the United Center.
Let's get to it, already.
Through six games, the Hawks and Wings have thrown their best punches at each other. Each team has been handed a defeat at home, and both goalies have risen to the occasion several times.
If these division rivals weren't familiar with each other in their four regular-season matches, they sure as heck are at this point. Heading into the final meeting before the two Original Six franchises become a pair of trains passing in the night of realignment, we should have a good idea what to expect.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has the last line change. Count on Quenneville to take full advantage and keep his captain, Jonathan Toews, away from Henrik Zetterberg.
Look for Detroit to try and take the crowd out of it with an early goal. This will also allow the Red Wings to sit back and prevent the 'Hawks from easy trips through the neutral zone.
Both teams have tried to throw off the opposition with physical play. Toews can't skate 10 feet without taking a stick to his shin guards or a bump from one of his Detroit counterparts.
Chicago is giving their all behind Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw. Expect the boards to rattle more than a few times Wednesday night.
The Blackhawks took Game 6 despite being outdone at the faceoff circle by a pretty wide margin. They were also limited to 28 shots—the first game the 'Hawks won without putting 40-plus shots on Jimmy Howard. Chicago should reach 40 again if things go as planned.
Chicago's offense depends on getting the puck. Their success rate at the dot needs to be considerably higher than the 39 percent it was in Game 6.
Corey Crawford has been watched with more than a little scrutiny, but he has held up and then some. Anybody still want to see Ray Emery in net Wednesday night?
This game could be dominated by the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Zetterberg or Justin Abdelkader, who has committed some questionable infractions. Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp may also break out with a big game to turn the tide in Chicago's favor.
It also wouldn't come as a surprise to see a guy like Bickell for the Hawks or Damien Brunner for the Wings be the x-factor in Game 7. The lower lines have accounted for a lot of the scoring in the series.
You could say the Hawks have the momentum heading into the puck drop Wednesday night. However, this is one game that either team could control and win. Or lose, for that matter.
It might come down to desire, but I'm certain that both teams want this game very badly. Game 7 is likely going to be decided by execution. The team that can jump on a mistake and bury it in the net is the team that probably advances.
The Red Wings have proven themselves as a formidable adversary over the last two weeks. Somebody's going home and packing for the West Coast, and somebody's just going home. It is time to get the proceedings and find out which team is which.
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