In what will be the final time the Hawks and Red Wings will face-off in the Western Conference playoffs, a lot of anticipation for this Original-6 matchup came from the likes of fans to the NBC Sports Network. On Wednesday evening, the talk and hype were put to rest as both teams laced 'em up for Game 1 of round two of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The story lines have been set: both teams play a similar style of hockey, meaning, both teams finesse the puck and use speed to beat their opponents down low; the already-legendary coach Mike Babcock, and his intense focus on offensive control versus Joel Quenneville and his intense, steel-eyed glare. The Hawks have had their rest, after dismantling the Wild in five last Thursday, while the Red Wings came into this one, after beating the Anaheim Ducks three days ago in seven.
The raucous crowd on the Westside of Chicago was ready to blow the roof off the UC once Frank Pellico played the first note of the National Anthem, accompanied by the incomparable tenor Jim Cornelison. With all we knew of the Hawks this season, especially against the Red Wings (3-0-0), it would only be a matter of time before the Babcock and his boys were sent into the evening breeze.
At 9 minutes, 3 seconds into the first period, Marian Hossa cracked a blazing slapper passed Howard that appeared to have the Fox Network blue streak behind it from the mid-90s
The horn sounded and the celebration began, but it was muted quickly, as Damien Brunner equalized the contest with a wrister just less than two minutes later. After the first 20 minutes, the Red Wings led in shots, 7-6, and the score was knotted up at one. Andrew Shaw was called for two penalties (Tripping and Boarding), but the Hawks were able to complete the kill both times.
The second period was a different story, as the Hawks were very aggressive in the Wings' zone, burying its defense and outshooting it 17-5. No goals were scored, however, despite the onslaught of poke checks and shots at Howard.
And just as the summer-like temps arrived in our fair city, the Hawks came out of nowhere with a barrage of scoring that came from hard work near the net, just as they had produced the previous period. Johnny Oduya scored the eventual game winner with a wide-open shot in front of the goal on a sweet pass from Patrick Sharp.
Marcus Kruger added a backhander to make it 3-1, and then Sharp continued his scoring against Detroit with an uncontested empty-netter to make the final 4-1.
Even though Howard gave up three goals while in net, he made a handful of saves, especially in the second period, which would have ended this contest earlier than expected. Corey Crawford gets the win with Sharp getting the nod for the number-one star.
"I thought we were skating well all three periods," Sharp said after the game. "I fell like good teams don't change the way they play and we played to our strengths."
Both teams will return to their respective corners and come back out swinging Saturday midday for a noon tilt at the United Center. The Hawks will look to continue their perfect string of penalty kills and will hope to go up two games to none in the series.
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