As I sit here, nervously awaiting the start of Game 7, I find myself wavering between total confidence and extreme fear and panic. One moment, I'm convinced the Hawks are incapable of losing at home, in a Game 7, to their hated rivals. The next, I think back to all the times the Red Wings have broken my heart. It's actually creeping me out a little bit. I'm usually very level headed about games. I'd never found myself this uneasy during the 2010 Cup run.
With all this in mind, here's a list of 7 (see what I did there?) reasons to believe in the Blackhawks tonight.
1. The Blackhawks are the better team - I've said it all year, as have countless others who follow the game. The Hawks are the best and deepest team in the Western Conference, if not the entire NHL. Even their "area of concern", Corey Crawford, is outstanding statistically. His 1.78 goals against average is 2nd overall in the playoffs, behind only LA's Jonathan Quick. Only two goalies, Quick and Pittsburgh's Tomas Vokoun, have higher save percentages than Crawford's .935.
Yes, he's had a penchant for allowing a soft goal here and there, but he's more than made up for it by making crucial saves at the biggest moments.
2. The game is at the United Center - As Game 5 began, I was afraid the Hawks' 3-1 series deficit to Detroit would create an atmosphere of dread in the United Center, and the building would sound something like a Kenny G concert. I was wrong. The Madhouse was as loud as it's been in years. If the Hawks can capitalize on the early push they'll get from the building's energy and get out to an early lead, it could be a long night for the Wings.
3. Jonathan Toews is waking up - It only took 9 playoff games, but Toews is finally finding his groove. After scoring only 3 points in his first 9 playoff games, the Captain has scored 3 in his last two. He's coming around at just the right time.
Speaking of coming around...
4. ...the powerplay is starting to look competent - Three powerplay goals in two games? Three powerplay goals is like a month's worth for the Blackhawks. They've been able to (gasp!) set up, move the puck, and get shots on net. It seems like a simple formula, but it's something they've struggled with for a few seasons now.
5. The Wings are wearing down - It was a matter of time, I guess. Detroit needed to play nearly perfect hockey to beat the Blackhawks, and they did for a while. But over the course of the last two games, the Red Wings have (officially) given up the puck 17 times. It's happened way more often than that. The Hawks' forecheck has been smothering, and the Wings are coughing up the puck as a result. The key will be making them pay for these turnovers with goals.
6. If you believe in momentum, the Hawks have all of it - Yes, Detroit won a Game 7 in Anaheim in the quarterfinals, but this is different. This time, it's the Hawks coming from behind, winning two in a row. The Wings are on their collective heels. All of that can be dashed, however, if Detroit is able to build an early lead. Then Mike Babcock will be allowed to play his shutdown / trap style that stymied the Hawks earlier in the series.
7. The Hawks have the magical "last change" - It may not seem like a big deal, but with the game at home, Joel Quenneville controls who is on the ice vs whom, and doesn't have to worry about the Toews vs Zetterberg cat and mouse game. To me, this is the biggest advantage the Hawks will have tonight. Zetterberg has been a thorn in Toews' side all series long. The Captain won't have to deal with him nearly as much tonight, and that's a good thing.
Hey, I feel a little better. Oh wait...no I don't. Oh wait...I do now. Oh Lord, can we please just drop the puck?
When Game 7 ends, make sure to tune in to 670AM or 670thescore.com. I'll be on the air with Connor McKnight, hopefully reacting to a win, and previewing the Western Conference Finals and the LA Kings.
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Filed under: andrew shaw, Blackhawks, brent seabrook, bryan bickell, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Sports, Corey Crawford, dave bolland, duncan keith, goaltending, Henrik Zetterberg, hockey, jay zawaski, joel quenneville, johnny oduya, jonathan toews, marian hossa, michael frolik, Michael Handzus, michal rozsival, NHL, Patrick Kane, patrick sharp, Ray Emery, sports, stan bowman, Uncategorized, wscr