After falling behind 2-1 last night, the Chicago Blackhawks came back to beat the Red Wings 4-3 and force a Game 7 to be played in Chicago Wednesday night.
Marian Hossa started off the scoring for Chicago three minutes into the first period with a nice power play goal to set the tone early. The period was pretty balanced with the Blackhawks maintaining a 1-0 lead until Patrick Eaves had the equalizer for the Red Wings with 1:09 remaining in the first. The goal was his first of the postseason. All in all, a very level start to the game. I gave my edge for the first period to the Blackhawks because they did exactly what they had to do coming out of the locker room: score early and keep it close in the loud environment of Joe Louis Arena. They even quieted the Red Wings fans completely at some junctures, and in an elimination game on the road, you get a definite edge for that.
The second period was full of penalties, along with some chippy play typical of these two teams. But amidst the roughing, unsportsmanlike conduct, and high-sticking that occurred, little-known Red Wings forward Joakim Andersson scored his first playoff goal at the ten minute mark to break the tie and give Detroit the momentum swing once again. There was no doubt who won this period; the Red Wings had the lone goal, outshot the Blackhawks 18-10, and played excellent defense as well. Though there were still 20 minutes to play, it looked like the Wings had a solid chance to advance to the Western Conference Finals and finish off Chicago.
In the third, however, the Blackhawks quickly tied the game once again with a goal by Michal Handzus 51 seconds into the final period of play. Five minutes later, Bryan Bickell took advantage of a defensive breakdown by Detroit to give the Blackhawks the 3-2 lead. But the biggest moment of the third period came halfway through, when the referees awarded a rare playoff penalty shot to Chicago’s Michael Frolik. Was it the right call? Probably not. Carlo Colaiacovo did slash Frolik if you look at the technical rules of the game, but it wasn’t a play where the whistle definitely had to be blown; this wasn’t a no-doubter by any means. And even if the referees called the slash, they did not need to award a penalty shot on the play. Colaiacovo should’ve sat for two minutes in the box and no further penalty should have been added on. This was a game-changing and potentially series-changing ruling that definitely gives the Red Wings a valid argument that the game should’ve gone the other way. But what cannot be argued is that the Blackhawks had more physicality and firepower for almost the entirety of the third (minus the furious comeback by Detroit in the final minute that fell just short).
When you have all four lines contributing like the Wings do, it can be an advantage. But in the end, stars like Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews are going to trump a team composed almost entirely of little-known fringe players. Game 7 being in the Madhouse on Madison, is definitely going to favor the Hawks, who have old man mo on their side. I predict a 5-3 Chicago win tomorrow night, as the Blackhawks will escape their biggest test yet.
In the Game 7 tonight between the other Western Conference semifinalists, I predict the Los Angeles Kings to defeat the San Jose Sharks by a score of 4-1. Jonathan Quick has been near invincible in this series, and Dustin Brown is going to come alive and lead the troops, proving he’s a truly outstanding captain and one of the most underrated players in the league today. Look for Brown, Jeff Carter, Trevor Lewis and Rob Scuderi (surprise there) to score for L.A. in the deciding game.