Allow me to break out a sportswriting cliche.
Imagine if you're the Blackhawks and you're told the following about the first two games of this series prior to them being played:
- Marian Hossa, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Pavel Datsuyk would be held
pointlessgoalless in both games.
- The Red Wings would commit 11 giveaways in Game 1 and 13 in Game 2.
- Nikolai Khabibulin would make 42 saves in Game 1 and 38 in Game 2.
- Chris Osgood would continue his streak of allowing at least one power-play goal in each game.
- In fact, the Red Wings performance would be reasonably described as "adequate" both nights. They didn't look like world beaters.
You'd take it, wouldn't you? You'd figure at worst it'd be a spilt.
Instead, the Blackhawks head back to the United Center down 2-0. Dan Cleary has turned into a scoring machine. The third and fourth lines for the Wings are suddenly doing very good impersonations of first-liners.
Meanwhile, there's still a courtesy page out for Patrick Kane, who at least took three shots in Game 2 and was on the ice for 19:25 (leading all non-defensemen). I know plus-minus isn't the greatest stat in hockey, but when you're -5, that's not exactly a ringing endorsement of your performance.
Here's the depressing part of this for the Blackhawks: they could've easily won game 2, and I can make a reasonable claim that the Blackhawks had a pretty good chance in Game 1. They weren't blown out of the building.
But this is the struggle with a young team that's never been here before...they don't know what to do with it. It's not so much a deer in the headlights feeling Joel Quenneville's team has displayed as much as not taking advantage of the chances provided to them.
Mike Babcock realizes this. Don't think he's not reminding his players during the extra off day that they need to tighten up big time. They're playing good enough to win against a team that looks overmatched.
Before this series, I thought this would be similar to the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals between the Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics. But after two games, it looks more like the 1987 Cambell Conference Finals between the Red Wings and the Edmonton Oilers. That year, the Red Wings shocked the Toronto Maple Leafs to win the Norris Division playoff title and set up a series against the Oilers. There was this sense of "Why not us, why not now?"
One little problem: The Oilers, who had been winning quite regularly over the previous few years with Gretzky, Messier, Fuhr, et al, administered a five-game beatdown of the Wings.
This bodes well for the Wings now. But you get the sense that the Blackhawks, who are here far earlier than anyone expected, will learn greatly from it.
Just not fast enough to win this series.