Listen, we know where we stand. The Wings are the underdogs and deservedly so.
With all of the various questions surrounding the possibilities in this series, there are really only two worth asking, so that's what we did. Each of us took turns answering the two important questions.
1. What Does Detroit Need to do to Win this Series?
J.J. They have to play their own game and they have to do it mistake-free. Chicago modeled their style after the Wings, but the up-tempo puck-possession belongs to the Blackhawks right now simply because they do it better. Aggression around the Chicago blue line will help slow down Chicago's transition, but they're going to have to be very careful to backcheck responsibly when the Hawks break through that. Most of all, they've got to trust that putting pucks on net is the best solution. High-quality shots score more often, but even low-quality ones can sneak through or create secondary chances.
Graham: The obvious answer would seem to be "don't make any mistakes" but since that's not going to happen, it's play a simple game. The Wings don't have the talent up and down the lineup to run and gun with the Blackhawks, so it will be up to the top lines to match Chicago's and then get some depth scoring. The defense needs to play within themselves (and not with themselves) and do whatever they can to neutralize Chicago's speed to the outside. They should pretend that if they lose they're done because that seems to be working for them. Basically they have to play really really really really good. And sit Mikael Samuelsson. Not because that would give them a better chance to beat Chicago. Just because.
Jeff: Jimmy Howard has to stand on his head and steal AT LEAST 2 games. The Red Wings don't have the fire power and talent to match the Blackhawks in a goal scoring shootout. It's clear that this team is going to live and die with the kids on the roster. That means there will be a lot of mistakes and turnovers. Howard has to come through in the clutch and make the massive saves when needed. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have to continue to lead the way too. Like Uncle Mike always says, "your best players need to be your best players."
Tyler: A whole lot of stuff, but it's not an entirely impossible task. The Wings lost all four meetings in the regular season, including that ugly 7-1 beatdown. The 7-1 game was especially bad because Gordie Howe was in the house celebrating his 85th birthday, it was Easter Sunday (which means I had to watch the Wings lose while listening to my aunt beg me to read her shitty mystery novel that she stole from like eight different Get Smart episodes), and because losing 7-1 is terrible. But the other three losses came in overtime or shootouts. So as much as I feel like I'm reaching here with the optimism, Detroit can play Chicago pretty tough when it's not March 31st. They're going to have to forecheck better than they did in the Anaheim series because the Hawks are wicked when given time to possess the puck (hi, this won't be easy.) And Jimmy Howard might have to win a game or two by himself (also not easy.)
Christian: They simply have to play their hearts out. They have been doing this for the past 10 games and have to continue now. Chicago is on paper a much better team than the Wings but this doesn't mean that we can't win. The Wings can't afford to give up terrible turnovers instead they have to force Chicago to commit turnovers. Ride the momentum but don't feel too confident. This is especially important in game one. You know that the Blackhawks will be well rested and buzzing, you don't want to give them any advantages. But the #1 thing that the Wings need to do is constantly shoot the puck. Force Crawford to give up the rebounds. Eventually the puck will go in.
Michelle: Score more goals than the Hawks in 4 games... What? You want more? Ok fine. Everything... Up front we're going to have to get contribution and production from more than just the top guys. Chicago is a deep team at every position, and for us to beat them, each line is going to have to step it up another notch. Our top lines are going to have to be our top lines, and our bottom lines are going to have to continue growing and improving. Our defense is going to have to stop making stupid mistakes and gifting the other team goals. Quincey, Smith, Kindl and Colaiacovo are going to have to settle down and play a simple game to try to minimize their mistakes, because Chicago will make us pay for them. Jimmy's going to have to be even better than he already has, and absolutely rob Chicago. We can absolutely beat the Hawk. It won't be easy, and the blood sweat and tears may flow, but we've seen this Red Wings team battle for everything they've earned so far, and they refuse to give up. We've gotten better and better the more we play, and continuing with a never say die attitude and continuing to get growth and improvement will be important. Baisically, everyone has to bring everything they have for a full game, every game.
2. What does Detroit HAVE to do to avoid losing this series quickly?
J.J. Jimmy Howard is going to have to bail them out of more mistakes than a standard goaltender should have to do. He'll have to captain from the back end with his rebound control and puck-moving decisions.
Graham: I hate to put all the pressure on a few players, but the Wings' best players have to be their best players. That means getting contributions from Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Jimmy Howard. If any of them falter (especially Jimmy), I don't think the depth can overcome what Chicago can get from their entire team and this one could be over before you know it.
Jeff: Don't be afraid. The Wings are without a doubt the underdog in this series. When the kids are on the ice they have to go balls to the wall and attack the Hawks. Forget you're the 7th seed. Forget the roller coaster ride of a regular season. You're here and now in the 2nd round. The kids don't know any better. Detroit HAS to get contribution for the depth and youthful 3rd line. Players like Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith HAVE to play well.
Tyler: Howard cannot be anything less than outstanding. Look at it this way: He was really good for most of the Anaheim series, and it still took four one-goal victories and seven games for the Wings to advance. Which, even though that was awesome and stuff and many of us weren't expecting it, may not intimidate the Hawks much. Chicago is better than Anaheim. Detroit just squeaked by Anaheim in a series they were outscored 21-18 and outplayed for long stretches at a time. There's almost no room for error whatsoever if the Red Wings are going to advance to their 4th conference finals appearance under Mike Babcock.
Christian: 4 things: Howard, Datsyuk, Zetterberg and SHOOT THE PUCK. As I already mentioned, Chicago's biggest question mark is their goaltending. How about we put that to question by shooting the puck at Crawford 24/7. Eventually the puck will go in. Also, you have to split in Chicago. Heading back to Hockeytown down 2-0 would be devastating. If you can split in Chicago then you have a chance.
Michelle: Give up fewer..... Ok nevermind. They have to come out of the gate like bats out of hell (what a strange phrase). Don't give Chicago any momentum, control, or anything really. We need jump, energy, and pressure from everyone in order to keep the Hawks on their heels. We need to put pressure on the Hawks and keep the pressure on, we can't let up and allow them to take over the game.
So what do you think?