Not because I don't enjoy history and tradition and such. Quite the opposite. What I wasn't going to miss was how good the Blackhawks had become and how much they had dominated the Red Wings for the past several years.
However, the tide has turned, at least a little, since the 2013 playoffs where the Wings nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets ever. Since then, the Wings were 2-1 against the Hawks heading into tonight's game at the United center, including a 4-1 spanking earlier this year at the Joe. While the Wings haven't been playing well recently, Chicago has always seemed to bring out the best in Detroit, and vice versa.
We weren't disappointed as we were treated to a very entertaining game in Chicago where the Hawks dominated early while the Wings figured out how to play hockey again, and when they did they started to assert themselves a little bit. The teams traded goals late in the second period, then again late in the third period with a pair of wacky bounces. Brent Seabrook atoned for breaking all of our hearts in 2013 when he let the go-ahead goal go in off him, but Niklas Kronwall wanted to reminisce himself and tied the game at 2 with less than 2 minutes to go.
Off to OT we went, and what an adventure. Darren Helm had a partial breakaway, Gustav Nyquist had a puck jump over his stick with an empty net, Duncan Keith had a good look but the goalies were up to the challenge.
We all thought the Wings were going to lose the shootout, but holy shit Nyquist and Tomas Tatar scored beauties while Patrick Kane hit the crossbar and Jimmy Howard stopped Patrick Sharp, and the Wings WON A SHOOTOUT CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?
POINTS OF OBSERVATION
Pavel Datsyuk was a beast for the Wings tonight. When the Wings were getting manhandled early, Datsyuk and his line were the only ones breaking up the monotony of the Hawks getting shot after shot. His speed and agility seemed to be back to where they should be, and that keep in on the Wings' second goal was a thing of beauty.
This was a game that Jimmy Howard stole for the Wings, with his big old balls hanging out for the entire game. The Wings sleepwalked through the first period and a bit, and Howard was fantastic, making save after save, especially while the Wings were down a man as the Hawks were all over the Wings on the PP. The Winnipeg game is now a distant memory as Howard looks like he shook off the rust from being off for a month.
The Wings were absolutely atrocious handling the puck for most of this game. Even when not pressured, the Wings were throwing pucks up the boards and giving it away or failing to make even the most basic of passes to each other. I don't track these things closely, but their zone exits and entries had to have been very low tonight.
I guess that's cool that the first Hawks goal was offside and they got 4 power plays to the Wings' 1 and Corey Crawford piled up snow illegally in his crease before the shootout. As the old saying goes, "cheaters never win", which is also true of the Blackhawks against the Wings this season, as they didn't beat the Wings once this year.
Yes, the Wings swept the season series against the Blackhawks. Soak that in and let it wash over you like a ray of sunshine.
I am not going to lie: I barely noticed Patrick Kane tonight, and that's a good thing. I don't know who he plays with or who played against him, but other than on the PP and in the shootout, I didn't even realize he was out there that much. The Wings did a good job of containing him at even strength.
Teemu Pulkkinen had a strong game in his return from Grand Rapids, generating 4 shots and being more aware in his own zone. He was told to work on things when he was sent down, and it looked like he did, as he was stronger along the boards and better at protecting the puck in traffic. Playing on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader didn't hurt, but I hope Teeny Pokemon gets a longer look this time.
Not a bad way to start the road trip. I had this game mentally checked off as a loss so maybe they can build off of it and get on another hot streak. They have to start on time and play a more consistent game, but Chicago is a great team and the Wings withstood their best shots and prevailed. This could be a game that gets them back to their winning ways.