This time, at least on paper, the Blackhawks are the favorites and the Red Wings the underdogs.
By DANA WAKIJI FS Detroit
ROMULUS, Mich. — Four years ago, despite finishing second to the San Jose Sharks, the
Detroit Red Wings were considered the team to beat in the Western Conference.
When they met the upstart Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals, everyone expected the Wings to win, which they did. But it took five games, three in overtime.
The skate is on the other foot in 2013.
The Wings sneaked into the playoffs as a seventh seed, while the Blackhawks laid waste to the rest of the league, going 36-7-5 in the regular season and finishing 11 points ahead of the second-seeded Anaheim Ducks.
As a result, even many Detroit fans, who were thrilled with the team's seven-game victory over the Ducks in the first round, aren't picking the Wings to win this series.
The Wings, however, don't care about seeds, or the fact that the Blackhawks won all four meetings between the teams in the regular season.
"We don't think about that much," captain
Henrik Zetterberg said after the plane landed in Michigan. "You just go out there and play.
"There's not that big of a difference nowadays between the first seed and the eighth seed, or even the first seed and the teams that don't make the playoffs. I think it's more the fans and the media that feel that more than us."
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville certainly has reason for caution. He's never beaten the Wings in a playoff series.
When he coached the St. Louis Blues, the Wings beat them three times, in 1997, 1998 and 2003. In Colorado, his Avalanche were eliminated by the Wings in 2008. Then the Wings took care of Quenneville's Blackhawks in 2009.
So he won't take the Wings for granted.
"They had a great stretch to get in the playoffs," Quenneville told reporters in Chicago Monday. "They had to make some hay there to get in at the end, and they did it.
"Coming back from Game 6 and 7 down (against the Ducks) and having to win both games, shows you what they’re capable of. Their top guys were special, and that’s something we’ll have to be aware of as we move along.
"Their tradition. They know how to win. They find ways to bring the best out of their team."
The Blackhawks, many of whom were there in 2009, also aren't taking the lower-seeded Wings lightly.
"We have a lot of respect for them and the tradition that they have and the history they have of winning," Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "You saw what they were able to do against Anaheim, and Anaheim was seeded a lot higher than them.
"So probably a lot of teams, players and people underestimated them and thought Anaheim was going to come out of that series. Lo and behold, it’s Detroit again. They were able to find a way, and that’s what makes them a tough opponent."
Similarly, the Wings know that the Blackhawks' regular-season success was no fluke.
It won't be easy for young defensemen like
Brendan Smith and even
Kyle Quincey to contend with the likes of veterans Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp.
"There's going to be a test there for them," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We just try to keep making progress. We've had good growth on our team all year long, and it has to continue to happen.
"There's no question, we're playing a real good team, a team that won the Presidents Trophy, very deep, and they're going to push us. But it should be a lot of fun."
It might not be as fun for the guys in net, although Chicago goalie Corey Crawford has a career 11-2-0 record against the Wings.
That means Wings goaltender
Jimmy Howard will have to be at his best; Kane won't miss the open shots that Anaheim's Corey Perry did.
Howard, like the rest of the Wings, welcomes that challenge, though.
"When our backs are against the wall, this is when this team plays the best," he said. "By no means are we the most talented Red Wings team in the history of the organization, but every single guy in here works hard.