By: Eric Thomas
The Red Wings are in the driver’s seat, now up 3-1 in the best of seven series against the Blackhawks, who now face elimination when they return home to Chicago on Saturday. Many Red Wing fans must view this development as cloudy, colorful tracers from a fever dream. Only the truly deluded thought the Wings had a chance against one of this year’s best teams in hockey. Even pundits who picked the Wings, homers and contrarians alike, look like someone called their bluff.
Many Wings deserve praise. Mike Babcock deserves the most, he’s taken a team that performed poorly at times during the regular season, putting it mildly, to one game away from beating a team many expected to kiss the Cup. Jimmy Howard deserves heaps of praise. Until this series, Howard has been underwhelming at best in the playoffs, inept at worst. Against the Blackhawks he’s put together two complete games, on Thursday night posting only his second career shutout in the playoffs. Howard entered this year with questions; in the last two games he’s provided answers. The defense has come completely out of nowhere; the penalty kill has been perfect since Hossa scored in game one.
Let’s hit pause on the love fest for one quick minute; what happened to Chicago?! Not to inspect the proverbial horse’s mouth, but the question needs to be asked. Blackhawk fans should be ready to storm Madison Street, pitchforks and torches ablaze while they chant and demands answers. If a season that began with record breaking promise comes crashing down in a heap like this, to a rival no less, they deserve to be furious. ‘Hawks fans should want Joel Quenneville fired, rehired, then fired again. He’s getting brutally out-coached by Mike Babcock. It’s not like the Wings are beating them with a high flying attack. The ‘Hawks appeared asleep through much of the game, before they skated away frustrated for the second straight time.
Either way, the Wings deserve credit. They made the playoffs by inches and they aren’t leaving any time soon. After decades of titanic expectations, these Wings seem to be reveling in the role of scrappy underdog, a position the franchise hasn’t been in since they hired Scotty Bowman in 1993. Many players on this team have never seen in this role in their careers.
So drink up, Wings. Feast on these Hawks; they seem like they have somewhere else they’d rather be anyway. Enjoy the underdog role while it lasts. If you keep playing like this, it won’t last long.