CHICAGO | It hasn’t been as much a rivalry as a drum pounding.
Although Blackhawks fans have a guttural reaction to the Detroit Red Wings, bellowing en masse “Detroit sucks” whenever the Wings take the ice at the United Center, the paranoia is based on old hurts.
Since Joel Quenneville took over as Hawks coach in 2008, Chicago is 17-6-2, including 4-0 this year, in the regular season against their Original 6 archrival. But there’s the matter of the Western Conference Finals against the Wings that turned out differently to end Quenneville’s first season.
So as the Hawks prepared for the conference semifinals against the Wings starting tonight at the Unied Center, Quennevile was asked about never beating the Wings when it really counted. He paused for a second before collecting himself.
“I thought every time we played them, it counted,” Quenneville said. “When I say that, it’s always an important game: the rivalry, the standings, four-point swings. So I think the games were always meaningful for us. I’m sure they were for them.
“We were fighting to move up in the standings or stay where we were at. That’s all part of it. Not only playoffs bring you a different type of intensity…but certainly it will be a great challenge for us knowing where we’re at in this point of the season. It ramps it up one more level.”
Emotionalism is always present for Hawks-Wings, with the home team seemingly always trying to prove itself against the former elite franchise of the NHL playing in “Hockeytown.” Now the feelings will reach fever pitch.
The Hawks, having displaced the Wings as the league’s best, are trying to move that much closer to the Stanley Cup after a relatively stress-free quarterfinals triumph over the Minnesota Wild. At the same time the seventh-seed Wings have gotten their game back late in the regular season and in their comeback seven-game quarterfinals victory over the Anaheim Ducks.
“There’s going to be quite a bit (of emotion),” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “After the first series, it keeps getting higher and higher as the playoffs go along."
Goalie Corey Crawford tempered his view of any personal dominance over the Wings. He won all four games against Detroit, allowing just five goals overall as three of the contests went into overtime.
“There’s only so much you can do,” he said. “You can’t go out there thinking you can try to do too much. You play what the game gives you. I don’t think you want to put too much on your responsibility to win the game yourself.”