Reporting Steve Silverman
By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) Another playoff round begins and another easy win for the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks simply had too much speed and skill for the Detroit Red Wings in the first game of the conference semifinals.
The Wings pushed as hard as they could after their Game 7 victory over the favored Anaheim Ducks in the first round and they had the look of a fatigued hockey team. Goalie Jimmy Howard kept the score tied 1-1 into the third period, but the Blackhawks were getting chances galore and it was just a matter of time until that tie was broken.
No, it was not Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane who broke the deadlock. Patrick Sharp took control of the puck along the wall and he fed a wide open Johnny Oduya, who had cruised into prime scoring territory without any Red Wing defender bothering him.
Oduya rang the puck into the net off the crossbar and the Blackhawks would cruise to a 4-1 win.
The Red Wings will undoubtedly find a way to win a game – or perhaps two – in this series, but there is a dramatic difference in talent between these teams.
Howard, by the way, is a good goalie. He is not a great goalie and he is not going to steal this series away from Chicago. If there are any goalies capable of taking games away from the Blackhawks, they likely play for the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers.
Both of those teams are alive and well and could be future opponents for the Blackhawks. Facing the Kings in the conference finals could create a lot more drama than they have had to contend with so far.
They had a routine win over the Minnesota Wild in the first round and despite the Red Wings’ status as the Blackhawks’ storied Original Six rival, they are not likely to get challenged in this round either.
But if the Blackhawks are going to fulfill their Presidents Trophy pedigree and emerge as the best team during the postseason as well, they are likely going to have to overcome adversity and win in dramatic fashion.
That’s one of the huge draws of playoff hockey. A goal is a cause for celebration, and when a team finds itself on the wrong end of a three-goal deficit and manages to make a comeback, that’s a thrilling and shocking development.
The Boston Bruins found themselves in that situation Monday night in the seventh game of their opening-round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs. With less than 11 minutes to go in the third period, they were down by three goals. One goal by Nathan Horton stopped the bleeding and kept the Bruins from getting booed out of the TD Garden.
However they weren’t able to cut the lead until they pulled Tuukka Rask – one of the most underrated goalies in the league – with less than two minutes to play. Milan Lucic picked up the rebound of a Zdeno Chara slap shot and put it in to cut the deficit to one goal and Patrice Bergeron tied the score in the final minute.
Raucous joy rocked the Garden with that goal and the explosion was even louder when Bergeron scored the winner in overtime.
The Bruins had flipped the script in shocking manner. They went from overhyped losers to dramatic winners in a 17-minute span.
That’s the kind of scenario that makes playoff hockey so thrilling. It can be so difficult to score goals, and then there’s a burst of them at the most meaningful time.
The Bruins and their fans celebrated their hockey miracle.
The Blackhawks and their fans want the same thing. It’s great to win, but it’s even more special when there’s that moment of extreme adversity that is overcome.
It’s coming, and there’s no reason to believe the Blackhawks won’t be ready for it.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.