Coaches and players from the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings took turns Tuesday looking ahead to the deciding game in their NHL Western Conference semifinal on Wednesday in Chicago (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7:30 p.m. ET), including Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford.
He was a rookie in 2011 when he nearly led Chicago to a Game 7 victory in the first round against the Vancouver Canucks.
Crawford made 36 saves that night in Vancouver but Alex Burrows beat him at 5:22 of overtime. The 28-year-old goalie from Montreal will be seeking redemption Wednesday night.
“We look at it as more fun,” Crawford told reporters. “We’re excited about this game.”
So, too, is Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville, who believes his team has already played a pair of Game 7s to even a series it trailed 3-1. He also remembers Crawford’s performance against Vancouver.
“He had some amazing games in that stretch,” said Quenneville, referring to Chicago’s bounce-back from being down 3-0 in the Canucks series, “but none better than that Game 7 in Vancouver. He gave us a chance and singlehandedly was outstanding in that game to get it to overtime.”
Green in Game 7s
Captain Jonathan Toews scored his first goal of the series that night for Chicago, which was the first and only Game 7 for many of these Blackhawks.
Most, if not all, of Detroit’s players that suit up Wednesday were in the lineup for the Red Wings’ 3-2 Game 7 at Anaheim in the first round.
Valtteri Filppula notched the game-winning goal at 13:45 of the second period to give him six points in five Game 7s in the NHL.
Henrik Zetterberg opened the scoring and assisted on another goal while fellow star forward Pavel Datsyuk was plus-1 with six shots, two blocked shots and a pair of takeaways.
Zetterberg and Datsyuk combined for a single assist in Monday’s Game 6 loss at Detroit but did fire 10 shots between them and won 22 of 38 faceoffs.
In four Game 7s, Zetterberg has a goal, six points and is plus-3. Three of those assists came in a first-round series win over Phoenix on April 27, 2010.
Datsyuk also shone in that contest, scoring twice including the game-winner. But Pittsburgh shut down both players in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup final as Zetterberg and Datsyuk didn’t record a point and combined for four shots.
Solid when it counts
Red Wings defenceman Jonathan Ericsson recorded an assist in each of the first two games against Chicago but has zero points since and just two shots. In the seventh game of the 2009 Cup final, he had a goal and was plus-2 in a Game 7 against Anaheim earlier in that post-season.
“When you’re younger and you play in the street outside, these are the moments you look forward to, pretending you’re in these situations,” Detroit blue-liner Niklas Kronwall told reporters.
Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who is enjoying his most successful NHL playoffs in terms of goals-against average (2.49) and save percentage (.923), has thrived in three previous Game 7s. He defeated Anaheim a few weeks back with 31 saves in a memorable series, according to Kronwall.
“Anaheim was something special,” he said. “How hard we fought, the ups and downs, but we found a way through it.”
Howard also stopped 32 of 33 shots in a 2010 Game 7 victory over Phoenix and two years ago was solid in a 27-save performance versus San Jose but fell 3-2.
Some say beating Chicago in the Windy City would be a statement-making game for the 29-year-old, who signed a six-year contract extension worth $31.8 million US in April.
“We have to embrace this, the opportunity in front of us,” said Kronwall.